July 01, 2011

Riviera Russians

Riviera Russians

NO OTHER RUSSIAN TRAIN is quite so full of hope as Train 17, the year-round weekly rail service that links Moscow with the Riviera. The first part of the journey has a certain novelty appeal, as passengers accustom themselves to lives shaped by the quiet rhythm of the train. Solyanka for supper in the restaurant car, with the bleached beauty of birch forests slipping by beyond the window. In the sleeping cars, the provodnitsy are the guardians of order.

On the second day, the country becomes less two-dimensional: Central Europe’s soft hills eclipse Russia’s great plains... Stern castles perched on hilltops preside over gentle valleys.

By the morning of the third day, the train is cruising through Italian sunshine. There are pelmeni for lunch in the on-board restaurant as the train creeps past the Certosa di Pavia, the ornate Charterhouse where generations of Carthusian monks have lived quiet lives full of faith and hope. Then, soon after lunch comes the moment for which many travelers on the train have patiently waited: that first glimpse of the Mediterranean.

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