Arriving into St Petersburg, Russia Baby!
We were finally on our way to Russia, on the Vilnius to St Petersburg sleeper train. I had booked the tickets though the agency we had arranged our visas with, Real Russia, so it was no surprise to find that the other two passengers in the four berth compartment were also tourists. Sean, a fellow Brit and Trent, a London-based Aussie were our companions for the next thirteen hours and it didn’t take long for the vodka to flow.
Half the journey was spent in the dining car, drinking our way through a quantity of vodka, Sean, who had been married to a Russian woman, taught us how to say cheers in Russian: nostrovia!
I have to admit we were a little the worse for wear when it came to crossing the border in the early hours of the morning.
We were sent back to our kupe and where we waited for the border guards, and their dogs. The border guards had rather large boots, I remember that, and stern unsmiling faces. The boys were tittering, it was hard to keep a straight face!
However, it all passed smoothly – and if I’m honest, a little vaguely. We were heading north, we were in Russia!
At some point after that the vodka caught up with me and I found myself staring into the pan of the carriage toilet. This didn’t bode well for Russian travel!
The wake up call. The four of us, terribly hungover, had just twenty five minutes to gather our stuff before the train pulled into St Petersburg.
We somehow managed to negotiate the Metro, my head was thumping and I felt terribly queasy – those epic escalators seemed to rise forever!
If I have to be hungover anywhere, the Soul Kitchen Hostel in St Petersburg is the place to do it. Wow, what an amazing hostel, so welcoming, comfortable, stylish and relaxed.
The bunks in our dorm were big and enclosed, with curtains for perfect dorm privacy. Suffice to say, that was me for the day, I didn’t leave the hostel until the following morning. Oh evil drink, you lost me a day!
We woke up the following day to blue sky and bright sunshine. The three of us booked onto the free walking tour and we met our guide Yana under the Alexander Column in Palace Square.
With so much to see Yana based the tour on a small area and advised us for things further out. She threw in lots of history and anecdotes. The tour ended at the Kazan Cathedral so we went inside to have a look.
From there we walked over the river to the St Peter and St Paul fort and had a mooch around before continuing our walk. It was such a beautiful day, and the old building at the fort gleamed in the sunshine.
We ended up in the Zoological Museum, to see the woolly mammoth more than anything. It was pretty large inside, and eclectic. A blue whale skeleton hung from the ceiling above stuffed seals and sealions. In cabinets nearby were stuffed dogs, imagine a taxidermy Scottie Dog next to a King Charles Spaniel! Completely random, the museum felt lost in a timewarp, with tired looking displays but this added to its charm.
The woolly mammoth was in the centre of a much larger room at the back, it had been found thawed from ice in siberia a few years ago and was displayed in its found position, kneeing. His skin is leathery in appearance, with patches of brown fur and a woolly tail, amazing to think how old he is.
We didn’t even need to think about feeding ourselves that evening, the Soul Kitchen Hostel staff cooked everyone pasta which made for sociable eating and a relaxing evening. This is by far the best hostel I’ve ever stayed at!
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We Visited St Petersburg, But We Didn’t Go To The Hermitage! Instead we took a bus to the fabulous Peterhof, when a squirrel ran up my arm and the fountains glittered!
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By Rachel Davis