OK, so this leg is not technically part of the ‘Trans Siberia Express’, but I believe that most tourists interested in the journey will also add in Saint Petersburg (either before, or after like us). In the interest of saving money and time, we decided to catch an overnight train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. It worked out to be cheaper to travel overnight, rather than on the express train, with the added bonus of saving on a night’s accommodation, too. The downside of this was an almost complete lack of sights from the train. By the time we finally boarded at 23:30 (which in Moscow isn’t as late as it sounds), the sun had well and truly set, and other than the lights of the city, there wasn’t going to be much to see outside of the train.
The cabin was clean, and modern, even surpassing the last overnight train we caught from Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod – yes, it even included a real rose. Even though we rushed like crazy to make it to the station on time (we actually ran with all of our luggage, believe it or not), and as we sat in our cabin waiting to see who would be joining us, hoping it wasn’t going to be another family with young children, like the ones running crazy in the carriage. As luck would have it, the train took off from the Leningrad station and we were still on our own, with two spare beds. A few minutes later, it stopped in a suburban station, and I thought our celebrations were about to be crushed. Though, still no one came. We had noticed that only our beds had been made, but thought it might have just been a co-incidence, as the bottom beds were seats for sitting on, too. We had a quick visit from the provodnista (carriage attendant), taking our breakfast menu order, and we were asleep by midnight, on a smooth, cool and quiet carriage – quiet apart from the children who were still not sleeping.
We woke around 7AM, reasonably fresh after a very comfortable night sleep. Luckily I seemed to beat the rush for the bathroom, as Risa ended up in the queue with all the children and their parents.
The attendant arrived shortly after and served me the porridge that I ordered. The only tickets available included meals, which after sampling included meals on a previous journey to Kazan from Novosibirsk, we weren’t all that excited about it. I guess the quality of the meals increase with the quality of the trains (and likely the passengers), as we had a reasonable selection of food, and it was food that I wanted to eat, not just consumed for the sake of passing time.
Outside, the sun was shining, the fields were green and vibrant, and I was starting to feel that maybe it was a mistake travelling through the night. However, after fifteen minutes of a flat landscape, with one rich green farm after another, maybe we didn’t miss that much after all!
As we approached the outer suburbs of Saint Petersburg, we started to see more of the modern influence, including all manner of industrial buildings, and of course loads of colourful street art. Maybe the industrial buildings weren’t so modern…
This eventually turned into concrete Soviet apartment blocks, which marked our arrival in Saint Petersburg. The air was a cool change, after the unexpected heat of Moscow. It was 8:30AM, leaving us an entire day to go and explore Saint Petersburg, but first we had to make it to our hotel and dump our bags.