Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Saint Petersburg

Distance travelled: 1639 km

Finaly inside a Russia, the border formaleties were carried out on the train, and basicly went as smooth as anywhere else - and definantly smoother than what i experienced at Newark Airport in the States.

After crossing the border with some delays, the train continued for Saint Petersburg - the difference between Finland and Russia was very clear. The houses started to look like something that would fall apart any day, the gardens are used for everyday food - and not just pretty flowers, and the roads were looking in a much more sorry state than they had on the other side of the border.

It took a couple of hours from the border, until we arrived at the Finlandzky railway station in northern Saint Petersburg. Expecting to be attacked by people wanting me to go to their hotel and ride their taxies - I was very pleasantly surprised that this was not the case - at all actually - after a bit searching around for an ATM and getting my first rubles, I went for the subway to go downtown.

Ha! - i'll never forget the look at the ticket ladies face when I handed her a 5000 rubles note (1000 Danish kroner) for a 14 rubles ticket for the Metro. But she got even when she returned a freaking large bunch of Notes back to me at a overcrowded subway station :-)

The Hostel - Cubahostel - where i've stayed, is a cool and lovely social hangout - smack downtown - 2 minuttes of the main street 'Nevsky Prospect'. The days have gone by exploring the neighboorhood around the hostel by foot. And socializing at the hotstel during the evenings - Now i'm really travelling again :o) wee!

So far I haven't been anything but positively surprised by this strange country. Things seem to be in a far better shape than we hear about in the west. Sure, there is social decay, but so far i haven't seen anything that i consider worse than a trailerpark full of white trash outside Detroit or something like that. On the other hand, the middle class here in Saint Petersburg seem to be fairly large, people even in the outskirts of the city center are very very neatly dressed, in posh brands, and drive better cars than we do back in Copenhagen. I'm sure if I went out in the real russian suburbia, the story would be different, but i'm impressed all the same.

Went to the Hermitage today - i guess all there is to say about that place is - wow! a few pictures in the gallery. Also bought my first train tickets, for the Moscow - Irkutsk leg of my journey...

... In the interrest of my personal safety, the schedule is as follows.

May 13th 23:30 - 07:10 Saint Petersburg - Moscow
May 17th 00:30 - 12:50 Moscow - Kazan
May 17th 20:20 - 14:10 Kazan - Ekaterinburg
May 20th 12:30 - 17:45 Ekaterinburg - Irkutsk (arrive on the 22nd)
May 23rd 08:00 - 16:00 Irkutsk - Khuznir (Bus - Olkhon island)

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