Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saint Petersburg, Russia (March 16th to 18th)

Last weekend I went to Russia for the first time.  To visit Russia you need a visa.  My private entry visa which allows me two visits, cost me 560 nok (93 australian dollars).  It's pretty insane for what it is, a fancy sticker.  To put things in perspective, a Russian tourist visa to Singapore costs 30 singapore dollars (23 australian dollars).  Madness.  Thanks government for all the bureaucracy and wasted paper dollars.

Day 1

Anyway, my point of destination was Saint Petersburg, formerly known as Leningrad/Petrograd, founded 27 May 1703.  I went there mainly to visit someone I know, A.  Norwegian air flights direct to St Petersburg, and it's only a 2 hour flight from Oslo.  I arrived at 2pm or so and passed through customs without any problems, other than having to wait 10 minutes or so whilst the customs officer was looking at me, who knows why.  Paranoia?  Passport photo looks too different than what I look right now?  And when I put my bag through the x-ray machine the officer asked me what these block looking like things were in my bag,  which was just chocolate, and I brought next to nothing!  So I met A at the airport (really small airport, one of the smallest I've ever been to, if you go there be sure to bring a book to read, otherwise you would be bored stiff) and caught this mini bus to Nevsky Prospect, which is the main street in St Petersburg, followed by the metro.  The metro is the deepest I've ever been in.  It's constructed that way because the geology of St Petersburg used to be swampy and unstable.

Time wise, it takes an hour to get from the airport to the city, but that's because traffic conditions weren't favourable. There were jams along the roads at some parts.  A passenger in the mini bus actually got off to catch a taxi whilst the bus was stuck in a jam!

Saviour on the blood museum, used to be a church

After a short walk, I arrived at the hotel, dropped off my things, and took a walk to Zoom Cafe to meet one of A's friends.

Walking to the cafe

We had some food to eat, I had vegetarian borsch, chicken chop and potato pancakes, doodled art on pieces of paper, then took a walk and went into a shopping centre,  Stockmann, and after that A's friend went home and we went to a sushi bar called Yaposha, since I was still hungry. :)

Vegetarian borsch

There was a Russian Asian there who asked A where I'm from haha...!  Funny.  One of the pictures on the wall of the Japanese bar was this baby.  I don't think the baby is Japanese but... whatever works. :)

In addition to sushi we also had mojitos (without the alcohol).

Nom nom...

After that went to a grocery shop to buy water, yoghurt, and it was time to go to sleep.  The plan was to get up early to visit the Hermitage museum, which is the largest art museum in the world.

To sum up the day, there wasn't much of a view going from the airport to Nevsky Prospect, other than old buildings which could be better kept and lots of dirty cars from the snow and weather, but in the city itself it's really quite pretty.

Day 2

It was a late start that morning.  Breakfast was in a cafe, where I had an omelette.

Walking to breakfast...

The Hermitage museum is in the Winter palace, but by the time I got there it was closed and there was a queue because the museum was full.  So instead a photo taking session took over, and the visit was postponed again.

Palace Square

Winter Palace

Triumphal Arch, walking through here takes you to Nevsky Prospect

Just outside the Hermitage museum

Also part of the Hermitage Museum

Saint Michael's Castle

Later in the afternoon I went to have dinner with A's mum and brother at Mari Vanna.  Well I don't speak Russian so it was pretty much just me being an alien from another planet in the cafe, but the food was good.  I had mushroom pie (pirozhki), fried potatoes, meat dumplings (pelmeni) and some cherry dumplings as well.  There was also some Russian wasabi that I tried.  It tastes exactly like wasabi but it's white in colour!  I also gave chocolates to A's mum.

After that we walked to the rock cafe and watched "Snega" (Снега) which is this Russian group. I couldn't understand a word of what they sang, but it was interesting nonetheless. :)


After that we had sushi again along Nevsky Prospect, same chain but different location.

Kazan Cathedral along Nevsky Prospect

Day 3

There was SUN today, so all plans to Hermitage were abandoned.  Instead a long walk around the city was in the works.

Taken on top of the hotel roof

Palace Square again, with kids doing morning exercises

Breakfast at Teremok (Теремок), synchronised cleaning!

Palance embankment, next to the Neva (Нева) River, you can see Zayachiy island (Заячий остров) in the background on which the pointy building, Petropavlovskiy cathedral (Петропавловский собор) resides. 

Winter Palace from the Дворцовый мост (Dvortsovyy bridge)

View on Дворцовый мост (Dvortsovyy bridge)

View on Дворцовый мост (Dvortsovyy bridge)

Rostral colums (Ростральные колонны)

The Flying Dutchman (Летучий голландец) ship that houses a gym and a restaurant

On Zayachiy island (Заячий остров), just along the perimeter

On Zayachiy island (Заячий остров), just along the perimeter, you can see the winter palace on the left and the rostral columns in the middle right

Entrance to the Peter and Paul fortress

Suntanning outside the Peter and Paul fortress. :D

Petropavlovskiy cathedral (Петропавловский собор)

Entrance to the exhibition of torture

View walking along the top of the fortress wall

Underground tunnels, it hosted a cat painting/cat art related exhibition

Along troilskiy bridge (Троицкий мост)

Along troilskiy bridge (Троицкий мост)

Rabbit for lunch

And marinara pasta

Unfortunately I had to leave to catch the bus to the airport at 5pm or so.  My flight was at 7:45pm so I had to be there before 5:45pm.  Well when I arrived the counter wasn't even open yet, so instead we had some hot chocolate at a cafe before I said goodbye.  Going through customs, the officer asked me for my ticket but I couldn't show them my ticket to Oslo as I had to pick up another boarding pass in Stockholm, so again I had to wait maybe 10 minutes or so while they let their paranoia thoughts subside, but other than that it was a smooth trip back.  In Stockholm I had a prawn baguette and a vitamin drink, the stopover wasn't too long, about an hour.  The return flight was through SAS as they had better flight timings, so I went with them instead of Norwegian air.  I was home at 10pm or so, Oslo time, just in time to shower and go to bed.  I'll be going to St Petersburg again in April!

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