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Traveling in the Couchette Cars: a Little Hardcore in your Trip
July 27, 2009 15:01

Some people think that extreme travel is something connected with snowboarding, alpinism, rafting, long expeditions to the forests and deserts. Others, and I am among them suppose, that we should look around to notice the elements of the real extreme in the habitual attributes of traveling. I explain it on the example of the couchette cars, harmless at first sight.

First of all, let me to describe it. The couchette cars being used in Russia, consists of 9 compartments, providing 54 sleeping places. Each compartment has 6 places: two upper and two lower ones, and two places on the side, lower and upper ones. The places for luggage are under the lower sleeping places and there are luggage racks above the sleeping places. Toilets are located at the ends of the car. The boiler for water is provided in the car as well. Except the equipment, there are three main horrors of the couchette cars.

1. Privacy.

The non-private sleeping accommodation means that it is impossible take off the clothes, only the footwear. But it is possible to bear, if your journey is not long. The luggage is acceptable not only for you, but for the thieves as well. So you should keep your money and papers about yourself. It is not very comfortable to sleep with the pass and money under your pillow understanding that it doesn’t guarantee the safety of them. Unfortunately, the thefts in the trains, especially in the couchette cars happen rather often. Frankly speaking, I have never been a victim of the theft, but anyway it happens.

Further, you can not isolate yourself from the noisy children, crying, laughing and playing day and night. I can understand the children, but there are some adults, behaving as if everybody was interested in the conversation with them. These busy bodies are one of the most serious troubles in the couchette cars, because getting rid of them seems awkward until they leave the train on their station. I am not speaking about pets…

2. Dirt.


The couchette cars look very dirty, even dirtier as they are indeed, even after the cleaning and disinfection before the trip. The most cars, functioning now, are relatively old, and their design is rather gloom. The windows are dirty and you need some special skills to open them, because it is always stuffy in summer in such cars. You are lucky, if somebody would not mind if you open the window, because he finds your idea dangerous for his health.

The toilets in the old cars look unfriendly, and untidy, because everything is time-worn. It is possible to use them only when the train is going and not during the stops. The washrooms miss in couchette cars.

3. Smell.

The railway has its specific smell. The couchette cars also have it, but unfortunately not only this one. The people need a shower every day, and especially if it is so stuffy, like in the train in summer. But there are neither washing rooms, nor air conditioners in the couchette cars. Shall I continue?

Moreover, the travelers in the trains are always hungry and thirsty. Everybody, who doesn’t sleep, drinks beer and eats something taken from home, because the food in the refreshment car is very expensive but not very tasty. Every sandwich and can of beer leaves an imprint in the air.

To summarize, I find traveling in the couchette cars hard core, and I’ve described the reasons for that. They say it is going to stop in the nearest time: the new models of the couchette cars are appearing on the Russian railways. They are more comfortable, with toilets of contemporary construction and new internal and external design: the new cars are silver-grey and have the red logotype of the Russian Railways on it.

In August I go to Novgorod the Great by train in the new couchette car, although usually I prefer sleeping cars. From the one hand, I hope the information is true, and the couchette cars in this named train number 42 became more comfortable. From another hand, I’ve heard about the people (not the Russian citizens, the Germans, if I don’t mistake), who finds the pleasure in such trips in awful circumstances. They consider it like extreme travel. I am absolutely agreed with them in the last statement, but cannot find any pleasure in it, because it had been the only one way to travel for me for a very long time. If you also find something interesting in it, hurry up, the old models of couchette cars are disappearing on the Russian railways.


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