Gone are the multi-day trips, and instead all that is left is a few overnight excursions. We arrived at the beautiful red brick station in Kazan, tired and sweaty after another full day exploring the town on our feet.
The train was much more modern than any we’d experienced to date, which was a nice change, and a disappointment that we didn’t have such comfort on any of the previous long distance trains. Even the bathrooms were nice, with toilets that had an internal septic system (and flushed just like an airplane) which meant the toilets weren’t locked before passing through towns, which is a huge benefit (the regular drop toilets just drop their waste onto the tracks below).
We booked the two upper bunks this time (on purpose), and below us were two female passengers. Common courtesy is for men to leave the carriage to give the women a chance to get changed before bed (and again in the morning).
For whatever reason, we weren’t able to catch the one train from Kazan to Vladimir, instead requiring a change in Nizhny Novgorod. It really was a quick journey. We went to bed as soon as we could, and woke up just before we arrived in Nizhny Novgorod around 8AM. We had a 90-minute break in Nizhny Novgorod until our next train left. While it would have been possible to rush and maybe see a church or one of the sights in town, we decided to play it safe, and instead rest a little over breakfast – at McDonalds no less. Safe to say, it was a depressing meal.
The train to Vladimir from Nizhny was only a short trip, so instead of booking a sleeper carriage, we opted for a seat on a high-speed train. The train was eerily smooth and quiet, especially after the clunkers that we’d spent days on previously. There was even a small roof-mounted display showing the speed, which I think topped out at about 160kph. The seats were comfortable enough, apart from the fact that way we were seated facing strangers (for three hours).
Once we arrived in Vladimir, we opted to leave our large backpacks in overnight storage in Vladimir, rather than carrying them to Suzdal and back. In further consideration, it would have been cheaper to have taken them with us, and then just caught a taxi from the bus stop in Suzdal to our accommodation and back, as we had to pay for two days storage, at 140r ($3) per bag, per day.
The bus to Suzdal left from the Vladimir Autostation, which was directly opposite the impressive Vladimir train station. Buses left every thirty minutes, and cost 62r ($1.50). Seats are awarded to the first in, and the elderly – the rest have to stand, and since we arrived just as the bus was ready to leave, that meant me. For an hour.
Standing meant I wasn’t able to get near the windows to photograph the rural landscape (however, once I did finally get a seat, I realised the windows were actually too dirty to photograph through anyway). Inside a silent struggle raged between a large middle-aged women and a younger sweaty man opening and closing one of the limited windows that actually opened. I was a sweaty bystander, hoping for a victory for the airflow team.
The bus arrived at the Suzdal bus station, which is about 2km east of the centre of town. We could stay on the bus to the centre of town, but we’d have to purchase an additional 16r ($0.40) ticket for the journey. At first I thought it was a scam of sorts, but I realised that it was now a different bus route (and everyone else was also paying it). Plus, people have been really honest so far, and haven’t tried to take advantage of us at all. It was then just a sweaty 20-minute walk from the centre of town to our guesthouse, walking through the beautiful lush and overgrown rural streets of Suzdal, with glimpses of the churches that we were about to go visit.