A new train route crossing the former Iron Curtain makes the 250-mile journey between Helsinki and St. Petersburg in a snap: just three and a half hours. The new Allegro train zips from Finland to Russia at speeds of up to 140 miles per hour, chopping two hours from the previous voyage time. Here’s the skinny from the Los Angeles Times:
"Engineers for the new service, a joint venture between VR Group (Finnish Railways) and Russian Railways, faced a number of challenges. They had to design the new locomotives and cars to cope with system incompatibilities between the two countries on signals, electrical current and even platform height. Border control is handled on board, but the visa necessary to enter Russia must be secured ahead of time."
Tickets can be reserved with Rail Europe, and are priced from $209 in second class and $322 in first class, including a newspaper, snack, coffee or tea. Trains leave Helsinki daily at 10 am and 3 pm, while trains depart St. Pete’s at 6:40 am and 3:25 pm. Come spring 2011, four trains will be traveling daily in each direction.
Pictured: The Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg.