A Travellerspoint blog

Russia

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.
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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.
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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.
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I still don’t know if it was the adrenalin or the lack of sleep or the excitement, but the day was a blur.
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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)

Arriving in Moskva

semi-overcast 6 °C

We’d had a crazy few days. We’d done a week’s worth of exploring in the last 24 hours and exhaustion was setting in. The bed on the train was 6 inches shorter than me, only 4 inches wider, as hard as hell and it sounded like we were trying to catch some kip in a washing machine. We both slept like babies.

Once again the signs on the station were useless. I recognised only one word ‘Moskva’ – Russia’s capital. “Any idea what Exit is in Russian?” Asked Sarah.
“Just follow the flow of the crowd.” I answered.
“There is no flow!” – people were walking in every direction. Grey coats, grey-green jumpers and grey-blue trench coats were merging into each other like colours on an artist’s pallet as people raced past us.

We eventually found our way out of the massive building; the pure white sky cast a neutral light over everything, which made the streets appear even more monochrome.

We walked through the streets following our rough directions to the hostel. It was hard to concentrate while my eyes darted from person to person, trying to take in as much information as possible. We arrived at the hostel at 6am, “dump the bags and chill out in the lounge for the rest of the day” huffed Sarah as she struggled with her huge rucksack.
“Defo” I wheezed.
“Ve has no lounge,” explained the receptionist of the hostel. The lounge was being refurbished, well actually the whole hostel was being refurbished, and it was like a building site. “yer voom will be r’eady at 2pm”
“What do ya want to do for the next eight hours?” I asked Sarah.
“Stand here and sleep!” came the reply.

The small corridor started to get smaller as more and more people fought their way through the scaffolding, ladders and piles of bricks. It was a few minutes before we realised they were the guys were would be travelling with over the next 23 days on our Trans-Mongolian journey

Posted by asprey 09:07 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

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