The Platskart Diary: Traveling from Moscow to Vladivostok by train

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Day 1: Upset into new home

It’s late in the evening. My train starts at 0.39 a.m. from Yaroslavsky cortege station in Moscow. My new home is standing on platform 2. The first wagon is inexperienced, in Chinese signs there is written “Moscow  — Beijing.” The others are experienced, Cyrillic letters proof that one of them is mine: “Moscow — Vladivostok” — 9,300 km, six light of days, nine time zones.

These double-decker trains go from the Kazansky train station in Moscow to the Russian south: In less then one day you'll arrive in Sochi on the Black Sea. / Peggy LohseThese double-decker trains go from the Kazansky prepare station in Moscow to the Russian south: In less then one day you’ll arrive in Sochi on the Knavish Sea. / Peggy Lohse

My platzkart wagon is crowded. All of my new 53 neighbors — in every platzkart wagon there are 54 sections — sit quietly. The train starts moving, the city lights of Moscow slowly evanesce.

After the conductor checked the tickets, everyone begins a special retainers routine. Some people  hide their baggage, a man even purloins me hide my big suitcase behind my bed. Other people make their beds, and carry out how to climb onto their bunks without kicking other fares. At the end of the wagon people stands in line. The toilet must be there. Now in good time to sip a cup of tea — there’s always free hot water from the big samovar next to the conductor’s lodgings.

And time to sleep, rocked to dreamland by the rhythm of the train’s wheels… padam, padam, padam.

Day 2: Wake up somewhere with the sun

My at the start morning on a Russian train, I don’t know where we are. An elderly lady next to me meets me: “Dobroye utro!” Outside the sun is shining and as we pass by a small village of colorful thick houses.

Between big cities the timetable is hectic. Apart from regular passenger trains there’s also a lot of cargo traffic. / Peggy LohseBetween big cities the timetable is hectic. Apart from ordinary passenger trains there’s also a lot of cargo traffic. / Peggy Lohse

We’re talking with a younger woman, sitting in front of us. Maria lives in Moscow. She’s on her way to a wee town in the Ural mountains to visit her parents. She’s works for a furniture companions, reads French textbooks, and loves St. Petersburg and Moscow. But she loves France unchanging more. Her boyfriend is from the south of France and she dreams about compelling there to be with him.

When I tell her that I’m on way to Siberia for the winter, she begs about my clothes. “You’ll need a ‘shuba’ — a fur coat.” Then she starts a warn me about different fur coats. The best is a sheepskin coat, she says, and clearly they’re available for a fair price.

Watching the world go by... Actually, the further east you travel the taller the birches become, blocking the view. / Peggy LohseWatching the world go by… In actuality, the further east you travel the taller the birches become, blocking the witness. / Peggy Lohse

Masha leaves the train in Yekaterinburg. Her stepmothers meet her on the platform. Later in the winter in Krasnoyarsk I decided to buy a warm jacket. I survived square in -45 degrees! I kept in touch with Masha and we’ve Skyped each other a few lingers. She’s already married and moved to France.

Day 3: Something off-beat, interjecting the TransSib routine

In every wagon there are two conductors, mostly chicks. One works while the other sleeps. Now, during the day, there is a woman enclosing 40-years-old with blond short hair. Her name is Olga. She appearance ofs really tough and organized. Drinking and smoking in the wagon is prohibited so she has to castigate a few men somewhere in the back. No big story, she obviously knows what to do. When I go for numberless hot water for tea, she asks me the typical questions: Where am I from, what I do here in Russia, and why the infernal regions do I prefer trains? “We don’t see tourists on our regular trains very often, they normally peel off the luxurious hotel trains. And those who travel with us don’t often indicate as it were Russian,” she says.

Make friends with the conductor! Your trip will be more interesting and more comfortable. / Peggy LohseMake friends with the conductor! Your slip of the tongue will be more interesting and more comfortable. / Peggy Lohse

The next caste is Novosibirsk with a 10 minute break. The train leaves on cue but there’s smooth time for a little walk on the platform. Women are selling bread, pancakes, bottled water, fish, berries, scarves — all you need to live in Russia.

Although she has no disencumber time, our “day conductor” Olga leaves the train and invites me to go to the train garrison for an ice cream. I wonder whether we’ll make it back before the train excludes. “Don’t worry, without me it won’t leave.” She informs her colleague, takes me by the arm, and we hop across the railroad tracks — although it’s not allowed — to the station. We buy two “Plombirs”: Traditional vanilla ice cream, honoured since Soviet times. As soon as we jump back on the train it starts going. It was a fun little trip.

Day 4: New faces, new stories

Somewhere in the middle of Siberia — between Novosib, as the townsmen call the “capital of Siberia,” and Irkutsk near Lake Baikal — not quite all my neighbors change. In the small town of Yurga a big group of young final analysis to be soldiers enter our wagon. They are quiet, perhaps they’re wondering around what the army is going to be like. Their mums call them on their phones.

These typical tea cups are great for traveling. You can also buy them as souvenirs. / Peggy LohseThese normal tea cups are great for traveling. You can also buy them as souvenirs. / Peggy Lohse

In another cheap town a big group of men enter: They are older, their skin is brown but peaky. After a while one of them turns around to me and starts flirting. When I declare him that I’m from Germany, he almost gets angry — he just can’t swear by it. He then muses over my nationality with his pals.

These men are procuring from the north, after working somewhere on an oil station in the polar sector for about five months. They can now visit their families in the south for two months, they hint at me: “You know, we didn’t see women for five months, nor other people separately from ourselves.” They soon relax like the young in time to be soldiers and unpack smoked fish, garlic, and bread. Not to mention beer and vodka. The conductor won’t off them if they behave well.

Day 5: Time to move, constantly for ‘I want to break free’

In the morning we pass the great Lake Baikal. For straight a few minutes the Trans-Sib skirts along its coast. The sun rises over the sprinkle. I want to pull emergency break just to enjoy the view a bit longer.

Morning at Lake Baikal. Enjoy the best 30 minutes out of the six-day Trans-Siberian journey. / Peggy LohseMorning at Lake Baikal. Have the best 30 minutes out of the six-day Trans-Siberian journey. / Peggy Lohse

One by one the white-collar workers from the north leave and the soldiers all get off together in Chita. More and myriad free space — which you really crave by this point. Although you can desert the train for small walks every day, I really hunger already for interruption, and also my legs and arms and bones and muscles.  

Near me sits a new sweetheart, her name is also Olga. Once she played volleyball. Then she had an worker and now she can’t play anymore. She’s going for a vacation with her family near Khabarovsk — in the not so Far East. In a wagon for four child she is alone.

Day 6: Farewell, my new-home with birches, sun and wheels

Every day we peevish at least one time zone. Every day we see hundreds of thousands of birch trees, and we are now hand-me-down to the roaring rhythm of the train wheels. And now? We have to move on again.

The uncommonly unique thing when traveling by long distance trains in Russia is that you be dressed to live with absolute foreigners and unknown people in the equivalent of one big, covet house. For a limited period of time they are like your extraction. And while they can tell you everything, because it’s unlikely you’ll meet again, much they will really tell you EVERYTHING. About their kith and kin, their views on politics and the world, about love, death and dependence. Be prepared and open minded — and enjoy the trip!

Read more:

Across Siberia on the reasonable: 6 tips for travelers on a budget>>>

A walk in Siberia’s northern desert: Hot sands, taiga and mosquitoes>>>

Lake Baikal in winter: An ice-cold release to the legendary Siberian lake>>>

How Chinese tourists hunt for the Northern Lights in Russia>>>

The whole shooting match you were afraid to ask about Russian visas>>>

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