So here we are. 7.27am at Berlin main train station to take the Trans European Railway to Moscow. 27 hours, 3.483 kilometers, two border controls and one change of railway system ahead of us. Let’s see how bored I’ll get, how smelly the cabin will be and how loud the other cabin passengers snore…
Spoiler alert: Time flies on that train, we were very lucky to have those other passengers in our cabin to help us with the language barrier at border control, no one snored, you have your own security card to enter the cabin so you feel very safe, the sheets were super clean and I have never been more rested after a journey than when we arrived in Moscow after those 27 hours.
But let’s not jump ahead because there was one moment that got my heartbeat rising to the moon and back. Some would call it being nervous some a small panick attack.
What happened? After hours of relaxing, watching the landscapes pass by, sleep, read, playing cards, drink as much tea as we liked and just beeing lazy, we arrived at the Polish border. Nice border guards came into the train, we were not allowed to leave the cabin, they took the passports, swiped them through a machine (like paying by card in a restaurant) and that was it. Easy enough. No problem at all. That’s why I was a bit confused why our other two cabin passengers suddenly got a bit more tense when we were arriving the Belarussian border. The older lady even put on a complete set of makeup. The younger girl sat down onto the lower compartment and both stopped talking. Maybe I should add that no one from the staff spoke anything else but Russian. Five minutes later the train came to a stop and the border guards with guns entered the train. We had to leave our cabin and stood in the hallway while they were searching the cabin. Again we had to show our passports but this time there was no fancy machine. They just took them and left with them. No explanation just the question for Mikes travel insurance. And that’s when I got nervous, because eventhough I hadn’t been asked for it (difference between British and German passports) I still looked for it just in case they should change their minds. And I couldn’t find it. Between all the copies of my passport, the traintickets, different iteneraries and hotel bookings I just couldn’t find that bloody piece of paper. The guards came back, without the passports but asking for something I had no clue what they could mean. Lucky for us the girl in our compartment spoke five languages and English and German were part of that selection. She translated everything for us and explained that we needed to hand in the immigration card. “Excuse me, the what?” We didn’t have such a thing, we had the Belarussian transit and the Russian visa but that wasn’t what he meant and the next panick attack what crawling around the corner. The guard put his hand into his pocket and took out a crumpled piece of paper with two sides, completely identically, which was asking for visa and passport numbers. The fact that the other guards still had our passports and therefore a lot of information was missing for me to fill out didn’t really make sense to them. “Just fill out”. Erm… yeah ok. Then Mike fortunately remembered the copies of our passports so we filled out one side of that paper as we thought the guard had just been too lazy to rip it in half. Turned out we had to fill out both sides…. Ok let’s do everything all over again. In the end we managed to do everything to the armed, only Russian speaking guard’s satisfaction so he went off . Without hadn’t given us back the passports though. Oh and the train had started running again. Honestly not the greatest feeling. But the girls explained to us that they had taken everyones passports. Not just ours. Something I hadn’t notice while panicking over that not to be found travel insurance. (This will be the first thing to be printed at the hotel when we arrive Moscow, I swear!)
After another ten minutes of waiting the guards gave us back the passports and left with the words: “Good luck.” … Erm, thanks, I guess… Good luck with what though?
It made me realise how easy traveling by plane is. Of course you have armed guards and passport controlls. But everyone speaks at least a little English and everything is handed to you. No sheet suddendly still left to be filled in, no language barrier…
Shortly after that we arrived at a huge hanger where the wheels of our train got changed as the European system doesn’t match the Belarussian/ Russian railyway. It was a bumpy but surprisingly quick encounter. Compartment by compartment got lifted up, wheels were removed, the new ones attached and that was it. The entire train was done within an hour. Quite impressive.
We had tea and noodles for dinner, I went to bed fairly early and slept like a baby. Never have I ever been more rested after a journey like that 27 hour trainride. Despite that little heart attack at the Belarussian border I highly recommend everyone to take a train like this if you have the time. A whole different experience – but in a good way.
With a only ten minutes delay (every German knows that’s absolutely impossible with Deutsche Bahn) in Moscow we just got off the train and that was it. No more controls, no security, nothing.
Definately a trip that got me out of my comfort zone but now I’m just curious what the first stop of my journey has to offer. MOSCOW, here we come!