On our travels through Europe at the end of 2012, the longest rail journey we made was the 2300 kilometre, 45 hour long ride across Russia, from sunny Sochi on the shores of the Black Sea to snow covered Saint Petersburg beside the Gulf of Finland.
Day one started at 1pm in the afternoon. The train itself originated at Adler, the next city along the line, but we boarded at the Sochi’s Stalinist-style railway station, opened back in 1952 and renovated for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Among the standard grey and red РЖД liveried carriages, our twenty carriage long train also featured a number of special Sochi liveried cars.
We climbed aboard, and soon after departure we were passing a changing city skyline.
Eventually we left the city proper, where smaller houses lined the hillsides.
Out the other side of the train we could see the Black Sea, where the beaches lay empty.
Even the boats were packed away for winter.
However the railway staff were still busy, maintaining the tracks our train was passing over.
Eventually the scenery changed to farmland.
With scattered townships along the way, filled with luxurious holiday houses.
Our train continued hugging the Black Sea.
Until we reached the industrial city of Tuapse.
There the railway turned inland, with small villages popping up at regular intervals.
As did abandoned industries.
But eventually the railway left civilisation behind, entering the nothingness of the Caucasus Mountains.
The temperature also started to fall, with ice visible on the ground below.
One wonders how these isolated villages survive.
Shadows started to grow longer.
With the end of day one bringing us as far as Krasnodar.
The morning of day two greeted me with a cold and grey view of a railway freight yard.
With the train now deep in the interior of Russia.
Railway safety messages don’t seem to have much of an impact here.
We were now in the land of goat herding.
And timber collection.
Beside forests, we rolled through tiny villages.
As well as open fields.
Every hour or so heavy industry would greet us.
As we approached larger cities.
To pick up more passengers.
At busier stations platform kiosks sold snacks to passing passengers.
Rivers passed beneath us as darkness fell.
With day two ending with our train arriving at the city of Tula, south of Moscow.
Here our train swapped locomotives, with another unit being attached at the opposite end to lead the train out of the dead end station.
Into the night we continued, passing through Moscow at midnight, until we arrived into a snow covered Saint Petersburg at 9 am, where the sun yet to rise.
It might’t be the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway, but those 45 hours on the train still crossed Russia, from the sunny Black Sea to the ice covered Baltic.
For the entire journey I had my GPS datalogger running – the resulting track can be found below.
Great post, thanks. I’m about to do a similar trip.
I noticed that you took a GPS logger with you across Russia. I’m planning on doing the same (so as to reference any photos I take), but I noticed this peculiar statement on the Australian Travel Advisory site:
“The importation of electrical and some high technology equipment, for example Global Positioning Systems (GPS), is strictly controlled. Russian Customs have advised that all visitors may import terminal GPS devices upon their declaration on arrival. You should however obtain a special customs permit where you intend to import a GPS peripheral device connected to a computer or to an antenna. This extends to the importation of equipment in accompanied baggage, including by business people as samples. The penalty for using a GPS device in a way that is determined to compromise Russian national security can result in detention.”
(under the ‘Entry and Exit’ tab on http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Russia)
Did you have any problems bringing your GPS logger in? Did you have to get one of the permits mentioned above?
Please let me know.
I didn’t have any trouble with using my GPS data logger, but I never knew that Russia had such a restriction – I’m guessing I got lucky! I was carrying a lot of gear – DSLR and a few lenses, laptop computer, smartphone, various chargers, external hard drive, etc.
In addition, I didn’t just import a GPS device, but I brought a replacement unit in Saint Petersburg after my original device stopped working! No problems there either.
I entered Russia by train via Ukraine, and flew out via Moscow Domodedovo Airport. In the first case the border guards only checked my travel documents, and didn’t look at my bags. On the way out, presumably my bags were screened before being loaded into the plane.
Hope that helps.
Ah, thanks so much for the info. That makes me feel better.
I’ve bookmarked your site, and will use it as a reference as I go across my travels.
Thanks again for your help and information.
All the best.
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