The Marriott hotel in Moscow helped me book tickets on a train from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg. That’s all I knew about the train.
Jamie and I decided to do a little homework to prepare for the trip between Helsinki, Finland and St Petersburg, Russia. We visited Helsinki’s main station the day before our departure and asked the nice woman in the information booth a few questions.
“You can’t miss the train,” she said. “It’s the one that doesn’t look like any of the others. And it’s a Russian train so make sure you keep your passports with you.”
“Will they check them here in Helsinki or in St Petersburg or aboard the train,” I asked.
She laughed. “They’ll check them four different times aboard the train.”
And they did. First an unsmiling conductor checked them. Then an unsmiling customs inspector checked them. Then an unsmiling immigration inspector checked them. And finally, some other undetermined, unsmiling official checked them again. Apparently just to make sure the other unsmiling officials hadn’t screwed up.
All that aside, the train was great. It looked brand new inside and out, but even better, it was a “speed train” that quickly revved up to a top speed of 130 miles an hour. I know the exact speed because there was an LED readout that constantly updated the current speed.
The countryside was beautiful, a “stewardess” served us a delicious breakfast, and we were in St Petersburg before we knew it.