From Russia With Love
Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
150Trip End Ongoing
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So off the boat and through passport control, our visa stamped and we are finally on Russian soil
We had planned to get the metro from the harbour in St Petersburg to our hostel, but seemingly the maps we had been using lied and the metro was not actually at the harbour. So we hopped on the free bus that the ferry offered to get us into the centre of St Petersburg and hoped that we would be able to find our way from there. Well, this did not really go to plan. We hopped off the bus as St Isaac’s Cathedral, found a map, found the nearest metro station and headed in that direction, or did we? We are still not sure how we got it wrong but we dragged our bags down the longest street in the world, were welcomed to the Cyrillic alphabet with a bang with street signs that may as well have had directions to the moon for the good they were to us. We at this stage also discovered that living in St Petersburg is like living in the movie 'The Fast & The Furious’ as everyone seemed to drive luxury cars and they drove them like they were trying out for the F1 team. What really added to this experience was the water truck which drove past spraying us and the road (I am assuming to clean the roads) just to make the high speed races that bit more dangerous! At this point we had our first "what are we doing here, shall we just go home" moment. Instead we hailed a taxi and were transported at break neck speed to our hostel. However our delight of getting to where we needed to go was ruined by the look on the taxi driver’s face when he pointed out the address that we had given him. We looked across the street to see a building completely covered in scaffolding with a few window holes cut out and a small yellow sign advertising our hostel
Next we followed another tradition of this trip, to eat the food from anywhere except the country we are in, so we found an English pub! Once we were fed and watered we headed back to our boat trip and were welcomed on board with a plastic cup of cheap fizz. As the boat set off the heavens opened so the view was a bit obscured but never the less we were getting a nice audio tour explaining the sights, we went out into the open water of the Neva River and zoomed along the canals getting a lovely tour whilst everyone outside is ducking for cover from the rain. The weather was really beginning to turn here in St Petersburg, it was definitely coat weather and we even unearthed our gloves in case it got any colder, remind me again why we are heading to Siberia in the autumn?!
Back to our hostel and our first real night of backpacking, shared toilets and the midnight trip to the loo hoping not to bump into anyone in the corridor. The next morning we went into the kitchen for our free backpacker breakfast to be welcomed by three angry looking Russian girls who had eaten every scrap of free breakfast going and looked at us as if we had walked into their kitchen. We scavenged the remains of the cornflakes and some warm milk and hid in the corner whilst the mean girls scowled over, making a mental note to buy something for breakfast the next day.
So this was our only full day of touring St Petersburg so what better way to see it than on a hop-on-hop-off bus! Ear phones at the ready and away we go. Here we saw all the main sights, the Hermitage, Palace Square, and the stunning Church of the Saviour on Spilt Blood, which was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was mortally wounded, and the Summer Gardens planned by Peter the Great. The next stop was the Cruiser Aurora which is a battle ship which was used in the Revolution and also in the Russia-Japanese and First World War. Again Tim was very excited to go on board and see the ship and yet again he was disappointed. We arrived at 2pm to be told that the next boarding would be 3pm and then after a little wonder and a cup of coffee we were queuing to get on. As we got to the front of the queue they put the chain back across and shouted something in Russian. At this point we gave up and hopped back on our bus to the next stop, the Peter & Paul’ Fortress. This is on a small island in the Neva River and was originally called Hare Island due to its Hare population. Now there is a rather cute Hare sculpture on a tree trunk in the river alongside the bridge over to the island and seemingly it is lucky to throw a coin to try and land it on one of the surrounding trunks
After the bus tour we headed to the World Press Photo exhibition. A favourite exhibition of ours, so we were delighted to find out it was in St Petersburg at the same time as us and just a street away from our Hostel. We made our way there again battling with the Cyrillic road signs and found ourselves looking at the dankest looking building with a strange turnstile entrance and a constant stream of people going in, we just followed the crowds
Already it was our final night in St Petersburg and we are back at the hostel packing for our next journey. The Sapsan fast train to Moscow, 650 Kilometers in 4.5 hours at an average speed of 200km/ph. Bags packed and off we head to the Metro, having done our research we knew we needed two tickets for the Metro, one for us and one for our luggage, so we went prepared and the scary looking security man looked at my bag and took only one ticket, typical, oh well that’s one souvenir to keep as it is a little coin and is only worth 50p so not going to break the bank. I have forgotten to mention the St Petersburg metro so may as well tell you here. It is a bit like walking into a museum at home. Pristine, clean, fresh with stunning gold light fittings the full length of the platform and in every walkway. We have read that these are still considered Soviet style compared to the Metro in Moscow so we can’t wait to see them!
Next stop Moscow!