City of Evil

Trip Start Feb 17, 2012
Trip End Apr 28, 2012

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Where I stayed
Moscow Hotel St. Petersburg
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Thursday, March 15, 2012

An arrival transfer is included for all those arriving in Russia for On the Go tour. Our transfer representatives wait 90 minutes from the time your flight has landed and they will be holding a visible ‘on the go’ sign. As the transfer representative will not recognise you, it is important to keep an eye out for the ‘on the go’ sign. Quote from the tour booklet.

After arriving in St Petersburg, clearing the not so friendly Russian customs, I had to keep my eye out for the transfer pick up. After 60 minutes, I had decided no one was going to show and after doing zero research on St Pete’s public transport system, decided just to cab it. The agreed price before take off was 1,600 rubles. Whatever mate, just get me to the hotel. For the story’s sake lets just call the cabbie Vlad.

What a ride - the following are irrelivant on the Russian road network, speed signs, lanes, traffic lights, blinkers, giving way. From where I was sitting on the passenger seat, I could only see the dial up to 140km/p and I know the dial was well past that, crossing several lanes at a time, running shitbox’ off the road, etc. Vlad would not have been out of place at Daytona. Wouldn’t get that with a tour transfer.

After pulling up at the hotel after an entertaining 15 mins or so, I was to learn that the agreed price with Vlad had changed somewhat. After a little back and forth the door was locked, I was unable to get my bags out of the boot. Held at ransom, as old matey Vlad refused to get them until money was exchanged. Powerless to stop him, I agreed to pay (only if I got a receipt, so to charge back ‘on the go’). 

Vlad opened the glove box to write me up a receipt no problems, but also in the glove box where a stylish pair of ray-ban’s and some sort of firearm type weapon. I didn’t get the model / make of it, (or really want to enquire) I was even keener to get things moving at this point a change of undergarments.

From there, money was exchanged, back packs where handed back and we went on our seperate ways. Glad that story ended the way it did. Oh yeah the price, it was moved from 1,600 to 4,500 rubles or about 180 AUD. Welcome to Russia. 

St Petersburg has a fascinating, often violent violent history. Long story short, it was founded by Peter the Great in 1703, to setup a countryside residence as he was a bit over Moscow, then went about moving the capital from Moscow. 

In 1914, after the breakout of WW1, the city was named Petrograd (as this was less german sounding). After Lenin keeled it in ’24 Stalin re-named it to Leningrad. It was changed back to St Pete’s in ’91.
On 27/06/41 the Germans tried to take over, resulting in a long and deadly seige that lasted until 27/01/44 - almost 900 days. An estimated 3 million ruskies perished. Word is the evil Hitler was so confident this would be an easy takeover, invitations were sent out for a victory party (how’d that work out for you, mate). They have left alot of the shelling damage on buildings as monuments around the place.

In this midst of all this, if you caused too much of a commotion, you were on your way to the gulag, for a very long time. Actually, probably not that long as life expectancy at the gulag was only 2 years, with a 10% survival rate.

The Winter Palace / Hermitage is something to behold. It started off when Catherine the great started collecting art for her personal pleasure.

It truly is one of the great museums of the world. Not only for the artwork alone by all the big dogs, including all 4 of the T.M.N.T (Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Donatello) and then some, but also for the arcitecture of the place. Life was good at the top. It used to be the royal residence until 1917, when those evil Bolsheviks stormed the joint and overran the royal Romanov family. 

They then took the royals down the road to Yekaterinburg, let them hang around for a little while. Then under Lenin’s order, one evening they were told to get dressed up for a family photo, little did they know this was to be their execution. Rumour has it, the bullets didn’t kill all the children as all the jewels in their outfits deflected bullets and acted almost like armour. This is where the rumours / myth’s of the famous Anastasia princess escaping come from (and it hasn’t stopped lurkers claiming to be her over the years). But alas, Lenin would not have tolerated such an oversight, ending the 300 year Romanov dynasty.

In ’98 they were finally interred at Peter and Paul’s with all the other Tsar’s.

The museum of curiosities was a favourite, if only for its one room full of siamese twins in jars.
Lots of stunning architecture / history to absorb and apart from Vlad all the Russian’s I have met have been really cool. Boring is certainly not a word I would use with this place, from the historical view point, right up to the potato peeling salesmen on the train network. I hated St Pete's initially, it ended up being right up at the top of my list.

I could have spent another month here and only just scratch the surface.

Next stop somewhere in Russia.
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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