Power to the People

Russia World Cup 2018: Trains in Russia

On 24 February 2022, Russia launched an unprovoked, large-scale military invasion of Ukraine, its neighbour to the southwest, marking an escalation to a conflict that began in 2014 with the Russian annexation of Crimea and the Donbass. Stop The War!

The previous two trains I caught had been free. Laid on for people with Fan I's to travel between cities. The trains had both been modern and the overnight train from Nizhny Novgorod to St Petersburg was immaculate.

My previous experience of overnight trains was in the Ukraine, and that was not a pleasant one. Carriages 30 years old, as was the bedding. Stifling hot and no air conditioning. This time the bedding was crisp and clean, as though it was being used for the first time. The trip to St Petersburg was to watch Russia and the train was full of Russian football fans.

Sochi to Volgograd train

This time I had booked the train myself and was travelling from Sochi to Volgograd to watch Saudi Arabia v Egypt. There were no football fans. Everyone else in my carriage was Russian and no one seemed to speak English. The train was not a new one, and the bedding was not as I described. The train itself is actually on a four day journey. I would only be on it for 22 hours.

The previous trains had an electric socket in each compartment. This time there was one socket between the whole carriage - 36 people.

As ever when travelling it is a constant battle to keep ipod(!) and camera charged as sometimes you do not know when you will ever get the chance. And without the technology these days you would quickly get lost.

I was greeted by two staff at the wagon of my train, as I handed over my passport in perfect Russian. I could understand that they recognised I did not speak Russian and they were unsure what to do with me. A few minutes later another member of staff came and gave me a guided tour of the carriage highlighting the toilet and the refreshments. My compartment, and indeed the whole carriage did not seem interested in me.

This was a stark contrast to the rest of my trip, when people who did not even speak English will come up to you and try to speak with you and then giggle as they walk away. The last time I remember this situation was in Japan 2002.

Last night I was in the train back from Sochi.

I was surrounded by a family and saw the young boy had a big camera. I gestured that I would like to see the photos he had taken. A minute later he and his older brother had introduced me to the whole family and they wanted to know all about my impressions of Russia. (All of this made me wonder what do they make of me?). As they left they gave me two Rouble souvenir coins for the World Cup.

After 30 minutes of silence in my carriage a woman gestured that I would be welcome to join her in the next compartment. She was there with her daughter and another man. He was from Abkhazia, which is next to Sochi and was going to Krasnodar on a business trip. They all talked a little English. They fed and watered me, even at one stage bringing an ice cream.

I asked the question I wanted and this is the reply I got....

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