Trains are oh so important in the Russian culture and history. It is almost impossible to think about Russia without dreaming of a trip on the famous Transiberian railway, which in just over a week connects Moscow and Vladivostock (or Moscow and Beijing, passing through ruggedly beautiful Mongolia).
The Russian word for railways is железные дороги, which literally translates into iron road (like the French chemin de fer or the Italian ferrovia) and in many aspects it has been a “better road than the road itself” to connect the distant parts of the largest country on Earth. The first railway line was built in Russia in 1837 between Saint-Petersburg (at that time the capital city of the Russian empire) and Tsarskoye Selo, and called the Tsarskoye Selo Railway. It was 17 km long and linked the Imperial Palaces at Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk.
The picture above is the hall of the Moskovsky railway station in Saint Petersburg, where trains leave to go to the state Capital. It is a map of all long distance rail lines departing from the Venice of the North and it shows cities from Berlin and Odessa in the West to Barnaul and Ufa in the East, from Murmansk and Arkhangelsk in the North, to Volgograd in the South, all the way to the remote city (and former gulag) of Vorkuta. If you want to still go deeper into Siberia and all the way to the Russian Far East, you do have to change train.
I will definitely write more post on trains, considering their importance on Russian culture, but for now, here’s an important travel tip! If you are travelling between Moscow and Saint Petersburg you have a huge number of trains to choose from. Your best options are the super comfortable high-speed Sapsan (like the German ICE or the French TGV), which connects the two cities in just three and a half hours. But to me an even better choice is that of one of the many night trains. Their are always efficient, on time and more than reasonably comfortable. Even in third class (we’ll talk about the three classes on train some other time, as that deserves a post on its own) you get fresh bed linen, a pillow and a fresh pillow cover, a small towel and a warm blanket (which you will never need, as the temperature is always between very warm and downright hot!). And when I say fresh I mean industrially washed and pressed and presented to you inside a clear sealed plastic bag. By taking the night train you save a lot of money (it is way cheaper than the Sapsan and you skip one night in a hotel) and equally important a lot of time, as you go to sleep in one city and about seven or eight hours later, depending on your train of choice, you wake up at your destination, in the very centre of town and ready to enjoy a full day.
Would you like to discover Russia by train, plain, boat, bus, car or even off-road? Do get in touch and we’ll be delighted to organize an unforgettable trip for you, to be your English speaking guides with exclusive insider knowledge of the largest country on Earth.