Train Tripping: Trans-Siberian Rules of Engagement

Either you love the train or you don't.

Either you love the train or you don’t.

September 2008, Smack Dab Middle of Russia

There a couple of “rules” to keep in mind while traveling on Russian trains.

The first—and most important—is that trains in Russia travel on Moscow time, so if you’re in Irkutsk and your train ticket says departure time is 2:00 pm, it really leaves at 4:00 pm. This is especially good to know if you’re traveling eastwards.

Second, all train bathrooms are locked 15 minutes before and after a train station. So on a train making many local stops, your timing needs to be impeccable, especially if train stops themselves last more than 10 minutes. All I’m saying is it is good to be aware and monitor your liquid intake, which is hard to do, since there’s nothing better to do on a Russian train than drink (preferably vodka).

A random Russian train station. Mostly deserted.

A random Russian train station. Mostly deserted.

The third rule is that a cup and hot water are free on Russian trains, but you must buy the tea and sugar from the attendant—who is usually fairly ornery. I actually thought I was making friends with my attendant on the Moscow to St. Petersburg leg, but then she tried to kick me.

Now, the attendants try and keep the trains fastidiously clean, something that I can *totally* appreciate. And this particular attendant was literally on her hands and knees scrubbing the baseboards and bathrooms. Pride in one’s work – nice!


Platform grinds. Crawfish in the middle of Russia?

Platform grinds. Crawfish in the middle of Russia?

At one of the stops we disembarked for a few minutes to stretch our legs and get some air. As we were climbing back in our car there was a dirty rag on the ground just as you entered our car. I thought this was the rag our attendant was cleaning with (they are all a little grungy) and I stepped over the rag. Apparently, however, this is the rag to wipe our feet on and I was supposed to step on the rag. Well, the attendant was fuming when she saw that I didn’t wipe my feet and she started yelling at me and tried to kick me as I walked by.

Sheesh—it was a simple mistake! I was trying to be respectful of her work implements! Talk about on the rag. (I know, I know, so bad. I couldn’t resist.)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 and is filed under Europe.

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