At eight o’clock on a summer weekday morning, the railway platform at Erkner is full of folk waiting for the train into Berlin. It is an unremarkable sight, one that might be replicated at commuter towns around Europe. If all has gone according to plan, the night sleeper from Russia rolls through Erkner just as the distant church bells are chiming the hour. It does not stop. This is one of those long snakes of a train, with an exotic medley of carriages that, as they rumble slowly through Erkner, are nearing the end of a long journey across Europe. Yet for just one carriage in the train, the thrice weekly through sleeping car from Moscow to Paris, Berlin is just a way station along the route.
Passengers making the trip right through from Moscow to Paris have two full days and nights aboard the train, leaving Belorusskaya station in the Russian capital at eight in the morning, and rumbling into Paris Est around 9.38 am two days later. It is a train that travellers choose for its convenience rather than its speed. There are faster ways of travelling from Moscow to Paris, even by train. But its sedate style is its appeal. And nowhere is that relaxed schedule more evident than in the meandering journey that the Moscow to Paris sleeper enjoys in and around Berlin.