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By Train in the Ukraine

by ABC

In the early 1990’s I was a radio reporter based in Kiev, the Ukranian capital. I remember well the first time I traveled from Kiev to the port town of Sebastapol where what was by then the remnants of the former Soviet fleet were based.

At the time there were three ways to do this journey. Two options were by train and one was by rickety old helicopter. These helicopters looked dreadful and although flying doesn’t particularly bother me, one look at the rust on any of these machines was enough to turn the most hardened flyer into a quivering wreck.

The two train options were a fast train and a slow train, the former taking about 15 hours and the latter a little over 24 hours. The bizarre thing about these trains was that in true Soviet-style the rail company priced the slow train higher than the fast train – the logic being that you get a lot more train on the slow journey so it should cost more.

I opted for the slow train and as we pulled out of a snow covered Kiev yet more fluffy white flakes began to fall. Each compartment had half a dozen beds – hanging, three high against each side of the compartment. The room was unbearably hot as the each carriage was fiercely heated by a wood burning stove that was endlessly stoked by the guard that was employed on each and every carriage.

We would stop at unknown and unmarked places in the snow and the cold and the dark and out of nowhere women would appear selling bottles of home-made beer or cheese or loaves of heavy flat bread. I remember sitting in my compartment when the female guard from our carriage came in to share her smoked herring with me. She had it wrapped in a piece of newspaper. I gave some of the beer and cheese I had bought and the train pulled out once again into the dark, snowy night.

A train journey this woman will never forget.

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From Maharashtra To Goa

by Vidula

India is my country and there are many ways to enjoy it. The railway network of India is one of the biggest in the world. It offers one of the most interesting ways to see the country. And, there's no need to cramp with people on the normal trains.

Tourists can travel in style and that too almost regally with the Deccan Odyssey train. It is the latest luxury train service, which travels back in time from Mumbai down south to Goa, along the scenic Konkan Coast, before returning north to Jalgoan. The eight-day journey takes tourists across Maharashtra's breathtaking Western Ghat with its dramatic and rugged mountainous terrain, before returning to metropolitan Mumbai. The journey also showcases Indian hospitality and food.

The sleek blue and gold streaked train starts from the urban sprawl of Mumbai and goes down the Konkan coast, taking in the lesser known yet pristine beaches of Ganapatipule and Tarkarli. The Sindhudurg sea fort seems to float like a ghostly gallows on the water before crossing into Goa, famous for its soaring cathedrals and powder sand beaches.

From here, the train swings up north in to the heart land of Maharashtra, making a stop at Pune, the cultural capital of the state, then continues its journey to the 2 BC to 10 AD art galleries of cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora, both listed as World Heritage Sites and Aurangabad where you come across the Bibi-ka- Maqbara whose delicate lines have been inspired by the Taj Mal and advance into the pilgrim town of Nashik which is also famous for its fruit orchids and vineyards.

The guests in the train are made to feel like kings and queens. A personal attendant is assigned to each coach to assist guests at any time of the day. The food they give is also very good. It is one of the most memorable train journeys I have taken.

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An Autumn Spectacular

by Nancy D.
(West Richland WA, USA)

In the fall of 1998, I took a train ride from Portland to the Tri-Cities (in southeast Washington). The first thing that was memorable was Portland's Union Station. It has the feeling of history, with its wooden benches and murals on the walls. If you have to wait somewhere for a train, it's an interesting place to be.

The ride home from Portland was about four hours of awesome! The fall foliage was near to peaking, and the ride through the Columbia Gorge was just beautiful. The train had a snack car and a viewing car, and I happily munched on a (surprisingly good) hot dog while watching the vast Columbia River roll by, the golds and oranges and reds and greens of fall, interspersed with waterfalls on the opposite shore and the rocky islands in the river, framed by the big picture windows of the viewing car. It was the kind of thing you see on a picture postcard, if anyone uses those anymore. Utterly amazing.

A plane may be a quicker way to go, and driving may allow you to set your own schedule, but to just sit back and watch the scenery without a care in the world, you just have to take the train.

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The Great Camera Caper

When I was young, probably about 7 or 8, we spent an entire summer riding old-timey trains. You see, my dad had a huge fetish for a old locomotives and as a consequence, I spent two or so months in cabins filled with smoke, sitting on stiff wooden seats, shifting uncomfortably as the long rides bore down on my attentiveness.

I decided to take some pictures to pass the time. My parents were rather high level amateur photographers, complete with expensive SLRs and a dozen or so lenses. As we rounded a turn up on a hill, I took the camera out and snapped a few pictures from the moving train's window. The train hit a bump. The $300 lens fell from the window leaving me stunned and anxious to tell my parents. Swallowing my pride, I told my parents. We agreed to come back that evening and look.

As dusk approached, we climbed through locked fences and started to scour the track where I lost the lens. Unfortunately for us, the large black lens fit right in with the pieces of coal which littered the tracks. Finally, after an hour or so, we found the lens, fully intact and undamaged, beside the rails.

I can only imagine what punishment I would have received if we hadn't found that lens!

Comments for The Great Camera Caper

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Mar 26, 2008
Sounds familiar!
by: Alya

I had to laugh when I read this - almost the same thing happened to me! It wasn't on a train but in Rome, at the Coliseum... My father had loaned me his expensive little Minox, I leaned over a barrier, and somehow it dropped out of my hands!

We, of course, we unable to get it back, and my father wouldn't let me hold one of his cameras for years...

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Two Memorable Railway Journeys

I've two - one memorable for all the bad reasons, and one for all the good. First, I travelled from Madurai to Chennai in 2nd class unreserved overnight - it's memorable cause I remember all of it cause I got no sleep at all - spent the night with my knees tucked under my chin, thinking the guy next to me was staring at me. Turns out he had a glass eye and was fast asleep the whole time...and there was me wiggling my head and smiling at him the whole night.

Second, going from Varanasi to Delhi was my last train journey in India. I was chatting to a few students, and happened to mention that I was liking all the Bollywood music...within 5 minutes, the whole carriage was piled around me, singing all the hits just for me. The French guy next to me just said 'it would never happen in Europe'.......5 stars!

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