Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The 13.000 km train trip starts at Vienna

I wrote this travelogue primarily for some railway-related forums, so it contains many photos and information which might be boring for you, if you're not interested in railways that much.
If you're interested especially in things concerning North Korea, you can skip some of the parts and go directly to:

The start of our trip with the North Korean train (still inside Russia):

Approaching the border between Russia and North Korea (the last kilometers inside Russia):

Inside North Korea:


The trip started at about 10:45 at the urban station Wien-Traisengasse(3 minutes walk from my flat), from where I took a “S-Bahn” to the Südbahnhof (Southern station). This first trip took only about 10-15 minutes.

Wien Traisengasse:

At 11:28 the local train to Bratislava departed from the Südbahnhof. It also conveyed a direct Ukrainian sleeping car from Wien to Kyiv, but as I was going further to Moscow, the Russian sleeping car Kosice – Moscow was more suitable for me.

Wien Südbahnhof:

The trip to Bratislava took about 70 minutes. I met an old man travelling to Chop. He was told that this train goes direct to Chop, but appearently he was not told that only the sleeping car goes there. The conductor – not knowing where Chop is located – thought that he was in the wrong train, but I explained them that everything is OK and that just several changes of trains (in Bratislava, Kosice and Cierna nad Tisou) are necessary to reach Chop.

In Bratislava I had a 70-minutes layover. It is also possible to take a later train from Vienna to shorten the waiting time at Bratislava, but as I wanted to buy some cheap Slovakian train tickets for my friend in Moscow (tickets for domestic trips inside Russia can often be cheaper in Slovakia than in Russia…) such a layover was OK.
The old man wanted to upgrade to the sleeping car, but the Ukrainian conductors told him, that there were no free places.
As he was not seeing well and was a little bit confused, I helped him (when chanhig trains) on the further trip to reach Chop. He was glad about that and later he said that withouth my help he wouldn’t have reached Chop.

From Bratislava my onward express train no. 609 to Kosice departed at 13:47. Train 609 consisted of about 10 Slovakian cars and the Ukrainian sleeping car. Some of the cars were already modernized with air-condition, but in my compartment-car the air-condition didn’t work so I (and the old man from Vienna) moved to a open-cabin-car with. BTW, the 83-year-old man told me, that he was born in Western Ukraine and had moved to Austria already 35 years ago. This was his first trip back to his homeland.

En-route to Kosice:

In Kosice the train arrived 5 minutes late at 19:55. The connecting local train to Cierna nad Tisou departed at 20:07. We changed to that train, to which also the Ukrainian sleeping car was attached. I boarded the Russian sleeping car to Moskva and also the old man bought an inofficial upgrade for this sleeping car to avoid a further change of trains at Cierna nad Tisou.

At Kosice:


I had booked a place in a “Double”-compartment, as the 3-bed-configuration on Russian international sleeping cars is too narrow for longer trips like this. “Double” requires a 1st class ticket for the Ukrainian and Russian part, but instead of one 1st class ticket, I had a 2nd class Citystarticket for 2 persons, which after some explanation was also accpeted by the conductor. The other place in my compartment was not booked and I stayed the whole time alone till Moscow.

The sleeping car was a modernized RIC-WLABm of RZD. It was air-conditioned and there was a small refrigerator in each compartment (below the seat). Some windows on the corridor-side could be opened to take photos.

Inside the compartment:

Arrival at Cierna was at 21:56 and there the 2 sleeping cars are attached to another local train, which goes just over the border to Chop.

Shunting at Cierna nad Tisou:

The Slovakian border checks took place at a new checkpoint almost at the border (built with EU money), whereas the Ukranian border checks took place during the stop at the station Chop. Formalities at this boder are fast, easy and not worth mentioning compared to what we experienced on other border crossings during this trip. I sayed goodbye to the old man, who left the train here.

Slovakian border checkpoint:

At Chop also the boogie exchanging procedure is done. It is done for the 2 sleeping cars coming from Slovakia as well as for some other sleeping cars of the “Tisza-Express” coming from Budapest. After that procedure all the sleeping cars from Wien, Kosice, Budapest, Beograd, Zagreb are rearranged and attached to a “domestic” train from Uzhgorod to Moskva. Departure from Chop was at 3:32 (East European time, one hour ahead of Central European time).

Regauging at Chop:


(due to darkness not much can be seen, but the typical sounds during the regauging procedure might be interesting...)


Train trip across Ukraine via Lviv – Ternopil – Hmelnizki – Vinniza – Kyiv. I already used this line several times (the last time was only 3 weeks ago), so it was already a little bit boring – the same procedure as every time…
BTW, train 15/16 (“Tisza”) uses the Shmerinka avoiding curve. In Lviv and Kyiv sleeping cars were detached.

At Lviv:


15 minutes stop at Grechani:

At Hmelnizkij:

Near Shmerinka:

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Arriving at Kyiv:

In the evening the Ukrainian border checks took place at Konotop, still more than 100 km from the actual border to Russia.


From Konotop the train ran non-stop to Brjansk, already more than 100 km inside Russia, where finally the Russian border checks take place at the uncivilizised time of 4 a.m. (Moscow time, one hour ahead of East European time). Apart from the horrible time, the border checks also here were no problem.

After some more sleep I finally arrived at Moscow at about 10 a.m. at the Kievskaya station. My friend Alexander was waiting for me and we drove to his flat to have some breakfast together.

Arriving at Moskva Kievskaya:




Eurasia 2005: ~35.000 km by train from Europe via Ukraine, Russia and Mongolia to China and back to Europe via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan:

Total solar eclipse 2008: Trip to the total solar eclipse in the Altay mountains (1st august 2008), including a 6-day trekking trip: