The Sunday Times: Katie Glass: my trans-Mongolian train ride with ‘Judge’ Rinder

judge rinder

I wanted to escape Christmas, and my celebrity best friend wanted to ride the Trans-Siberian railway, which is how, on December 21, I came to be landing in Moscow to spend a fortnight travelling across Russia by train with the television presenter, barrister and one-time Strictly Come Dancing contestant “Judge” Rob Rinder.

The Trans-Mongolian train we caught runs 4,863 miles from Moscow across Russia, through Mongolia, to Beijing. In summer it is the stuff of backpacker wish lists, but in winter, when temperatures plummet to the –30Cs, sensible tourists disappear. Even Muscovites looked stunned to hear about our trip, as we ran around their city buying supplies: caviar, vodka . . . Well, it was Christmas.

When we stepped inside our cupboard-sized cabin for the first time, we wondered if we’d made a huge mistake. We opened the vodka and we rolled out of Yaroslavsky station.

As we travelled, I snapped photographs on my iPhone of Dr Zhivago landscapes and snowy station platforms, where men stood smoking wearing shorts, despite it being –26C. I photographed ourprovodnitsa, the conductress in charge of our carriage, as well as the pretty silver mugs of tea she brought us, and the plates of pickled herring in the restaurant car. I tweeted a few of my holiday snaps, thinking maybe a few bored friends back in London might see them and begrudgingly click “like”.

In fact, as the train rocked me to sleep, my tweets travelled further than I ever would have imagined. Hundreds of Russians, somehow and for some reason, started coming across my posts, reading them, liking them, commenting and retweeting them onto the timelines of a few more hundred Russians, who did the same thing. By the time I woke up, I’d gone viral in Russia, which was not how I expected my 2018 to end.


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