We arrived after a very comfortable 4 hour bullet train ride into St Petersburg Moscowski station. It was 8pm when we arrived so we checked into hotel ‘Cronwell House Hotel’ near the station and dinner in the restaurant. Borsch!
Next morning we explored the city. It was freezing. What a city! It was full of impressive buildings on every street. We passed a gorgeous old fashioned sweet shop that sold everything from fondant covered stilettos to Chocolate Lenin heads. The staff were dressed in very formal gear and there was a piano playing itself.
We wandered past many Palaces belonging to the many Tsars and walked through Summer Gardens, even though it didn’t feel very summery! The square that The Winter Palace sits on is massive. There is a huge statue in the middle of Peter the Great, the Great Horseman and a random man dressed up as a zebra! We walked miles – the city is very open with huge wide open spaces. That means its very cold and draughty and I can imagine in summer it’s blisteringly hot.
We had heard there was a Soviet Retro Arcade interactive museum near the church of ‘Spilt Blood’. We got lost trying to find it so ended up in a random American car museum that you could sit in each one and dress up if you wanted. We went in by mistake thinking it was something else, but glad we did! It was hilarious! We sat in Ghost Buster car, Batmobile along with some other Russians who were dancing in the corner by the pretend bar. It was surreal and hilarious all at the same time. We eventually found the Soviet Arcade place and it was equally bizarre. For about $3USD you bought a matchbox worth of original Soviet coins to use in the machines. We spent 2 hours there, and played 1980tis style games mainly, Soviet themed of shooting down planes, exploding submarines or rifle target practice. You could buy Soviet lemonade out of an original vending machine, which we passed on but Jack got through all our matchboxes of coins whilst we looked at the original Soviet telephones and other memorabilia.
I wanted to send some stuff back to UK as we didn’t need it for the next part of our trip. We found a Post Office and managed to buy 2 postal bags that we filled. I took it back first thing the next morning – so early that I waited outside for it to open! I filled out 6 forms and 40USD to send back to Andrea (thank you again!!) The post office woman was very helpful and we ended up having a but of a giggle trying to communicate whether to send it by air (flap arms like a bird) or by surface (be a train!)
We visited the Winter Palace after I had sent the packages and had a quick breakfast but had an unexpected detour on the way,. We got on a trollybus near our hotel to take us up the main road to near The Winter Palace. We knew that any bus apart from number 126. So we got on the number 26 and it soon turned let which we weren’t expecting. We noticed a few passengers having a go at the conductor and could tell there was a bit of an argument going on although we couldn’t understand what they were saying. We stayed on hoping it would take a right again soon and when out didn’t we got off, ran over the road and the same number back the opposite way, back to the main road, thinking we got a wring bus. Another bus came and after a while it did the same, turned left unexpectedly. This time we got off straight away and decided to walk it. It was raining heavily and blowing a gale, so heads down we trotted along the pavement and soon learned why all the buses were turning left. The whole main road was being dug up. About a mile long there were diggers everywhere on a Saturday morning, we found out afterwards they closed this road without telling the public about any disruptions. I guess they can…
Soaking wet, we got there and Tour groups of certain countries were out in force already. You had to hand in coats, bags etc at the cloakroom and although there were plenty of them it was slightly chaotic trying to negotiate your way through the flag waving tour groups.
It was all very impressive, draped in gold and absolute extravagance throughout the Palace. No wonder there was a Revolution. We spend about 4 hours there and had late lunch at the cafe before we left. We walked back along the main road this time, it had stopped raining. We had a drink half way along at the Old fashioned sweet shop which made us feel like we had gone back in time to the days of the Tsars.
We were leaving at 5am the next day to get a train to Tallinn in the morning, so we ate early knowing that our backpacks were now a lot lighter!