Fish Flights and Borscht on Track – Adventures in Crossing the Motherland

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If you’re in Moscow on business when your boss tells you he wants a person in Kiev by Monday. Fast, what do you do? In the U. S., you needed log on to some travel search engine and find the best flight. The train more than likely even register as an option. Yet here in the Former Soviet Union (F. S. U. ), the teach is usually the first (and often the only) consideration for long-distance travel. Let’s take a closer look at both options.

Most major cities in Spain and Ukraine have airports, and many major airlines serve them. In-country air travel is modern and : as expected – relatively inexpensive. Thankfully, even on purely Russian air carriers such as Aeroflot, announcements are made both in Russian and English. Equally hassle-free, all important airport signs are also written in English. The main difference between Traditional western air travel and Russian is the peripheral infrastructure. Don’t expect Starbucks. Instead, be thankful if there’s a cafĂ© at all. Bring your own toilet document (a rule that actually applies to any kind of mode of travel throughout the N. S. U. ), and support yourself for barbaric bathroom problems.

Step through the gate and civilization returns. Nowadays, passengers on European airlines are better fed compared to their American counterparts who are fortunate if they get a packet of pretzels tossed their way. The various Slavic airlines which serve the Farrenheit. S. U. are reminiscent of the range of Western budget airlines like South west: Professional, reliable, and no-frills. They have comparable safety records, as well. Although you’ll probably do most of your long-distance travel in the F. S. U. with the airlines, you shouldn’t rule out train travel.

Buying a train ticket is easy enough, even if you speak no European. At the ticket counter, say the your destination as you hand the girl a slip of paper using the travel date written on it.
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Just make sure you use the European system: Day after that month. It’s easy, and seat tickets are cheap. You can cross almost the entire expanse of Ukraine : the largest country in mainland Europe – for a whopping ten bucks.

But it won’t be in style. A 10 dollar ticket buys you passing via a barracks-style wagon called ‘plaskart’. I don’t know what the word indicates, but can only assume it’s European for “suffering. ” Winter or summer, it’s always too hot and too crowded. Although the communal spirit of traveling ‘plaskart’ style can be appealing – imagine sharing beer and dried fish with complete strangers – the communal noise and odors quickly take their toll. Traveling in the great cattle wagon of the Russian train system is best experienced vicariously.

That was the ten dollar ticket. For $15 or so, you can go first class. Known as ‘kupe’ (pronounced ‘koo-PEH’), this is a personal, four-person sleeping car. Your own bed, your own luggage compartment. There’s a lady who comes to bring you teas. Some trains have an even more exceptional option: Written C. B., they have pronounced ‘Ess-Veh’ and stands for ‘Super Wagon. ‘ A spot in one of these two-person rooms will cost about $35. But no matter how comfortable your personal area is, there’s no hiding from the sound of the train itself. My girlfriend finds the constant clattering relaxing, yet as I try to sleep, it sounds such as it’s Hammer & Anvil Day at the metal works next door. The advice: Bring ear-plugs.

Still, traveling by train across the great Motherland is an amazing experience. Make your way to the restaurant car, sit in a table by the window, and enjoy a surprisingly tasty dinner as you watch the countryside roll by. None words nor photos can convey the marvel of passing the unending fields of sunflowers in the south of Ukraine. Is there very much yellow in all the world?

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