Night Train to Murmansk
In the winter holidays, I took the night train to Murmansk. Its location in the far North and its mythical name have always intrigued me. Besides this, traveling by night train seemed like a pleasant way to get from one place to another. I bought platskart tickets for this 52 hour trip (back and forth), since these are the cheapest. This means sleeping in an open wagon, giving the opportunity to meet various people on track.
Each wagon has its own provodnik or provodnitsa, who is responsible for all travelers of his or her wagon. In my case this was a woman. She checked the tickets, cleaned the wagon, guarded the entrance to it during stopovers and she regulated the heating. This is also the woman from whom you can borrow a stakan, a glass with a metal holder to provide safety while drinking or carrying tea on the moving train. To make tea or noodles – this is a simple way to eat something warm–, you can go for hot water to the samovar at the end of the wagon. This Russian kettle may be used unlimited by the passengers.
Your wagon is like a small street, where you know your direct neighbors and chat with them. The people further down the wagon, you only know by sight. After I made my bed in the upper part of the wagon, I soon got talking with my neighbors. At first sight, Russians may look surly and closed, but when you get to talk with them they appear to be very open people. We conversed until night, sharing food with each other. From time to time, the train made a stopover and you could get some fresh air. Finally, I went to bed and fell asleep on the rhythm of the moving train.
When I woke up the other day, I saw a landscape covered in snow and ice, in my view the perfect way to wake up. Traveling by night train is a great way to explore the Russian landscape, and get an impression of its immense size.
Written by Luuk Winkelmolen, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Saint-Petersburg
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