Transsiberian Railroad Tales

Around midnight we find ourselves at a train station in the middle of Moscow, amidst other travelers (mostly Russian) and looking at some board indicating the platforms for departing trains. We are at the Yaroslavsky Vokzal also called the Leningradsy Vokzal and still another name for a local station towards the suburbs. However, the metro station to get there is called Komsomolskaya or Kalanchevskaya. Still get it?

Finally it is indicated: we are starting our big journey on the Transsiberian Railroad from platform number 4. When the train arrives, flooding us with light of its headlights, everybody rushes towards its doors to get inside as soon as possible. The provodnitsa (cabin attendants) check our tickets and passports before we go in. Inside we enter in some kind of sleep cabin with 54 beds all arranged by 6. Just before departure, they still have to put a window in, as there was none in the “compartment” were Jean-Christophe was lying (???). Even Russians mutter that this is “Russian quality”. :-)

Vera finds herself with a grandma and two kids and JC a little bit further with a grandmother, her daughter and her grand-daughter. Uncertain what to do, we sit down and wait. After departure of the train, the train attendants come by again and check the tickets upon which they give us bedsheets and a small towel. We install ourselves more or less comfortably and Vera is just taking of her contact lenses when all of a sudden the lights are turned off. Just like that, no warning… Great! Well then let’s sleep while going through time-zones!

Our trip from Moscow to Yekaterinburg lasted 36 hours and you might be wondering, what you do on a trip of 36 hours on a train? Well there are several options and we’ll describe them below:

  • Sleep: as we were in the third class, we had beds. 54 beds in one compartment, so you can imagine the smell after some while with a lot of unwashed people (no showers) and dirty feet sticking out of beds. We slept quite well though, a bit shaky and rumbling while the train drove its way through the Russian country-side but ok.
  • Try to talk to other travelers on the train, which were mainly Russians, so we tried to speak some Russian. It was very nice though and people are quite interested in speaking to foreigners, so we laughed, talked and played games.
  • Read: a lot of time to read in the train.
  • Eat: buying food is quite an experience on the train. At every stop (every 3 to 4 hours) some babuschka sell food (fruits, vegetables, home-made cakes, meals and ice-cream). So everybody runs out to take advantage of the short stops (stops last from 2 to 20 minutes and are announced on some board within the train) to get food for the next few hours. It’s quite a nice experience! Furthermore there is some restaurant wagon that offers food, but we did not use it and there is some samovar that is producing hot water 24 hours a day for tea and instant noodles.

Before our departure, a lot of people told us “Oh my god!! Third class!! You are for sure going to be robbed!!” or “I don’t envy you!” but for the moment it was actually a very nice experience being in between Russians and trying to communicate with them. Actually there are a lot of women with children on the train, so we did not suffer from drunk male Russians yet. ;-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe


  1. Tweety
    Posted August 13, 2007 at 14:03 | Permalink

    Eh eh, this remind me the time we traveled through China by train, which is something you’re gonna do right ?
    After you had both experiences, let me know what you think about them :)

  2. mamma
    Posted August 13, 2007 at 16:04 | Permalink

    Quel roman palpitant ! Surtout continuez à nous informer ainsi, c’est formidable ! PS : dans la mesure du possible, pourriez-vous nous annoncer dans chaque post les étapes suivantes, “en gros”, pour savoir à peu près où vous êtes entre chaque post. Grazie mille e bacioni, Mamma.

  3. Posted August 13, 2007 at 16:53 | Permalink

    Tja, uiteraard reis je derde klasse echt door Rusland met Russen. let goed op jullie spullen

  4. Posted August 13, 2007 at 19:12 | Permalink

    grâce à vous, je suis obligée de me remettre à l’anglais!!je mets du temps, mais j’arrive à comprendre. la visite de Moscou nous a rappelé quelques bons souvenirs. Merci pour toutes vos explications; cela nous permet de nous échapper de l’été pourri que nous avons. Continuez à raconter . On a vraiment l’impression de prendre le train avec vous et de sentir toutes ces bonnes odeurs!!! bisous et à bientôt.

  5. Posted August 13, 2007 at 22:51 | Permalink

    hallo veertje en jean christophe,ik lees dat het trein reizen en heel avontuur is. ik geloof dat ik de hele tijd wakker zou blijven ,om de spulle te bewaken tot nu toe gaat alles goed en ik hoop ook dat , dat ook blijft goed gaan.
    groetjes mam en veel kusjes.

  6. Posted August 14, 2007 at 0:25 | Permalink

    Hey Vera en J.C….wat een verhaal, en ja Vera koop dan ook lenzen die je in kunt houden, hahahaha! En trouwens Jean- Christophe wie zou zo’n bink als jou durven te beroven?(ff vertalen he Vera). Als laatste nog een seksistische opmerking: denk dat ik alleen voor de trein-stewardessen(foto!) derde klas zou willen reizen…..


  7. Posted August 14, 2007 at 8:28 | Permalink

    Bonjour à vous deux, je continue à vous suivre et vos reportages sont très intéressants. Les photos sont très belles et pittoresques. Pourriez-vous faire apparaître un pointeur pour mieux vous situer sur une portion de carte? Bisous.

  8. Posted August 14, 2007 at 21:55 | Permalink

    zo te lezen een indrukwekkende treinreis te midden van de russen, blij te lezen dat alles verder goed gaat, en wat betreft de lens//hebje reservelenzen bij je?

    Doei, Yvonne

  9. Posted August 15, 2007 at 8:14 | Permalink

    ola vous 2!Felicitation pour votre site , très complet et très pratique.Ca doit vous prendre pas mal de temps….J’espère que le russe de Vera est maintenant à la hauteur, et que vous n’en avez pas trop marre du bortsh.Bises

  10. Jean-Christophe
    Posted August 20, 2007 at 13:53 | Permalink

    J’ai rajoute une carte du trajet parcouru dans l’article suivant :)
    On essayera de la maintenir pour la suite :)
    merci pour l idee