The Platskart (Плацкарт/प्लात्सकार्त) Coach
Note: Please read Part 1 before reading this!
Platzkart is the third class coach in Russian trains that offers modest comfort and a quite cheap ticket to your destination. Each coach is divided into 9 units, each unit having 6 seats – 4 lateral and 2 axial (pardon my technical jargon). The lateral seats form a sortof isolated section of 4 berths – two upper and two lower, while the axial side seats get converted into a bunk at night – one upper, one lower (and is meant for shorter people). I was on the lower side berth.
Lets compare Russian and Indian trains. Russian trains have 4 classes: SV (first), Kupe (second), Platzkart (third) and Ordinary (fourth), while Indian trains have First, Second and Third with subtypes of each. In terms of services, facilities and environment, the platskartny coach is essentially an AC-2 coach of the Indian railways, but with Russian people on it. 😀
Sharing food (and more)
As soon as the train pulled out of Moscow, the Provodnitsa (introduced in the previous post) announced something and suddenly there was activity. People grabbed their mugs and went to the Samovar (Самовар / समोवर) that was located at the end of the coach. Its a neat machine that pumps out hot, almost boiling, water that people will use to make tea. What’s the drink that Russians drink the most? Vodka? nahh… Beer? naahh… its Tea, called Chai (чаи / चाइ) in Russian.
People also took their stash of food out. All the food I brought with me was a can of cup noodles, and after I finished it within 30 minutes of train start, I had practically no food. But no worries, my table was already getting flooded with food. I had cheese, cookies, smoked beef, pork slices, bread etc. It seems that sharing your food is quite common, especially if you have a foreigner in the compartment.
Sitting opposite to me was Sergei, a 39 yr old guy who was going to Sochi to meet his family which was already on vacation there. He offered me cheese, tea, smoked beef and chocolates. On the other side was a woman with her two teenage daughters. They studied English in school for some years, so they were very excited to talk to me in English. Unfortunately we ended up speaking in Russian because I couldn’t understand what they were speaking. I think if you learn sentence structures in a foreign language, a dictionary will go a long way in supplying words for making good conversations. They invited their friends – 3 guys and a girl (all of them were in the army draft) to talk to me at night. All of them were pleasantly drunk, but very polite and talkative. The sixth person in the unit was an old man who wore the typical Russian hat (I don’t know what its called), and had a long beard. His face was very wrinkled and every time he spoke or smiled (and he did that a lot), the wrinkles multiplied. He gave me a bagful of desserts while saying something that sounded like an advice. I understood the words ‘when’, ‘journey’, ‘never’, ‘tea’, ‘Pryanik’, ‘without’. “If you want to enjoy the journey, never have your tea without Pryanik!”
Pryanik (Пряник/प् र्यानीक्), which sounds quite similar to my name Priyank, are popular Russian cookies that come in a unlimited number of flavors. They make an ideal accompaniment with tea or coffee. They are somewhat similar to शंकरपाळे made in Maharashtra.
I walked the entire train to checkout what was on it. There was a little restaurant on board.
The first and second class coaches were very neat. These are small compartments of 2 and 4 people respectively and feel quite cosy and comfortable. I traveled by Kupe later in my trip.
Whenever the train took a stop, people spilled out of it like ants. The first thing to do? Smoke. Smoking is like the national sport of Russia and it’s very noticeable and on-your-face.
So that was how I spent 30 very enjoyable hours on the train from Moscow to Sochi, 1400km south, on the Black Sea.