Trip 2: St. Petersburg -  Moscow


The train was a midnight train, which arrived in Moscow at 8:30 AM. This was the perfect introduction to trans-Siberian travelling, since it was only one night. The station was actually a 15-minute walk from the hotel, but since the car was booked as part of the package, why not take it? The driver was kind enough to go inside with me, since I had no idea of how these things work. I still don't! The train tickets only make sense to the conductor, and the time and number of the train might not be exactly the same as what you expect. I went from carriage to carriage asking whether I belonged there, and finally found my place.

The berth, as in every train I travelled on, was for 4 people. The compartment opens with a sliding door, which can be locked at night. There are two lower beds and two upper beds. The two lower beds lift on a hinge for storage, and there's a cubby over the door that extends over the hallway ceiling. Each bed has a wall-light and a net contraption for storage. There's a small table by the window which has curtains, and the metal walls have shiny paint that looks like fake wood. None of this is luxurious, but it does the job very well. Down the hall is an urn that has constant hot water, so you can make coffee, tea, and any food that involves boiling water. The toilets are these gigantic iron-lady sort of affairs that flip everything on the tracks when you press the foot pedal. There's a schematic next to the toilet, so if you get bored on the trip you can take it apart and put it back together again. Each carriage has a provodnitza (usually female), who takes care of the heat and boiling water, and has people ejected from the train if necessary.

The first night on the train wasn't so bad. My berthmates were a woman in her thirties with a 10-year-old son who was very upset about something, and a man of about 40 who had bundles of what looked like printing jobs. I thought the mother was very good with her son, though I had no idea of why he was crying. The man with the bundles was largely absent, talking to a friend somewhere else in the train. A fellow came into the carriage with our bedding. Later he came in and said something to me, which I didn't understand. I asked him to repeat himself, and that's exactly what he did he used the same words again, though a bit louder. I looked puzzled, and he shouted at me, "denge, Denge, DENGE!!!!" ("money, Money, MONEY!!!"). Oops, I'm glad you said so. Apparently I owed him 16 roubles for the bedding. For the other trips my bedding was included, and the provodniks were a bit more understanding. We went to sleep quite soon since it was late, and woke up the next morning to Russian pop music from the thoughtfully-provided loudspeakers in the compartment.

I was also introduced to train etiquette, which is much like plane etiquette but slower. People are in close quarters, and cooperate fully for the length of the trip. On the whole, everyone is very pleasant, and depending on the size of the trip, you might find yourself with a temporary family, sharing all sorts of goods and services. When you get off the train, it's goodbye and thanks cheerio and that's it. It makes sense.

I met a driver at the station, and feeling more confident with small talk, got him to give me my first tour of Moscow. The place reminds me very strongly of New York, and I liked the gothic-looking buildings like the Leningradskaya Hotel, which was right near the station.