The railway line along the coast of Liguria (photo © Dimitri Surkov).
The train now approaching Vienna is more interesting than most. It a beautiful Sunday afternoon in eastern Austria, with more than a hint of spring in the air. And the grey and red Russian train that is speeding east towards Vienna is the direct train from Nice to Moscow.
This weekend sees the restoration of the direct train service from the French Riviera to the Russian capital. The first train left Nice Ville station yesterday evening, stopping to pick up passengers at Monaco-Monte Carlo and Menton before crossing the border into Italy.
The direct Russian train to Nice had to be suspended in January, following a catastrophic landslide which closed part of the coastal rail route that runs west from Genoa to the French border. For the last seven weeks, buses have replaced trains for part of the route and the Russian Railways service has been curtailed at its western end. Trains have run from Moscow to Genoa and back.
But happily the rail route along the Ligurian coast reopened to traffic on Thursday, and last night saw the first departure from Nice of the distinguished through train to Moscow. The train has come to symbolise Russian links with the Riviera, recalling the heyday of Russian vacations on the Côte d’Azur in the closing decades of imperial Russia. You can read more on that topic in an article which one of us (NG) wrote for Russian Life magazine — it can be purchased for download.
The Moscow to Nice service is Train Number 17 westbound (ie. for departure from Moscow), and the return service is train number 18. It has its own dedicated table in the European Rail Timetable (ERT): Table 59. Check the latest edition of the ERT for current timings.
The routing of the service has varied. Last year it ran east from Verona via Tarvisio, Villach and the Semmering Railway to reach Vienna. This year it turns north at Verona, running over the Brenner Pass to Innsbruck, then on via Linz to Vienna.
Here’s a note of the full route, which takes in eight countries in all (though it has to be said that the train takes all of five minutes to traverse the territory of Monaco!):
Nice – Monaco (Monte Carlo) – Menton – San Remo – Genoa – Milan – Verona – Bolzano – Innsbruck – Linz – Vienna – Bohumín – Katowice – Warsaw – Brest – Minsk – Orsha – Smolensk – Vyazma – Moscow.
The full journey takes about 47 hours. All passengers, even those making only short journeys, are accommodated in sleeping cars. And there are various grades of accommodation to choose from, even including luxury compartments with en suite facilities. There is of course also a restaurant car. The train is available for passengers wishing to make shorter journeys entirely within the European Union. These are in general restricted to international journeys (eg. Menton to Innsbruck or Vienna to Warsaw).