Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Russian Rail Travel Part II

by Regin Reyno

The train was speeding as I push the buttons to open the doors between cars. It reminded me of my train rides in Germany and Norway; the quality of the train, the smell, the compartment full of blondes. It’s because we were in Europe, but this time the northern part. A country that’s part Europe, part Asia. 

We left Saint Petersburg on a cold, cloudy, winter day. The majestic, artistic buildings, frozen rivers, old churches, grand palaces, will be greatly missed. A city that is more like a huge theme-park. I just wished we can stay longer in Saint Petersburg. 

Witnessing the giant obelisk-like structure in front of Moscovsky train station reminded us that we arrived at the station of trains departing for Moscow. We rushed going inside to avoid the torment of cold and wind. Our ticket says we are going to arrive in Moscow at 5:20pm. We planned to experience Red Square and GUM Shopping Mall that night. So, this train better be on time, for us to have ample exploring and shopping (not me) time. 

The train was packed this time. And, as it start to move, gaining momentum, the staff started serving food. They started with a chocolate bar, a bottle of water, and wet wipes. Chocolate. Are you kidding me? We had a late breakfast that day and was busy exploring the Paul and Peter Fortress and walked by the frozen river that we weren’t able to have lunch. I was already hungry. 

What I noticed about myself is, if the weather or temperature is cold or even cool, I get hungry easily. I remember, even when I was a kid, that during cools days and rainy days in the Philippines, I get hungry easily and crave for that hot champorado or lugaw

I was starving and I was just served a chocolate bar? No way, I stood up and headed to the restaurant car. 

It was actually my plan, regardless of the meal/snack served, for us to eat at the restaurant car even though I know that restaurant cars are overpriced. So what? I wanted to experience European-style railing and that means, watching the scenery through that huge window, comfortably seated on a velvety seat, cloth-covered table while enjoying your European food and drink of choice. Yes, it should be European food. And, c’mon, where else can you have a dining experience with endless European scenery? As what expensive restaurants say, “You also pay for the ambiance, not just the food”. 

I finally reached the dining/restaurant car after who knows how many cars crossed and buttons pushed. It was an elegant-looking restaurant car; not the usual casual-looking restaurant cars common in China’s bullet trains. This one is the real deal. Waiters/waitresses dressed nicely, tables properly clothed, and yes, velvety chairs. It reminded me of luxurious train rides I see in movies and magazines, where people dress up and enjoy their champagne, tea, sparkling water, or red wine while cruising through carpet-like vast grassland, tulips, wheat and barley fields of Europe. Pretty much like that 007 movie, Casino Royale, where James Bond met Vesper Lynd on a high-speed train ride in Montenegro. 

The widow gave us an endless show of Russia’s country side in the winter. Birch forest, frozen lakes, houses largely separated from each other (that’s what you do if you live in the largest country on earth), snow-covered pine trees, huge white-covered spaces; the nature there was incredible. It was a literal winter wonderland. How I wished I was also able to visit Russia’s countryside. It was one of my most beautiful train rides ever. A lot of people were shocked when they learned that i’ll be visiting Russia in the winter. They said, “you’re crazy”. But, seeing this awesome view, I will say that, winter is the best time to visit Russia. 

The restaurant was not crowded despite the many passengers on that train that day. Maybe because of the price and the duration of journey. So, our dining and viewing experience became more awesome. Our orders arrived. Spaghetti with olive oil and cheese, smoked salmon sandwich, lemon, and drinks. It was a relaxing, memorable experience. Chatting, eating, sipping, and watching the most beautiful winter scenery. This is why we travel.

The 4-hour travel duration is not long enough when you have these elements in your travel. We didn’t want to go back to our seats in the economy section. We just stayed there, talking and watching the scenery sipping our drinks. Oh, Europe train travel at its best. How I wished we were dressed up that time. You know, that suit and tie, dress kind of thing? But I was on a backpacking mode, so maybe next time. 

When we went back to our seats, Moscow was just a few kilometers away. Our complimentary sanwiches were waiting for us on our seats' mini-table. We were like, "So, they really serve food on this train."

No comments:

Post a Comment