A Travellerspoint blog

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The Hardest Part


Well, that was it; our epic journey was over, all of the highs, lows, planning, excitement and disappointments. It had lasted three years and had been the hardest three years of our lives. It had started in a nasty bar in Leeds where we both drank over priced beer and shared our stories of previous failed plans for travelling round the world. It had ended here, standing on the curb in Wolverhampton bus station waiting for the National Express to Stanstead. True enough, the journey of planning this thing was over, but now the real adventure was right in front of us.
Some clever person once said that even the longest journey must start with a single step, but before we could take that step we had to do the hardest thing of all. The thing that we hadn’t built into any of our plans, it wasn’t written in any of our lists or maps, we’d probably forgotten about it intentionally. We had to say good-bye. We all hugged the kind of hug that families do when they don’t want to let go, but we all knew we had to. The tears didn’t stop until well after our ass cheeks had gone numb from the bus seats. I had already said good-bye to my family in Nottingham, and had hugged the same hugs and cried the same tears.

Posted by asprey 08:23 Archived in England Tagged packing Comments (0)

£25 Easyjet to Estonia

We arrived at the Standstead and did what you do at airports – wait around. The nerves danced around in my stomach as I tried to come to terms with the reality of it all. Sarah, as usual, was alive with the excitement she always was when we started our travels. Eventually we fought our way onto the Easy Jet 737 and found our seats. As the front of the plane lifted and the rumbling of the wheels stopped, indicating we were airborne, I wondered when we’d be back on UK soil. The thought scared me a little.
We walked out of Tallin airport and jumped the local bus into town. We were both buzzing. We’d been on countless holidays together and travelled through dozens of cities, but somehow this was different. This was “the” trip, the one we’d planned for, our trip of a lifetime. We both wore Cheshire-Cat smiles that didn’t even fade when we got lost. After a few left and rights we were in our £7 a night hostel, and it was great, an eight-bed dorm with en-suite bathroom and a Jacuzzi.
After dumping our ridiculously heavy bags we went exploring. We ate noodles and watched old DVDs – we felt like real travellers. Not tourists or holidaymakers – travellers!

Posted by asprey 08:31 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

Change of Plan

sunny 5 °C

We had a lie in, which is not an easy thing to do in an eight-bed dorm. A short city tour took up most of the day.
95n787063744.._-_Copy.jpg The old city was gorgeous, narrow streets, castles and cobbled roads.
Then we headed back to the hostel for noodles and a lesson in how strange some travellers really can be. We had a crash course from a Kiwi girl in a shell suit that talked all the way through “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”. She was to become the first freak of many.
After months of planning we changed our route on day one. Everyone we spoke to said Finland-Helsinki is a bit of a waist of time, 6 hours on a ferry for not a lot of anything. So we decided to go to St Petersburg instead. The only problem is that our visas was for a border entry to Moscow, not St Pete’s, and we’d heard all sorts of horror stories about the Russian’s throwing people out of the country for having incorrect visas. We decided to play dumb at the border, not hard when you really don’t know what you’re doing. Worst case we have to miss St Pete’s and talk our way onto a Moscow train. Or spend the next 2 weeks avoiding showers in a Russian prison!

Posted by asprey 08:35 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

Exploring Tallin

overcast 5 °C

To the beach! – Despite the coast being surrounded by heavy industry and docklands we heard there was one. We past the memorial to the Tallin ferry disaster and headed into the streets of real Estonia. High rise flats and wooden buildings that had seen better days. After an hour and 30 minutes walking, we found the beach. We were surprised how nice it was, expecting it to be more industrial.
Five degrees with slight drizzle wasn’t exactly beach weather so we ate our sandwiches sat on large damp rocks, which took me back to the ‘how to avoids haemorrhoids’ lecture my granddad had given me when I was 12.
We then jumped the tram to the new town. After ten minutes of walking past modern shops and mega malls we headed back to the old town.
At 10:30pm we were on the train to St Petersburg. How would we cope on a train for 9 hours?

Posted by asprey 08:38 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

St Petersburg

sunny 5 °C

At 3:15am we experienced our first rail border crossing. The cabin door flew open with a bang to reveal the shape of the most official looking person I’d ever seen, wearing the biggest hat I’d ever seen. The Estonian guard stamped our passports with the exit stamp. We were now out of Estonia, but not yet in Russia. At 3:45am the door banged open again, an even more official looking guard with an even bigger hat stood there – we were in Russia. As he walked in the cabin I wondered if his hat had been made the exact width of the door, or the doorway had been made to accommodate the exact diameter of the hat. An hour later and by the time the seventh guard entered our cabin, I didn’t care about hat sizes, and had stopped worrying about our visa, I just wanted to sleep.
I opened my eyes feeling like I’d slept for about 12 minutes, Sarah was up already standing in the cabin in front of me, “you’d better get ready, I’ve already had my wet-wipe wash!” At 7:30am our feet touched the platform of St Petersburg’s Vitebsk station. The cold hit our faces and although the icy sting almost hurt, it reminded us that this wasn’t a normal holiday it was adventure time. “We’re in Russia,” said Sarah with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen. It sparked a surge of adrenaline that coursed through my body, numbing the pain from my rucksack shoulder straps. We bought our tickets for the evening train to Moscow, ditched the bags at left luggage and went exploring.
First things first, breakfast. With all the windows being mirrored or high up, we couldn’t tell if shops were restaurants, hairdressers or corner shops, all the writing looked backwards or upside-down. Then I saw writing I could understand, a big yellow M. “Follow me” I said. Five minutes later we were tucking into our first Russian McDonalds. And if you’re wondering, yes, it’s the same as every other McDonalds burger you’ve ever had, luke-warm, squashed and nothing like the menu photo.
Our first impression of St P was that everything was beautiful, or massive, or both.
The buildings were intricately decorated; the city centre roads were as wide as freeways and the lamposts were like works of art, the diameter of oak trees and higher than a redwood.
I still don’t know if it was the adrenalin or the lack of sleep or the excitement, but the day was a blur.
We saw buildings, we saw bridges, rivers, forts and even a wooden galleon, but I had no idea what we were looking at. Even Sarah, the expert travel researcher, flicked through our travel book trying to keep up with the fast pace of the day. By nightfall we were back on the train.

Posted by asprey 08:41 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

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