Friday 13th September: St Petersburg to Helsinki
Ticket: 2nd Class – 86.11 Euros, bought the day before online.
Scheduled departure/arrival times: 11:25 to 14:01
Actual departure/arrival time: 11:25 to 14:01
I didn’t have a great start in St Petersburg, getting into the hotel proved problematic. I found the street with relative ease after picking up for tips on finding roads in Cyrillic in Moscow. The hotel was nowhere to be seen though, after asking a few people and drawing blanks, I gave them a call.
“Hello, I have a reservation and I think I’m the right street but I can’t find the hotel”
“What hotel do you want?”
“Well the one I’m calling, is this Hotel Arca?”
“I don’t know”
“What? Where are you?”
“What?!? I’m calling the number on Hotel Arca’s website, are you there?”
“I don’t know, can I get someone to call you back who is speaking English better”
They hung up and I realised that I hadn’t given my name or number so wouldn’t be getting any call back soon. So rung again, gave my number and got a call a few minutes later.
“Morning, thanks for the call back, I have a reservation and I think I’m the right street but I can’t find the hotel”
“Sorry, I don’t speak English”
“Why did you call me back?”
“I don’t understand, I go.”
They hung up and I was annoyed. The joy of travelling. Around this time shops were opening and after a few attempts a kind soul guided me down an alley, through an unmarked gate and into a courtyard where there was another door which finally lead to the hotel. I dropped my bag and went for a stroll.
St Petersburg is a grand old city with loads water, living up to its nickname of ‘Venice of the North’. There is lots of renovation work going on as well so things will probably get better.
One of the big tourist draws is the Hermitage, a museum which holds the largest collection of paintings in the world.
They have all the big names, even I had heard of them. Halls of Rembrandt’s, rooms of Picasso, walls of Monet’s plus a couple of Da Vinci’s.
In total they have over 3 million items, thankfully only a small amount of these are on display, lot’s sculptures and historical artefacts to look at as well as the paintings.
The building itself is pretty awesome, with massive hallways, ballrooms and throne rooms all decorated in a lavish fashion.
After a few hours though I had enough, but you can spend days there. I continued my stroll, before heading out for an evening of vodka and dried horse meat!
The next morning I set off to Helsinki, I was on the Allegro, a tilting express leaving from the Finland Station. The shortest train ride of my journey yet.
The train was great, very new and clean. The first train of my trip that didn’t allow smoking and actually enforced it. The speed was displayed (we got up too 195km per hour), free wifi and chilled water. Plus a little children’s play area at the end of the carriage.
After an hour we pulled up to the border and the officials came on the train to do the formalities quickly with hand-held computers. The Finnish scenery was great, farmland, forest and occasional lakes of crystal clear water.
Before I knew it we were pulling into Helsinki, bang on time with me hoping for an easier time finding my hotel in this city.