January 01, 2010


“Next stop Berlin,”says the man standing in the corridor of the train as we rumble over the Oder River. The soft celandine light of a winter dawn picks out the snowy banks of the river far below, while the railroad cars clank noisily on the metal bridge. The few passengers who are still sleeping in their berths will surely be awakened by the din — and that is just as the provodnitsa would have it, for Berlin beckons and passengers on the night train from Moscow must be ready to disembark promptly when the train rumbles into the German capital just after eight a.m.

The arrival of the morning train from Russia is always the cue for a little theatre at Berlin’s Ostbahnhof (East Station). Amid the peak morning commuter rush, the sleek modern carriages of the Russian train cut a distinctive dash, a reminder to all Berliners that Russia is less than a day away by regular fast train. On the platform, there are hugs, kisses and red roses for the new arrivals from Russia.

The best performances are reserved for Saturday mornings, for then the train from the East brings colorful arrivals from distant parts of Russia and beyond. There are sleeping cars from Siberia and Tatarstan, from Krasnodar and Russia’s Black Sea coast, and even the occasional interloper from Kazakhstan. Just imagine! From the land of the Tien Shan all the way to Berlin without once having to change trains.

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