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19 Aug, 2007 05:36

Russian travellers keep faith with trains

Russia's train services offer railway enthusiasts some of the longest journeys in the world, as travelling from one side of the country to the other can take more than a week.

Meanwhile, with railway tickets cheaper than airfares tens of millions use the service each year.

Russia is the largest country in the world. With a total area of more than 17 MLN SQ KM, it covers almost twice the area of the second-largest country, Canada.

It takes more than ten hours to fly from Vladivostok in the East to Baltiysk, the most Western Russian city and about eight days for the same journey by train.

But, despite the difference, trains still remain a popular means of travelling in Russia. And it's not only the price of the tickets that attracts passengers but also the train itself.

The first class coach has two-berth cabins, linen and breakfast included. Actually, it's like a fashionable five-star hotel.

In second class four people share a cabin while third class coach, or platskarta, looks more like a hostel. 54 people get stationed there and can have either an upper or lower berth.

In platskarta passengers have no private life as there are no doors in the compartments. So it's easy to share food and their problems.

Nevertheless, it is probably one of the best places to get to know your fellow-travellers.

“I met my wife on a train. It's a special place for me. I always have tender feelings while travelling by train, although trains are not like they used to be,” said Vitaly Komarov, an experienced train traveller.

There are coaches on really new trains which are available for VIP passengers only. There passengers will find a mini gym with a running track and an exercise bike for those who don't want to waste time.

For younger passengers there is a specially equipped and designed room, with cartoon characters on the walls, books, toys and computer games.
But what really remains eternal on Russian trains it is railroad conductors whose job includes more than just checking tickets. They become guardian angels for many passengers for the whole trip.

“We have to be psychologists because all the passengers have different characters. But there are some that you just can't stand. All you're waiting for is for them to get off. But anyway I cannot imagine my life without trains and my passengers,” explained Anna Luzhetskaya, railroad conductor.

And it seems that no Russian can imagine his or her life without trains – relatively safe but really romantic means of travelling.