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Platzkart Adventure!

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Many people often ask me "why Russia?" I can afford to travel to much nicer places and stay in more upscale accommodations, but to me there's no adventure in this. Complete boredom. With Russia, there's always something interesting! A complex puzzle to solve, new experiences each journey, and constant brain explosions and frustration with infrastructure and societal interactions as a whole. When I thought about visiting Kazan for a few days, there were two options to get there. Fly or take Russian Railways. I not only chose the latter, but decided to travel in a platzkart to get a true Russian experience. :) At first, I was a little nervous to ride the train dormitory style by myself. This uneasy feeling arose not from my own thinking, but from Russian friends when I posted a status update on Facebook that I would ride alone in a platzkart on the Railways. Responses included - "why?!?", "brave and wild!" and "are you crazy?" What did I think of the experience?

1. I think it's a good way for foreigners to travel if they wish to interact with locals, but not for comfort. The train from Moscow to Kazan was very old and shitty. Train number is 112мц. Avoid it! I'm not certain, but I think the final destination of the train wasn't Kazan but onward into the depths of Russia. The main problem for me is that it was a night train, and I was completely unprepared. Upon boarding, the lights on the train were out, cut on only for a few minutes when the train took off for the conductor to check tickets. After that, complete darkness. Most passengers immediately went to sleep and remained in silence all night. Besides the echoes of loud snores in the air, there was little movement or motion. No one to talk to, complete darkness, and zero outlets for phones or computers. For twelve hours, I sat in boredom, staring in blackness. I can't sleep in planes, trains, automobiles, or even a bed on most nights.

Salvation came in the wee hours of the morning when I encountered a handsome young man. At the sight of a young Russian face, there's always a glimmer of hope that the person will speak English. I asked him in Russian if he spoke the language, and his face lit up! Yes! For a few hours, we sat and chatted at the tiny table by my bunk. He had spent a summer in America, on the work/travel program sponsored by the U.S. government. Most important, he gave me food. I was starving, carrying with me no food or water for the long ride because I thought all trains had a dining car, where such items can be purchased. This train had nothing. No real food, only a dispenser for hot water. My new friend gave me a homemade meat pie and some instant mashed potatoes. Add hot water, and suddenly hunger pains subsided. So, I learned a proper lesson on how to travel on some Russian trains - bring boiled eggs, bread, potatoes and meat pies for survival. :)) And for some, I suppose vodka. After Yaroslavl, I will not touch this poison for a long time!

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2. The train from Kazan to Moscow was more modern. For this journey, I picked second class, a private room with four bunks. Of course, it was much nicer, and I was in a room with all females. Here's one of my bunk mates - a Russian fashionista with a sullen expression for the entire 12 hour train ride. All of the women were friendly, but there were language barriers so conversation was almost impossible. On the theme of trains, I attended a hockey game in Yaroslavl, where the local team is named "Lokomotiv." :) About Russian hockey, I can say it's more calm and civilized than the U.S. version. At least the game I watched - there were almost no fist fights. In most NHL games in the U.S., numerous brawls break out each game.

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3. After four trips to Russia, I think I have a lot of insight to offer foreigners traveling to the country. Perhaps I'll make a post about it sometime, but the most important thing is to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. Otherwise, you will be completely lost the entire time. In the train station in Moscow, there are almost no signs in English. The alphabet is easy to learn, with many letters and sounds similar to English. It will help you navigate on your own immensely, as a lot of basic Russian and English words overlap, or are very similar.

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You'll recall that when I traveled to the Sochi Olympics last year, I took a 24 hour train ride from Moscow to Adler. However, on that journey I was in a private, first class kupe with someone I knew. I've now traveled in all classes of the train - first and second class and dormitory style. Each has something unique to offer. When I arrived in Kazan, I had a long conversation with the hotel manager. I told him how I traveled to the city, and he was in complete amazement that a 42 year old American woman and lawyer would choose to travel in a platzkart. He told me he "hates Russian Railways," and would "rather sit in an airport for 10 hours than take the train." I think this is a bit of an elitist attitude. For me, train travel remains interesting and my impressions of Russian Railways mostly favorable. The most important thing is to research the train on which you will travel. They are not all created equal.

About Kazan, there will be a separate and detailed post. This is now my second favorite city - right behind St. Petersburg.

Do you take the train often? In which class do you travel? Any interesting or unusual experiences with bunk mates? I envision sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll on some of these journeys, especially for train rides lasting several days! :) Share fun stories in the comments. I will be amused and happy to read them.

I'm now back in the USA after a long plane ride home yesterday. Many stories about Russia to follow...stay tuned my dear readers! I've missed communicating with you the past two weeks!

P.S.: All photos in this post were taken on iPhone. Sorry, on this trip I was lazy with the big camera.

Other Train Stories
Romance on the Rails - Wolstzyn, Poland
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Sapsan Train to St. Petersburg
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American Journey to Sochi: Train Ride from Moscow to Adler
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Comments

( 472 comments — Leave a comment )
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valkirya77
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:01 pm (UTC)
))))
cool story))
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 04:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks! How many times have you traveled on the train?
(no subject) - valkirya77 - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
kukmor
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:05 pm (UTC)
не каждый рискнет в плацкарте проехать))
vitokro
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:09 pm (UTC)
А что тут такого?
(no subject) - ultra_epifan - Mar. 10th, 2015 10:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vitokro - Mar. 11th, 2015 07:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ultra_epifan - Mar. 11th, 2015 11:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - udikov - Mar. 10th, 2015 03:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 10th, 2015 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 15th, 2015 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - facelvega - Mar. 11th, 2015 09:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
udikov
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:09 pm (UTC)
Это ещё что...
Поезд Киев-Москва. 3 января 2010 года



Не то, чтобы я замёрз - утеплился одеялами и спал вполне сносно, лишь иногда просыпаясь от тающих на лице снежинок. Утром был впечатлён сугробом возле подушки (снег скатился вниз небольшой лавиной) и тем, что матрас наглухо примёрз к стене. Мне повезло - я был на верхней полке. А внизу действительно была жесть - посидев 5 минут возле окна, я капитулировал - одел куртку и ещё долго отогревался чаем. Большой привет руководству РЖД.

Зы: Остальные фото, увы, не сохранились...

---

Kiev-Moscow train. January 3, 2010

Not that I froze - are insulated blankets and slept tolerably well, only occasionally waking from melting snowflakes on his face. Morning was impressed snowdrift near the pillow (snow slid down a small avalanche) and the fact that the mattress tightly primёrz the wall. I was lucky - I was on the top shelf. And at the bottom was really tin - 5 minutes after sitting near the window, I surrendered - wore a jacket and was heated for a long time tea. A big hello to the heads of Railways.

PS: The other photo, alas, have not survived ...
e_g_o_r_i_u_s
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Это ещё что...
Охтыжблин! Вот это да! Это можно на открытку старику Якунину.
Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 10th, 2015 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - e_g_o_r_i_u_s - Mar. 10th, 2015 04:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 10th, 2015 04:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 11th, 2015 07:18 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 11th, 2015 07:18 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 11th, 2015 07:36 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 11th, 2015 07:39 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 11th, 2015 07:56 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 11th, 2015 08:18 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Это ещё что... - sbu_kgb - Mar. 17th, 2015 11:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - (Anonymous) - Mar. 16th, 2015 12:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - photo_pro - Mar. 10th, 2015 08:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
2010 год как бе - udikov - Mar. 11th, 2015 07:19 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Это ещё что... - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 10th, 2015 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - sedov_05 - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - sergio_vorsin - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - annaloca - Mar. 16th, 2015 10:14 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 16th, 2015 10:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - annaloca - Mar. 16th, 2015 10:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Это ещё что... - udikov - Mar. 16th, 2015 10:49 am (UTC) - Expand
egorov
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:12 pm (UTC)
platzkart - is a true-true-true russian lifestyle
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 04:50 pm (UTC)
On this trip, I experienced a lot of "true-true Russian lifestyle." Especially in the village, which I will write about later. :)
(no subject) - ixtiandra - Mar. 15th, 2015 04:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 15th, 2015 04:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ixtiandra - Mar. 15th, 2015 05:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
pin_gwin
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:18 pm (UTC)
Hoooray!!!
You did it!!!!
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 04:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Hoooray!!!
I survived! It was not so bad, just very boring for me. During the day, it would be more interesting. I would have tried to talk to people, and could have taken more photos of fellow passengers.
Re: Hoooray!!! - pin_gwin - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hoooray!!! - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
vitokro
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:22 pm (UTC)
>In which class do you travel?
We do not use term "class" for old "sleep" trains. We use "platzkart", "Kupe"(four beds and door, your trip from Kazan to Moscow), "SV"(two beds and door).
I like platzkart, because it is for times cheaper than kupe and it is more comfort for me. I do not like travel in kupe with strangers, it is so many problems. If someone want to change clothes - you have to leave kupe. It is more boring in kupe. in platzkart you can watch everyone and everything in the car, sometimes this is funny.
I like kupe only if i travel with 3 friends - so we can occupy kupe by ourselves.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 04:52 pm (UTC)
I used the correct terms "platzkart" and "kupe" in most of the post. :)) Even in platzkart, I saw some people changing clothes right in the open, not privately. Men were sitting shirtless, older women were putting on pantyhose, etc. Maybe in summer time, when it's hot, people sit on the train naked? :)) This would be a great photo opportunity! :)
(no subject) - vitokro - Mar. 11th, 2015 08:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - krino2 - Mar. 11th, 2015 01:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 11th, 2015 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - little_dorrit - Mar. 15th, 2015 11:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 15th, 2015 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
old_perduccio
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:26 pm (UTC)
The train interior and the hot water dispenser unit look exactly the same as they had looked in my Soviet childhood :)
ski_traveller
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:47 pm (UTC)
Так и есть. За последние 20-30 лет в конструкции плацкартных вагонов почти ничего не изменилось.
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 10th, 2015 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - qi_tronic - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
dryvit
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:30 pm (UTC)

Like

peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 04:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks! More stories to come. :)
autumn_rainy
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:30 pm (UTC)
trains are fun, but yeah, can be dangerous too. when I was a teenager we traveled to Sochi for vacations every summer, and my Mom always insisted we go with kupe instead of plazkart because she was afraid some men might try to take advantage of me. i slept like a baby on the trains, just waking up to eat, read a book for a little while and use the restroom, probably saving up the energy for the sleepless party nights :) aaaw these were good times :)
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 05:00 pm (UTC)
I'm always traveling with men, and I don't think they really understand the safety concerns of women when traveling, esp. for a female traveling alone. But I felt safe on the train. No problems. Just have to be cautious of your surroundings and personal belongings.
(no subject) - autumn_rainy - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
pivovaroffs
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:36 pm (UTC)
Kupe is most common class in Russia. Platzkart will disappear soon and will be replaced by two-storey kupe trains (at least Russian railway plans to do so).
You can buy a food on many way-stations, but you need to have a ruble cash and hurry.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 05:01 pm (UTC)
On the Sapsan and long journey to Russia, there were nice dining cars on both trains. I thought all trains have them, but I learned this is not the case.
(no subject) - pivovaroffs - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - pivovaroffs - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
nar_row
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:38 pm (UTC)
So, you like platzkart carriages after all? :)

Edited at 2015-03-10 03:39 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 05:02 pm (UTC)
It wasn't so bad. :) In a way, it's good because there is more space to move around but it can grow tiresome to listen to people snoring all night and staring at the stinky feet of strangers. :)) And some men sat shirtless on the train.
a000796
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:41 pm (UTC)
just one last step toward complete nirvana - to share such a coach for few days with a bunch of demobs coming home after military service :)
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 05:02 pm (UTC)
I can only imagine! :)
drfunfrock
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:42 pm (UTC)
a Russian fashionista with a sullen expression for the entire 12 hour train ride.

:) Not suleen, i think. Serious. 'I'm not a child, everyone must see, that I think only about very important things'.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 05:03 pm (UTC)
No, I think she was sad. Maybe she just broke up with her boyfriend? The other women were smiling and tried to communicate with me. They were very curious to have an American woman in their kupe. :)
tropical_degree
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:52 pm (UTC)
Плацкарт!
Magic train culture!
Tea
Chicken in aluminium
Apples..., changing stations.
Romantic:))
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 05:03 pm (UTC)
Train travel is completely normal for Russian culture, but not for American culture. We drive almost everywhere, and very few people take trains.
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - svrr - Mar. 11th, 2015 03:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 11th, 2015 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - svrr - Mar. 11th, 2015 03:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
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megawiz
Mar. 10th, 2015 03:55 pm (UTC)
> I envision sex
Once upone a time in a far travelling train I have had sex during all the journey, about 40 hours. We were twosome in the coupe and conductors had come to look at us as frequent as possible. Later we married.
That was the only train journey without boredom.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 10th, 2015 05:04 pm (UTC)
Cool, congratulations! :) Most American teenagers are having sex in cars, not trains. :))
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