I’m still on the road so these posts are short summaries. When I get home I will write more in depth about everything.
Took a night train from L’viv to Kiev, or as they call it in Ukrainian now, Kyiv.
I took train number #92, rumored to be one of the nicest sleeper trains on this route. Hostel guy from L’viv said that third-class (platskartny) was perfectly OK, so I decided to try it. He had to write me a note in order to get the ticket booked – the cashiers have little patience with anyone who doesn’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, so get a native speaker to write down what you want. An unexpected snag arose when the woman said, “Nimam miesto platskartny” or something that sounded a lot like that. Luckily Ukrainian is more like Polish than it is like Russian, even though it uses the Cyrillic alphabet. And it was enough like the South Slavic languages for me to understand that she was saying she didn’t have any places left in platskartny, so I piped up, “Kupeyny!” (second class), and got my ticket.
Second-class compartments have four berths, two upper and two lower. Be advised, it takes considerable athletic ability to clamber up into the upper berths – more than I’ve got, anyway. I was assigned an upper berth, but after seeing me struggle to climb up into the thing the nice older man in the lower berth offered to switch seats with me.
The train was new, very clean and nice. The interior was in soft shades of gray. The berth itself wasn’t very comfortable to lie on – I find train berths usually not much more comfortable than sleeping on a park bench. Even though they give you little mattress-like pads to lie on, they don’t help much.
But Ukrainian Railways, surprisingly, has the BEST pillows. They’re full sized, feather/down, and all sorts of soft, squooshy, pillowy goodness. I loved mine so much I wanted to steal it.
My companions were all male. Two young students, one who spoke a little English and the other none, and the older man who spoke English fairly well. They were all very quiet and polite and everyone went to bed within half an hour of the train leaving the station.
The toilets were clean and stayed reasonably so throughout the journey, no worse than an airplane lavatory.
I didn’t really sleep much, but it was about as painless as an overnight train journey could be, and it cost about $20 to cross most of Ukraine, which is huge compared to typical European countries. It’s the best train for the least money I’ve ever experienced. Had I managed to snag a third-class berth, it would have cost only $10.