Russia today as well as during its historic past has faced many challenges, the greatest of these has been its vast distances which covered thousands and thousands of kilometers. To meet these challenges was never easy, this was the reason why so few foreigners really saw or understood Russia. Roads that existed in Russia then as well as now made travel easier but more of an adventure with this use your imagination. The simplest way of and wanting to see first hand and experiencing the people and their every day life as they travel. In every station there are unique experiences and one can witness a variety of activities not seeing in North America rail travel. Where else one can see an old woman with a necklace of dried fish around her neck and selling beer in one hand, and in the other hand dispensing the fish? That is not all. Sitting in your compartment does not offer escape. They will find you, the vendors. Some of their articles for sale are beautiful: crystal glasses, objects made of cut glass: little animals, figurines, glass shoes etc. You always feel compelled to buy. As for many of these people it is their livelihood. These are general experiences in all train travels whether we went north to Petrozavodsk or south to Bryansk. The old steam locomotive pictured here served a vital role during the 900 days’ siege of Lenngrad at WWII, this locomotive now is on exhibit at Petrozavodsk Railway Station. Because of the great efforts of these heroic rail workers who sacrificed their lives running these trains the city of Leningrad could bear up during the tragic events. So the Day of a Railway man is celebrated every year nationwide. We took photos of the slogan “Happy Day of Railway man!” at St. Petersburg Railway Station when we were taking Larisa and Gleb and her company to Sochi. My impression of Moscow Terminal was
This is because unlike Canada, for instance, where train travel has diminished over the years, as I have witnessed this as I am a retired rail worker. By contrast in Russia rail travel is still quite popular. It connects all major and minor cities as well as so many villages along the way. It is fast, efficient and comfortable.
These travels of ours included not only rail but sea or lake as well. We traveled to Kizi by hydrofoil “Comet”, it seemed like a floating bus but going at high speed. To Valaam it was more of a small cruise ship moving slowly in the waters of the Ladoga lake. It was an overnight trip. On this cruise ship there were many activities going on. After boarding the ship and settled down in our cabin we had a chance to go on the deck and we saw many ships carrying different types of cargo. On the shore we saw the lights of many villages. Later as we approached lake Ladoga everybody started to come onto the deck, they brought cameras, there was a spirit of excitement as if the people were waiting for something unexpected. What was it, I was soon to find out. In the distance on the island was a foreboding image clouded in mist something of medieval past, its darkened windows seemed like the eyes in a skull. It was the Schlusselburg Fortress. End of the Neva river and the beginning of tht lake Ladoga.
Russian Grandes Routes! Unforgettable was my empression also on our way back to St. Petersburg since I was unable to sleep because of the heat at 2 a.m. I stood near open windows in the rail car and upon looking out I saw what seemed like sunset or sunrise I was not sure what it was. The reason I realized that we were so far north we were actually four hours from Murmansk, this is quite high close to the Arctic. This twilight was fascinating me, I do not know how the others thought as it seemed as I only one who was watching this. Perhaps others are used to it and do not take much notice. No matter which destination we went everywhere we were met with good Russian hospitality, open heart and friendliness as if we know our travel companions for ages. Sincere feelings and good sense of humor never left us. Thank goodness for that. Of all impressions are the best about people: on the streets, in the family circle, relatives or strangers, the openness in the heart and willingness to help if even they do not have so much themselves. Thanks to all people whom we met on our grandes routes.