Off To A Flying Start

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Flag of Russia  ,
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

St Petersburg is amazing. Despite getting ripped off by the taxi driver from the Airport (always to be expected when arriving in new countries) it's been a blast. For the first section of my trip I decided to go on an organised tour, mainly because the Russian Visa is hard work to get a hold off if you do it independently, but also because it's a nice way to ease me into this traveling lark.

There are 6 of us in the group in total. Three Americans: Paul, Erin and Shannon plus a Finnish couple, Thomas and Mina. They're all great and we've been having a great time around the town. We'll get a city guide in each place who lives locally and looks after us from our arival till our departure. In St Petersburg it's Nika, who is only 18, I'd have never thought she was that young. She knows everything about St Petersburg and is able to answer any question that we have (Although I've probably already forgotten almost everything that she told us).

A particular highlight was the Hermitage museum, We turned up and had a look at the price list, it was fairly expensive to get in, about 7 UK Pounds. However it was free for students, you can imagine how annoyed I was when everyone else in the group pulled out their ISIC cards and waltzed in for free! Dispite feeling hard done by I really enjoyed the museum and faithfully followed Nika round as she explained about everything that we came across. I really can't describe how plush it was with rooms decorated with masses of golds, huge master pieces, and beautiful chandaliers that are there for people like me to take photos of.

We barely scratched the surface of the museum and had to retreat after a few hours, it was all too much to take in, I'm surprised that much of it survived the Soviet era and wasn't sold off in order to fund the cause. However I'm glad that it did and very well preserved as well. You can't go to St Petersburg without paying it a visit.

The city itself sits on the conflux of 2 rivers, so standing on any of the bridges gives you panorama to rival anywhere. There are superb buildings everywhere you look and I just couldn't get over the fact that I'd finally arrived. The start of my exciting year away from the UK, work and, rather unfortunately, money!

Money also appeared to be a problem with our guide Nika, for example, she took us to see a huge monument called St Isaac's, rather than pay the money and climb to the top with us, she just waited at the exit for us. Mind you, she's probably been up there many many times.

She also took us to a Souvenier shop, perhaps to supplement her salary with some commision. I had a quick look around and then left the shop. However my traveling companions from the US appeared to LOVE this. They were in the overpriced store for ages, while I had to wait outside for them. What made it worse was that they then wanted to go to the post office to send their crap home. In most countries this wouldn't be such a problem, however Russia is still full of bureaucracy and it took us about and hour and a half to do this. I wasn't best pleased.

At least we went to the pub afterwards and ended up having quite a few too many, On the bus back to the hostel we were perhaps a bit too loud and rowdy. We kept asking Nika what the Russian for "Sorry" was, before repeating to the other passengers again and again. After a while Nika quite firmly told us that they knew we were sorry and please just leave them alone.

She was a smart girl as she then had to take us to the train station and put us on the sleeper to Moscow, she got a very good tip from us as we all bid her farewell.

Da Svidaniya
POH (Ron)
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louonthego on

Question on St Petersburg
Hi Guys
Your trip to Russia sounds really great, and your travel tips are really helpful.
If you don't mind, could I ask you a question - the Buddy tour you took, was that easy enough to book? Is this something you can do through the hotel? Looks like something I would like to pick up when I go there in October. The hotel you stayed in as well, you mentioned it was a good location - was it in walking distance of all the sights?
Thanks a million

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