New Year in Russia
Saint Petersburg Travel Blog› entry 3 of 6 › view all entries
Happy New Year everyone!
Arrived in St Petersburg from Helsinki on the 'Sibelius' train on Monday afternoon, a five and a half hour journey that came complete with interrogation by Russian immigraton official - a conversation undertaken entirely in Russian on their side and English on mine. I don't think either of us came out of it any the wiser, but it was an experince nevertheless. I was met at the railway station by Michael, my driver to the hotel, who took great pride in telling me how he was going to take me a 'secret' way to the city to avoid the ridiculously heavy traffic... only to end up getting stuck in a giant traffic jam that made the 2km journey take nearly an hour. Again, an experince..
Staying at the Pushka Inn for the first and last nights of my stay here - it's an old apartment building that was owned by Pushkin's best friend, and is right in the middle of things, only a few hundred metres from the Neva, Nevsky Prospekt, and the Hermitage.
Last night, however, I was put up in the Grand Hotel by some generous friends back home - it has to be seen to be believed. From the moment you walk in to the place you feel like a celebrity, and the room comes complete with the most enormous bed, a bathroom bigger than half my house, balcony onto Nevsky Prospekt, and a butler. Yes, a butler - who, at various intervals throughout the night, finds reasons to come and do things like unpack my bag, make me a cup of tea, iron my clothes, run me a bath with my choice of three fragrances (!), turn down my bed, place a towel on the floor next to the bed so my feet don't have to hit the floor in the morning... the list goes on.
I spent Tuesday wandering the Hermitage - the largest art gallery ever known. I think I must have walked about five kilometres over three floors and literally hundreds of rooms, looking at thousands of art works. I've had my quota of art for the decade - but it was really very spectacular and there's some famous Matisse and Van Gogh there, as well as a real mummy and other ancient Egyptian artifacts.
Apart from all that... well, lots of wandering and exploring this city which is full of history and ornate buildings and architecture. It's absolutely freezing and I made a dramatic fool of myself today by slipping on the black ice which covers everything - and landing flat on my back in the middle of the road... feeling a little sore and sorry for myself (and fairly stupid!) but I'm heading out to the fireworks tonight for New Year. Happy 2009!