Taking the Moscow Train with Seabourn

There might not have been any spies on board (maybe) … but a luxury excursion on this fast locomotive was certainly intriguing!

Taking the fast train to Moscow sounds like something out of a 1950s spy movie, and in many ways it felt like that too. The stops on the Seabourn Baltic cruise leading up to this point played out like the opening scenes, building suspense to the final climax, the highest point of the drama … and Moscow was the answer that made the story suddenly all make sense. The extravagant wealth of the Russian royals, the murder of the Romanoff family, the Russian Revolution, Stalin, World War II, The Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and rise of the modern country of Russia served as backstory. Relics, artifacts, and opulence mixed with history, memories, and sadness — with the Russian people playing a starring role in dramatic century of turmoil.

Calling on Tallinn, Estonia 

Our port call in Tallinn, Estonia, tempted us with our first glimpse of Russian culture. The Soviet Union had occupied Estonia until its collapse in 1991, and the onion domes of Russian Orthodox churches peeked out above the walls of this medieval city, now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Moscow Train

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia

The next three days in St. Petersburg were a blur of grand waterways, majestic churches, stunningly beautiful palaces, gilded doorways leading to gilded rooms that glowed with amber walls, and beautiful wooden floors that looked too precious to walk on.

But Moscow was something else indeed. And perhaps because it required special effort, rising at 4 a.m. to catch the 6 a.m. train from St. Petersburg station, only a small group of Seabourn guests took the excursion.

All Aboard The Moscow Train 

My antennae were on high alert, yet our Moscow train was clean and efficient and comfortable enough. A very serious train attendant in a crisp grey uniform checked our passports as we boarded, with a policeman or some other large-hatted security official hovering at her elbow. Was he looking for spies at 6 a.m. among this group of bleary-eyed tourists?

Our group of about 12 Seabourn guests shared the business-class cabin with men in suits reading their laptops or trying to sleep on the 4-hour train ride. A typical train breakfast of eggs and a wedge of what looked like solid cottage cheese and onion relish were a welcome distraction. “May I have a coffee?” I politely asked the train hostess as she walked by. “Come with breakfast,” she brusquely informed me.

I’d been looking forward to seeing the countryside between St. Petersburg and Moscow and was surprised to see how familiar it felt. Our guide reminded us that we were on the same latitude as Alaska and the pine….

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By Sharon Kenny

Photo: ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo

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