Russian Railways Career Chooser

2 nights ago, I boarded my train to St-Petersburg when they opened the doors… strange, my carriage was almost empty. Then about 15 minutes before departure, the circus started.

About 20 French people showed up and started boarding. They all had rolling luggage, most of which was too wide to roll down the hallway, but that didn’t stop them from trying! I heard "you’re taking the carpet with you!" more than once!

I was wondering when one of them would intrude in my compartment, since we had an empty berth. After a few minutes, one did: the group leader, accompanied by the provodnitsa. The leader was angrily stating in English that they were a GROUP, and they wanted to sit TOGETHER. The provodnitsa was trying to explain that my compartment already had 3 Russians in it, and one berth was left for a French person. I considered pointing out that I was not, in fact, Russian, but thought the better of it.

Finally the leader realised that maybe blaming the provodnitsa for her mistake wasn’t the correct strategy, and asked me if I would move to another berth so one of the French couples could sleep in the same compartment. (This matters on a 7.5h overnight train journey, most of which you’ll spend asleep?) Whatever, I told her I would (in French of course.)

Then followed the confusing process of figuring out which bed she wanted me to move to. Eventually I gave up and asked the provodnitsa, who shook her head at the French lady and showed me to an empty bed.

After that, the breakfasts had to be redistributed – on this fare, you could pay about $15 extra for a cold boxed breakfast. The French all had, but I hadn’t.

At the end of all this, I was in a compartment with 1 Russian and 1 breakfast. Then the provodnitsa came in with another breakfast, put it on the table right next to my berth, winked at me, and left. I guess it pays to be polite :)