You can take the high-speed Sapsan [“Falcon”] train out of the bustling springtime capital, away from happening Patrik (aka Patriarch Ponds), away from Moscow’s theaters – the parterre is packed and the prices are sky-high! – from the crowded malls and eternal traffic jams – and find yourself in sunny and cool Petersburg. You stroll along the embankment, squinting into the refreshing breeze, make the rounds of Piter’s by now seemingly world-famous gastropubs or the more boisterous neighborhood drinking establishments. Piter might seem far, but it’s really right next door – just a tad over 700 kilometers. Just four hours on a high-speed train and you’ve got a whole different vibe.
And if your Sapsan was heading south rather than north, departing Kievsky rather than Leningradsky Station, that same four-hour ride would take you from Moscow to Kharkiv. I remember childhood stops in Kharkiv during trips south, although we didn’t have high-speed trains back then. The Kharkiv stop was a whole hour. Everyone on the platform was speaking Russian, and we bought deep-fried potato pirozhki, sunflower seeds, and pickles. A lifelong memory for some reason.
Now, that Moscow-Kharkiv train would take you straight to Hell. To a city where Russian bombings and shellings have destroyed thousands of buildings.
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