The night train, the ideal travel transportation to get from A to B without giving up days. It gives you the opportunity to enjoy the landscape, to get to know the locals and to fall asleep at night on the rhythm of the driving train. At least that’s the image most people have in mind when they think of the night train. But is this the case? What’s it like sleeping in a night train? And does it matter in what country you choose the night train? You can find the answers and a lot more in my new feature ‘The night train’. Every episode takes a look at a different country. In this episode I talk about the Russian night train.
During our trip through Russia we took the night train from Yaroslavl to Saint Petersburg. It was a fairly long ride (11 hours), but I slept most of it. The carriages are divided into three classes of accommodations. The first class consists of two bed compartments, the second class are the four bed compartments (two on the top, two on the bottom) and the third is a dorm. I would not recommend choosing third class, because there’s absolutely no privacy and you cannot put your stuff away.
I chose the second class, where you share your compartment with three fellow travelers. The compartments are rather small, there is hardly any space to move around. That’s why everyone is standing in the hallway. This also has another reason. The temperature in the compartment is pretty high (due to the Russian central heating system) and you cannot open a window. With four people in a small compartment, you can imagine how unpleasant that was. In the hallway there were open windows and so everyone was standing there to catch some fresh air. The beds in the compartment were also rather small and narrow. If you’re sleeping and want to roll over, you would risk falling out of bed. And be sure to bring an ear plugs, because the train makes a lot of noise.
Each carriage has its own toilet compartment. Don’t get overly excited about this. There is a toilet, some toilet paper and a mirror with a small sink. But it’s definitely not clean and it always stinks. But it sufficient just for one night.
Each carriage has also its own ‘carriage lady’ that provides you with bed linen, water and tea. These ‘provodniks’ are rather strict ladies in uniform who take their jobs very seriously. Also these women are not the most slender ladies. This will give an awkward situation when they pass you in the hallway. Because the corridors are so small, you’ll be standing belly-to-belly or back-to-belly with your ‘provodnik’.
Because sitting in your compartment is just not possible, you’ll be better off going to the diner. Here there are comfortable chairs with tables. You can order some food or drinks, but don’t expect too much. It will quiet in the diner, because most Russians bring their own food and drinks.
Sleeping in a Russian night train is not comfortable at all. The compartments are small, the beds are narrow, there’s no shower and it’s always hot. But this is really something you’ll have to experience once in your life. Everyone who’s on that train, is feeling the same thing you’re feeling and so everyone makes the best of it. The suits go off and the shorts go on. Vodka is poured in and home-grown vegetables are shared with everyone. And so the train slowly arrives in Saint Petersburg.
Did you ever spend a night in a night train?