I Wish I had a Skateboard (aka the Streets of SPb)

At the time of writing this, Saint Petersburg is left far to the west as I’ve now arrived in Moscow!  I figured, before all the memories of the two cities merge I should write a quick post about the fine city of Saint Petersburg

Arriving in the country was quite scary in my opinion.  I guess the idea that Russia can be seen as quite ‘stern’ influenced me as we stood at passport control, where we had our passports checked thoroughly and entry papers produced.  However, thereafter things started to seem a little different.

We stepped out of the airport to be pleasantly surprised by a glorious sunny day (Why on earth did we pack thermal clothing!?)!  We were met by a private car that took us from the airport to the hotel.  The roads were manic!  It seemed like everyone was weaving in and out trying to get through rush hour.  We were told by our driver this was a common thing each day!  Glad I wasn’t driving!

As we drove through the city I was surprised by how great it was.  It reminded me a lot of a European city, and in some ways parts reminded me of somewhere like London.  It certainly was busy and had shops, restaurants and bars galore (but I will speak more on that later).

Our hotel, Anabel Hotel, was great.  It sat on the Nevsky Prospect, which was the main street of Saint Petersburg, but was tucked away in a little courtyard.  It wasn’t the Ritz, but it sure was a great little place with friendly people.  It was here where me met out G Adventures CEO, Alex, who introduced us to the things we would be doing on our Trans-Siberian adventure.  We also found out we were the only two people on this leg of the journey.  We’d be picking up 14 others in Moscow.  After our introductions Alex took us out for a small tour and for dinner.  This is where I was really impressed with Saint Petersburg!

The restaurant Alex took us to was in the main shopping mall, called the Galleria.  Now this was a magnificent place.  It was similar to places like the Trafford Centre but just seemed more ‘grand’.  It also goes to prove that you can find a ‘Costa Coffee’ anywhere.  There was also a Marks and Spencer’.  Anyway,  the restaurant was amazing.  The food was great and the price was too.  It seems at the moment that 100 rubles is roughly 1 pound.  We had a meal and a beer for 6 pounds.  Alex took us for drinks too,  We went to one of the popular bar streets.   The bar we visited was called Banka Soundbar.  It was a typical moody Indie type bar and it was playing live music.   It seemed more and more like quite a cool place to live, and to be honest, the next day confirmed this even more.

The following morning we were treated to a walking tour Saint Petersburg and this is where the post title becomes clear.  The walk was insanely huge.  Saint Petersburg is so, so flat that you can literally just keep walking and walking.  Our tour guide, Mike, was well informed about all things Saint Petersburg.  We learnt that the city is actually a relatively new onein comparison to most and was a ‘planned city’.  By this I mean the builders were instructed how it should look and feel in its entirety.  It wasn’t a city that really grew over time.  It is only about 300 years old.  As the city was built to look a certain way, we were told that a lot of new buildings can come under much scrutiny.  If they don’t fit in to the style of the city they may have to spend thousands altering the design.

We were told many historical facts and saw many of the fantastic historical sites.  The city is famous for having the popular Russian writer, Dostoevsky, write most of his popular works there and has a square named after him.  We also saw such sights as ‘the Winter Palace’, St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood.  This was probably my favourite to look at as it was modelled to look like Saint Basil’s in Moscow.  This, like other monuments, had a rich history.  Through time it had been used for peculiar things.  At one time it was used a storage house for potatoes, and when the siege of Leningrad (Leningrad being a change of name for Saint Petersburg during Lenin’s time) took place many went hungry and starvation killed thousands.  For a whole year it was used as a morgue.  For such a fascinating looking church, I’d say that was rather strange!  After walking for probably miles, we had seen some fantastic landmarks and once more was sold on Saint Petersburg being a great place *even if the language barrier was a major problem!).  It was safe to say though my feet were killing,  Apparently the best way to navigate this city is by Skateboard *although the trams and metro stations were equally as good and cheap too!

Alex, later that evening, took us for yet another great meal.  You could live in the city all your life and probably never eat at the same place twice.  We had traditional Russian cuisine: Sour Schi (a rather tasty soup) and a stew (which I can’t remember the name of).  Great food!  While my travel companion Ian went off to find some walking boots, Alex and myself went to another popular bar street to a bar called ‘Posion’.  The bars in this city just ticked every box for me.  Great beers, great atmosphere and an equally great decor!

So came our last day.  Alex directed us, and left us at the Winter Palace.  Once a place where Russian royals lived, this building was now a museum.  We spent three hours in there and didn’t even scratch the surface.  It housed a lot of different art, not just Russian.  In fact we saw a Da Vinci and a Michelangelo.  Although I do enjoy history and art, I do find museums a bit boring, having to navigate them.  This one was like a maze and proved palaces don’t make a good layout for a museum.  However it was well worth a visit!

After having some free time in the afternoon, we met Alex once more for our last meal in Saint Petersburg.  He saved the best for last.  All the restaurants just had this cool vibe to them and this one had such an extensive menu.  I didn’t want to be a cop out so once again had traditional Russian cuisine.  I had meat dumplings and chicken meatballs with buckwheat.  Yum!  After eating we headed back to the hotel and collected our belongings.  We were heading to the main train station in the city to pick up or overnight train to Moscow.

Upon arriving at the station we saw the beast of a train we would be riding.  This thing was 15 cars long and two stories high,  It was massive.  We were on the bottom floor of the first carriage.  This was definite practice for the Trans-Siberian.  Each carriage was equipped with 4 beds.  2 lower ones and 2 upper bunks.  It was definitely cosy.   After making up the beds, tussling with our bags to get our toiletries and things, and freshening up for the night, we went to bed.  It wasn’t the best nights sleep, but it was ok.  The rocking of the train and the occasional  movement of my bunk mates were enough to stir me but I guess having two weeks nearly on a similar train coming up, it’s something I need to get used to!

And so that is the end of the SPb leg of the trip.  It was a great city and I definitely advise people to visit if possible.  I would definitely say come in summer time though to get the best out of it!  All that is left to say is ‘hello Moscow’.  Hopefully I’ll be able to write post soon about it.  I’ll try to add my many photos from SPb too!  Until then..!

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