The wonderful Sibelius train between Finland and Russia

I have just come back from St Petersburg where I gave a lecture and made it into a week’s holiday. We travelled there and back via Helsinki, taking the daily Sibelius train run by Finnish railways. What a pleasure! It’s not the fastest journey, as there are 20 minute stops at each of the border towns, and there were clearly some speed restrictions, but it was a beautiful journey, showing the contrast between the rather messy countryside of the former Soviet state and the neat forests and fields on the Finnish side. The train was modern and clean, and the staff very helpful.
The best part, however, was the visit to the dining car – not buffet, please note. This offers everything from a drink and those fresh looking sandwiches which the Scandinavians do so well, to a full breakfast or meal offered at any time. We both had the salmon and salad, which was delicious and copious, but I had been tempted by the meatballs and mash. Of course there is not a chef on board and the meals are precooked, but nevertheless they were far better than the kind of packaged and plastic fare generally available on British trains. Why, wondered my partner Deborah, could we not do it here? It was simple with friendly service and nothing special, but just terribly pleasant and well-conceived. And there was even proper cutlery and crockery.

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