• The Petersons Ride the Rails : Staff writer Scott Peterson hasn't traveled for a story with any member of his family since he and his wife Alex were in Liberia together in 1992. But there was a school break last week, and the 19-hour train ride to Volgograd - once known as Stalingrad, site of the epic World War II battle (this page) - was too appealing an opportunity to miss.
"Our friends said we were crazy," says Scott, of the decision to pack up the family of six - four children, ranging in ages from 10 to 2 - and cram them into a train compartment built for four. "We thought it would be a quintessential Russian experience. And it was."
He says that the uniformed woman who checked their tickets and handed out extra blankets and boxed breakfasts was surprised, then pleased and sympathetic. "We slept doubled up on the bunks. The train was very clean, but the toilet seat was missing. Twice during the journey, a seriously drunk man tried to engage the children in conversation by offering them a Snicker's bar" he says.
"Our dinner was excellent though basic Russian fare: breaded fish, mushroom soup, cabbage, and black bread.
"The children loved it, and so did we," says Scott. "The children clung to the windowsill, as the countryside click-clacked by. When we arrived, they didn't want to get off and bring an end to their Russian train adventure."
David Clark Scott