Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Trans Siberian - Part 2 - St Petersburg - Moscow - Vladimir

Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - St Petersburg - Moscow - Vladimir
Part 3 - Vladimir - Ekateringburg
Part 4 - Ekateringburg - Irkutsk - Ulan Ude
Part 5 - Ulan Ude - Ulaanbaatar
Part 6 - The Final Leg - Ulaanbaatar - Beijing

St Petersburg to Moscow

Although we had travelled all the way from London by train, technically this was the beginning of our Trans Siberian/Trans Mongolian adventure. We arrived at the station in St Petersburg at around 11.30pm in plenty of time for our train which was due to leave at about 12.40pm.  All Russian railway stations are manned by police and all passengers are required to enter the station through security gates and pass luggage through x-ray machines although we never saw anyone stopped and searched in all our time in Russia.

The Railway Map of Russia and
Surrounding Countries in St Petersburg Station
It is necessary to arrive early because you need to ensure that you have plenty of time to find your the platford, your train, and your carriage (Russian trains can be up to 16 carriages long) and be “checked in” by your provodnista.  There is no last minute jumping on a train in Russia – no-one is allowed on without a ticket, a seat reservation, and producing their passport for inspection (including Russians).  And if you miss your train, it is virtually impossible to simply “catch the next train”. Trains on some routes only run a few times a day (on some of the more obscure routes, only 2 or 3 times a week) and are usually booked up days in advance.
By Russian standards this was a short hop – a trip of about 9 hours – but we were still prepared with beer and snacks for our journey.

We shared our compartment with an older Russian couple who were pleasant enough. They clearly knew the drill, made their bed as soon as we all boarded (they had the bottom two bunks), closed the blind, turned out the light and settled down to sleep until about 10 minutes before we arrived in Moscow.  This was when we first realised that your allotted seating hugely affected the nature of your trip.
We felt we had to sneak around like children, using our individual lights to find our way around.  We had a sly couple of beers before bed, and in the morning had to tiptoe around them as they gently snored away.

However, as this was a relatively short journey, it was not much of an issue.  When we woke up at about 7.30am we left the compartment and stood in the corridor watching the passing scenery on the approach to Moscow until we pulled into Leningradksy Station at about 10.30am.
A Typical View of the Window in Rural Russia
On the whole the train was comfortable, the journey passed without incident, and we reached Moscow quite rested.  We really felt we were on our way across Russia.

Moscow to Vladimir
We enjoyed our time in Moscow but were keen to continue our journey east.  We arrived at about midday for our train, however, this journey did not get off to a very good start due to the coffee burning incident on the station (see Vladimir post).  However, the journey itself was very short (3 hours) but we still had berths in a 4 berth sleeping carriage (one upper and one lower) which meant that we could happily sit on the lower bunk and watch the scenery pass by.

We were still provided with bedding which we thought was rather strange for a 3 hour journey in the middle of the day.  We chose not to use it and were happy to just sit on the lower berth watching out of the window rather than climb into bed!
There were three other people in our compartment, all getting off at Vladimir.  A young girl travelling alone (who did actually make up her top bunk, lay down and tried to watch out of the window) and a young couple in their late teens/early twenties who said very little to each throughout the whole journey, but nevertheless ate a feast of a picnic they had brought along with them.  No sharing took place on this occasion - so much for Russians' famous hospitality!  In fairness we didn't get our stash out either but we're not notorious for stuffing food down people's throats on trains!

This journey was also without incident and we safely arrived in Vladimir after a little over 3 hours, ready to enjoy the delights of Suzdal and it's many, many churches.

 <Prev Part 1 Introduction

>>Next Part 3 Vladimir - Ekateringburg

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