Welcome all!

First I would like to thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you will enjoy reading it! Do not hesitate to follow me!

This blog has three main objects. First, it allows me to share my impressions and to provide useful informations to people who visit or leave in Moscow.

Than across this blog, I would like to exchange on Russia and more specifically on Moscow, to discuss everyone's outlook and eventually correct some stereotypes!

At last but not least, I would like to publish contributions of foreigners and Russians living in Moscow in order to have a multitude of glance on this wonderful city

I wish you all a good reading!! (There is also a French version of this blog: http://regards-sur-la-russie.blogspot.com/)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Travelling in a suburban train in Russia

Hello my dear readers, Happy New Year and my best wishes for 2012!

If you ever had to go to a small city around Moscow, you most probably took a suburban train, known in Russia as elektrichka (электричка). You probably were very surprised the first time as it’s different from our suburban trains! If you never took it, let me explain why it’s different and what you should expect!

The train itself is a normal suburban train with wooden bench seats (or plastic for the new trains), consisting of 6 to 14 cars. Most of them are electric. If you need to go to the restrooms, you will find that not every car is equipped with toilets and quite often there are only two (in the oldest ones), one on each end of the train. So far it’s almost the same as our suburban trains, more old fashioned but nothing special about it!

It’s important to know that the so-called suburban trains can link cities far from each other by more than one hundred fifty kilometers! You can even go from Moscow to St-Petersburg using only elektrichka; you’ll need to take five of them with stops at Tver, Bologoe, Okulovka and Malaya Vishera! On each popular route you’ll have some express trains, they are usually high-speed and have few stops but can be more expensive (although still very cheap), and other trains that will stop everywhere. For the example, if you take an elektrichka between Moscow and the city of Solnetchnogorsk (45 km from Moscow), it can take you between 54 minutes and 1h29 depending on the trains!

In Russia, you will have some stops in cities and villages like in all countries, but since it can be quite a long distance between two villages and that some people have a “datcha” (country house) in the middle of nowhere, they created some stops between villages or cities. You’ll have a platform with a name like “km 52” or “km 108”, and you can go out in the forest for example! It’s very popular stops for mushroom gatherers. Some of these stations won’t even have a ticket office, so you’ll have to buy your ticket directly on the train, without paying an extra fee.

This is still not very surprising, maybe a bit curious but no more! What really made the first trip interesting for me was the continuous passing of vendors and people escaping the ticket collector! It’s really funny to see these vendors selling various things to the passengers in the train. It can be toys, gadgets (useless most of the time), beauty product, products that will cure all your diseases (theoretically at least!), magazines… . Each of them enter the car, explain what the properties of their products are and then go along and wait for people to buy things. I noticed that passengers buy quite often the products that are sold, which surprised me. Some of them even have a microphone so everyone hears what they have to say.

I also mentioned people passing in the car to escape the ticket collector; this can be quite funny to watch. Lots of people using elektrichka are quite poor and some of them don’t buy tickets. If you get caught with no tickets, you just have to pay 50 Rubles (1, 25€) and you can continue your trip. The ticket collector will give you in exchange of the 50 Rubles a ticket, valid for a certain number of stops after that. You can pay 50 Rubles several times if the ticket they gave you is not valid anymore at the moment they control you again, but the total of the fines will still be less expensive than the price of the full-fare ticket. For the ones that try to avoid paying both the fine and the ticket, they move to the next car when the ticket collectors comes and when they arrive to a stop, they run to the next door where the ticket collectors already checked the tickets! The thing is that stops can be really short in time and that each car is pretty long, so they need to run fast in order to not “miss the train”, that’s why it’s for young people especially!

If you live in Russia and that you told your colleagues (Muscovite) that you took an elektrichka, they might be quite surprised as foreigners usually don’t take them. But it’s safe and usually the fastest way to reach a suburban city. You could take a bus or your car if you have one, but the risks of being stuck in traffic jam are really high, especially if you leave Moscow on Friday evening and you come back on Sunday. For example, I went at my friends’ place in their country house by elektrichka last summer, I left Moscow at 19h and arrived at 22h, at the same time as them, although they left the city centre by car at 15h! So if you don’t need a car where you go and are not too packed, prefer the train.

What else can I say about the elektrichka, maybe that it’s a way to meet modest and middle class Russians, it can change you from the image of Russian people you have living in the centre of Moscow. It’s also a good way to see the Russian countryside as it passes by traditional houses, fields, forests and agricultural lands. After that I let you “experience” it yourself!

If you have any cool anecdotes or comments, do not hesitate to share!