Posts Tagged With: Russia

Day Three: Kingisepp to Saka Full Blog

258km down: 5,967km to go

We started off with breakfast at the hotel which was porridge with butter in it, dry bread, no milk, and rock hard boiled eggs? Did my best to wash it down with water.

We crossed the border today into Estonia – I had a moment of panic at the hotel last night as I thought I had lost my departure card, but after tossing my belongings and getting stressed I found it in my passport where border control had put it when I came into the country. Not sure what would have happened if I had not been able to find it, but certainly would not have been straight forward and would no doubt have held me up for hours if not more.

We set off at 7:30am, it was still quite cool at that time of the day. We were riding 75k to Saka, which is in Estonia. It was 20k to the Russian border, when we got there we went through the first gate, then at the second gate the sentry starting pointing and waving his arms, and talking loudly until we figured out that he wanted us to ride down a steep bank, down a path on a detour, then come back just in front of his station – rather than just letting us ride past him on the road (like the Russian cyclists were doing), just because he could I guess.  We got through the border ok, in the 1.5k between the two borders were two amazing old castles/fortresses facing each other (will have to look up what they are called).

Our tour guide Greggo (driving the car) had a bit of trouble at the border as he had gone into Russia the week before with 4 bags and 2 people and was now coming out by himself with 40 plus bags and no people! It still did not take as long as when he went into Russia though – they lined at up at 7:30am, they got one part of the entry stamped but had to wait until 10:30 am before the office that stamped the second part opened. I am sure you will not be surprised by now to learn that the same person stamped the second part at 10:30 that had stamped the document at 7:30!

The change was amazing the moment we got into Estonia, things were brighter, newer, the people were friendlier and the feeling of oppression just went. There was a supermarket that looked like a supermarket as we know it (still no snap lock bags though). We still had to ride along the highway for the first part of the day – another way you knew you were in a different country: the traffic actually stops for you. We found this out by accident when we stopped on the side of the road to check our bearings and suddenly noticed both sides of the traffic had stopped and was waiting patiently to see what we were doing.

The lunch truck stops somewhere around the mid-point each day depending on a suitable place to stop, and we can make sandwiches, eat fruit and fill our water bottles. It also allows the guides to check that everyone is on the right ride. The tour guides alternate the lunch truck and sweep. Sweep is the person who rides at the back behind the slowest rider (so far not me ) and also can help with any bike problems.

After lunch we rode away from the highway through the country side through kilometre after kilometre of canola fields and grain fields with the odd stork nest. Our accommodation in Saka was the first night in a tent, I had a new tent so tried hard to remember the directions from when my son had shown me. I ended up getting a bit of help from Daphne and Shirley. I was more comfortable than I had expected but of course the first night in a tent was also the first night of rain. Of course even though I had checked the tent carefully for bugs and sprayed insect repellent it was clearly not well enough as I still ended up providing a bug buffet during the night.

The place was at the top of the cliff and we walked down many steps to the beach, I was very pleased we did as it was very beautiful. There were trees down to the golden sand, and the water had hardly any salt taste. I could tell however that I was a long way away from home as the Baltic seas stretched for miles with no sign of land islands or otherwise.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

First iPad update – Days 1 and 2

Sorry for the lack of updates – as mentioned before there is a distinct lack of computers at the accommodation we’ve been staying at – though lots of Wifi, for which you need a laptop or iPad to use, so I asked my daughter Kelly to look up computer stores in Tallinn for me, even though she said I could use the Wifi on the phone. Everyone else on the trip has iPads and I have to join the 21st Century some time so . . . on Friday I went into an Apple Store in Tallinn and purchased an iPad for myself! Unfortunately it took a few days (and two computer savey guys the better part of two hours) to get it up and running,  and then the Wifi coverage in my tent (in the rain) was a bit hit and miss. But, I have now got the hang of it, so I have a week of catching up to do!

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Day 1 – 8th July: St Petersburg to Peterhof

We set off from St Petersburg in a convoy to Peterhof, we had a guide called Peter escort us out of the city and show us some of the interesting sites, a number of which I had not seen. I was a bit tired as I had been up until 230 am the night before on the Russian night tour watching the bridges being raised on the river Neva at 1am in the morning.

So for the first day the ride was very short, only 45km. As I have paid for the single supplement on the tour I get to have my own room. The room is very small with a single bed and is facing into the evening sun which is nice until you remember the sun lasts until midnight. Anyway was pleased to be on the way.

The meal was interesting, it was some sort of stew with rice, after some discussion we decided that the food was chicken rather than fish.

We stayed at a place called Hotel Aleksandria Peteroff. The stand out thing about this hotel was the rules – not sure who translated them into English but I hope they did not pay them much:

Having visited our hotel you will touch to fine, will have rest at worthy level, will relax and become for us the most expensive and welcome guest.

On observance of rules of behaviour in hotel
Check out time 12:00

Into duties of visitor enters 
1. In case of damage of property of hotel to indemnify a loss in order provided by current legislation the size of the damage is defined under the prices according to the price list confirmed by the general director.
2. To keep quiet from 23:00 till to observe fire prevention rules.
3. Leaving number, to close water in talking cranes and windows to switch off lights and other electro devices.

In hotel it is not authorized to
1. To leave a number of extraneous persons in absence.
2. To transfer to extraneous person keys from number.
3. To live in number with pets without the coordination of administration. 
4. To rearrange the furniture in number (heck already broken this rule as moved the chair that was in the middle of the room – hopefully I won’t end up in jail!)
5. With a view to you safety and visitors of the hotel smoking in numbers is strictly forbidden. It is authorized to smoke in strictly taken away places, balconies 23 a platform before an input.

So hope you are as confused as I was, I worked out a number was your room, but was a bit worried about the talking cranes and windows!!!!!!

The comment about the room being hot, as an example in the morning my shampoo was hot!

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Day 2 – 9th July: St Peterhof to Kingiseep

We rode the first 9k (of 118k) in a convey again (Christiano, one of the tour leaders, said this was partly to get through the remaining traffic but also to make sure no one ends up back in St Petersburgh. I am sure he was looking at me when he said that).

I rode with a couple of groups but ended up settling with Daphne and Shirley, two ladies from Canada. Shirley is 69 and Daphne is 72, and it was hard work to keep up with them. I found out later they have done three tours before with Tour d’Afrique, plus spend quite a lot of their free time riding, but still!

At the start of the ride it was nice and cool but the heat soon kicked in, and by mid morning the sun was beating down and the wind had followed me, not as bad as Wellington wind but enough to add an additional challenge.

Oh my god the road! After about 20k we hit the pot holes, and not like any pot holes you have ever seen! As one of our group said “these were not like regular pot holes, these were like left over tank traps from the Second World War”. As it was a main highway you had the pot holes, the heat, the wind, hills, large trucks and Russian drivers. The road was so bad that when we hit 10k of road works it was a relief. This was route one, the main highway.

At the lunch stop, Ciaran, one of the tour guides, set up camp at an intersection between two main roads. At the fork in the roads was also where the local Russian women set up their market. They got quite agitated when Ciaran was setting up and came over and talked quite loudly to him, not that he could understand Russian. However once they realized that he was not setting up in competition with him all was ok. Once a couple of the riders bought their produce they were all smiles.

This day seemed to go on and on and I was very pleased to get to the end at Kingiseep and enjoy a cold beer with some of the riders. I have taken a photo of the local hospital which I will upload as soon I sort out the connection, just in case anyone is tempted once seeing it to apply for a job there.

The hotel we are staying at looks like an abandoned building but actually inside the rooms were better than St Petersburgh and Peterhof, have taken a photo of it as well.

For dinner we once again got to guess what we were eating, we decided it was dry boiled pork with lentils and dry bread, yum – not. But it’s amazing what you can get down after a long day riding.

Interesting points for the day

1. 160k so far and no road kill? Are there no animals? If there are what happens to the carcasses? Oh my god that was pork right?
2. The fennel is like on Viagra and grows to the size of small trees.
3. We saw the first standalone house. Until now it has all been apartment buildings, they are mostly quite run down and a number of them have an attached barn where they keep their animals in the winter so they don’t have to go outside to feed them. I guess at 30 degrees below you would not want to, but crikey it must stink!

My room is nowhere as hot and is three times the size as yesterdays, unfortunately the Russians in the room next door had a party and a number of their guests knocked loudly on my door by mistake. And last night the staff at the hotel next door had drinks after work outside my window. Thank goodness for the music on the phone and the ear plugs, I just wish I could work out how to get it off shuffle as I am nearly asleep and then it goes into 60s rock!

On the down side of things I did bring, there is also a list of things I forgot
1. I would really like some snap lock bags as I have not been able to find them anywhere
2. I did not bring my ice breaker t shirts or sweat shirts, instead I bought my puffer jacket and two cloth t shirts which are a total pain to wash and dry. Next time I go away I am going to write a list, tick off the items and not leave it until an hour before I have to leave the house to pack.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Day Two: Peterhof to Kingisepp

163km down: 6,062km to go.

Arrived safely in Kingisepp last night (Monday), after cycling for 118km.  Today (Tuesday) we leave for Estonia, hopefully I will find an internet café there to update you all on my travels.

Tonight we are staying at the Saka Cliff Hotel and Spa overlooking the Baltic Sea – it sounds very posh but of course we will be in tents in the campground.

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If you are interested, you can check out the official blog of the trip here:

Categories: Cycling trip, Text Update | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The ride begins: day one

45km down: 6,180km to go.

Day eight of my trip, and day one of the cycle journey – off we go!

We were meant to set off at 7am today (Sunday) and the kitchen was going to open for breakfast at 6:30 for us. However it opened at the usual time of 7am, so we  didn’t set off until 8am.

We had a guide to take us out of the city to Peterhoff and he showed us some of the important sites on the way, including the square where the Russian revolution started. It was only small ride today so we were at the hotel by lunch time. It was very strange riding on the other side of the road.  I was interested to note that I put the opposite foot down when stopping compared to most of the other riders, which of course makes sense as you get used putting down the foot closest to the kerb.

It was my first experience of riding in 30-plus degrees, it will take a bit of getting used to. 115kms tomorrow in this heat will be an expeiernce but no doubt will get quickly acclimatised to it, plus it is flat for the first week.

Interesting points for today

  • There are over five million people in St Petersburg alone.
  • As there are only about 30 summer days that there is no rain, and it is 30ish degrees, the Russians make the most of every park – there numerous people sunbathing on the benches by the canals.
Categories: Text Update, Trans-Europa (Amber Route) | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

St Petersburg Night Tour

Last night (Saturday) I went on the tour to see the bridges being raised. They are raised to let the ships come through on the Neva River at night.

Apart from me the people on the tour were all Russians, so the tour operator at the hotel said either I go and the tour is all in Russian or I don’t go. As it was the last night in St Petersburg I went. It was amusing, they got on and off the bus frequently and often at places I had already been to, but I got on and off every time in case we were suddenly going to get on a boat. I kept my one  eye on the tour operator the whole time. We got back to the hotel at 2:30am so I have been a bit tired today (Sunday).

It was worth it though to see the city lit up at night. Once the bridges were raised a ship sailed past straight away.

Raised bridges (from Casa Leto)

The Russians also light candles, put them into square kits and send them up into the sky. It is very pretty seeing them floating up and dissapearing into the sky.

Categories: Russia | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Last day in Russia

Now it’s Saturday afternoon, and my bike is all put together and working – always a relief. The tape my son put on the bike to show where the seat and handlebars should be was a great help in setting up.

I have packed my stuff into two bags, one of the bags is already packed in the van and I will not see it again for five days so hopefully I have got it sorted. I remembered in time that I needed my passport to cross into Estonia in four days so was able to dig through and get this out. We can ask for something from our non-daily bag if it is urgent, but certainly I do not want to be the first – especially as the tour guides said at least three times “don’t pack your passport in your non travel bag”!

After packing I was tired so I decided to have a nap – luckily I had packed first because I woke up at 6pm which was the time we had to get our bags down to the van.

A number of the tour group were heading off to the summer gardens but I have already been so I headed up to the local James Cook (there are three in St Petersburgh). I had native steak caked in Parmesan, fresh garden salad and ludlow potatoes (these turned out to be brown baked fries I think). It was ok, not a lot of taste with the steak but good to try something different.

Tonight if there are enough people booked from the hotel I am going on a night tour to see the bridges being raised on the Neva River so the ships can pass through. I will not get back until 2am so will have to set my alarm. Tomorrow is a very short ride (only 45 km) so I can catch up on my sleep with a nap in the afternoon.

Points of interest

  • Russian supermarkets do not stock a lot of things that we take for granted such as plasters and snap lock bags. Luckily I worked out that an “Aптека” is a chemist and there is one just up the road so now I have two more boxes of plasters.
  • Russians do not acknowledge or thank you if you hold open a door for them or step aside to let them pass. I guess with the population you would be constantly stepping aside and saying thank you. On the other hand, as I have already mentioned, Russian children do stand up on the metro for older people.
  • At the supermarket there is only one door in and out the size of a standard front door at someone’s house, so unless you barge in you can be there for a long time. I have not yet got the knack of shoving my way in front of people, but if I lived here for a while I am sure it would quickly develop.

Today was 32 degrees and I have been eating the most ripe delicious peaches. It seems strange to have been in winter a week ago, and now be in the middle of summer. Apart from the first two days there has been no rain. Igor says that they get maybe 30 perfect summer days in the whole of summer and I have been lucky enough to have had five of them. Hopefully this will remain so for tomorrow.

So, tomorrow the tour begins – off to Lisbon we go.

Categories: Preparations, Russia | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Riders briefing and plan of attack

Hard to believe that I have been here for 7 days already!

I just had the first riders meeting and got to meet all the rest of the group – 19 riders in total, age range is mostly late 50s to early 60s, a lot of the group have retired.  There are three riders in their late 20s or very early 30s. Two have just got married and this is their honey moon. The tour guides: there are four tour staff, Christian the leader from Brazil, Miles the cook, and Ciaran and Gergo are the bike mechanics and one of them each day will be the sweep. The sweep is the person who rides at the back of the group.

Daily routine  

  • We get up and pack up our bags and tents (if camping) by 6:30 am. 6:30 am we have breakfast and then head off on the road.
  • The lunch truck will be each day at halfway point, give or take a few kms.
  • We will get to the stop point for that night by mid-afternoon, then we either make use of bike shop time or we have free time to explore.
  • Then we have riders briefing about the next day, put up tents if camping and have dinner. After that we have free time to explore. It is light until late for the first 6 weeks, we will be going to sleep in our tents in the light and waking up to the light.

Tomorrow (Sunday the 8th) we will leave here and ride all day in a convey  to Peterhof. The first day is only 45km so we will be there by midday. We are staying in a hotel so we will have all afternoon to explore –maybe I could have another go at seeing the castle? I will see, I have read the guidebook and there is nothing stand out about it – the gardens are the highlight so maybe will look around the rest of Peterhoff instead.

Plus my bike will of course be back together so can ride around Peterhof and give my poor feet a rest. I have looked at my bike a few times this week and considered putting it back together, but the cables and derailer etc look really complicated, and as I want to be able to ride it I decided rather than break something I will wait for the bike workshop today and leave it to the two mechanics.

Day two: Monday
We will be riding from Peterhof to Kingisepp: a total of 115kms. Mies advises it is mostly flat the first week so it gives us time to get adjusted. After two weeks of not riding I am itching to get back on the bike!

We have to wear a fluro vest with reflective strips for the whole ride.

Navigating will be interesting – at the riders meeting each night we will get an outline for the next day.
1.  They will give us the kilometres to each major turn and the names of key intersections
2. The  ride is flagged for us with orange tape at the main turns (but as Miles said we can not rely on that, as before in some towns the street cleaners or police had torn down all the flags before the riders got there)
3. Some of us have phones and gps and maps (I have all 3)
4. Plus we have the cellphone numbers of all four of the tour guides
5. Plus there is the sweeper at the back.

I still expect that there will be times I get lost but Christian says “Do not think of it as getting lost, think of it as an opportunity to interact with the locals”. I expect to have lots of these opportunities.

So today is about packing the stuff into two separate bags –one of the bags we only get on rest days, putting the bike together and getting ready to go.

I am going to walk up to the cynermarket (supermarket) and get snaplock bags (hopefully) and more plasters. My left foot has one small blister but my right foot is covered in them – I must put more pressure on one foot when I walk. The room cleaner must wonder what sort of wounds I have by the number of used plasters in the bin each day.

Interesting things today 

  • At the supermarkets, banks etc,  they put all the banknotes 50 rubble and bigger through a scanner to check it is not counterfeit. Either this is a significant problem here – which you wonder how it could be given the scrutiny – or Russians are by nature cautious.
  • There are beggars here, not a lot, but a few old women who sit with a cup in front of them, some of them do this for hours at a time. I see one old lady every day when I am going and coming back from the city. I always give her my coins. Sometimes it is quite a handful as they have many coins smaller than 1 c so it may seem a lot but in reality it may only be the equivalent of 10c. Igor says it is very hard for elderly people if they only have a pension it is not enough if they have no savings or family to help.
Categories: Russia | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Friday’s sightseeing adventures

Today I went to Peterhof to see the palace and the gardens. I went by hydro boat and went out to the Baltic Sea near the gulf of Finland. It took 30 minutes to get there. When I got there you could only buy tickets to the lower gardens at the first gate. I had a good look around – they go forever: fountains, statues, moats, small amazing buildings, also there is a beach.

Peterhof Lower Gardens, from Stephendanko)

I sat on the beach and rang my daughter Kelly as I was having trouble checking my credit card balance and needed her help. It was pretty amazing sitting on a beach in the sun talking to Kelly in winter in New Zealand. I was lucky enough that Kelly was with two of my other daughters – Tracey and Shellbe – so I got to talk to them quickly as well.

After looking around the gardens I decided to see the palace. The notice in English said “tickets inside” so I joined the line and waited for ages. Every ten or so minutes a women would pop her head outside, have a look, and duck back in. Finally the line started to move, I got near the top and asked the lady at the door if tickets were inside and she pointed that way so I gave my bag to the cloakroom and joined the line. So I get to the entrance and the women starts yelling at me and pointing, and to the Japanese chap behind me. I figure out where I have to get tickets and ask where, at which points she starts screaming in my face. The Japanese man started having a major melt down so I left him to it. It was strange – none of the tourists even blinked an eye at the commotion.

So out I go to find the ticket office, I get to an office that says clearly in English “ticket office open”. There is a queue of confused looking people, and there is a Russian guard moving a crowd control fence backwards and forwards, and lots of people trying to talk to him. I finally get up to him and after 5 minutes of him moving the barrier backwards and forwards he gets frustrated with speaking Russian to me and says in English “tickets are closed, come back at 1600”. I don’t think so, it’s only 11:30am, I will not hang around till then!

I do lurk around for 30 or so minutes visiting the chapel etc and go back past the ticket office just in case. There he is moving the crowd control barrier backwards and forwards, speaking Russian, and there is another crowd of confused people. I wonder to myself why not just lock the door and put “come back at 4pm”?

The Peterhof Palace (from Wikipedia)

So I caught the boat back to the mainland and walked around for a couple of hours taking random photos, watching the crowds, and enjoying the sun – 20 degrees today! I then returned to my mission of finding the third floor at the Hermitage Museum and I do! I am pleased I found the third floor, there were some very nice paintings and statues including some paintings and pots by Picasso. I stayed at the museum for a couple of hours looking at stuff I had not taken in the previous time, and I also found my way back to the Peacock clock. I bought a DVD that has the museum and the clock opening in it.

Peacock Clock (from Wikipedia)

I also saw the hanging garden again which I imagined as different from the reality. There are a number of hanging gardens at the palaces, they are gardens above the ground floor that the rooms open onto like an upstairs courtyard.

I then decided to go back to a restaurant that Igor had taken me to on the first day called Terrassa. It is on a roof top with a nice view so I thought it would be a great place to have a meal and a cold wine. I was pretty pleased I managed to find it! I got shown to a table and there I sat. I got the attention of the wait person a few times but no menu, after 40 minutes of no service I got up and walked out. I did tell the maitre d’ why I was going – clearly the Russians do not like single women in their nice restaurants by themself either.

Instead I went to a place along the Nevsky Prospect and had a cold beer called a Blanc and seabass and vegetables and watched the crowds.

I was walking around with my headphones playing the music on my phone today. I am not sure what I have done but the music is a mix of a continuous one song of the Doors and one of Ludovico Einaudi  and so on.

Thoughts for the day

  • The Russians have lots of coins, they have 10c, 5c, 2c and 1c, and they also have smaller than 1c – one of which says 10. The metro ticket office people get quite excited if you try to use one of those by mistake.
  • When you go to the ticket office at the metro or the museum or anywhere, you can’t actually see the people, there is a gray screen with a slot in the bottom for you to put you money in. It’s quite disconcerting especially if you not really sure what you’re doing. They don’t like you looking up at the screen trying to see in either.
  • In Russia the tourist attractions are set up for Russians,and there is an assumption that if you are not in a tour you can speak Russian.

So please note, that is two days in a row I have not got lost! I am now going with Daphne, Shirley and Wally to have a drink. Tomorrow (Saturday) we meet the other riders and have our riders briefing.

Discover Catherine’s Peacock Clock (skip to 1:16 for the clock)

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Lost in translation

Today (Thursday) I got up and got to the bus stop in time for the trip to Pushkin to see the Catherine Palace (designed by Rastrelli). What I had not realized was that I had been booked on a Russian speaking tour, for Russian tourists! Luckily I was sitting next to a very nice lady – Irene, and her grandson. Irene is a English teacher so she was able to translate the main features of the tour for me.

When we got inside the Palace we had to put slipper covers over our feet and put on an audio system, I did try to explain I was English but realized that until I had an ear bud fixed in my ear I was not going any further. It was interesting for a while having Russian in one ear and Irene’s explanations in the other. Then the bleeding obvious occurred – turn off the sound you idiot.

Once again an amazing castle – beautiful rooms, statues, floors. There was a Roman bath house, and a band rotunda where we got to hear the most amazing Russian male singers.

Catherine Palace (from TopTravelLists)


This is also the place of the Amber Room, the 8th wonder of the world. It was looted by Nazis during the way, and the contents have never been recovered. A replica has been recreated, at the small cost of 12 million dollars, and reopened in 2004. The room is made up of thousands of pieces of amber, plus the room has pure gold fittings, the rest of the castle is covered in gold leaf.

The Amber Room (from MNSBC)


Without Irene this tour would have been a challenge, especially as the last 30 minutes was free time that we could do what we like – suddenly people went in all directions and without Irene I would have had no idea what was happening, or that we had to met the bus at 2 – or even where the bus was, as it was not where we had left it! This does explain why  the trip only cost $1,000 rubles (approx $40 NZD) in total for the bus and entry to the palace and garden. Irene is here for a week, and is was showing her 13 year old  Grandson around St Petersburg. I have traded email addresses with her so now I have made two Russian friends.

After returning from this trip I had coffee, and then as I have blisters from the days of serious walking, I decided to come back to the hotel to eat, it will be interesting to see what the menu is like.

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Things that have interested me today:

1. In Russia nobody wears hats and hardly anybody wears sun glasses.

2. Dogs roam around like they used to in New Zealand, in groups of two or three quite happily. No one seems to take any notice of them and they seem very placid.

3. Everywhere you go there are brides. Everyone wants to fit their wedding into the three months of summer, this means there are weddings every day at the castles. Today we saw five wedding groups. The males wear cream suits and the brides wear white traditional meringue looking dresses (not sure of the spelling, I mean the small Pavlova things).

4. Most Russians – unless they are wealthy – live out in what they call the districts, they go on for miles. Igor catches the metro and then the bus to get home. Today on the way to Catherine Palace we drove for an hour and still had not gone past them all. They look like block after block of council flats, but in brick. There are clusters of 5 to 6 of them but are surrounded by nice park areas.

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I have managed to get through the whole day on my own and not get lost!

Two more days until the bike ride starts, one more day of being a tourist. Saturday is rider briefing and putting the bike together.

Categories: Russia | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Lost in Russia III

Once again up early and onto the Metro to Nevesky Prospekt (spelt it wrong yesterday). I met Igor for a tour on foot around the many and various interesting St Petersburg sights. So many bridges, statues, cathedrals, parks, and a castle.

Sites today:
Alexandrisky theatre and ballet building
The Palace Square (designed by famous architect Carlo Rossi)
The Anichkov Bridge with four horse statues
An exhibit on Tsoi – an famous Russian rock star who died in a crash
St Michaels Castle
The Summer garden, which have just been restored and reopened two week ago
The Field of Mars, with an eternal flame for the Russian soldiers who died in the second world war
The Capella Opera hall and the three court yards

St Michaels Castle (from St

We also had coffee at Elessevs, which is the Kirkcaldie and Stains of St Petersburg (but posher). In the times of the Soviet Union it was the only place you could get luxury goods but at a very hefty price, well out of the range of the average worker. Igor told about how he used to have to queue for 2 to 3 hours to buy shoes and 2 hours for fruit such as bananas.

After this Igor left for work and I will not see him again this trip as he is working in the morning tomorrow and then going away until Sunday. Igor has made the last few days very special, I have been to places I would not have got to without him, plus I have been able to ask him endless questions about Russia. PLUS I have not got lost at all whilst with him.

I then went to the James Cook Pub, sat in the sunny courtyard and a cold beer and sorbet, which may sound a bit strange but was just what I wanted. After that I caught a double decker bus and went on a 1 ½ hour trip around St Petersburg and saw many of the same sites but from a different perspective.

Then I just sat for awhile on the Nevsky Prospekt, just watching people go past.

Nevsky Prospekt (from Panoramio)

When I decided it was time to return to the hotel, I went back to the same Metro that I have gone to the past 3 days in a row, into the same entrance and somehow I got lost!! Unbelievable this time, even I was surprised. I got off and had no idea where I was and could not simply go back the way I had came as the opposite line went elsewhere. I catch the blue line but the opposite line was red! But by looking at the Metro maps I worked out how to get back onto the blue line, phew!

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Things that have interested me today:

1. The shops open at 10am and all stay open to 10pm. There is one shop – Gostiny Dvor – that fronts onto the Nevsky Prospekt that covers 14 acres and is 4 stories high – you could do some serious shopping in there, but from my glance into the window I would say you would also have to have some serious money.

2. There are no campervans (or at least any that I have seen at any of the tourist sites)

3. In the winter it gets as low as 30 degrees below zero. Igor told me how he once walked 300 meters from the bus to his flat without his ears covered properly and he got frost bite.

This morning at breakfast I saw three people that could be tour riders (one was wearing Lycra, always a good clue) and tonight they are sitting in the bar but I have not yet gone up and introduced myself, as am not ready for this segment of my holiday to be over, I will spend plenty of time with them over the tour.  As they say loneliness is the pain of being alone but solitude is the glory.

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My daughter Kelly asked me what I do in the evening and what I eat.

As it is still light until midnight, I usually stop to buy something at a roadside cafe and return to the hotel. When I go to sleep it is still bright lights, and when I wake up it is light.

I have thought about going on the boat trip at night to see the lights but would be 1am in the morning and am not keen on then getting back with my sense of direction (or lack of, as my children would say). In my room I read but usually quickly fall asleep. I tried the TV last night because the hotel blurb said you can get English on one channel, but it was just snow, there were no other channels in English. I did watch the Simpson’s in Russian for a couple of minutes just for the novelty.

In terms of food in general, on every corner there are people selling hot dogs, drinks and ice cream. There are so many open cafes, it’s like Allen and Blair street – paved but with tables and  longer, hot sunshine and a few canals. There are lots of pastry shops here but also steak, salmon, sea food.  There is also KFC, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hutt, and McDonalds. I went into McDonalds just to see what the spelling of the burgers was and if it was different food. The food was the same but it was funny seeing all the different names.

McDonalds in St Petersburg (from Wikipedia, 2004)

Food at McDonalds (from whyevolutionistrue)

I have yet to see a curry place or Chinese restaurant or takeaway. There are lots of cured meats, pickles, sauerkraut, cheeses, loaves, cheese cakes, pastries. It is like lots of small Moore Wilsons everywhere. Fantastic.

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My travel phone which worked perfectly in NZ will not ring out, although thankfully I can send and get texts. I have read the guide book cover to cover to no avail. There is a helpline to ring which would be fantastic if only I could actually ring it!

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Tomorrow I am going to Pushkins Palace and Gardens, Igor has taken me to the tour company, I have paid for my ticket and I have to meet them just past where I get off the metro. Friday I am going to Peterhoff Gardens and castle by boat.  Igor has dawn a map for from the palace square where I have met him twice. It is quite detailed so should be pretty foolproof but after today’s effort on the metro, well  .  . . .

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