Thursday, 25 November 2010

Back in the USSR - Friday 19 November 2010

After spending an hour and half in purgatory between Estonia and Russia, not having a clue what was happening, we finally got back on the bus and headed through another gate officially marking the border.  I had a overwhelming sense of relief as the barrier lifted and we drove into the Russian Federation.  I had finally made it after years of planning and dreams.  I suddenly realised why the bus was taking 7 hours to get to St Petersburg, the roads were in an incredibly poor state of repair and the bus drove at a steady pace of 40 miles per hour for a fair distance.

Looking out of the window in a sleepy state I inspected the snow covered Russian landscape and saw some incredibly run down houses that looked like shacks and it reminded me that Russia has a fantastically huge gap between the rich and poor.  I soon fell back into a state of unconsciousness and woke up several hours later once we had reached the outskirts of St Petersburg.  The scene this time was completely different and there were countless number of people scuttling around, running for buses and people working on the streets.  The clock read a little after 6am which I though was a bit early for this type of activity.   However, I was unsure of the time difference between Tallinn and St Petersburg but was sure it was in alignment to Moscow time which is +3 GMT, in which case it was actually 7am, perfect time to commute into work.

An hour later, the bus arrived at the Baltic train/bus station in St Petersburg.  I had no idea if I was in the right place.  I approached the driver and using the international sign language of pointing and repeating Baltic station, he simply responded "Da!", as we were in mutual agreement, feeling semi relaxed and reassured I headed off to find the hostel.

Before leaving Tallinn I consulted the world wide web and wrote some directions down for my journey from the Baltic Station to my hostel and realised that it was only a 'short' metro ride to Moscow Station where my hostel was situated.  I wondered into the train station and took my time to get acquainted with the building and noticed that every sign was written in Cyrillic.  I approached a beautiful young lady who was squashed in a ticket booth and had my first chance to practice my Russian and asked 'Do you understand English?' to wish she simply but politely responded, 'Niet!'  However, she pointed me in the direction of the metro entrance and said something which I could only assume meant that I buy metro tokens outside, to the right and inside...

As I struggled my way through a bombardment of Russian workers, I noticed that not one person was smiling.  I finally made my way down into the deepest underground network in the world and it is absolutely spectacular.  The metro stations in Russia are all decorated in different styles and they are incredibly clean.  The London Underground is an absolute disgrace compared to the Russian's spotless and more efficient metro network.  I suddenly realised that I had arrived in Saint Petersburg the same time as everyone making their way to work.  I purposely chose this time as I could save money on a nights accommodation.  Was this a good idea?  Not sure.  The word courtesy is not synonymous with Russia.  In an ideal world there would be queues, people would allow others to leave the train before entering themselves, people would hold the door open for the person following them instead of letting it slam in your face, people would say "dobroye ootro" and "spasiba".  Despite the Russians trying to create the ideal society over the last two hundred years, I can honestly say that this is not it.

I was pushed and shoved, squeezed and squased for my entire journey of only four stops which seemed never ending until I finally arrived at Ploschad Vosstanyia where my hostel was just a short walk away.  I left the metro station the only way I could and walked out into the biting cold of Saint Petersburg, happy that my first ordeal of the metro was over.  Having seen the "how to get to the hostel" video and armed with my directions, I felt confident I knew my way, so I walked in the wrong direction for quite a long while until I decided to turn around and consult a map.  I found a map on a wall outside of the train station and quickly looked at it to find the road I needed and this time, walked in the right direction and I finally arrived at Soul Kitchen Hostel, warn out, hot and in desperate need for a shower.

1 comment:

  1. Hope you have met some friendlier folk in your hostel .... the bus journey sounds cold in every sense. Enjoying reading all about your adventure, keep warm (it's freezing here!) Mo