From Russia With Love

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Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,547
Location
South Carolina
Planning

As I’m sure many of you know I’ve had a keen interest in Russia for a long time. For some strange reason ever since about 2012 I’ve had a gravitational pull that has pulled me towards Russia. In 2020 this pull became significantly stronger as I now had several Russian friends I was spending hours on lockdown with chatting with.

Well finally in June of 2021 they opened the tourist visas but I didn’t realize this till late August. Originally my plan was to meet one of my Russian friends in the Balkans for a few weeks. But like any travel I plan always subject to last minute changes because I can’t make up my mind usually.

So now knowing how the system worked for moving my days on reserve around I planned a trip to Russia. With no firm plan in place. I went about getting a visa and was all freaked out because when I hit submit I got no response. Then I learned the Webform is only for organizational purposes and that I had to print it out and bring it to the Visa Center.

Pre Trip: Trip.

So on Thursday the 8th of September work released me unnaturally early from a hot reserve trip from Bentonville, AR. Normally they will keep extending me till I reach my legal maximum. This time they let me go at 1011 in the morning. So I made a quick reservation on my phone for the next flight to National Airport in Washington, DC. I refuse to call it by the more popular name, just like I refuse to call Baltimore-Washington International BWI it’s Friendship Airport.

On the way to the gate I stopped At the Bojangles in B concourse because it didn’t have a line. But as one should know in the Charlotte airport that actually means nothing. It still took thirty minutes to get two pieces of chicken. But if you go to any other airport they can have the order in under two minutes. So then I got on my flight. First class was full but I managed to get row 8 A-C to myself. The plane had a mechanical issue so we ended up leaving about twenty minutes late.

I was a bit worried as the scheduled time in was 1:20 PM and the office I had to drop my stuff off at closed at three thirty. It was a quick smooth flight with no in flight service at all. Now note that on my flights I do a full service between CLT and Dulles. After that flight landed we ended up coming in around 12:49 PM to a gate. I was one of the first off and I raced to the Metro. I had a short five minute wait for a blue line train into the city. After that wait was over it wasn’t that long of a trip into Faragut West.

From there I had to get a passport photo made at the local CVS which cost about fifteen dollars and took about five minutes. After that I walked over to the office where the Russian Visa Center is on Connecticut Avenue not far from the White House. I went up to the 7th floor and after going the wrong way first found the office. I went straight thru to a young visa specialist who took my paperwork, helped me make corrections I needed and took my passport. She told me I could pick my visa and passport up on the 20th which was the day my trip was supposed to start.

I paid the 204 dollars (it’s 160 in cash. The service charge adds a lot) and was on my way. I notified my job I had no passport and continued back to National Airport. I then listed myself on an A319 flight to Charlotte and went thru KCM. KCM is a godsend in these busy airports. I was on the plane by three. This time the crew did a full service for the entire plane. Again I had Row 8 D-F to myself. We arrived in Charlotte and I drove home.

Planning round 2

So again as a non revenue passenger my plans are almost always in flex because I go wherever there is space. I didn’t have my final routing booked till the 14th of September with me leaving on the 20th. I had three days to split between Moscow and St Petersburg, and the full length of the Trans Siberian. My good friend Ксения planned the middle part of my Trans Siberian experience I had absolutely no control over that part which was ok with me.

So I made my flight reservations to Russia based on what had the highest likelihood of business or first class lie flats. Which made me schedule myself via JFK to Athens then on an Aeroflot B777-300ER to Moscow. I planned my trains on the corridor (Moscow-St Petersburg) based on what interested me the Red Arrow for her history and the Russian Superliners for the novelty of it.

As far as rooms I wanted to try a bit of everything with the exception of Platzkarte so I did Luxury Cabin on the Red Arrow, First class on the Superliner and the Irkutsk-Vladivostok train, and 2nd class on everything else. I also preordered some meals to experiment with the delivery to train function.

Pre Trip Day -7

Due to the way my work schedule is I packed for my trip seven days in advance. For this trip I packed four suitcases. My usual two for work, and my two for vacation. Now most of the clean items from my work suitcase were also slated to move into my vacation suitcase as I would leave straight from work. By now I have perfected packing and had all four bags packed in under thirty minutes. Then I went to bed.

Pre Trip Day -6

I was scheduled to sit Hot in Charlotte all morning which basically means I sit and maybe get a flight or maybe go home. But I also wanted to get my Russian lesson in. So I left my house at 0430 to be at the airport at 0600 in time for my lesson at 0700. I couldn’t find a quiet spot in the airport where I could have my zoom meeting without a mask, and not be around people. So I went to a hidden corridor everyone forgets about and did it in a men’s room stall.

Of all the weird things I’ve done taking Russian in a toilet stall has to be on the high end of an already crazy list. Towards the end of my lesson I got called to go to Fort Wayne Indiana and they assigned me a four day trip that would let me leave on time to get to Europe. Keep in mind I had been requesting that trip for awhile they finally gave it to me. So off I went to Fort Wayne. A fairly uneventful flight with an uneventful flight attendant.

On my layover I wandered around what I have dubbed as Hoosier Denver. It is a lovely downtown. I had ice cream at a local place and proceeded to watch trains by the former Nickel Plate Station only one local came by. But it was such a nice park where I could dip my feet in a fake stream. I then walked over to the Pennsylvania Station and tried to find a place to railfan on the former Wabash and Pennsylvania Railroad main lines to no progress.

Pre-Trip Day -5
I drove home by the former Heritage USA because my mother and I watched a documentary on it and I wanted to see it. When I got home we had to rush my grandmother back to the hospital. Pretty much as soon as I ate lunch. She was then admitted from the emergency room again for a few days. My mother and I watched some Three’s Company to calm down after that.

Pre-Trip Day-4
I started my work day at 0400 to take my four day trip by driving into Charlotte about an hour and a half. My plane had a light load for our 79 mile why is this a flight flight. We were delayed at the gate due to a maintenance problem with the flaps on our plane. But we still arrived on time because somehow we got a quick taxi.

However in Greenville we had a major delay of 2.5 hours because something had broken for the fifth time and now was the time to replace it. So they had to ferry a new plane into from Charlotte. But in the process they took me off my good four day trip completely and released me when I returned to Charlotte. So I drove home frustrated and worried I would miss my flight to Europe.

Pre Trip Day -3
I had to wake up at 0500 to check my phone to see if I had a flight. I didn’t have a notification so I went back to sleep. At 0530 I had one so I got dressed and left by 0545. So weird to drive thru Rock Hill at daybreak. I ended up going to Flint, Michigan home to my best friend. I had an easy flight with a classmate of mine. For lunch we went to Culver’s afterwards I went to a movie about Aretha Franklin. My god did she have a difficult life. I also dealt with a problem with one of my Russian friends. I didn’t see my best friend because his work extended him however.

Pre-Trip Day -2
I left flint at 0 dark and early back to Charlotte. An easy flight because most of the passengers were asleep. Then they extended me to Harrisburg PA for the night. On my three hour layover I went over to a same day Covid test place and got my test done for 200 dollars. Previously in the month before I requested that flight for the sake of going to Hershey Park. This time I opted to stay at the hotel as no point in paying that money before vacation to better places. I went shopping instead to get the gifts for my Russian friends. They all wanted American candy they don’t get so an easy run to target works.
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,547
Location
South Carolina
Day 1: Missed Connections

So my day started 0 dark and Early in Harrisburg, PA. I believe my van to the airport departed at the same time the Silver Star going northbound passes my town. We drove over to the airport with more conversation than usual. Our driver almost wrecked the van in the process.

After we had loaded the plane scheduling decided to extend me to a flight that was late bound for Indy and back. Which would have caused me to miss picking up my visa. And nulled my Covid entry for Russia as it would then be after 72 hours. I was very angry as I had only been telling them about this trip for five weeks. You would think someone would read the note they had.

Well I ended up lucking out and because CLT is always messed up my two wheelchair passengers had to wait over thirty minutes for their chair to arrive. which is ridiculous. But because I couldn’t leave the plane they pulled someone off hot reserve for Indy. The ultimate kicker was the grid was green meaning they had more people than needed so they shouldn’t have even touched me to start with. But anyway because they didn’t call after they pulled it off I didn’t call them to check out. As I’ve been told by other FAs that we aren’t required to call them to check out and I didn’t want to give them a chance to mess with me.

So I went to the crew room where I had left my vacation suitcases the day before and swapped items around. Then I took off towards the gate for Washington National. Today’s flight on the Airbus A319 was full so I used my jumpseat privileges to hop a ride. I was the only non revenue passenger to make the flight thanks to that. So I took my seat with the mainline attendants in the rear galley and got to know them. They were very interested in my coming vacation and admired my courage to go there. And they admired my ability to use my benefits.

It was an easy uneventful flight. It is definitely different on a mainline jumpseat as one can have conversations. After out of sterile the forward came back and we all discussed the company and it’s prognosis since it’s in times of trouble. I tend to agree with everything they said.

We arrived early into National Airport and I went out to catch the metro to Alexandria to catch a quick lunch with my friend Cliff. We had a great lunch overlooking the Amtrak station. We watched one or two funny videos from Steve Harvey namely the Na na na na na na na na hey hey hey good bye, and the “cupine” Video. If you can’t laugh at those then I don’t understand your sense of humor. After that cliff drove me in his beautiful ‘69 El Dorado to the Russian Visa center downtown.

It took all of five minutes to get my visa and passport back. Then I got back in the car with cliff and we were back at the airport in no time. I even managed to see the pentagon which I’ve never done before surprisingly. So I get back to the airport and I have to decide which routing am I taking to Russia. I have a space positive ticket on Aeroflot from Athens so I have two choices the AA flight from Kennedy which has four non revs and six seats available in business class, or the later flight from Philly that has six non revs and one business class seat. All have tons of space in coach but it’s all about scoring the best seat for the long distance.

I chose the Kennedy flight which turned out to be an expensive mistake. So I checked my bags to Athens and then went to security. Now because it was a personal international trip I couldn’t use KCM however I really wanted to. I missed my privilege of that as TSA was a royal pain. They had no sense of urgency in any of their actions.

I get to my gate and my plane is late coming from Charlotte. So once again CharLate lives up to the expectations. They say it’s a mechanical delay which it quite possibly is. We tend to have a lot of mechanical delays and I’m not really sure if other airlines have as many as we have. With me in uniform people come to me and ask heir questions about our late flight which I cheerfully answer because I enjoy helping people. That and I’m multiple times friendlier than the gate agent.

There is just something about many of the gate agents in the USA more broadly that makes them surly. Maybe it’s the company, maybe it’s the passengers treating them poorly, or perhaps both. And it’s uncalled for across the board. So I get on the plane and I request the furthest seat up in economy as originally I’m ticketed at the rear despite all of row 8 being available.

We could have made up ten or fifteen minutes of time if we had a rational boarding process. Then we finally leave and taxi to the end of the taxi way and wait for a wheels up time from New York control we get that and take off. Now instead of an hour and a half connection I’m down to an hour. But this is doable still. Then we get to about Atlantic City and the pilot says we will be circling for at least 30-45 minutes because New York is too congested. So I talk to the lovely dca based attendant who is like why don’t you grab your bag store it with mine, and take the front jump seat with me seeing you can. Then you will be first off.

So we hit the ground and I take off running once the door is open for my gate. Which is a good ten rail car lengths away. And yes I measure distance in railcars. I get to the gate and the agent tells me just to take whatever open seat is available and I can get on. As I’m halfway down the jet bridge it starts moving and there are no words to describe how upset I am about that. As once the bridge is gone they can’t put it back.

So I go back to the gate agent and ask for any flight to Europe. It doesn’t matter what I’ll take it. From Europe it’s much easier to reach Russia than from anywhere else. So they tell me I have fifteen minutes to make the London flight. So I start running and I call my friend cliff to have him make me any reservation he can get me from London to Moscow. While he does that I do the paperwork required to transit England because of the pandemic. And the gate agent gives me Seat 2J on a B777-300ER which isn’t business class it’s Flagship First.

Then cliff sends me my new flight reservation which is on Finn Air via Helsinki. Then I call my mother to tell her that I had a change of plans and tell her relatively quietly how amazing first class is. The person across the row complained about me making that call while we were still on the gate. My only question I wanted to ask him that I didn’t because I was in uniform. “Weren’t you excited the first time you flew first class and wanted to tell someone”. We all know the answer is yes so don’t ruin the moment for someone else.

They came by and brought me a Pre departure apple juice or two because I was parched after having that run. Then they took my dinner order and again I was in 7th heaven. We had a long mechanical delay and left about an hour late but at least I made the flight. I spent that time texting my best friend Ryan about how amazing flagship first was. He had his first flagship first trip a few days later booked s he was curious.

We took off right as sunset was hitting the Big Apple which was amazing. Shortly after we came out of sterile they came back by with another round of drinks. Again I’m in uniform so no alcohol for me. That and I just don’t like alcohol at all. Then dinner came out all three courses of it.

The appetizer: Latin Shaved Beef
Main course: herb glazed beef filet
Dessert: salted caramel tartlet

My god was the food good. I also decided to start watching one movie which was Men in Black. With those headphones on you can’t hear anything but the movie. The roar of the engine is completely gone. I want those headphones for my phone just to listen to music. My flight attendant Louise checked on me regularly and brought me a few special first class gifts which was so nice as a celebration of my adventure.

She also told me to take the same flight back but I probably won’t do that she was so nice. After my movie that I refrained from laughing at the jokes just not to offend someone with sounds of joy I went to bed. And I slept great. I’m not sure if it was the rough day or if the bed was really that great but I was out like a light.
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,547
Location
South Carolina
Day 2: connecting and a real dining car

I literally woke up about fifteen minutes prior to landing and missed the entire breakfast service. 12 years working PVs I’ve learned to sleep like a rock in transport. I then quickly remade my bed back into a seat and prepared to land. We landed and I was surrounded by all sorts of amazing liveries. I had my picture taken in my amazing seat once everyone else had left before grabbing my stuff and heading off for customs.

Why did I make the long walk to customs you ask seeing i was just transiting? Well because I initially checked bags on American they weren’t being forwarded to Moskva so I had to out to baggage claim. So I passed thru one of the automated turnstiles and was easily admitted into England no questions at all about the paperwork I had to complete before getting my boarding pass. Once I reclaimed my bags I had to go over to the other terminal where the departing flights to Finland leave from which meant a short fast ride on the Heathrow Express.

I then went and checked in for my Finn Air flight so they could check my visa and check my bag. Then I went thru airport security again and ended up having to repack several things and I lost a vinegar i brought a friend as a gift because she requested it. Heathrow is rather strange instead of you going to a gate and sitting there you go to a massive what feels like food court where everyone waits. Then an hour before your flight they announce a gate and you go to a small waiting room to get your flight. I was maybe in the small waiting room for ten minutes before they called my boarding group.

Finn Air does boarding the right way those who are in the back of the plane board first, then the middle, and the front go last. That’s how you should board a plane because it’s completed much faster than the joke we do. The FA noticed I was in uniform and moved me to a completely empty row. And then gave me two blankets so I could sleep. I took photos of planes as we took off then went to sleep and I slept maybe half of the flight. I was surprised honestly how long this flight felt.

Then I realized just how far Helsinki is from London. I had about fifteen minutes of WiFi in which I messaged a few friends. Luckily they were online or else that would have been a waste. We arrived in Helsinki early and the forward FAs thought I had changed into my uniform on their flight and I’m like no. I walked around the non Schengen (domestic flights) area of the Helsinki airport which was mostly wide body flights of Finn Air and one single Japan Air flight. I was hoping to grab some lunch in Helsinki but there was nothing open.

So I just went to my gate which was for both Russian flights St Petersburg and Moscow. Both were at remote hard stands so we just waited for the bus to show up and then got on the bus to our plane. I have to say it’s a lot of fun being on a bus around a bunch of wide body aircraft. Especially if you love planes like I do. I was surprised to see my plane was a turboprop. Up until this day I had never been inside a prop plane and that includes museums.

Definitely strange boarding all the way in the back and going forward on the ATR-72. It felt cold out there on the tarmac on this cloudy day. My first thought about the prop plane came on leaving the gate. This thing has some get up and go. I don’t think we used much runway before we lifted off the runway. It was by far one of the worst flights I’ve ever had though.

The flight was smooth but it was so dull and so long. The whole flight was in fog and low cloud cover and I was next to someone who took up half of my seat. When it was close to landing I started thinking we are literally going to drop out of this fog bank at a hundred feet and sure enough we came out of the fog about 100 ft above the ground. Then we taxied a long way around the airport. It was dark and I had a propeller in the way but I saw so many cool aircraft.

We pulled up again to a hard stand and had to take a bus. But with rain, and it being dark I didn’t get to photograph any of the cool aircraft. I then went thru customs and texted my friends I was visiting right after I passed border control that I crossed over the border. Then a quick walk to baggage claim to pick up my bag. Of course a few taxi drivers eagerly tried to pick me up on the walk to the AeroExpress. On the walk to the AeroExpress I stopped to eat at Burger King because it was open and I was starving.
 

Seaboard92

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Messages
4,547
Location
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Russian Burger King is so much nicer than American Burger King. For starters the staff is friendly which is much nicer than the one in my airport. The one in my airport literally will yell “what do you want” when they are taking orders which is only 50 percent of the time. Usually they funnel you to a machine because they don’t take orders anymore. The next big thing the order comes to you correct the first time. And lastly they have potato wedges in addition to fries which if you ask me is absolutely amazing.

The food quality is also much better and didn’t upset my sensitive system. Which to me was amazing. After my short stop to eat my first meal since leaving New York I walked over to the AeroExpress counter. I bought my one way ticket to downtown Moscow and got on the next train. I walked up to the furthest car up the platform because most people will crowd in the first two cars closest to the airport terminal and never go all the way up. So I had the entire BiLevel car to myself. My first impression was how smooth the track was it was like glass.

I was also surprised how slow the train seemed to be going as it seemed to take forever to get into the city. I spent most of the ride texting one of my friends I was going to be visiting. Once I got to downtown to Belaruskaya Station I got the quick lesson in the fact I overpacked. The AeroExpress continues on as a regular Elektrichka past the station so it comes in one one of the thru tracks. I detrained into rainy Moskva and had to carry my two bags up the set of steps Up to the street. Once at the street I walked just a few meters away to the Belaruskaya Metro stop on Line five.

I’ve seen photos before of the Moscow Metro and I can tell you they did nothing to prepare me for what I saw in there. The words very beautiful don’t describe what can only be described as peoples palaces. The architecture is just absolutely beautiful. To get to Komselkaya I had to change platforms from where I went down to the other line which was a bit of a pain to be honest. As I would learn a lot of Russia is going up to go right back down. Anyway I managed to make the connection with no real issues. I emerged from the Metro station onto the plaza of not one, not two, but three train stations all with their own unique architectural style. I then walked into Leingradsky station. Went thru station security and waited for my train. Train No. 1 the Red Arrow for St Petersburg.

The Red Arrow has always been a train I’ve wanted to ride since I first learned about it. Basically the Red Arrow is the Russian version of the 20th Century Limited with an equal amount of pomp and circumstance surrounding it. It’s also one of few RZD trains to have its own paint scheme. A few years back every Premium train had its own special paint scheme that was its identity but they have since done away with that which is a shame. The Red Arrow has operated continuously every day for the last 90 years with an exception of during the Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg). The Red Arrow also has a song played for its departure and arrival on the loudspeaker of the station “A Hymn to Our City” by —————.

About 45 minutes prior to departure they posted the track for the Red Arrow and I proceeded thru another security check and then out onto the platform. Tonight’s train would depart from track No. 3. On the left side of the platform on track No. 4 was the Express which originally started as the Red Arrow II in the 1978 because of the popularity for the Red Arrow. At some point they renamed it the Express and then it received a lovely navy blue paint scheme with white accents. On the right hand was the maroon and yellow Red Arrow. Both trains depart within four minutes of each other. Of course I walked all the way to the headend first to get pictures of the power before boarding.

By the time I walked back to my car which was the first one behind the power the attendant was ready to receive passengers. My car was one that looked a lot more like a Budd built of Pullman-Standard car in its fluting style. I then boarded my train and went to my room. My gosh is it an amazing room. Words really don’t describe how amazing the room is so I’ll just post the picture whilst I try to sum it up.

The color scheme perfectly blends with the theme and colors of the trains exterior. The room itself in day mode could seat three people comfortably. The monogrammed tablecloth is a nice touch as well. It has a large toilet annex with a complete shower. In the room is also a set of RZD Logo slippers, and a toiletry bag with all of your needs. At the A end of the car is a sitting lounge for all of the VIP passengers with a starlit sky which again is a nice touch. My attendant came by and took my order for breakfast and introduced herself. I then waited till the train left the station to visit the diner.

Unlike Amtrak this dining car runs all night long with a full staff. The diner was roughly nine cars back. The train itself is composed of 1 VIP Class Car, 9 first class sleepers, 1 diner, and 6 second class sleepers. The dining car interior I’m not going to lie felt a bit cheap in my opinion when compared to the rest of the train. However it was staffed with three waiters, an LSA, and two people in the kitchen for the short eight hour run.

I took a seat on the fireman’s side as we rolled smoothly into the suburbs of Moskva and then ordered my meal with no issue. I ordered a beef tenderloin because on a high class train why not treat ones self. The service was fast and the food came rapidly but was freshly prepared on board the small galley. There were maybe ten other people taking advantage of the diner other than me. After I ate I returned to my room with the bed down. What isn’t shown in the photos is that the table shifts over to allow a full size double bed down. I then took a shower and went to bed.
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,547
Location
South Carolina
Heathrow Express.jpg
The Heathrow Express at Terminal 2/3 Station

TUI LHR.jpg
TUI Air. I have no idea who they are but I like the livery

Helsinki.jpg
Helsinki from the air

Finn Air A350.jpg
Finn Air A350 at Helsinki

HEL Airport.jpg
Helsinki Airport

SVO Aeroexpress.jpg
The Aeroexpress at Belaruskaya where it morphs into a normal Elektrichka route to the suburbs

ELEK BELA.jpg
Elektrichka's at Belaruskaya Moskva

MSK Metro.jpg
The Moskva Metro or as it could be known a People's Palace

Komosolkaya.jpg
Komosolkaya at night. That's Kazansky Station

Leiningradsky.jpg
Leningradsky Station
 

Seaboard92

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Joined
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Messages
4,547
Location
South Carolina
Day 3: Too European to be Russian, Too European to be Russian.

I woke up at 6:30 on the morning in order to pack up my room, enjoy breakfast in my room and a bit of scenery. I had a very good nights sleep on track that was smooth as glass. I had no idea where we were when I woke up other than we were in the commuter district for St. Petersburg. My attendant brought my breakfast pretty soon after I woke up which was pancakes and a poultry cold cuts plate. Soon afterwards my attendant asked if I needed a cab to get to my hotel and got the address of my hotel to arrange it.

After that we arrived and waiting on the platform for me was a cab driver to grab my luggage. I didn’t get the chance to photograph the locomotive because we went right out the side door. My hotel was so close to the train station we just walked to it. I then checked into my hotel and left my bags for the day and changed clothes. I then made plans to meet with my friend Виктория (Viktoria) for the day. I would meet her at her apartment on Ulitsa (Street) Sedova.

She gave me instructions on how to reach her apartment by the Metro which because I had two hours to reach there I thought I had enough time to walk to the Winter Palace. But just because the distance doesn’t look far on the map doesn’t mean it’s not a good distance. I walked down the beautiful Nevesky Prospekt (Avenue). Honestly the whole time strolling down this street I was asking myself why had Rick Steves not done a show on it.

St Petersburg is very much like Venice it is a city of bridges with several rivers and canals in downtown. I walked around the area near the Winter Palace. I misjudged how long the Metro ride to her apartment would take because of how deep the stations are. I started my St Petersburg metro experience with the deepest station in the network of Admiralskaya which is 282 ft below the surface. I got on the Line 5 train and went one stop to Spasskaya to transfer to the line 4 train. After a few stops I changed again to Line 3 to finally get to my stop at Lomonsovskaya.

I then stopped into the florist shop by the station which is a 24 hour flourish because it is rude not to bring your host a gift in Russia. I grabbed 11 roses and you might be asking why not 12. Well in Russia an even number is only for mourning and considered bad luck at other times. I then walked over to her apartment. I should know the view from her apartment well because she sends me a lot of photos of sunsets from her kitchen window.

I looked for the annoying looking florist with the neon green lights on at all hours and had trouble finding it. Eventually I went under the street to her side of the street. That is an amazing thing the Russians and Soviets did to improve pedestrian safety cross under the streets. No waiting on a light and in a tunnel there is a 99.999 percent chance a car won’t hit you. Now Виктория says it could still happen as there are daily accidents there. I then was standing under her bedroom window when she told me to go to the stairs to wait on her to come out.

I honestly didn’t know where to go because there was one set going down under her bedroom, and then two other sets going up into businesses. Turns out the stairs for the apartment are located behind the building in the courtyard. I only found that out because her mother pointed that way from the kitchen window. Eventually she came out about thirty minutes passed our agreed upon time most of that was because I’m an idiot and didn’t budget my time properly because I just had to explore. When she came out we must have just hugged for at least ten minutes. It was a meeting well over a year in the making and it was magical.

Absolutely magical out there behind a mid century soviet apartment building of the Khrushchyovka. I have her the roses and then she went in for a moment to put them in a vase. Then after that we walked to the Metro to go back downtown. You can tell the local from the tourist because I’m grabbing the escalator handrail for dear life as the escalator keeps going down down and down. Then there is Виктория she turns around, fixes my collar, fixes my hair, and is social. When you are used to it I guess you can do that. We grabbed the line 3 train to Mayakovskaya to transfer to Line 1 to Baltiyskaya.

I wanted to visit the Russian Railway Museum which is located next to Balticskaya Train station. We arrived a bit early and Виктория was set on finding me a winter hat so we walked a bit to a local mall. We didn’t manage to find a hat so we just strolled back to the museum to wait for it to open. At the Museum she gave me a small gift she had got for me of some of her favorite treats. Виктория puts a lot of time, thought, and effort into her gifts and every day with her there is a new gift.

We spent time talking, with lots of hugging outside the museum because of how badly we both needed the human contact. By far she is the best person I’ve ever hugged she hugs with a lot of passion. After that we eventually went into the museum and turned our coats in at the coat check and bought our tickets. And she also insists That we must wash our hands before going into the exhibit. One thing I learned about Russians is they are a very clean country.

We entered the museum and looked I initially at a small tank engine that was on display by the entrance. After that we saw almost every type of steam engine that the Russian Railway system has had along with several colorful diesels from the Soviet Era. Everyone likes to act that the Soviet Era was not colorful that it was just gray and drab but the locomotives were all multi colored. There were very few passenger cars on display but most of them I crawled under and did a more through examination.

There was no sign that said do not crawl under and look at the running gear, but there were signs that said do not climb. Виктория thought that was a bit crazy but a bit endearing as well. We didn’t explore the outside as we didn’t have our coats and she told me I could but she would stay inside. And I was determined to show her that she matters more than trains so I didn’t go out there. And I’m sure no one can believe that because even I can’t believe that. After that we slowly walked back to the metro so we could get lunch.

We went back to Ploschad Vosstania which is where the Moscow Station is. We went to a mall next to the station for lunch where her favorite restaurant group has two restaurants. The Ginza Group has Baklazhan and Steak and Steak in this mall. We went to Steak and Steak where I had a tri-tip roast that in the USA is like a 20-30 dollar item, in Russia it was about 7.25. We had a great time communicating in the restaurant. After that I went to my room to drop off her gift and grab a gift to her.

After that we started strolling down the Nevesky Prospekt towards the River Fontanka once we reached there we turned to the north and walked along the embankment. Eventually she led us into a courtyard that looked like nothing from the outside. But on the inside it was a beautiful mosaic piece of art. And it’s only something a local would know about. I can’t tell you where on the map it was. After that we walked along the embankment some more to the Чижик-Пыжик or the Chizhik Pyzhik a small statute. It is good luck if you can land a coin on the pedestal with this small bird statue.

So naturally I tried it and I lost. After that I continued till We reached the Summer Garden almost at sunset. We weren’t walking too fast because I was having trouble walking because my shoes were a bit to big and I hadn’t worn them in awhile so they tore my feet up. But it was so lovely strolling with Виктория and it fulfilled a wish I had when I was 16 of walking around the beautiful squares of Europe with a beautiful woman. We paused to examine the various statues that are in the Summer Garden. Now none of these are the originals as those have all been moved inside to protect them from winter and vandals.

After leaving the garden we walked over to the Resurrection Church and strolled along the avenues of this beautiful city to Gostiny Dvor to get on the metro line 3. I went one stop and she went to her stop. I then heard how wrong it was for me to not accompany her to her house after I ambled out of the metro and made it to my hotel. Without a friend to lean on I was really moving slow between my feet being bad, and a really bad rash. I eventually made it back and it really wasn’t that late by my standards. But I still went to bed and Виктория and I made out plans for the next day.
 

Cal

Foamer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
3,386
Location
Socal
So I went to a hidden corridor everyone forgets about and did it in a men’s room stall.
Classy
went to a movie about Aretha Franklin. My god did she have a difficult life.
I'm assuming you're talking about Respect, which I also watched. Jennifer Hudson nailed the part IMO.
And yes I measure distance in railcars.
\
I love it.
My god was the food good. I also decided to start watching one movie which was Men in Black.
It's nice to hear someone whose "normal" perspective on first class, nonstopdan recently heavily criticized AA's 777 Flagship first (especially the food). And again, great movie choice.
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
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Messages
4,547
Location
South Carolina
RZD Museum-1.jpg
The first engine inside the RZD Museum

RZD Museum-2.jpg
Viktoria photographing a Decapod in the museum

RZD Museum-3.jpg
More steam locomotives in the RZD Museum

RZD Museum-4.jpg
More modern locomotives in the museum

Walk-1.jpg
Our evening walk. I have no clue where this is actually.

Walk-2.jpg
That beautiful mosaic that only locals know of.

Walk-3.jpg
Evening in the summer garden.
 

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Seaboard92

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Day 4: St Petersburg a slice of Europe

So I woke up around eight in the morning which isn’t bad I’ve gotten used to the early mornings because of my job. Our plan was to meet over at the Peter and Paul Fortress. So I left my hotel soon after and slowly walked to the metro because the day before I ripped the skin off one toe. So I was having trouble moving. I texted Виктория to bring some bandaids and some mole skin to patch my foot up so I could walk with the blisters and everything. I took the No. 3 Metro Line to Gostiny Dvor to change to the No. 2 Line for one stop.

I then went up the super long escalator to the top and I had a bit of time before she was able to come and meet me. So I ambled slowly to the mosque to photograph it and then to the bank of the river Neva. Then I ambled into the fortress and found a bench to sit and wait on. I hate being this crippled but my foot was really messed up today. Eventually I figured I could amble over to the gift shop and look and that’s when she arrived another great hug happened and then we worked on my foot.

Honestly at this point I should have realized she loved me and cared when she cleaned my foot and wrapped it up in a bandage so I could walk. After we got my foot under control we stroll around the art on display outside and just enjoy the ambiance of being in Europe. There is a sand sculpture exhibition on the island that is just outside the fortress walls on the beach of the Neva. Виктория thought that would be a nice place to visit so we went out there. It was a lovely exhibition that was completely deserted.

We were caught by surprise when we were embracing when they did the daily cannon ball shot and if you want to talk about jumping out of your skin. I knew they did that as I meant to watch it. After that excitement we casually strolled off the island to the docks nearby. I bought us two tickets for a sightseeing tour of the various waterways of St Petersburg and we were invited to wait in a boat. It was just the two of us waiting and it was kinda funny. I kept thinking the salesman was thinking We were up to no good as every once in awhile a good size wave would come along and really rock the boat.

He would occasionally come in to apologize for how long it was taking for the boat to show up. Eventually it did show up and we didn’t board from the dock but from the boat we were sitting in. Definitely something strange. We opted to sit inside because she wanted to be warm. Me personally I have no trouble with sitting outside because you get better photos but I’ve learned the magic rules and words men need to understand.

Rule 1: She is always right
Rule 2: see rule No. 1
Rule 3: you are an idiot see rule No. 2
Rule 4: You’re helpless she’s always right.

The boat went by almost all of the major sights and by the office of my Russian tutor. It was lunch time by the time our boat tour ended at St Issacs Cathedral. I vetoed her first choice of Indian food because I don’t like all of the spices. So then we went to the second choice which was a Russian restaurant. I love a lot of the concepts of Russian restaurants. One they have a coat rack that the host takes your coat and places it there. Second they are in no rush to push you in and out. They leave you alone to enjoy the ambiance of the atmosphere and your date.

As we all know American restaurants they try to speed you in and out under an hour it is not like that in Russia. I had I believe smoked Turkey and amazing ice cream for dessert. She had a different dessert which was also good. I’ve learned if I order something I have to leave some of it for her as well. The last thing I love about Russian restaurants is you don’t tip at all. It’s nice to be in a civilized country where the employer pays the servers wage and not the customer. Our lunch took about about two hours which was ok. I missed my window for my Russian lesson but that was ok.

After lunch we walked over to the Winter Palace and enjoyed listening to the musicians playing. Виктория has a beautiful beautiful voice as she would somewhat sing along with the musicians. Then we danced a bit in the square while some slower music played. I love the street music it’s so European and so relaxing. You don’t see them in many American cities. After what was probably thirty minutes we then strolled further away before turning into the park Mikhaylovskiy Sad to watch the ducks swimming in their pond for a few minutes.

While we talked about life and our goals for the future. Then we slowly meandered back to the Nevsky Prospekt where we went into the Kazan Cathedral. I don’t know what happened in there but I felt the most powerful force I have ever felt in my life. One moment everything was normal and then the next just this overwhelming powerful feeling. Виктория wasn’t effected at all by whatever it was but it was powerful. We went during a service and I would love to read the passage again the priest was reading to try and infer more into that moment.

After that she decided she wanted to give me some more things that were close to her heart so we went back to her apartment via the metro and I unofficially met her mother. And I got to go inside and sit right next to the door. I was told not to move but I could sit there. She came back shortly with three jars of items from her dacha that she grew and harvested herself. After she gave me that we walked back to the metro so I could go to my hotel to get my suitcase for my train. Tonight I would take a Russian Superliner to Moskva. It was the same boring metro ride as always and I went into my hotel and gathered my things. Виктория had no trouble pulling my two bags one of which could have had the kitchen sink in it.

It’s a short walk over to the train station we waited outside for a minute for her friend Jura (Юра) to come as he would drive her home. He also works for Russian Railways installing PTC so he’s somewhat interesting to me anyway. As soon as I was inside the station they left and I meandered slowly out to the platforms. My thought being why wait inside when I could look at trains outside. I figured out fairly quickly which track my train was on because there are only two Superliner Trains departing at that hour of the night and both were on the same platform.

I determined my train from the other train because the earlier one is a named service where my wasn’t. Both trains run to Moskva. My first thought is these cars are significantly taller than the Amtrak superliners. The first train departed and was soon replaced with a regular long distance train on a nearby track. Then it was time to board my train. I dropped my large suitcase off in the baggage room which is just a normal room in the staff car they store passenger bags in for money then boarded my car.

My room was on the upper level of the car. Now these cars differ from Superliners as their vestibules are at the same level as the single levels for high platform boarding. The aisle alongside the rooms alternates sides depending on the floor. So if the lower level is on the fireman’s side (left) the upper must be on the engineers side (right). To reach the upper level one goes up five steps makes a turn and up two more where the lower level is down three steps.

I had first class on this train which is similar to every other Russian train first class two beds horizontal to the car. Tonight’s train only makes one intermediate stop between its origination in St Petersburg and it’s terminal in Moskva at Tver. After we departed and I was confident I had the room to myself for the whole night I changed clothes and took my mask off. I texted Виктория for a bit before bed. My attendant brought the souvenirs I preordered shortly before I turned down.
 

Seaboard92

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STP Metro.jpg
The Metro arriving at Rush Hour

STP Mosque.jpg
A tram passing by the mosque

Fortress.jpg
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress

Sand.jpg
One of the many sand sculptures. In this case a literal sand castle

Viktoria Sand.jpg
Viktoria and I next to the sand castle.

On the Fontanka.jpg
From the Fontanka Reka

River Neva.jpg
Another photo from the boat tour

Metropolis.jpg
The Metropolis sleeper train

Russian Superliners.jpg
Russian Superliners
 

Seaboard92

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Day 5: Moskva

My train arrives at 6:30 so I wake up about forty five minutes prior to arrival to find out we are much closer to Moskva than I thought. So I hurried to get ready and get dressed for my one day in the Capitol of Russia and the once Capitol of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The train came to a stop about five hundred ft short of the platform and we waited for the scheduled time despite other platforms being available. I also noticed that the intercom before arriving gave out the head of the long distance department’s direct email with instructions to email and write any comments, compliments, or complaints.

The Russians take their trains seriously and take ownership in making them as best as they can be. I honestly wasn’t that impressed with the Superliners and they have yet to build any dining cars so I would definitely chose to avoid the Superliners on the longer runs like St. Petersburg or Moskva to Adler (Sochi) in favor of a more conventional train. The train arrived precisely on time and I claimed my bag again from the baggage cabin and walked into the station. My onward connection to Novosibirsk would leave from Yaroslavskaya which is right next door to Leningradskaya Terminal and both are across the street from Kazanskaya.

I then stored my bags in two lockers and took off for a day in the town. I started by photographing all three train stations and the Soviet Era Skyscraper they turned into a Hilton. Originally in one of my original plans I would have spent one night there. But when my friend Ксения (Kseniya) decided she wanted to see Lake Baikal plans shifted. So I looked on my phone to look up the best way to get to the Kremlin.

I figured the biggest sight of them all was the Kremlin and St Basils so I figured I would head there first. And as it was early I felt like I had the city to myself. I started by walking under some very large Soviet Era office blocks that I’m sure at one time held the many bureaucrats it takes to run an empire that spans from Marienborn in the west to Vladivostok in the east, and large parts of the Middle East. Today I’m sure the same bureaus that manage Russia are still filling the shoes of those old Soviet citizens.

Eventually I had to cross under a roadway but to do that you must first walk up one step to go down an entire flight I guess that is a anti flooding measure. Either way I kept on going. I started to reach the old town and I was surprised to see a Kristy Kreme outlet. I made a mental note of that for later as they weren’t open when I walked by. I then eventually came up on the most feared address in all of Russia the Lubyanka the former headquarters of the KGB and now the FSB. It still has several communist symbols along its walls.

But I didn’t dare zoom in on them too much to cause anyone inside to find any interest in me. I then walked down to where the Bolshoi Theater is to look at it. I sent a photo of it to a friend of mine who has always dreamed of going there. Then I took two pedestrian only streets to Red Square home of Гум, the Kremlin, and St Basils Cathedral. And like any big tourist site in Europe if you go around eight or nine in the morning you basically have the place to yourself. Which was proving to be the point today.

After gawking at the beauty for a few moments I opted to cross the Moskva River to get photos of the Kremlin with the river. The wind was fierce on the bridge but it wasn’t cold at all. I continued west across the rivers a bit to an old Orthodox Church before coming back across the canal first on a love lock bridge. Then I crossed the river just to the north of the Kremlin Wall. Once I was there I strolled thru the grounds directly under the Kremlin’s walls. I reached the ticket booth and I decided it was worth the money to go inside the Kremlin for a bit. So I bought my ticket and entered the Kremlin.

What most people don’t realize is the Kremlin is more of a fortress than the seat of the government. Inside the walls are at least seven churches, several gardens, an armory, as well as the residence for V Putin, and government offices. I enjoyed strolling around the various churches inside the Kremlin Walls. Then I walked around the garden inside the Kremlin before leaving via Spaskaya Tower. Once outside I decided to walk thru the Гум (Gum) which is the big department store that from the street and inside looks like a palace.

They have really nice displays inside but it’s a store that even by the currency exchange standards is out of my price range. After that I decided it was getting close to time to get lunch. I knew I wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe to get a shirt from Moskva which is like a family tradition in my family. To get a shirt from each hard rock. So I started walking towards Old Arbat Street where it is. Old Arbat is another pedestrian only street which is nice. Along the way I found a nice Georgian (not USA) restaurant to eat at.

They had fried chicken on their menu and I love trying fried chicken from around the world so that’s what I had. However it’s nothing like American fried chicken as the photos will easily show you. It was quite good and the atmosphere was really charming. I felt a bit guilty having to eat with my hands in such a fine restaurant. After lunch I walked a bit further down to the Hard Rock Cafe to get my shirt. After that I decided I would walk to Moscow City which is a new development of modern 21st Century skyscrapers.
 

Seaboard92

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On the way I passed a vintage 1930s or 40s Stalinist era skyscraper and the Kievskaya Train Station. After passing that I continued on down the main drag till eventually reaching a vantage point to see the modern buildings. After that I crossed the river on a modern indoors bridge across the river and took the metro back to Red Square. I then took a self guided tour of St Basils Cathedral where I learned each dome is considered it’s own chapel. It’s such a beautiful building and learning more about it was definitely nice.

When Americans think of Russia this is definitely one of the buildings they picture. Once I left the cathedral I walked down a side street because I saw another church and that peaked my interest. Once I was there I noticed a lovely little park and amphitheater to stroll around. Part of the park was a large horseshoe bridge that was suspended over the river and the embankment providing an amazing view of the Kremlin.

While the view was definitely fantastic what was far more beautiful to me was watching Russian families just enjoying an autumn day. Our media and our movies like to paint the Russians as villains and as hateful people we should mistrust. And here are families just strolling along the sidewalks, sitting down laughing and smiling. If more Americans could experience that the world would be a far better place honestly. They are literally just like us.

Well that might be a stretch because I never see families out in the public parks in my city just out trying to enjoy the evening. Instead they are having road rage trying to get to a suburban home somewhere. And then not visiting the few parks there might be in the suburbs. After I walked on that really interesting semi bridge I walked over to the Art Deco skyscraper. The Kotelnisheskaya Embankment Building really isn’t that tall. It’s only 32 floors but the way the wings interact with it makes it look all the more imposing.

After walking to it I decided it was getting close to the time my luggage locker would expire so I started walking back towards the train stations. I started by heading down the sidestreets at rush hour towards the Lubyanka. I really wanted to try out the Russian Krispy Kreme so I walked back up that street and attempted to find it. I think I walked by it twice before eventually finding it. Now you’re probably wondering why if all the things I could try would I want to go there. Simple I know most American places have a different menu or different processes to handle local regulations abroad.

Honestly the doughnut was slightly better than the ones back home. After that I walked over to the Metro Line 1 stop at Chistie Prudy and went two stops to Kosomolskaya. After arriving I stopped in the Burger King Just for an order of wedges. Then I toured Kazanskaya Station for a moment before going across the street to my station for my train to Siberia. Train No. 68ы would depart from Yaroslavlskaya. I claimed my bags and decided I would try and get dinner. I ended up settling on getting a locker again for a few hours and going to the kfc for the same reason I went to the Krispy Kreme.

Now it’s been several years since I’ve been to a KFC so I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison but it was absolutely lousy. I didn’t even finish it however it was cheap. Afterwards I claimed my bag and I waited for my train. I spent some of the time outside till I decided I needed to warm up for a bit. The major stations all post their track assignments roughly 45 minutes prior to departure which is similar to NY Penn Station except Amtrak does it significantly closer to departure and in Moskva you can see the trains.

The trains basically depart at the same minute after the hour so there is a grove to it. I followed the signs to the long distance trains and waited. Eventually it was about an hour prior to departure and I wandered down a platform and found the door signs all had my train listed. So I walked to the head end and they hadn’t attached the road power quite yet. My train was relatively short compared to the other ones I saw being two baggage cars, seven various 2nd and 3rd class cars, and one diner.

I then had to purchase my luggage space for my large bag and they ended up over charging me but that’s because they thought both of my bags. After I got that mess straightened out I went to my room. I was sharing my room with a Russian family going to visit their grandparents in the countryside outside of Moskva. The mother was Julia and her daughters Ксения (Kseniya), and Marsha (Marsha Marsha Marsha). They were so curious about the US as I don’t think they meet many Americans.

So the first questions they asked were about the roads, the government, and education. I of course opened with the pictures of the worst roads in South Carolina which they find hard to believe belong in the USA. We have some roads so bad that we can tell if your drunk or not because you drive straight as the sober people swerve left and right to avoid the many holes. And of course my usual my state is 51 out of 50 states in the education ranking. Which at one point when I was in school it was because they counted DC as a state.

I taught them some new jokes like “Thank god for Mississippi” which is more of a South Carolina specific joke. Then after a few minutes of chatting they invited me to share in their dinner. That’s something I don’t think you will ever see on an Amtrak coach. A group of people offering some of their food they brought on board from home or the store to just a random stranger. There is something about that hospitality. While I didn’t really like what they were eating it still was better than KFC. We had a great conversation and played Uno before going to bed. We maybe talked all of an hour and a half and it was amazing.
 

Seaboard92

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MSK Trams.jpg
Moskva Trams

MSK-1.jpg
An old building in moskva with an ornate but soviet style decoration.

MSK-2.jpg
A building that looks like a city gate

Bolshoi Teatr.jpg
The famous Bolshoi Theater

Red Square-1.jpg
Red Square

Red Square-2.jpg
Red Square with very few tourists

Red Square-3.jpg
Red Square is a beautiful place.

Red Square-4.jpg
Red Square in the morning is the best time to visit while the tourists sleep in.

MSK-3.jpg
The Kremlin from Reka Moskva

MSK-4.jpg
A church on the banks of the river.
 

Seaboard92

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Messages
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Location
South Carolina
On the way I passed a vintage 1930s or 40s Stalinist era skyscraper and the Kievskaya Train Station. After passing that I continued on down the main drag till eventually reaching a vantage point to see the modern buildings. After that I crossed the river on a modern indoors bridge across the river and took the metro back to Red Square. I then took a self guided tour of St Basils Cathedral where I learned each dome is considered it’s own chapel. It’s such a beautiful building and learning more about it was definitely nice.

When Americans think of Russia this is definitely one of the buildings they picture. Once I left the cathedral I walked down a side street because I saw another church and that peaked my interest. Once I was there I noticed a lovely little park and amphitheater to stroll around. Part of the park was a large horseshoe bridge that was suspended over the river and the embankment providing an amazing view of the Kremlin.

While the view was definitely fantastic what was far more beautiful to me was watching Russian families just enjoying an autumn day. Our media and our movies like to paint the Russians as villains and as hateful people we should mistrust. And here are families just strolling along the sidewalks, sitting down laughing and smiling. If more Americans could experience that the world would be a far better place honestly. They are literally just like us.

Well that might be a stretch because I never see families out in the public parks in my city just out trying to enjoy the evening. Instead they are having road rage trying to get to a suburban home somewhere. And then not visiting the few parks there might be in the suburbs. After I walked on that really interesting semi bridge I walked over to the Art Deco skyscraper. The Kotelnisheskaya Embankment Building really isn’t that tall. It’s only 32 floors but the way the wings interact with it makes it look all the more imposing.

After walking to it I decided it was getting close to the time my luggage locker would expire so I started walking back towards the train stations. I started by heading down the sidestreets at rush hour towards the Lubyanka. I really wanted to try out the Russian Krispy Kreme so I walked back up that street and attempted to find it. I think I walked by it twice before eventually finding it. Now you’re probably wondering why if all the things I could try would I want to go there. Simple I know most American places have a different menu or different processes to handle local regulations abroad.

Honestly the doughnut was slightly better than the ones back home. After that I walked over to the Metro Line 1 stop at Chistie Prudy and went two stops to Kosomolskaya. After arriving I stopped in the Burger King Just for an order of wedges. Then I toured Kazanskaya Station for a moment before going across the street to my station for my train to Siberia. Train No. 68ы would depart from Yaroslavlskaya. I claimed my bags and decided I would try and get dinner. I ended up settling on getting a locker again for a few hours and going to the kfc for the same reason I went to the Krispy Kreme.

Now it’s been several years since I’ve been to a KFC so I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison but it was absolutely lousy. I didn’t even finish it however it was cheap. Afterwards I claimed my bag and I waited for my train. I spent some of the time outside till I decided I needed to warm up for a bit. The major stations all post their track assignments roughly 45 minutes prior to departure which is similar to NY Penn Station except Amtrak does it significantly closer to departure and in Moskva you can see the trains.

The trains basically depart at the same minute after the hour so there is a grove to it. I followed the signs to the long distance trains and waited. Eventually it was about an hour prior to departure and I wandered down a platform and found the door signs all had my train listed. So I walked to the head end and they hadn’t attached the road power quite yet. My train was relatively short compared to the other ones I saw being two baggage cars, seven various 2nd and 3rd class cars, and one diner.

I then had to purchase my luggage space for my large bag and they ended up over charging me but that’s because they thought both of my bags. After I got that mess straightened out I went to my room. I was sharing my room with a Russian family going to visit their grandparents in the countryside outside of Moskva. The mother was Julia and her daughters Ксения (Kseniya), and Marsha (Marsha Marsha Marsha). They were so curious about the US as I don’t think they meet many Americans.

So the first questions they asked were about the roads, the government, and education. I of course opened with the pictures of the worst roads in South Carolina which they find hard to believe belong in the USA. We have some roads so bad that we can tell if your drunk or not because you drive straight as the sober people swerve left and right to avoid the many holes. And of course my usual my state is 51 out of 50 states in the education ranking. Which at one point when I was in school it was because they counted DC as a state.

I taught them some new jokes like “Thank god for Mississippi” which is more of a South Carolina specific joke. Then after a few minutes of chatting they invited me to share in their dinner. That’s something I don’t think you will ever see on an Amtrak coach. A group of people offering some of their food they brought on board from home or the store to just a random stranger. There is something about that hospitality. While I didn’t really like what they were eating it still was better than KFC. We had a great conversation and played Uno before going to bed. We maybe talked all of an hour and a half and it was amazing.
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,481
Location
Denver
I’m enjoying your detailed notes.

I’ve recently developed a fascination with all things Russia, especially the railways. I can’t wait until I get to go! Looks like a real fun time!

Russian railways are a real unsung hero.
You might enjoy my YouTube videos of my 2010 trip into Siberia. And, by coincidence, I came across my notes from that trip and have begun -- in bits and pieces -- to type them up. Seaboard's account is inspiring me to get that done.



 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
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Messages
1,481
Location
Denver

The building with the star-topped tower is the main building of Moscow University.
From Wikipedia: Designed by Lev Rudnev[1] as the headquarters of Moscow State University, it is the tallest of seven Moscow skyscrapers in the Stalinist architectural style constructed between 1947 and 1953. It was until 1990 the tallest building in Europe;[2] it remains the tallest educational building in the world.[3]

Nice looking LRV in the foreground!

Komsomolskaya ( Комсомольская ) Plaza, the public square bracketed by the major stations was named in honor of the young Russians who were sent east and south into primitive conditions to build socialism and to get them out of the politics of Moscow and Leningrad. Americans most often heard the name of their daily paper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, which at times broke news before the more serious Pravda or Izvestia.
 

JRR

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 17, 2017
Messages
950

The building with the star-topped tower is the main building of Moscow University.
From Wikipedia: Designed by Lev Rudnev[1] as the headquarters of Moscow State University, it is the tallest of seven Moscow skyscrapers in the Stalinist architectural style constructed between 1947 and 1953. It was until 1990 the tallest building in Europe;[2] it remains the tallest educational building in the world.[3]

Nice looking LRV in the foreground!

Komsomolskaya ( Комсомольская ) Plaza, the public square bracketed by the major stations was named in honor of the young Russians who were sent east and south into primitive conditions to build socialism and to get them out of the politics of Moscow and Leningrad. Americans most often heard the name of their daily paper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, which at times broke news before the more serious Pravda or Izvestia.
As usual your reports are so good. I look forward to your report on the TSR. I’ve watched several YouTube videos on it & it would definitely be a “bucket list” for me but only now possible enjoying others reports and pictures!
I would say that one of the things I like best about Greenville is watching all the families and young people enjoying downtown and the Falls Park.

Thanks for your great report.
 

Seaboard92

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Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,547
Location
South Carolina
Day 6: Pondering life on train 68Ы

I woke up right at sunrise which is something I love doing when I ride Amtrak because I love the twilight hours as the world awakes. My roommates were still on board but their stop was coming close so they got ready to get off the train pretty much as soon as they woke up. I find it impressive how they can find their stop because there are no announcements and your attendant only comes about ten minutes before the stop. They must travel often to know about where we are.

That and the fact that the train is running 100 percent on schedule not early and not late. I said my goodbyes to them and then I just relaxed in my empty four bunk sleeper. Honestly I think writing about this train might be hard because normally I write about the people and the food. But on this one there is just so much wilderness and the fact I managed an empty room the rest of the day. An interesting thing I noted is that for all of the river crossings where most of our double track bridges are on one span in Russia it is two separate spans separated by a few yards.

Of course on the first one we came to when I noticed that was a perfect shot of a freight train crossing over it but I didn’t have my camera ready. Contrary to popular belief I’m not always at attention with my camera. At some point my attendant came to my room to offer souvenirs from the train. They are required to sell a certain amount per trip so I happily helped her meet her quota. We had trouble getting it paid for because the service is so spotty in rural Russia. While we waited for it to work we talked about trains.

I showed her pictures of my car, and of the various trains I’ve worked across the USA. So naturally it was a very long conversation. We eventually came to our first stretch stop of the route at Sharya. The locomotive was slightly off the platform but there was a field next to the train so I traipsed across the mud puddles on this rainy day to photograph our ЧС4Т electric locomotive affectionately known as the Brick. The locomotive pulling our train is a passenger electric built in Czechoslovakia by Skoda and is of a model being retired and replaced. Our stop was only 14 minutes so I wasted no time photographing our train and the 2-10-0 steam locomotive Л Class built in 1951 for the Northern Railways by the Voroshilovgrad October Revolution Locomotive Works. I still managed to have quite a few minutes standing in the light rain by my vestibule.

One nice thing about stations is you generally have cell service so the missions I have in stations are to send as many messages as I can while photographing the train. I was texting my friend Chris who manages Sam Shortline pictures of the Russian cars and comparing them to the Milwaukee Road home made cars. Around 12 PM my attendant came back to my room to wipe the surfaces and to vacuum the room. Something that you wouldn’t see on Amtrak in the sleepers.

The other thing you wouldn’t typically see on Amtrak is the once hourly bathroom inspection. Honestly the bathroom is so clean I feel I could eat in there for a train bathroom on a long haul train it’s in great condition. After she cleaned my room Ivan the dining car attendant brought me my included meal to my room. It was some form of Chicken and noodles. Initially I just picked the chicken off but I was hungry enough to try the noodles and they weren’t bad at all. I also had some grapes left over from my new friends who detrained in the wilderness.

Most of the area before Kirov is just flat forests with rivers every now often. Our next stretch stop was at Kirov about 2:30 PM for a 25 minute stop. I walked up the locomotive as always and then I went into a platform store to buy a drink or two before eventually boarding again at 2:55 because I believe in maximizing my off train fresh air time. We then continued East into the wilderness but upon departing Kirov I recognized some of the ground from the Trans Siberian documentaries. They all love to photograph the train winding around the curves just west of the station area.

Honestly the next five hours were relatively uneventful no one joined me so it was a mixture of self reflection, looking out at the passing world, and when in a small town station trying to send as many texts as humanly possible to my friends. So there was the routine for awhile. The next stretch stop was after dark at 7:19 for 28 minutes in the town of Balezino to change locomotives. We exchanged the Brick for a new ЭП2К built in 2009 a DC Electric locomotive. The change was so much faster than anything Amtrak does.

By the time I had walked the length of the train from my car to the head end our Brick was already removed and disappearing into the distance. Moments later the new engine was on the train and we still had 22 minutes left in our dwell time on this rainy night. There was a freight stopped on the mainline next to us preventing me from viewing whatever was moving in the yard. After we departed I decided it was time to visit the diner.

As you know I am a big time supporter of patronizing the diner on any train. Unlike Amtrak our meals are not included on this sleeper. But that won’t stop me from the most cherished of railroad traditions in my book. So I walked the two cars over to the diner and took a seat. Ivan the waiter then brought me my menu and I ordered a schnitzel and French fries. I was really curious how the French fries would come out.

I think I might be the first American Ivan has ever met so he tried so hard to practice his English with me but I think my Russian is far better than his English. But he is a nice host. He is appalled that Amtrak got rid of dining cars on any of their trains he even thinks the Palmetto should have a diner. He lives near the end point of this route in the town of Abakan. Technically train No. 68Ы terminates in Abakan but the equipment continues under a new number to Krasnoyarsk. After telling Ivan multiple times about how the American trains are and trying to help him understand it the food arrived.

By far this was the best meal I’ve ever had on the train. The schnitzel was absolutely perfect but oh my god the French fries. I’ve never had French fries on a train before and they were out of this world amazing. Like absolutely amazing they are made with what I assume is vegetable oil, and an oven. Honestly I could have ordered another order of them. Then came the problem I had. Ivan said his card reader wouldn’t work on American cards and I had no rubbles. I didn’t think to change money over before the train because most trains and planes I’ve been on have been able to accommodate. I honestly think he didn’t know how his machine worked.

But don’t worry a big Russian Lumberjack who was drinking at the table across from me was like don’t worry I pay for my new American friend. So then I spent the next hour drinking with Vladimir and Ivan discussing America. And we basically came to the conclusion of both countries are flawed because their governments only look after the politicians interests. Vladimir was traveling to Tyumen to spend time with his wife after working a few weeks in a remote oil field. Every once in awhile he would be like “from the bottom of my heart” and bang on his chest like a caveman.

He was such a gentle soul and I hope sincerely he is doing well wherever he is in the world. And as I write this I will bang on my chest in solidarity. After he downed two or three bottles of Vodka he gave me the empty bottle as a souvenir from Russia and he went to sleep. I then went back to my room where I was still the only passenger. I should have went to sleep as the first stretch stop of the next day was very early but instead I started writing this trip report. And you would think I would be able to finish this a lot sooner because I never start writing so soon. But I did manage to enjoy the stretch stop at Perm which I was surprised had a Lastochka sitting on the platform next to us. And even more surprised to see it’s attendants sleeping inside.
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
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Location
South Carolina
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Yaroslavsky Station

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The switch engine that brought train No. 68 into the station.

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A rural station

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At our first stretch stop of Sharya

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Train 68 at Sharya

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A 2-10-0 on display at Sharya

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Rural Russia

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Train 68 at Kirov

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How to fix grade crossing problems in the USA

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Train 68 at Balezino
 
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