A week in Санкт-Петербург (Saint Petersburg) in Russia (wikipedia, InYourPocket, GoogleMaps). I am not a big fan of churches and buildings or Russian mentality and service culture but with St Petersburg being located right next to us, I accepted Margus‘ suggestion to go to see what’s it all about.
Considering the proximity I had assumed it would be a low cost trip, but in fact I have flown to Berlin spending less than I spent going to St Petersburg, with 770 EEK bus fare and 707 EEK visa.
The road from Narva to St Petersburg is indeed a catastrophe for a driver. Highest possible speed through the most of the road seemed to be 30 km/h. That is because of the road potholes, which are likely visible on satellite photos.
‘Нормальнaя катастрофa’ (normal catastrophe) was a phrase our host Jukka was using daily. With extremely peculiar and never expected obsticles and always expected bribing he somehow managed to stay all calm, and in situations where I would have freaked out to a state of a nervous break down he just concluded it as a normal catastrophe.
Travel guide In Your Pocket kindly suggests ‘it can be useful to keep a spare 500 RBL near your registration documents… just in case‘. On a single encounter with militsiya I also witnessed locals saying that 500 RBL should take care of ‘it’. Seeing militsiya on the streets is as common as seeing guys with Dima Bilan haircut or being smothered by cigarette smoke from fellow pedestrians – all very common. As of the haircut, I could not find any better name for the long hair on the back, for me it associates with him. And as of the militsiya, maybe the ongoing Economical Forum had something to do with the law representatives being on all corners.
500 RBL seemed to be standard for official taxicab as well. However, a lot of other cars are eagerly willing to offer taxi service for 100..200 RBL if You wave standing by the street. Such way for transportation seemed to be very common, but it could also be very extreme – one of our illegal cabbies liked his music loud while practising slalom driving at a speed up to 120 km/h – roller coaster à la St Petersburg.
Reaching such speed is actually remarkable considering traffic jams which seem to be blocking most of the roads as long as there is sun light. Does not matter even if You are ambulance car with blue lights flashing – even they were waiting surrounded by hundreds of cars on all sides. So a helpful suggestion – do not be in a situation requiring ambulance in St Petersburg. But with less traffic at nights, such slalom racing seemed to be common.
InYourPocket pointed out that ‘many Russian drivers haven’t actually passed their driving test legitimately preferring to take the easier route of buying their licence‘. Scary, ..my tiny car and I would not make it out of the city.
I saw a lot but not everything that is must-see-in-St-Petersburg. I just could not manage with the excessive walking. My feet are not designed for daily 5 hour walking marathon. I won’t write much about our nights – they were mostly passed revitalizing my feet.
One day we devoted exploring the metro stations. I was very excited by the sculptures on the wall, which You can see on the photos above – I found it rather homoerotic seeing one guy undressing another one. Quite interesting and cheap entertainment – pay once and stop at every metro station. Interestingly, metro coin (17 RBL, I think) is same size as Estonian 1 kroon coin (about 2 RBL).
Bizarre sight – by the red sign of meat balls there is a warning of video surveillance, ..in Estonian! I cold not figure out why. My interpretation was, that they are warning Estonians who just can’t wait to have their hands on Russian meat balls :D
The last evening Jukka took us out to a boat cruise on river Neva. We had hoped to see opening of the bridges but to our surprise we happened to be at the best spot to see big fireworks.
Thanks to Jukka for hosting us and taking care of us and for all the great time with him.