A first impression of Russia

Saint Petersburg Travel Blog

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House of Soviets

I had heard too many bad stories about Russia and I was anxious to go there. Will they let me in? (I have a visa, should be no problem) Will the police stop me on the street and ask for bribes? Will I get robbed? Will drunk people harass me? I would be going to St. Petersburg, the most Western city of Russia, culturally speaking. Together with a companion, I chanced it.

I arrived at St. Petersburg in the afternoon, ready to soak up all the details of the Russia experience. That experience started even before we managed to get through immigration. St. Pete’s international airport is very old and far too small for the number of passengers arriving and departing. There were long lines before the gates, and all newly arrived tourists had to push themselves through these lines to get to immigration.

Streets of St Petersburg
There were 6 or so immigration desks open for hunderds of passengers, and as each admittance took a minute the whole process took forever. We stood in the crowd for more than an hour, and nobody formed queues.

It was a great relief when we finally managed to enter Russia. Many tourists had problems with faulty information on their visa or with lost passports and that held everything back. But we weren’t at the hotel yet. We got stuck in traffic with our taxi, and the Russians drive the way they form queues. They don’t. Lines on the road turn into mere suggestions and cars push through from all sides, sometimes at straight angles with the rest of traffic. And where possible, they race.

As you enter St. Petersburg by car, you first have to drive through the old Soviet parts of the city.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
This is an expanse of high monotonous appartment blocs. We passed the House of Soviets, a stalinist office building, fronted by a massive statue of Lenin pointing the way forwards. The lanes are broad and the buildings are high and all connected. Even though the architecture is monotonous, it is a very impressive entrance into the city.

No one speaks English. Even though St Petersburg is not a city strange to tourism, I suspect that most tourists here are actually Russian. The charming desk lady at hotel knew only a smattering of English words. Good thing that we were well versed in the traveller lingo of hand gestures.

Only the evening was left to us, but St. Petersburg is know for its White Nights, meaning that in summer the sky stays bright for a long, long time. Only around eleven ‘o clock night descended on the city for a few hours. We had our first views of Nevsky Prospekt, the main shopping street of the city, and of the Church on the Spilled Blood. This church, similar to the famous one in Moskow, is extremely detailed in its adornments, and has those candylike onion domes. A great introduction to Russia.

aloneinthecrowd says:
Congrats on your featured blog :)
Posted on: Aug 27, 2013
missandrea81 says:
Congrats on the feature, Jeroen! I remember smiling through your posts here a while back. Well done!
Posted on: Aug 27, 2013
Suusj says:
ik bedoel feature ;-).
Posted on: Aug 27, 2013
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House of Soviets
House of Soviets
Streets of St Petersburg
Streets of St Petersburg
The Church of the Savior on Spille…
The Church of the Savior on Spill…
Bridge to the old town
Bridge to the old town
Streets of St Petersburg
Streets of St Petersburg
The Church of the Savior on Spille…
The Church of the Savior on Spill…
The Church of the Savior on Spille…
The Church of the Savior on Spill…
The Church of the Savior on Spille…
The Church of the Savior on Spill…
The Church of the Savior on Spille…
The Church of the Savior on Spill…
A view on the Winter Palace
A view on the Winter Palace
A view on the Winter Palace
A view on the Winter Palace
Big square
Big square
Kazan cathedral at night
Kazan cathedral at night