Saturday, March 31, 2012

Platskart - The final leg in third-class

There are between 14 and 19 daily non-stop flights from Yekaterinburg to Moscow.  For about $150 and 2 hours of your time you can travel on such esteemed carriers as Kuban Airlines, Transareo Airlines, Ural Airlines, and of course, Aeroflot.  But why fly, when, for about $120 more you could take a 24 hour train ride?  Our thoughts exactly.
The final leg.  Yekaterinburg to Moscow (24 hours)
Having already logged thousands of miles in the comfortable 2nd class kupe compartments we felt it time to shed our bourgeois attitude and travel with the people.  With only a few hours of emailing and then wandering around the Yekaterinburg train station looking for the single ticket window that could cancel and re-issue tickets we successfully downgraded our 2nd class tickets to 3rd class platskartny (platskart) or an open carriage configuration.

This way, instead of spending our time in a little cabin with new friends like Luba, we could spend our time in a large, undivided cabin with 58 friends like Luba.  That's right, the platskart cabin consists of 60 beds without any walls, arranged in a four bed arrangement running from the windows towards the center of the car, and then two beds running along side the window.

The decision to downgrade was partly financial, but also because we had met friends who had positive experiences riding platskart.  They met friends, were offered lots of food and drink (we love food and drink) and generally had a fine old time.  Plus, traveling third class would be an adventure.

Third-class?  Really?  American tourists?
The journey began with a very thorough inspection of our tickets and passports.
Given that we had exchanged our tickets with someone who did not speak a word of English there was definitely concern that we were about to be turned away.
Once on the train, however, things were looking OK.
Here you can see down the aisle.  Our seats/beds are on the left.
The table flips up and over and turns into the center portion of the lower bunk's bed.
The upper bunk is filled with bedding.

On the right side you can see the ends of the 4-zer beds/seats. 
These are preferable because the two people (the upper bunk and lower bunk passenger) get to share a full bed,
whereas we each had a small chair.
Once the train got moving, the party started.
It seems we got on a "naturalist" platskart train.
Clothing was definitely to be optional for large Russian men.
Besides, why would you want to wear pants or a shirt if you are traveling on a public train?
Here is J in our two-zer.  You can see how the bottom of the table is the bottom of the bed.
It is not clear why she is wearing a shirt or pants in this photo.
Most of the ride she played cards with the other men in just her unders.
Here is the top bunk.  It was fine, but not much room to sit up.
In fact, you couldn't really sit up because above the bunk was a luggage compartment.
In the Kupe class the luggage was stored above the hallway, so the upper bunk had lots more headroom.
Bottom bunk.
You can see the feets of our across-the-aisle neighbors in the reflection.
Here I am in the lower bunk.  I could nearly lay flat, just had to keep my feet slightly elevated.
I also had a privacy curtain, which I jerry-rigged out of my blanket. 
It proved helpful as the train made stops throughout the night, turning on all the lights so passengers could   
1) get on or off the train, and 2) while doing so, bump into me as I tried to sleep. 

We also had a cute pup riding in our car with us. 
He just snuggled up with his owner in her bed.
The Platskart bathroom was totally fine.
Even had some air freshener.

Our across-the-aisle neighbor.
She was the loudest snorer I have ever heard.  Ever.

During the night her snoring would alternate between really loud and too loud for me to sleep.  And I couldn't figure out why (I had the privacy curtain drawn, but could obviously still hear her).  When I finally peeked out, to see what was going on, I realized that she would flip her position so that her head (and the source of the loudest snoring in the eastern hemisphere) was at the foot of her bed, a mere 36 inches of aisle away from my head!  All I could do is wait for her discomfort to cause her to flip back to the other side when the noise would slightly subside and I would doze off...

Breakfast in platskart?  Just like all of our other train rides.
Salami, cheese, crackers.  Delicious.
After a day and a night on the train we arrived in Moscow's central station.  We said goodbye to all the provodnitsas that waited outside each car where a car awaited us to whisk us to the luxurious National Hotel, a far cry from the 3rd class ride that got us there.
Goodbye trans-Siberian.
Hello Moscow.
The train journey took us 7,865 kilometers (4,887 miles) over the course of one month.  It was a great ride, with memories, good and bad, to last a lifetime.

Our entire journey.
We stopped in Ulaanbatar, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg (not pictured on this map), and Moscow


  1. I will surely not travel 3rd class. Learn something new everyday.

  2. All these months later and you still make me lol! Love, Mom


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