A Travellerspoint blog

Train from St Petersburg to Moscow

rain 16 °C

The train wasn’t open like the one from Riga and had compartments. Otherwise the train looked pretty similar to the Latvian one. We shared our compartment with Rodney, a really nice gentleman from Yorkshire, England and Vladimir from Moscow. Vladimir was going home to his family after a hard week of work in St. Petersburg where he works every other week as a Photographer. We got along very well and Vladimir tried to teach us some Russian. He told us that this is the cheapest of trains on this route and that there are other more comfortable ones that even have all the meals included. We didn’t mind, we were comfortable and in good company. We managed to sleep like babies all night.

At around 06.00 am we arrived in Moscow at Leningradski station. We were considering getting a taxi but Vladimir told us that they would charge us a fortune and that we better take the Metro instead. He even volunteered to show us the way. Rodney got picked up directly at the station by somebody at his hotel and would be continuing shortly to Yakaterinenburg and on towards China so we said goodbye.

Vladimir paid for our metro tickets and took a long detour just to make sure we didn’t get lost. He left us his number in case we would run into any trouble or have any questions and we said goodbye.

It was dark and rainy when we got of the metro at Vladykino. We wondered around for a long while, asked a couple of people for the way and eventually found our hotel. It was really nice and we got access to our room immediately. We had a large breakfast, had a shower and took a long rest.

Take care everybody!!


Fredrik and Sabrina


Posted by fredrik_p 14:54 Archived in Russia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

St. Petersburg (2)

the last couple of days in St. Petersburg

sunny 16 °C

11th of September
We had breakfast (the same dry breakfast buffet) and then took the metro in to town. St. Petersburg’s metro is said to be the worlds deepest. We don’t know if that is true but it definitely feels like it. We timed going down the escalator and it took almost 3 minutes to get from ground level to the train level. We got of at "Mayakovskaya" Station and wanted to check out some travel agencies to see what city tours or events they could offer. The agencies turned out to be of no help at all so that was just a waste of time. We carried on to "Nevsky Prospekt" metro station and walked to the Winter Palace where, as I mentioned in the earlier report (St. Petersburg (1)), the Hermitage (art museum) is located. We have read that if you were to stand for one minute in front of each piece of art in the museum it would take you nearly five years before you could leave. The director of the museum also said once that - "I can’t say that the Hermitage is the number one museum in the world, but it’s certainly not the second". Well, we had to see it and wanted to be able to dedicate as much time as possible so we decided to come back early the next day. Since it was already late in the afternoon we decided to do something else, but only after we had bought tickets to the ballet "Giselle" at the Hermitage theatre for the following evening. Then we walked over to the St. Isaacs Cathedral, one of the worlds largest, where we climbed up to the top of the dome and enjoyed the views of the city. After that we went for an hour at an internet cafe and then dinner at an Indonesian restaurant called "Sukawaki".


12th of September
After breakfast we went for another session at the internet cafe. Then quick lunch and on to the Hermitage museum, finally! It is grand and we can definitely recommend it to anyone who visits St. Petersburg. The building itself is fantastic and filled with interesting sculptures, artefacts from Ancient Egypt, Babylonia, Greece and all corners of the world. If you are still not impressed it houses a large collection of western art which include for example Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Rembrandt, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, and Matisse. There is much, much more to see however, including for example the Russian imperial regalia, an assortment of Fabergé jewellery, and the largest existing collection of ancient gold from Eastern Europe and Western Asia.


Quick dinner consisting of sushi at the "Banzai" restaurant. Still no local food, but at least we got some Russian caviar in the makis :-) Then we went to see the ballet Giselle at the cosy hermitage theatre. Two very enjoyable hours for about as much as a Russian state pension (2500 rubles, but i think the average pension is actually even lower than that). We took a taxi back to the hotel and the negotiation about the prize was hilarious. We tried to get it for 400 until we realized we were 10 rubles short and tried to get it for 390. After a long discussion the taxi driver said, "-Ok, 350 then!". DONE DEAL!!!


13th of September
The last day in St. Petersburg we spent packing and checking out and then on to an internet cafe for a longer session to burn our photos to CDs and to upload some photos for you guys. At the hotel they told us they could not help us send anything other than printed material (!) so unfortunately we haven’t managed to mail them home yet. We went for a quick lunch at a cafe and then we went back to the hotel to get our bags and get to the station. We found the train and got on all right without any problems.

More about the ride later!!

Lots of hugs!!!!

Fredrik and Sabrina


Posted by fredrik_p 21:17 Archived in Russia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

St. Petersburg (1)

Our first contact with Russia

sunny 15 °C

9th of September
We couldn’t get into the room until 12.00 and as we arrived already around 9.30 we left our luggage and went for a walk around town. The area around the hotel is pretty empty but we managed to find a cafe (by asking somebody on the street). There we had a light breakfast. The cappuccino was good, as was the grapefruit juice but the prices were pretty much the same as in Sweden. We felt a bit tired after the train ride but we kept on strolling around. It was Sunday morning and pretty desolate. We headed for the Peter and Paul fortress which was quite close by.

The fortress was established by Peter the Great in 1703 on a small island on the Neva River. It is the original citadel of St. Petersburg and the fortress contains a number of buildings including the Peter and Paul Cathedral, where all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III are interred (and a couple of imperial martyrs).


We walked around, took a couple of photos, enjoyed the views and eventually made our way back to the hotel. On the way we had a look at the Warship "Aurora" which houses a museum and permanently lies in the Neva River close to our hotel.


We had a good rest at the hotel which lies north of the river while the City Centre lies on the southern side. We then walked to the northern part of the centre and had dinner at a fancy Italian place (the closest restaurant we could find). The food was good but pretty expensive. We walked through a lovely park on the way home. It looked beautiful in the afternoon sun and it was filled with statues. The day after, we found out looking at the map, that it was the "Summer Garden". We had a nice walk home, crossing the Neva River and seeing the sun setting behind the Peter and Paul Fortress. That night we slept like babies!!


10th of September
Ready for some serious sightseeing! After the breakfast buffet (well, I have had better, I can tell you that much) at the hotel we took the metro into town. The plan was to walk up the Nevsky Prospekt, probably Russia’s most famous street and an essential St. Petersburg experience. We had some trouble with the direction when leaving the metro station but then managed to get on the right track. It’s pretty packed with people and one has to be alert. We saw the statue of Catherine the Great, walked through the "fashionable" (mom, don’t go to St. Petersburg for shopping) arcades of Gostiny Dvor, one of the worlds first indoor malls, built between 1757 and 1785. We entered the still used "Kazan Cathedral" and took some sneak photos (as you are not allowed to take pictures in there). We visited the "Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood". The name refers to the blood of the assassinated Alexander II of Russia, who was mortally wounded on that site on March 13, 1881. Construction began in 1883 under his son Alexander III, as a memorial to his father. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907.


We then walked to the Winter Palace and looked around the "Dvortsovaya ploshad" one of the most impressive and historic spaces of the city. We stood next to the Alexander column, 47,5 meters high and raised in memory of Alexander the I commemorating the 1812 victory over Napoleon. The Winter Palace houses the Hermitage, which is one of the largest museums in the world, with over 3 million works of art (even though not all are on display at once). It is one of the oldest art galleries and museums of human history and culture in the world. The vast Hermitage collections are displayed in six buildings, the main one being the Winter Palace which used to be the official residence of the Russian Tsars. We looked around the outside and decided to dedicate some more time to visit the following day or the day after. We went for an hour to an internet cafe and then had dinner at the "Face Cafe" a really good place with delicious European-Asian fusion cuisine to very reasonable prices. We then walked quickly (almost ran) home to avoid the dark.


Bye for now, dear friends and family!!!

Fredrik and Sabrina


Posted by fredrik_p 17:56 Archived in Russia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Train to St. Petersburg

Another new experience

sunny 15 °C

So we got on the train in time, no problem.


We even found our bunks, even though we needed to ask 3 different people. The wagon was divided into compartments but still open in a full isle. Each compartment had 2 bunks over 2 benches (which could also be covered with a "mattress"). There was a small table between the benches and across the isle were two seats with a table between them. The smaller table across the isle could be folded down so that another bed could be prepared. We had the 2 upper bunks and shared the space with 3 other people, none of whom spoke any english. Tea was served and after a couple of hours people started making themselves comfortable and so did we. Then the lighs went out and it was time to sleep. Luckily we had our headlamps and could read some more before sleeping.

Then at about a quarter to 12 the lights were turned on again and the Latvian border personnel came to check our passports. That took about 30 minutes and then the lights were turned off again. 12.45 (actually 01.45 local time but we didnt know that at the time) the lights were turned on again and now it was time for the real deal. The russian border control. First somebody came and wrote down our passport numbers. Then a couple of minutes later a woman in a fur hat (like in the movies) came and wanted to see our passports, entry cards and visas. She was accompanied by two colleagues, all pretty grim and serious looking. They spent several minutes examing my (Fredriks) passport, first normally, then they got out the blacklight, then they whispered a bit, turned the pages, examined the stamps etcetera. Finally they almost reluctantly turned over the passport. Pfff... I dont know if it was that they had never seen such a handsome guy before. ;-) Then the customs officers came and said something in russian. I just tried to give them my passport again but they didnt want it. Sabrina just said -"Niet", no in russian. Then they managed to say something like - "baagaaashhh". Ahhh, they were wondering where our luggage was. We pointed and that was that. They snooped around a bit, looked in some hatches and on a shelf and that was it. When all that was over with we could sleep until 6.30 our time (7.30 local) when they turned on the lights again. Grrr...

At 7.30 (8.30 local time) we arrived in St. Petersburg.

As it was sunday morning the station wasnt too crowded and we managed to take a metro to our hotel. We have found out that it is more difficult to read russian than we thought. The weather was spectacular (even though its a bit colder than Riga. Maybee 15 degrees) and we walked the last bit to our hotel. Its called Hotel St.Petersburg and fits exactly what we had expected. We will show you some photos and you will probably understand why.

Take care!!

Lots of love,

Fredrik and Sabrina

Posted by fredrik_p 18:22 Archived in Russia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)


The Capital of Latvia

sunny 18 °C

We arrived in the morning, the weather was great and we started walking towards our hotel. As we didnt have a map we asked some people in the street who were extremely helpful, trying to communicate with hands and feet and some english, and thanks to them we easily found our hotel. The room at the Jacob Lenz Guesthouse was nice, clean and big and we left our luggage to go have a look at the town.

Riga is the capital of Latvia, has over 700 000 inhabitants and is situated on the coast of the Baltic Sea. It is the largest city in the Baltic states and its Historic Centre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also famous for its extensive Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture, comparable in significance only with Vienna and Saint Petersburg.

The first thing we did was walk straight through the city to the train station to by the tickets to St.Petersburg. We had some slight difficulties but nothing worse than expected. From there we walked around the Old Town, just strolling around, getting to know the place a little better. At 18.00 we met up with Kerstin (my aunt) and Ann-Britt a friend of hers. They were in Riga for a couple of days and had just been to a Spa to get some manicure and such. Together we went to the Skyline Bar on the 26th floor of the Reval Hotel Latvija (fancy pancy hotel). We had some drinks and among other things tried out the Black Mojito made with the local "Balsam" liquor (like Jaegermeister). The views over the city were spectacular as was the sunset. Later we went for dinner at the Slavu Restaurant (typical food) in the Old Town. The food was expensive, dry and tasteless. The best thing was the blankets we got, so we could sit outside!
Then we went for more drinks at Velvet, popular with tourists and the nouveau rich. We sat at the door so we didnt see the gogo dancers until at closing (2.00 am) some girl came walking by our table in her underwear and we didnt know what to think!

The next day (6th) we had breakfast at the hotel and then we went to meet Kerstin and Ann-Britt again just, to have coffee and say goodbye. We did some more sightseeing, some parks, the Dome Cathedral, St.Petersburg Church, House of Blackheads, lots of medieval architecture and Art Nouveau buildings.

In the afternoon we also went to the Central Market, originally built as a series of Zeppelin hangers during WWI. We bought some fruit and enjoyed watching people. We went to a cosy tea house right in Vermanes garden where we sat among the cushions and rested for a while. In the evening we went to the cinema and saw the Bourne Ultimatum which was not too great.
We strolled around some more and then finnished off with dinner at the great restaurant DaDa with interiors inspired by the Dadaism.

On the 7th we slept long and then went to the Occupation Museum, dedicated to the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Latvia. The various exhibits display the atrocities committed against the people of Latvia and the systematic destruction of their nations sovereignty. After about two or three hours there we went on a lunch break at the Medieval restaurant Rozengrals. Excellent food and atmosphere! We then spent another hour at the Occupation museum again before going to a cafe and then to an internet cafe. We had dinner closer to our hotel, at Kaptaina Enrico(?) which had great food, better service and a very nice vibe. It also had some very random swedish decore, a hockey shirt from Brynas and a poster for Husqvarna chainsaws...

Today is the last day in Riga and we will just take it easy, write some mails and get ready for the long trainride to St.Petersburg (12.5 hours with the night train). Wish us luck!

Take care!!!!

Lots of hugs,

Fredrik and Sabrina

PS. Have a look in a couple of days to see the photos.

Posted by fredrik_p 14:35 Archived in Latvia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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