A while ago I was lucky enough to get a 3 and a half month sabbatical off from work. Chris wasn’t at the right time in his career to join me so I went off galavanting on my own and travelled to 10 countries (he came out and met me twice :-)) I knew it was a lot to fit in for the time I was away but it was so hard to choose what to leave out, and anyone who knows me knows how I struggle to choose! I planned a route that started in Russia and ended in Bali which I’ve been meaning to share for ages and just never got round to… better late than never! I had never properly travelled anywhere on my own so I don’t know what possessed me to start with Russia for my first stop! I suppose it set me up for the rest of my travels after :-)
I arrived in St Petersburg after a three and a half hour flight. I had my new shiny backpack packed with everything I needed for nearly four months away and said goodbye to Chris for what would be our longest break away from each other. After queuing for ages I got sent back to the back of the queue for not filling in both sides of my landing form. A great start! I then took ages to find the bus… as much as I wanted to jump in a taxi I realised I had to start saving money and figuring out public transport now or I’d never get to the end of the trip. I somehow made it to the metro, and bought a ticket (it took me ages and an argument with the Russian ticket lady to figure out the ticket was a coin and not just my change. I finally made it to my hostel… a huge personal success which I rewarded myself for with a Russian pancake and bowl of borscht.
After my (what felt like) epic journey and arrival I had two days to pack in my St Petersburg sightseeing. One on my own and then one with my new tour group so things could only get easier. On my first day I caught the sightseeing tour bus, the canal boat tour, walked to the church of spilt blood and climbed to the top of St Isaacs Cathedral. I passed some interesting scenes, including a man with a giant rabbit on a lead! After my busy day I met the group I was going to spend the next three weeks with… most of whom I am still in touch with now.
We went out for dinner to a Georgian restaurant. Our guide ordered a selection of the best traditional dishes that we could all share and try. We had Georgian pizza bread, salad, marinated cabbage, aubergine rolls, pots of beans and vegetables, pork, chicken and a cheese sauce. It was epic! After dinner a few of us went for a walk to see the city at night… past nightclubs, canals, the church of spilt blood again, the Hermitage and the Neva river.
On day two I visited the Hermitage - an impressive complex of six historical buildings (including the winter palace) which house the second largest art museum in the world. You can’t go to St Petersburg without visiting the Hermitage - it is impressive and has one of the best art collections you will see! After the museum I had an interesting lunch experience that our guide described as soviet service. I ordered a simple dish which never arrived for over one and a half hours. After asking a number of times when I might get my food the waiter suggested ‘maybe, no eat?’ so we left and went to the pancake take-away next door.
Dinner was at another traditional Russian restaurant where we had herring salad with a shot of vodka, more pizza bread and a mutton and potato stew. And that marked the end of our St Petersburg visit. We made our way to the train station to catch the seven hour overnight train to Moscow.
I travelled Russia with Intrepid Travel on their Trans-Mongolian experience. We had a wonderful group of mixed backgrounds and ages 20 - 65 and I really enjoyed travelling with a local guide and group that got on so well. I highly recommend doing something like this if you are travelling on your own.
Next Stop: Moscow