WATCH: Google's trailer, in Russian, for the Trans-Siberian Railway guide
By Claire Bigg
Ever dreamed of riding Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway, but never found time for the weeklong trip?
Google has the solution for you: a virtual journey aboard the legendary train, taken from the comfort of your own home.
The Internet giant has launched a website offering 150 hours of footage shot along the world's longest railway track, starting in Moscow and ending in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok. Konstantin Kuzmin, marketing director for Google Russia, says the new project gives users around the planet a chance to discover a little-known part of the world.
"Foreigners always say how much they would love to travel across Russia," Kuzmin says. "But the project is designed mostly for Russians, who now have plenty of options to travel abroad for holidays, but few of whom know how many beautiful places exist in Russia."
The project, developed in cooperation with Russian Railways, has already attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers since its inauguration last week. It has both a Russian- and English-language version.
Movies, Maps, and Music
On this trip, virtual passengers can gaze from the window as the Trans-Siberian winds its way through 9,000 kilometers, seven time zones, 12 regions and more than 80 cities and towns.
To add to the mood, a selection of soundtracks is available, including the sound of rumbling wheels, Russian folk music, and an audiobook of Lev Tolstoy's "War and Peace."
The website allows users to skip ahead to the journey's highlights or hop off the train to explore towns along the way with Yelena Abitayeva, a bouncy radio-DJ-turned-guide for the occasion.
Watch: A video tour of Ulan-Ude
Multimedia stop offs include a virtual stroll around Novosibirsk, a tour of Irkutsk's old wooden houses, a peek at the giant statue of Lenin's head in Ulan-Ude, or listening to the sound of the cannons on Russky Island, the country's easternmost outpost.
The site showcases some of Google's latest applications such as real-time interactive maps and underscores its ambitions to conquer Russia's lucrative search-engine market, currently dominated by the Russian company Yandex.
Marketing director Kuzmin says the trans-Siberian project has proved so successful that Google now plans to make other Russian regions available to online travel buffs.