The first Russian tourist train travelling through the country’s Arctic region heading for Norway’s capital Oslo set off from Saint Petersburg station on Wednesday with 91 passengers aboard.
The train, named ‘Zarengold’ (‘The Tsars gold’ in German) has ten cars – eight to accommodate passengers an two restaurants, where Russian chefs specially trained in Switzerland will prepare the food for travelers.
‘The Arctic fascinates everybody,’ said Nurlan Mukash, executive director of the German Lernidee Erlebnisreisen – the tour group behind the project.
‘This destination has been covered by Canadian and Norwegian tourist agencies but, this has not been the case for Russia,’ he added.
The unusual arctic train will stop in six cities. First, travelers will see Petrozavodsk, where they can visit Kizhi – a picturesque island on Lake Onega.
The island has been turned into an open-air museum with around 80 historical wooden structures, including the Kizhi Pogost, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The next stop is the historic Russian town of Kem, located on the shores of the White Sea, where passengers will have the opportunity to visit the historic monasteries and chapels on the Solovetsky Islands, which later became the site of the first Soviet gulag.
The third stop will be in the city of Murmansk, by far the largest city north of the Arctic Circle. The last destination in Russia will be the village of Nikel in the Murmansk region, before the group cross the border into Norway.
In Kirkenes, some of the guests will transfer to cruise ships and continue their journey through Norway, some will fly to Svalbard in the Arctic, and others will continue on to Oslo.
The whole trip will take 11 days and allow passengers to discover areas difficult to access by other means, according to the organisers.
The 91 tourists aboard for the inaugural trial journey came from seven countries including the US, Germany, Norway and Russia.
‘In future we hope to run trains regularly,’said Mukash, adding that the Zarengold was expected to run twice next year and four times in 2021.