Russia over Easter... the St Petersburg chapter

Saint Petersburg Travel Blog

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St Petersburg

This is a follow on from our days in Moscow...

When we rolled into St Petersburg after a fun 8 hour journey in the first class sleeper carriage of the train, our arrival in the new city was once again slightly marred by the female attendant. I had already exited the train to be greeted right there by our driver (wonderfully professional man by the name of Michael), but my friend Shea was dragged back in by the attendant who was seemingly wanting to know why we had taken the train's towels. She was jumping like a maniac on the beds looking for these things, but they had never brought us any of these alleged towels, a fact we had commented on through the night. They both came out to where Michael and I were waiting, the attendant screaming at Shea in Russian, and her trying to explain in English that the towels never existed.

St Petersburg
Luckily Michael stepped in at this point. Goodness only knows what he said, but he told us to just come with him and leave... the sounds of the screeching following us as we scurried off the platform to be rid of this banshee and her search for towels that never were.

However vaguely comical that whole incident was, we were pretty thankful all over again that we had arranged for transfers from all our transport. I shudder to think what might have transpired had Michael not been there to just take us with him. So from there it was on to the mini hotel. This is just what we would think of as a sort of bed and breakfast. Mini hotels in Russia are usually an excellent cheaper option for accommodation, they just have fewer rooms and might be part of a building instead of the whole thing.

Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Ours was up a few flights of stairs but the ever delightful Michael carried our bags for us, so we didn't have to lift a finger. The rooms were also gorgeous and everything was central... great staff too.

Our private city tour was booked for the day of our arrival, so after scoffing some nosh, Michael came back to collect us and we met Eugeny, our guide. I simply can't say enough in his favour... friendly, informative, fun. It was a treat to have him back again the following day so he could take us on a guided tour of the Hermitage (something we just arranged with him after the city tour). This is another recommendation of mine... if you can, hire a guide to take you through the Hermitage (this being roughly the Russian equivalent of the Louvre). It brings everything into context and set us back the staggering figure of just about £12 for 3 or so hours.

Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress - Russian crows are grey and black!
A real bargain that made this part of our trip all the more worthwhile.

St Petersburg itself was such a delight too. Whereas Shea had suffered a little with the cold in Moscow (and by a little, I mean a lot), we were lucky enough to have stunning weather in St Petersburg, which definitely added to our (read Shea's) enjoyment of the city. We got to see the main sites on our tour, so we were left to wander this much more accessible city for the remainder of our trip; shopping, eating (again, the food was excellent), drinking and negotiating in the markets for amber or Matrioshka dolls to take back home with us.

It was in St Petersburg that we also decided to sample Russia's nightlife. After several attempts to find clubs mentioned in the guide book (our driver wouldn't let us go to one of them because "it was guy club"), he finally dropped us off at a place of his suggestion.

Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
We were fairly unsure, but after a few rounds of vodka shots people started to get friendlier (or was it us getting chattier?) and before we knew it we were stumbling out at 5am. To say that the next morning was bit of a struggle is an understatement, but since it was our last day we soldiered on.

All too soon it was time to leave, with our faithful driver Michael fetching us to the airport. Word to the wise though, try not to fly out when you're hungover... it sucks. And the airport at St Petersburg has little in the way of entertainment or food, which was a further killer. You'll be able to get your Russian vodka there though, and do your last minute shopping for amber, Soviet merchandise and Matrioshka dolls. The Russians are also quite particular about passports and will question you if your picture looks a little out of date.

Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Also, if you're in the country for more than a few working days you have to speak with your hotel about registering your presence or this is going to cause a problem at the airport.

So! My overall impression? Russia wasn't as hard bitten and Soviet-stylee as I would have expected. In fact, we encountered great attitudes everywhere we went, bearing in mind, though, that we didn't go outside the cities. I think the story in more rural areas might be a little different. They had everything there that we have in the UK and more... think of just how great the vodka is! We suffered a little from everyone smoking everywhere, and it wasn't as cheap as I had thought it might be, but the service was always top notch, everyone made an effort to speak English (better than our bad Russian), and the food was superb.

Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
I had one of the best trips to date in Russia and I very highly recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different. Don't let the Visa stuff put you off either... if you go through a tour company like we did then they will get you all the documents you need.

Happy travelling folks!!

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St Petersburg
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress…
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortres…
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress…
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortres…
Cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fo…
Cathedral in the Peter and Paul F…
Cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fo…
Cathedral in the Peter and Paul F…
Shea and I
Shea and I
The Winter Palace
The Winter Palace
Church of our Savior on Spilled Bl…
Church of our Savior on Spilled B…
Church of our Savior on Spilled Bl…
Church of our Savior on Spilled B…
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
The Winter Palace
The Winter Palace
Former monestary
Former monestary
Former monestary
Former monestary
Former monestary
Former monestary
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
Church of our Savior on Spilled Bl…
Church of our Savior on Spilled B…
Church of our Savior on Spilled Bl…
Church of our Savior on Spilled B…
The Church of our Savior of the Sp…
The Church of our Savior of the S…
The Church of our Savior of the Sp…
The Church of our Savior of the S…
The Church of our Savior of the Sp…
The Church of our Savior of the S…
The Church of our Savior of the Sp…
The Church of our Savior of the S…
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
Would you like a maffin with your …
Would you like a maffin with your…
Shea in St Petersburg
Shea in St Petersburg
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
St Petersburg
With friendly Swiss lad Florean
With friendly Swiss lad Florean
With friendly Swiss lad Florean
With friendly Swiss lad Florean
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