Monday, April 14, 2008

To Moscow by Train

The TEE-hee Don (that is, the Quiet Don) is an express train that runs between Rostov-on-Don and Moscow. It leaves Rostov 1:30 p.m. most days and arrives Moscow 7:30 the next morning. Several times now I've taken that train from Rostov to Moscow to catch a flight from Sheremetevo-2, the international airport, back to the US. Most recently was early April. Care to come aboard?

Advantages to taking the train include catching up sleep. And playing UNO. And gazing at the vast country side as it whizzes past. The train is like an inexpensive hotel. And considerably less expensive then flying. Disadvantages include needing to leave home 18-some hours earlier than if catching the early flight from Rostov to Moscow at 6:35 a.m.

Here's a quick shot of the PLOKS-kart wagon just before we pulled into Moscow. Plokskart is open like this. You can walk along and see everybody in the wagon: There's no privacy. Plokskart can be a bit of a shock at first to a foreigner because it's so cozy. But it's significantly less expensive than the kype (Koo-PAY) wagons. And I have come to prefer ploxkart because there you get to meet more people -- potentional UNO partners, it's less stuffy and, best of all, there's more luggage space. And luggage space is something that I cherish.

This lady was my neighbor on the train. She was assigned the lower berth opposite me. There are four sleeping births: two upper and two lower. The upper berth has advantages because you can just hop up there and have your own quiet little world and sleep or read. The disadvantage to the lower berth is that you need to share it if the top berth person wants to sit for a while. But the plus to the bottom berth is having easy access to the little table. Because eventually I find myself wanting to drag out the laptop and edit photos. Photos for You, dear blog readers. =)

The koo-PAY is a higher class of train travel. And you know what that means - fork over more rubles. But look at the nice corridor with curtains. These shot was from a trip to Moscow, March 2006.

Well, here are two nice ladies enjoying tea in their koo-pay, March 2006. Notice the nice tablecloth. That's part of the deal in that class of train travel. Nice table cloths and such. Koopay compartments have sliding doors on them, so there's a bit of privacy.

Boiling water is available in each train car. Perfect for a cuppa tea and the train provides these glasses and glass holders. Surely Czar Nicholas II sipped tea from something this elegant. Of course after he got booted out of power, his tea time ritual likely changed.

Being an express train, the Teehee Don makes few stops. But at each stop are entrepreneurial folks selling food. The choices range from dried fish to alcohol to chips, candy and boiled potatoes. This lady was selling homemade pastries filled with fruit or maybe cabbage and potatoes. She kindly allowed herself to be photographed, although she did say with a laugh, it's better to buy than to photograph.

Here we are, early morning at Moscow station, Kozanski Vogzal, March 2006. There's something romantic, something poetic about this station. Reminds me of being in a movie from the 1940's. Not that I've actually done that, of course.

Say, have you done the train bit in Eastern Europe? Was it dramatic? Please share where you went and what you did. And how you liked the bathrooms. =)


Rob & Candy said...

oh, your train rife reminds me of when we went to Pskov. Thanks for sharing.

John from Kansas said...

Travel by rail is so much more civilized than ordinary forms of transportation. Travelers can stroll about and chat with other passengers (if one chooses). Or lounge by the window and sip on hot tea or coffee with a nice roll (and maybe just a bit of chocolate) while the landscape glides past. Thanks for taking us along Eileen.

Jeanette M said...

Okay, Eileen. I'll have a go at the bathroom teaser.

In 2001 I took the overnight train from Moscow to Samara. We (my American friend, my Russian interpreter and me) rode in a "koo-pay" along with a "neighbor"...a bad need of a shower. Imagine my shock at spending the night with a strange man in a tiny room. But...I digress. The bathrooms located at each end of the car are approximately the size of an airplane restroom. People manage to take "showers" in there and leave the floors rather wet. Well, I think that's what all that dampness was. For sure you don't go in there without shoes on. Oh yes, take your own t.p. too. Was there a seat on the toilet? I can't remember. Even if so, not safe to sit. The other thing I remember was the challenge of washing, brushing teeth etc one handed. Why not use two hands, one might ask? Because the train did what trains do...clackety clack, rockety rock. You have to hold on to something to keep from bumping into the sink, stool, etc. as the train bounces you around. Using the bathroom, any bathroom, in Russia is an adventure. I thank God for a large, strong bladder.

John from Kansas said...

Jeanette M, thanks for the tips. Is First class better?

Jeanette M said...

Hi John - Yes! It's better. On the trip back to Moscow, we paid for a private (2-person) koo-pay so I guess that was first class. I'm pretty sure we had the car to ourselves, as our "conductors" were rather bored. We did get a hot meal served to us, made fresh in the dining car. The bathroom wasn't a mess because we were the only ones using it.

I'm sure that if I were to take the train today I would be more comfortable traveling with "neighbors" and tiny wet bathrooms. Most things are bearable, and even pleasant if you know what to expect.

martsa said...

Nice pictures from your trip. We will travel from Moscow to Rostov during Christmas. I looked the railway map and it looks like the railway goes via Ukraine? Is that true? I mean those trains that leaves from Kasanskaja. I know that the trains leaving from Kurskaja go via Ukraine. I hope that you could help me!

Eileen said...

Hello Martsa,
Yes, some trains out of Moscow do go through Ukraine.

Is that a problem? You know, actually, it might or might Not be. Just depends. Several years back,Ukraine loosened visa requirements for citizens from certain countries including the US, and IF I'm NOT mistaken, citizens of the EU countries. (you can check at the UKR embassy website + Finland - do I understand you are from Helsinki? - Hey - I've BEEN There!) So do a search and find out about visa requirements for citizens of Finland. (assuming of course that that includes you...)

Hope that helps. Soon you'll be in Rostov!

martsa said...

thanks for the answer. Actually my problem is that I have a single entry visa to Russia and that's why I cannot go by train that goes out of Russia. So it would be nice to know if there are any suitable trains to Rostov. Our destination is Kislovodsk and one option is to go first to Volgograd. That is a bit longer option though. If you just have more information about this I would be glad to hear of them.

Yes, I'm from Finland. On Tuesday we'll start our trip, first to Moscow and then further.

t. martsa

Eileen said...

Hello Martsa, Best wishes with your trip. You're right - with a single entry visa into Russia, you absolutely do not want a train that veers out of Russia. True, there are trains that go from Moscow through Ukraine and then back into Russia (I was on one myself recently - but I have multi-entry visa).

Yes, surely there are a number of trains from Moscow straight on down south out of Kazanski Station. I trust you will have a guide or speaker of Russian (maybe yourself?) or some such person to help with the train tickets. Right?

Best wishes to you! Thanks much for your stopping by and I'll say a special prayer for your travels this week. Let me know how it goes when you have a chance... =)

Anonymous said...

Hi Eileen.

I discovered your Blog, searching for soem informations about travel by train Moscow-Rostov (where live my love :)) ). And post by post, i started to read several pages of your blog (a bit i know now your story)..And now i think i will follow your blog, step by step ;).
My intention is take this train, from Moscow, and choose 3d class. Even if some friend try to give me fear for 3d class, i think different about it. I watched videos, fotos, and so on..and I think is not so terrible, is not the heaven ok, but neither HELL. Pheraps...could be a Purgatory of 17hours :D..
Happy New Year!