Russian Railways (RZD) this week launches new direct seasonal through carriages from Moscow to Split on the Adriatic coast of Croatia. The inaugural run left Moscow’s Kiyevskaya station just after 10 pm last evening. The entire journey to Split takes 62 hours, but with an interesting interlude in Budapest along the way. The train arrives at Budapest Keleti station late morning on Tuesday, and continues just after 5pm with its onward journey to Split. The debut service is due to arrive in Split on Wednesday morning. Passengers thus have three nights aboard — and no doubt that stop of almost six hours in the Hungarian capital will make a welcome break.
The new train marks a return to Croatia for RZD after a gap of six months. Until December 2011, the Moscow to Venice service served Zagreb. The withdrawal of the Venice link had nothing to do with RZD. It was a victim of the squabbles between the Italian and Slovenian railways — a spat which led to the last remaining train (the overnight service from Budapest via Zagreb to Venice) across their common frontier being withdrawn in December. The Russian through carriages to Venice were carried on that train and thus also fell by the wayside.
RZD tell us that the new through carriages to Split are by way of an experiment. They serve Zagreb along the way, thus compensating in some measure for the loss last December of the direct link from the Russian to the Croatian capital. Moscow to Split departures are on Sundays until August 26, with the return run from the Adriatic coast on Wednesdays until 29 August.
The one-way fare in the considerable comfort of a Russian sleeping car is €201. Not bad for a journey of 2857 km with three nights accommodation, and the chance along the way to enjoy an afternoon sightseeing in Budapest.
The new link to Split is in addition to the existing seasonal through carriages from Moscow to Bar (on the Adriatic coast of Montenegro). That latter service was launched in 2009. Last year it ran weekly, but frequency has been doubled for 2012. The Bar service enjoys a slightly longer season than the new Split link. Departures from Bar to Moscow are on Thursdays and Saturdays from Bar, with the last departure on 8 September.
The RZD carriages are conveyed overnight from Belgrade to Bar and vice versa as part of the Panonija — a train that rates as one of Europe’s most colourful. When we spotted the Saturday evening Panonija departure from Bar climbing up through the hills of Montenegro, it included a glorious mix of carriages from different railway administrations across Europe: Hungarian, Russian, Czech and Serbian.