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Saint Petersburg Travel Blog

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Finlyandsky Station, the train depot where the express from Helsinki lands.

True life experience enables me to applaud entering Russia by train.  After enduring the costly and lengthy visa process, I confess being slightly circumspect over how difficult it might prove getting inside the country.  Not to worry when you ride the rails because the paperwork gets accommodated while progressing towards your final destination.  Don’t you detest standing in long lines when groggy after a lengthy international flight to clear customs?  Better yet, you get to double dip: I failed to consider we would also tend to exit paperwork from Finland during our choo-choo ride.  Then there was the hidden bonus of attitude.  No idea why, but the border patrol agents for both Finland and Russia were friendlier and WAY more relaxed than the disgruntled associates I usually battle at airports.

Just outside Finlyandsky Station we saw our first wedding photo session. There would be TONS more encounters over the next days...
  I was asked where my luggage was by agents from either country and twice I simply pointed overhead, but neither asked me to retrieve for inspection.  Wow, that was easy.

Three hours later we waltzed off of our train at Finlyandsky Station in St. Petersburg to begin exploring Russia.  Getting oriented was easy.  Just outside the doors was a statue of Lennin, marking Lennin Square, with the broad Neva River just beyond.  We had just started plodding through Russia when we came upon our very first wedding couple posing for photographs.  My supposition is that White Nights is a popular season for weddings.  If not, then the entire population got married during our time here!

Either way, the readily available landmarks made it a snap to locate Liteyny Bridge, enabling us to stroll across the Neva and check into Indigo Hotel (reviewed below).

Laura enjoys a complimentary drink at Hotel Indigo check-in.
  Although I had never stayed at a Hotel Indigo before, the chain belongs to a group where I am a preferred member and we were welcomed with complimentary drinks and a room upgrade.  After unloading in our sumptuous digs and picking up a dinner recommendation from the front desk, we hit the streets.

Our first stop was the Summer Garden.  A public space where the Fontanka canal meets the Neva River, the garden was laid out by Peter the Great in 1710 and entrance is free.  The advantage of this trip would be kick-starting an appreciation for Peter’s desire that his new city resemble Amsterdam and Venice.  The concept that canals are part of St. Petersburg’s essence would be richly ingrained over the coming days.

Summer Garden, St. Petersburg, Russia
  The bummer would be a lack of fascination with the Summer Garden: the layout was too symmetrical (i.e., a monstrous grid with no variance) and smothering crowds did little to captivate us.

Exiting the Summer Garden, we followed the Fontanka and began picking up the city vibe.  Streets were clogged with cars and sidewalks with people, but this was an enticing beehive.  The architecture was a complete overhaul from the last few days between Helsinki and Tallinn, where every structure seemed ornate and unique.  In St. Petersburg, it was one enormous concrete bastion after another.  Most every structure was a behemoth, the average footprint probably half of a city block.  Though each had distinctive flairs, they were all giant rectangles for the most part.

The Scarlet Sails cruise along during one of the biggest celebrations of White Nights.

The ominous Cold War aura emitted by the architecture was easily offset by the throbbing pulse of city life.  Everyone seemed happy, probably because it was White Nights for the city and tonight would be one of the biggest celebrations:  Scarlet Sails.  Laura and I planned on attending the fireworks + laser show on the Neva later tonight, but we needed to score some dinner first.

Our hotel had suggested Pryanosti & Radosti because they served ethnic Russian and had English speaking wait staff.  Good times continued here and our introduction to local cuisine was delicious – restaurant is reviewed below.  We returned to our room for a bit before turning back out for Scarlet Sails around 11PM, with considerable daylight still shining.  Scarlet Sails was a terrific event and also warrants a separate review, mainly in hopes of raising visibility (I only came upon this after some serious digging before the trip).

vances says:
Was it the Finns or Russians, May?
Posted on: Mar 03, 2017
cotton_foam says:
Lucky! We were asked to open one of our luggage...
Posted on: Mar 02, 2017
monkeymia79 says:
I was actually looking into the Trans-Siberian Railway last night with an added on trip to Saint Petersburg.

Might put that one away for my university graduation present in 2021. I know a long time away but its a plan.
Posted on: Oct 17, 2016
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Finlyandsky Station, the train dep…
Finlyandsky Station, the train de…
Just outside Finlyandsky Station w…
Just outside Finlyandsky Station …
Laura enjoys a complimentary drink…
Laura enjoys a complimentary drin…
Summer Garden, St. Petersburg, Rus…
Summer Garden, St. Petersburg, Ru…
The Scarlet Sails cruise along dur…
The Scarlet Sails cruise along du…
Train check #1...railway employee …
Train check #1...railway employee…
Train check #2...Finnish custom ag…
Train check #2...Finnish custom a…
Train check #3...Russian border co…
Train check #3...Russian border c…
Lennin Square, in front of Finlyan…
Lennin Square, in front of Finlya…
Lennin expounding Im no square!…
Lennin expounding "I'm no square!…
Fontanka Canal, St. Petersburg, Ru…
Fontanka Canal, St. Petersburg, R…
Entrance to the Summer Garden
Entrance to the Summer Garden
Statue and musician inside the Sum…
Statue and musician inside the Su…
The Summer Garden had many fountai…
The Summer Garden had many founta…
Images during our first stroll thr…
Images during our first stroll th…
Lovely display at a festival we ca…
Lovely display at a festival we c…
Massive crowds along the Neva enjo…
Massive crowds along the Neva enj…
Saint Petersburg Hotels & Accommodations review
I blue it!
To be honest I had no idea this was a chain when I booked it, and fortunately it turned out to be part of IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group - Holiday… read entire review
Saint Petersburg Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Caucasian dining for White Nights
We were steered towards this restaurant by our concierge due to a menu including ethnic dishes (though there is much more) and English speaking wait s… read entire review
Saint Petersburg Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Sail Away
My brief research around White Night celebrations revealed Scarlet Sails would occur the night of our arrival. Although I could not find many details… read entire review