Wednesday, July 11, 2012

St. Petersburg & Novgorod - Our first steps in Russia

I will be totally honest with you, half an hour after crossing the Russian border I wanted to turn around and go back home! I really did! The road was a nightmare, people were strange and the view from the window was pretty depressive. I felt like in a bad movie. We even started talking that if it stays like that we will try to get a visa for Kazakhstan and switch the environment as soon as possible. I have to laugh when I think about it now. Truth is that the border region is far from inviting, but the rest of what we saw up till now could not be more different.

We were still quite skeptical when driving to St. Petersburg and because of the chaos at the border we were late, hungry and we had no hotel reservation or even any clue where we could stay for the night. It all didn't really put us in the best moods. Navigating in such huge city was also not an easy thing and before we even noticed, we ended up at the main square, which is actually closed for traffic. No idea how we managed to do that, but we couldn't waste such an opportunity to take a perfect Karossi photo. And when we took a look around we already knew this city was definitely worth coming to. And I can tell you, what we saw back then wasn't even 5% of what the city had to offer. It's crazy how many beautiful buildings they have! It would be enough to make 10 cities a tourist hit.  

Since the tourist office wasn't much of a help (if you expect anything more then a booklet and a city plan you will be disappointed), we decided to solve our accommodation problem counting on our good luck and simply followed our Garmin navigation to the next hostel. By the way our Garmin eTrex 30 has become our best friend pretty quickly (though he and I still have some communication problems from time to time) and I can not imagine our trip without it now. Especially with all those OpenStreetMap data David downloaded. It's amazing what this thing can do! It didn't let us down this time neither. We ended up in Griboedova 71, a nice clean hostel with a very friendly service and a possibility to put our Karossi in the backyard (they also do the necessary visa registration for 150 RUB). And we were ready to explore the city. Even though we came back late at night we still had the feeling we haven't seen a thing. The city has simply too much to offer. So we decided to spend the next day on a walking tour.  

I can't tell you how tired we were or how much our feet hurt, but I can tell we would do it again. Wherever you look you spot something worth looking at and I can't even say how many photos we took. St. Petersburg is simply breathtaking. Funny thing is we didn't manage to find any nice postcards of it. Later on we discovered this problem exist in many Russian cities. I mean I know sending postcards is not really “in” anymore, but I do like to send some from time to time. But we really had to look hard to find some even in Moscow. And we failed on this task in all the other cities. So for all the people who are waiting for one, be patient and hope that Mongolia or Uzbekistan will be better supplied :)

We were a bit sad we had to leave the city so soon, but if we want to make it to Irkutsk and manage to organize 2 visas on a way, we are unfortunately not able to stay anywhere for long. And the city made us hungry for more. We wanted to see other places. Our next goal was Novgorod. We were a bit late again but luckily the tourist info decided to stay open just a few minutes longer that day. And this time it was a perfect service! They had a recommendation for everything and were able to answer all our questions. And the city itself was fantastic. Not too big, but very pretty and somehow relaxed. I guess it's hard to be stressed living in a nice city like that, with a beach in the very center. We spend the night on a guarded parking place, right next to Kremlin using the river as a bathroom. And we hanged out a bit longer next day, just cause we liked the city so much.  

We decided to make another stop in Tver, just to drive to Moscow early in the morning the next day. We didn't want to arrive tired and wasted like we did in St. Petersburg. Tver simply isn't our city and the accommodation base was also not the best one so we ended up taking a room in hotel Volga, a bit outside of our budget, but with very nice rooms, Wi-Fi and a possibility to do some washing. No sightseeing that evening, but it was actually a nice break which gave us some more energy for the Russian capital.


  1. Ok. I miss St. Petersburg sooo much. And I miss talking to you Aga, so when you come back all lit up and beautifully overwhelmed by the East we have to meet up and chat chat chat... In February next year I am planning to go India for my 30th. If you're around there why not to get some curry by the Ganges? David is welcome too:)

  2. In February we are planning to be somewhere in Tailand I guess. But you never know...