Following on from finding my 1999 photos, even though I don’t specifically have any from this trip, I was reminded about it. In Russia, stations are often named after their destinations, a somewhat novel approach perhaps but it makes a bit of sense too I guess. So when you head to Moscow from St Petersburg, you leave from the Moscovsky Station.
Everyone’s train dream, when it comes to Russia, is probably the trans-Siberian. It remains one of my dreams, one that probably I should have snuck onto my bucket list of a month or two ago. Still, if you don’t have the time or inclination, you can still get a good sense of Russian trains taking the overnighter from St Petersburg to Moscow or vice versa.
The stations are pretty hectic in Russia, but also pretty impressive with large entrance halls and so forth. I was staying at the decidedly sterile YHA St Petersburg, five or so minutes only from the station in 1999, and they were attached to a place called Sindbad Travel. It appears to still exist as I just did a web search.
The subways themselves are very impressive, if difficult to navigate in both St Petersburg and Moscow. There is a really proud rail history in Russia, the Trans-Siberian remains one of the world’s greatest feats of rail engineering. That’s a hell of a lot of track you know! From St Petersburg to Moscow, it’s not quite so far – around 800 km. Today there is a fast train that can do the trip in around 4 and a half hours, but there’s still the slower, sleeper option at over eight hours, like the one that I took.
Pulled predictably by diesel locomotives, I had a bed in 2nd class sleeper and the carriage was pretty ornate and comfortable. There was breakfast as well, and I was only sharing with one other person. The beds were fully made with blankets and sheets too, and although narrow they weren’t the thinnest beds I’ve had on trains either.
Back in 1999 it was only $40 but today it’s gonna set you back a bit more I imagine. It’s really a very comfortable option and I slept really soundly. Then I awoke at 6am or so to look out the window and see the ground covered in patchy snow, trees with no leaves at all and little else. I wondered ‘is this what all of Russia is like between the cities?’ This was early April for your reference.
My roommate was friendly enough, and we locked the door to the compartment early on in the trip as people were advised too. Robberies are not unheard of on Russian trains, but to be honest I doubt that it’s any more likely than most places in Europe. Which is pretty unlikely. I’m talking mostly about waking up and finding your bag gone by the way, not muggings!
It was a smooth, comfortable, agreeable ride. What else can I say? After recently being in India on second class sleepers with no sheets or blankets, I was happy with the level of service on the train I can tell you!
Then suddenly I was in Moscow. I thought St Petersburg was big. Well. Everything is relative, right? Moscow just goes on and on and on. The hostel was very memorable. In the eleventh floor of an apartment building, with some of the least responsive staff I have ever met, four beds to a room (quite comfortable) and a bath, an actual bath with legs in the bathroom. Moscow proved to be a real eye-opening experience. But then, this post is only about the train journey!
The journey is really easy, comfortable, warm (trains are often very well heated in Russia) and indeed special. It’s hard to sum it up any more than that!
Have you taken this journey? Or the Trans-Siberian? Please comment below!