Saint Petersburg Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
May 29th, 1999 – by: sweettangerine
First we took the early train from Savonlinna to Lappeenranta, close to the Finnish-Russian border, to then proceed by bus to Saint Petersburg or former Leningrad. The border crossing was a bit of an adventure too, but I'm not gonna get in to that right now.
The landscape around us didn't change very much at first though; after all we were still in Karelia. At our first stop in Russia: Vyborg, one could already sense being in a different country. But as then Saint Petersburg came in sight.. a waterfall of "oohs" and "aahs" was all we could produce: fairy tale churches with candy colored tower tops, golden cupolas glimmering splendidly in the sunshine, enormous palaces and spacious boulevards.. all in all an elegant city where the past meets the modern world. Our hotel was pretty impressive too.. be it not in beauty but in size: a 7-storey mastodon with nearly a thousand rooms and even possessing its own metro station. The room was fine, not paying attention to the brownish stuff coming out of the tap.
Well, I cannot list all the things we did and saw over there, because then I would have to write a tome instead of an over-sized e-mail. Of course we saw all the "musts" like the Hermitage museum and the St Peters and Paul Fortress; Russian ballet at the Alexandrinsky theater: Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker to be precise; a few splendid convents and the last resting-places of Tchaikovsky and Dostojevsky. After all we had three days to spend there.
What we loved most was strolling along Nevsky Prospect, one of the longest boulevards and definitely the "place to be". The atmosphere was what I had expected to be typically Russian. (Of course as a complete outsider, I'm probably terribly wrong about this statement.) Nevertheless, the feeling is hard to describe..
.. it's quite busy, crowded with people.. street musicians and vendors everywhere.. beautifully dressed up ladies.. a bit of an "exotic" atmosphere.. Street underpasses where elderly ladies sell lilacs and lilies of the valley and where you find vendors with puppies, kittens, little turtles and even snakes! Traffic is complete madness; the buildings are beautiful yet overshadowed by a little cloud of forgotten splendor and awe. To me, it had a bit of a melancholic feel.. but it was love at first sight!
We had a great time there, without any major incidents (apart from getting lost in the metro *LOL*). On the third day we took the night train out of Saint Petersburg to Moscow. That event makes for a bit of a story in itself. Imagine having your train ticket and the station's message board / timetable only in Cyrillic alphabet. At that moment, slowly figuring out the words - letter by letter - I could for the first time in my life fully appreciate my classic Greek teacher way back in high school.
So, we did eventually find our train, wagon, cabin and berth .. but here the adventure doesn't end. What someone had forgotten to tell us, is that in Russia they do not separate men and women in sleeper compartiments... so it was just our luck to end up with two Russian middle aged men, snoring like an out of control lawn mower. Thank goodness Sony invented the walkman... saviour in desperate times like this! I guess the fact I was reaching for my Rammstein tape pretty much explains the mood I was in... But there's a bright light at the end of the tunnel.. or in this case: Moskova!
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