Pickpocketed in St. Petersburg!
Saint Petersburg Travel Blog› entry 1 of 9 › view all entries
I recently took advantage of the airfare wars to Russia; both United Airlines and American Airlines recently started service to Moscow; at one point the airfares were under $400 even from Austin. The fares were the same to St. Petersburg as well. I had been to Moscow before, but not St. Pete. I decided to make a 10-day trip of it, also visiting Helsinki, Tallinn, Kaliningrad and then flying home from Minsk in Belarus. I had to arrange my Russia and Belarus visas ahead of time. I am dual citizen US/UK; for Russia I planned to use my US passport since getting a visa would be easier from home. For Belarus it is possible to get a visa on arrival; it is $180 for US citizens but only $60 for UK passports, that was a no-brainer which passport to use.
Apr 30, 2009
Flight: Waco (ACT) to Dallas (DFW), American Airlines, economy
Flight: Dallas (DFW) to London (LHR), American Airlines, economy
My flight today departed from Waco airport, about 2 hrs north of Austin. I have flown out of Killeen and San Antonio before, but this was the first time flying out of Waco. I left about 3 hrs before the flight; driving up I35 past Round Rock and through Temple. The Waco airport was actually some distance out of town. I pulled into the free long term parking area. The small terminal was just a short walk away.
By the time we arrived 50 minutes late in the B-terminal in DFW I only had 35 minutes before my flight left to London! I took off running down the concourse, then caught the Skytrain to arrive at the D-gates with the flight already boarding. Unfortunately that left me all sweaty just before getting on Already the overhead space was limited and had to search back a few rows before I found room for my bag. I had a cute seatmate and we started talking; turns out she was from Austin as well and was heading onto Amsterdam. She had a long wait in London before her flight and so I offered to guest her into the British Airways lounge when we arrived.
May 1, 2009
Flight: London (LHR) to St. Petersburg (LED), British Airways, economy
Hotel: [url=http://www.hon.ru/en/st_petersburg_hotels/skyhotel/]SkyHotel[/url], 67$
We arrived into London nearly 40 minutes early but that time was lost as we had to wait for a gate. Arriving at T3 in LHR it was a looooong walk down to flight connections, where we missed the bus to T5 by seconds. The next bus arrived a few minutes later, then took the drive over to T5. I hadn't been to the new terminal yet, which was very light, open and clean compared with the other terminals.
By the time I got through I had lost sight of Jen and decided to go straight to the gate, which ended up being right under the lounge. I still had 20 minutes before the flight boarded so went back to the lounge and found her waiting there. Luckily the lounge dragons still let us in, I realized that my Qantas Gold card had expired on April 30th! The lounge looked very nice but I barely had time to grab a couple sandwiches and a drink and exchange emails before heading down to the gate to board the flight to St. Petersburg. The A321 flight was just over 3hr; I was surprised when they served a full English breakfast onboard, even in economy! Grilled Sausage, bacon, egg, tomato and mushroom with a fruit cup and yogurt.
Taxis from the airport into town want 35EUR or more to the city, but there is the option of public transportation into the city. There is a bus that runs to the nearest metro station at Moskovskaya for 24R; from there you can catch the metro (20R) anywhere else in town. I can read Cyrillic well enough to navigate the metro stations. The hotel I booked was just a few blocks off Nevsky Prospekt and the metro. The metro station was pretty deserted, very deep underground like the metro in Moscow.
I got off at the next station then got back on the next car heading back to Moskovskaya and went to the police. They didn't speak English, but I had my dictionary, managed to explain my wallet was gone and they called someone who spoke English to get my statement. The officers flipped though my passport wondering at all my stamps for Paraguay, East Timor, Azerbaijan, etc. It was late Friday afternoon, the police station would be closed the next day and I was planning on leaving on Sunday.
The Nevsky Sky Hotel turned out to be in a great location between the Winter Palace and the Cathedral of the Savior on the Blood; right in the center of town just a couple blocks off Nevsky Prospekt.
There were still a few hrs of light left and jetlag hadn't yet set in; I still had energy so I set off walking around town. I first headed to the Cathedral of the Savior on the Blood; a very elaborate church with colorful onion domes similar to St. Basils in Moscow. The cathedral is on one of the many canals that criss-cross the city, giving it the title Venice of the North.
May 2, 2009
Hotel: [url=http://www.hon.ru/en/st_petersburg_hotels/skyhotel/]SkyHotel[/url], 67$
Today the plan was to visit the Hermitage museum. I had also been in contact with a local girl via the Hospitality Club who had offered to show me around town, I planned to meet up with her later in the afternoon. One tip for the Hermitage museum; it's possible to buy tickets online ($18) and skip the long wait for tickets.
I woke up very early, 7 AM or so and went across the street to the Nevsky Grand Hotel, which is where the breakfast buffet was located. It was another great day, clear blue skies and crisp. From there I walked the streets for several hours, passing via the Hermitage, St. Isaacs Cathedral, the Faberge store (still closed), Mars Field and the Catherine the Great Statue (A LOT of walking). I manage to always bring the wrong power adapter; the one I had brought didn't have long enough prongs/form factor for the Euro-style round plugs used here, after searching around was able to finally find an adapter.
From there I headed back to the hotel then over to the Hermitage.
After leaving the museum, headed back to the hotel where I called Sofia; we planned to meet at 5PM nearby.
They dropped me off at the hotel where I slept again for a few hrs before they came back to pick me up. When we arrived at the bridges I was surprised to see several thousand people already there waiting to see the bridges rise.. apparently this is a common tourist attraction! It was bitterly cold though. We drove across one of the bridges but were too late to see them actually raise. We did end up getting stuck on the island and so went to a 24hr coffee place for awhile before the bridges opened again!
May 3, 2009
Hotel: [url=http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/hi/1/en/hotel/helwe]Holiday Inn City West, Helsinki, Finland[/url], Points Stay
I still had the full day to spend in St. Petersburg, my train to Helsinki didn't leave until nearly 4PM. I got a bit of a later start today; I had walked so much yesterday my legs were still sore. I finished breakfast about 8:45 and headed to the metro. I was heading to the Peter/Paul fortress this morning. There is supposedly a metro stop nearby, but either it is closed or for whatever reason the metro didn't stop there, so ended up having to walk an extra mile or so from the next stop. I hadn't been to this part of St.
When we were driving around last night we had passed by the fortress and I noticed alot of old Russian military hardware along the road. I walked down to where I remembered seeing it and it was all part of the military hardware museum. They had APCs, missle transports, tanks, howitzers, etc. Pretty cool stuff. The fortress itself was built by Peter the Great to defend against the Swedes, but never put to use for that purpose. Inside the fortress is the huge cathedral where most of the former czars are buried.
I started walking back to the center of town.. just before crossing the bridge back over to the Mars Field; I noticed an Uzbek-style mosque nearby and went to check it out. Lots of very elaborate blue/turquoise tilework on the dome and alcoves.
It was already nearly 1PM and my train was leaving at 4.. I just decided to head over now to the Finlandsky train station and wait for a few hrs. The station had a waiting room and a cafe where I bought a couple of empanada-like pastries for lunch and sat down to wait. Soon time to board the Sibelius train to Finland. There are two trains a day from St.
Arrived in Helsinki at 10PM, it was only just now getting dark. I had booked two nights at the Holiday Inn City West on a Point Break award stay, only 5000pts per night.