A Travellerspoint blog

April 2012

Do you speak English?

Nyet

semi-overcast 9 °C

Another fantastic huge breakfast and we took the tram with our luggage to the train station. We were booked on the high speed 'Allegro' which takes four hours to St. Petersburg. The train is spotless, new and very comfortable. We sat with an Amercian young woman who had spent a few days in Helsinki at a design conferance and now heading to St. Petes for a holiday before returning home.
russia 002

russia 002

Our passports and papers were checked three times before customs actually came through the train at the Russian border. Four women and two men came into our car and went over our passports, scrutinzed us and then after what seemed like quite a long time gave us our papers back. Yeah, we are in Russia!

At the station in St. Petes we negotiate a fare to our hotel and check into our new home for the next four nights. Quite a contrast to the Helsinki Hilton. It is a small boutique hotel and we are on the second floor. It is so small that only one person can stand up at a time, the other must stay on one of the twin beds. It is clean however. There is a third bed up around 10 feet with a ladder to climb to get to it should you need it.

It was now 4PM and we wanted to get to the Marinski Concert Hall for our 7PM Opera. We figured we had plenty of time to get there and have dinner close by before hand. We hadnt eaten since Helsinki. The woman at reception did not speak English, but a man at the desk said we are better off to take the metro as the traffic was crazy at that time.

They gave us directions to the metro and we set off. "It is just five minutes walking". Well we walked and walked and walked. Every block I would ask
"do you speak English?"
Nyet
Excuse me, do you speak English?
Nyet
This went on and on.
I did say 'Metro' and many would point. "Just five more minutes" , if they did speak English.

We finally arrived at the metro station and looked at the map. A lovely woman came and helped us. We needed to take the red line, change to the blue line at Pushkin station and then it is just 10 minutes walking to the theatre.

Piece of cake.

We bought our tickets and took the escalator down. And down, and down. It is the deepest underground in the world, 105 meters below ground. I was getting a little claustrphobic and couldn't see the bottom. On the way up at the other end I had a horrible thought, what if he power goes out and we need to walk up!!. This subway serves 2.5 million riders a day. And they were all taking the subway at that exact time.

There was a big soccar (footbal) match on against Moscow and the winner would win the championship. There were hundreds of young people all with thier blue and white scarves and flags and drinking and just getting ready to party. They all got off at our stop too. Apparently St. Petersburg did win and it was chaos afterwards, no Stanley cup riots however.

The subway was not too difficult to manouver, you just count the stops and look for the red or blue line. All the names are in Russian, the Crylic alphabit, so you have to recognize the characters

We arrive at our station and there are chandaliers and beautiful architecture inside the station. At the top we start to head for the theatre. And we walk, and we walk.

Do you speak English?
Nyet.

Very few people speak English and our Russian is limited to 'Thank you (Spasibo). We found that if they do speak a bit of English and we ask where the theatre is, even if they don't know they will give you directions. We find the Russian people very nice, friendly and helpful for the most part.

Just five minutes walking this way.

Ten minutes later we would ask again, and get a different answer, new direction and 'Just ten minutes walking'

We finally came across two young teens who walked us to the theatre which was wonderful. One of the boys was from Sibera and going to University in St. Petersburg.
The only problem was that we need to be at the NEW Marinsky and we were at the original one.

Just five mintues down this road.

I had to pee so bad!! I saw a porta potty at a construction site and there was a security woman who had just come out and I gestured that I would like to use it. She gave me a look like I was something that was at the bottom of that porta potty.

I put my hands in prayer and said " Please, PLEASE'

She rolled her eyes and nodded. It was the most disgusting but welcome porta potty I have ever seen.

We finally arrived at the Marinski Concert Hall at the third ring. Last call to sit down. We found our seats. The lights went out and the music started.

And we fell asleep.

We were so tired and hungry from our thre hour walk to find the theatre that we slept thorough the first three acts!! The last act was fantastic however and the acoustics, singing and music was wonderful. We found a fantastic cab driver who spoke English extremely well and arranged for him to pick us up from the theatre tomorrow night too.

We collapsed in bed.

DAY 2

We decided to do a walking tour of St. Petersburg today. We took a local bus and eventually found the meeting point. Our guide was a young woman who spoke beautiful English and another woman from Portugal but now living in Helsinki. We walked around the city for four hours and learned so much about Russian every day life, history and customs. The weather was clear, windy and cold but fresh. We were lucky there was not any rain (or snow).
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We were exhausted. After a short lunch (borsht for Doug and a plate of grilled eggplant for me...not much for vegetarians ) We walked for three more hours seeing St. Petersburg. It is a huge city. There are hundreds of universities in this city and the culture and arts are amazing. I am very tired now, so my writing is not going to be that good I am afraid, but wanted to get this done before I forget everything.
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We walked to the Original Marinsky theatre, seeing many cathedrals, palaces and churches along the way. We only had a 1/2 hour to eat dinner, again it took us so much longer than we thought it would. The only place close by that had room was a Chinese resteraunt. A chinese Russian resteraunt. The menu was in Chinese and Russian with pictures. Doug ordered vegetable fried rice and I ordered spicy eggplant. It came and looked like sweet and sour chicken balls. Yuck. I was glad for my protien bar. We hope to have some time tomorrow to sit and have a good meal, we are running on empty right now.
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The Marinsky Theatre is amazing. Built a couple of hundred years ago it has entertained the Tsars and many nobles as well as such common folk as us. The theatre glittered with gold and chandaliers, paintings on the ceilings and velvet drapes. We had a box three away from the stage and the view was amazing. We watch the 'Nutcraker' ballet and I never fell asleep tonight. I was in awe throughout the entire performance. The music was flawless and the dancing and costumes breathtaking. One of the highlights of my life for sure.

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Posted by debbep 12:56 Archived in Russia Tagged petersburg st Comments (2)

Helsinki, Finland

What a beautiful city

sunny 9 °C
View Russia and Turkey on debbep's travel map.

After an extremely long day we finally arrived in Helsinki at midnight current time (10AM the following day BC time). The hotel emailed us great directions so we braved it and took the bus from the airport. I had found a fantastic deal on Booking.com for the Hilton on the waterfront and we were very happy with our room . At 2AM we were sound asleep and thankful to sleep until 8AM the next morning.

The hotel included a huge and delicious breakfast buffet so we loaded up and then headed out to explore the city. We are truly blessed to have a gorgeous sunny day, but happy to have brought our wool coats as the air was very crisp. The people here are so good looking. They are all extremely well dressed, tall, fit and easy on the eyes. There are a lot of young people in the city and many young families. Everyone seems very laid back, friendly and quiet.

The buildings are nicely designed and the city is very clean and lovely.

art deco train station

art deco train station

Helsinki Finland

Helsinki Finland

s]

It seems that most of the tourist tours start next week, in May, so after waiting a half hour for the 'hop on hop off bus' we realized it was not operating, and neither was the boat tour. Oh well. We bought an all day ticket on the tram and just got on and off that as we saw things to explore.

We came across an outdoor market down by the water and bought some fruit for our train trip tomorrow. The fur trade is alive and well in Finland with lots of fur hats, scarves and gloves for the buying.
Fur hats and scarves

Fur hats and scarves

I would have loved to gone shopping for clothes and purses here but sure that I couldn't afford it. The fashions here are wonderful, I see so many women walk by with really unusual but classy coats, shoes, purses etc.. I can imagine they cost a fortune however. It is a very expensive city. A salad is $20. A meal in a mid range resteraunt is 25-30 Euros, or $45. A bottle of water in our mini bar is $6.
Gas is 1.78 euros ($2.50) per litre.

We were back in our room at 7PM and feeling quite exhausted from walking all day and the effects of jet lag were hitting us. Tomorrow we leave on the train at 10AM for St. Petersburg and hope to get a bit of exploring in before the Opera tomorrow night.

Posted by debbep 10:27 Archived in Finland Comments (1)

Not all who wander are lost.

Because life is short and the world is large.


View Russia and Turkey on debbep's travel map.

on the road to Russia

on the road to Russia


Doug and I will be starting our next adventure to Russia and Turkey in a few days.

We will fly from Vancouver on April 25th and spend our first two nights in Helsinki Finland.
From there will we will take a train to St. Petersberg (Leningrad) and explore Russia for 9 days.

Then we are going to fly to Turkey and rent a car for 16 days.

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Thanks for following along with us.

Posted by debbep 21:23 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

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