Four days in St Petersburg - the start of 12 months away
Saint Petersburg Travel Blog› entry 1 of 20 › view all entries
We flew out from Manchester airport on the first leg of many of a year away from home. Neither of us had ever done travelling on this scale before; the longest holiday either of us had been on was three weeks.
Our first flight was with Lufthansa and went smoothly. It was preceded by a hurried purchase of a travel washing line (which would prove one of out most useful possessions over the following 12 months), some reading material to keep us occupied on the Trans-Mongolian train, and some Russian roubles and Chinese yuan to make sure we weren't stranded without money on arrival. We also got a whole load of US dollars in cash, as you can spend those anywhere, so they're a very handy backup. We'd also got some traveller's cheques at the Post Office before setting off.
Managed to get the bus from the airport into central St Petersburg, and then walked what must have been about two metro stops to find our hostel, the Hostel All Seasons; we must have got off the bus too early. Our packs felt quite heavy, which was a bit worrying given how long we would be spending carrying them. The hostel is located in what must be an old apartment block. Having spent a while banging on the door, and generally trying to break in when no-one answered, we realised that the entrance was round the other side of the building!
We'd booked a double room at the hostel; we weren't quite ready for the whole dorm thing right at the start of the trip. The room was simple but clean. The bathrooms not great but generally OK. My first job was to wash all the shower gel off the inside of my pack; I learnt to protect the bottle better after that! We met a great bunch of people at the hostel, and decided that drinking vodka in the evenings was the way to go: when in Russia.
We ate out at a small restaurant close to the hostel. It rapidly became clear that our complete lack of Russian language was going to cause us some problems. We managed to order something eventually; it wasn't great. There was a soldier standing on guard behind the counter; not sure what he was doing there, but it didn't really serve to reassure us. We decided to cook our own food at the hostel after that, and found a supermarket in town where we were able to purchase a slightly strange combination of ingredients to put in some pasta.
Going around the sights in St Petersburg, we felt like we were on a long weekend away; it still hadn't sunk in that we were going to be away from home for so long.
We completely underestimated how long we would need to go around the Hermitage.
We also visited some of the churches around the city; the St Peter and Paul Fortress has a cathedral with an impressive gilt interior.
On the third day in St Petersburg Zoe developed some infected mosquito bites. We tried to treat them ourselves, but the infection worsened, so on our last day I was left to tour some more of the sights on my own while Zoe rested her leg in the hostel.
Four days in St Petersburg passed very quickly. We boarded an overnight train to Moscow. We shared our four-berth compartment with two Japanese men. I didn't really get a lot of sleep, not being used to the motion of the train yet. Over the following weeks I got a lot better at it.