St Petersburg - 25th May 2008 @ 7:10 pm «   »

Location: Russia : St Petersburg

After just over 1 month we have finally left Eastern Europe behind. It was an amazing experience and we will never forget it. The only regret is that we didn’t have more time to spend in each country, but we are thankful that we could get a small taste of so much of it. The people are great, the cities beautiful and the countryside awesome!

Stats: We are recording all our trips so far and after 60 days of travelling through 23 countries we have taken a total of 8 ferries, 23 busses and 50 trains with a combined travel time of 13 days 4 hours and 17 minutes – including 10 time zones changes!

The train from Helsinki arrived in St Petersburg at 22:30 last night and we headed straight to the cheapest hostel in the Lonely Planet. We had to take the Metro train 3 stops further and were amazed at how deep underground the stations are. The escalator is probably 200m long!

According the Lonely Planet map, it should have been a short walk from the Metro station, but after walking for about 3km (up and down the street) we found the address on a totally different place and needless to say, there was no hostel. We just love the Lonely Planet at times like these! We then walked to our second option, another 1.5km further. At that stage it was already 00:30 and we were so happy to just find an existing hostel. We were so fedup and decided to take a private double room – at much more than a dorm room – but we really needed after the day we had!

This morning we got up just in time to grab some breakfast at the hostel (served by a very serious little old Russian man) and then headed straight for the train ticket office to buy the Trans-Siberian train tickets. The girl at the hostel very kindly helped us and wrote a note explaining where we want to go on which dates. The note turned out to be our saving grace, because no-one spoke any English. We still managed to buy our tickets from St Petersburg to Moscow, then from Moscow to Beijing in under 1 hour which is definately some kind of record!

Since the start the whole Trans-Siberian trip was a bit of a black hole and even though we had a lot of information, we’ve never been sure whether we would actually be able to get the tickets we wanted. Now that we finally have them it is a big weight off our shoulders. Due to huge price increase whenever you add a stop to the route, we decided to take a direct train all the way from Moscow to Beijing and not stop in Mongolia (even though we already have visas). The tickets are booked leaving Moscow at 23:05 on the 30th of May and will arrive in Beijing at 05:30 on the 06th of June.

With our tickets in our pocket and feeling very relieved, we finally started our sightseeing for the day. It was a beautiful blue sky but still pretty cold – maximum temperature was about 15 degrees. The Church of Spilling Blood was our first stop and definately the highlight of the day. We walked through markets where we bought a little souvenir and then proceed to the Palace Square with the Winter Palace and the Hermitage. To our disappointment the Hermitage was already closed for the day and is also closed tommorrow. We walked a little further west and passed the Admirality, Bronze Horseman and St Isaac’s Church before making our way back to the hostel.

We can see why they refer to “White Nights” during this time of the year (mid May to June), because it is now 23:05 and it is still very light outside. It doesn’t get complety dark at this time and it feels very weird having to go to bed very late at night with it still being so light.

We had a great first day in St Petersburg and still have all day tommorrow to explore further, before our overnight train (departing at 01:20) to Moscow.

From Russia with love..

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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