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Destination of the week: St Petersburg by rail

Destination of the week: St Petersburg by rail

Problems have beset the new charter train that is due to be running from Berlin through the Baltic republics to St Petersburg from the autumn. Rolling stock for the German-operated rail cruise, which was revealed in The Independent last year, is apparently behind schedule. Great Rail Journeys (01904 521900;, the UK agent for the service, now says the first departure should be early in 2006. The basic itinerary departs from London Waterloo on scheduled services via Brussels and Cologne to Berlin, where you board the charter train for Kaliningrad, Riga, Tallinn and St Petersburg.

A rival company, Captain's Choice (020-8879 7710;, has a different private train running in July through Eastern Europe from Berlin via Prague, Budapest and Krakow to St Petersburg and Moscow. The three-week trip costs £6,595.

Warning of the week: choose your poison carefully in Turkey

The Canadian government is warning its citizens of the risk of illness or death due to methyl-alcohol poisoning from bootleg raki - the aniseed-based alcoholic drink that is popular throughout Turkey. Thousands of counterfeit bottles, bearing the "Yeni Raki" label and containing fatally high levels of methyl alcohol, have been confiscated from restaurants, bars and grocery stores throughout the country. The Canadian travel advisory says: "Nineteen deaths have been reported so far, and many other individuals who consumed the bootleg raki have been hospitalised after losing consciousness or suffering temporary blindness."

Bargain of the week: on the buses

The terrestrial battle of Britain is intensifying, as train and bus operators vie for market share. National Express (08705 808080; has a million-seat deal that is offering a flat fare of £10 one-way from Monday, 4 April, to 25 May. Over-60s pay only £5. The small print: you must book at least a week in advance; a £1 charge applies for booking by phone; and airport trips are excluded. Its partner company, Eurolines (same contact details) is launching a range of new services for the summer - with new direct services from London to Strasbourg and Luxembourg.