To Russia With Love!June 12, 2017 in Russia
A quick trip on the efficient S-Bahn (suburban railway) to Berlin's Ostbahnhof Station for the next keg if my journey - the 22 hour trip on the Berlin to Moscow sleeper train. I was pleasantly surprised at the sleek modern (Spanish built) train and the immaculate stewards positioned to welcome us at each carriage. Our steward was Viktor Gorbachev (no relation) who spoke little English but was very helpful. I was in a 4 berth cabin - 4 daytime seats which converted into 4 comfortable sleeping berths, with sheet, duvet and pillow. I had 4 travelling companions - two men from Germany, and a father and his toddler daughter who shared a berth - literally four men and a little lady! The wee girl was very sweet and didn't cry or make a noise all night. She was delighted when I gave her a little compact mirror with a Scottish design and kept showing it to me. Well, it was either that or a miniature of Grouse!
As my travelling companions tucked into their black bread sandwiches a smoked sausage picnics, I ventured to the dining car - a bright modern compartment with good views of the surrounding scenery - aren't these German / Polish / Belarusian/ Russian trees beautiful! I met an Australian couple - Rob and Merril - from Lennox! New South Wales. They were hoteliers who owned their own hotel / pubs and were great fun - we hit it off and spend several hours chatting. The menu looked interesting until we were advised most things were 'aff', so dinner was Borsch (beetroot soup), black bread and a chicken Caesar salad, washed down with a German beer (no Tennents here, Dad!).
We traveled though Germany and slipped into Poland, taking on more passengers in Warsaw. I was in the lower bunk and dozed off to sleep, only to be woken by Viktor at 3.30am telling us we were approaching the border with Belarus. This involved us all getting up, completing an immigration card, and looking out our papers as Custom and Border Control officials inspected us. After about an hour, the train rolled over a bridge a few hundred metres into Belarus, where we had to go though the same procedure with the Belarusian authorities. So after about 2 hours we were allowed to go on our way and my fellow Russian companions, who only spoke to me in German, instructed me 'mehr schlaf' (more sleep). I dutifully returned to my bunk and slept for 4 hours. Father and daughter got off in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, which gave us much more space in view of the amount of luggage they had.I joined my Aussie friends for breakfast - the menu hadn't increased, but a pale-looking ham and cheese omelette and coffee sufficed. In spite of our delays at the border, the train rolled into Moscow's Belorussky Station dead on time. One of my German travelling companions asked if I had a 'Frau' in Moscow. Sadly I said I didn't, but he proudly exclaimed he did. She met him at the station and I thought initially she was his daughter or granddaughter, but the passionate embrace indicated otherwise. She was a lovely young women with good English, who insisted on driving me to my hotel. This saved me the ordeal of negotiating the Moscow Metro with my luggage and I was extremely grateful.
The small hotel Sadovnicheskaya was beautifully decorated and the young man on reception recommended a good Russian restaurant nearby. I had a hearty meal of Solyanka soup, black bread, beef stroganoff, mashed potatoes and cabbage - delicious - and washed down with a small jug of ice cold vodka. Well, when in Rome...Read more