London to St Petersburg
18.08.2013 - 21.08.2013
Day 1, 7am- Terminal 5 Bag Drop
"I assume my bag will be checked through to St Petersburg?"
"Erm, no. We don't have an agreement with Air Berlin so you'll have to collect it and check it in again for your onward flight. But it looks like you have 55 minutes from landing to take-off..." *shakes head despondantly* "I'm not sure you'll make it"
Cue comedy dash through two Berlin terminals, profuse sweating and funny looks from German airport security.
So began my adventure and despite the unpromising start, so far so good. St Petersburg is stunning; full of history and architectural delights. Sunday night, having met my fellow passengers, we were treated to a celebration of 'Saviour of the Apple Feast Day' by the hostel manager. Apparently this festival calls for vodka, a bowl of apples and a replica Kalashnikov, specially unlocked from the wall.
There has been plenty of sight-seeing. My first metro trip was to the Fortress of Peter and Paul, where they have pimped their spires.
(Here is proof I'm here and not just sitting on my sofa uploading google images)
The Peterhof Summer Palace gardens were fabulous, the fountains rival Versailles and the boat trip back through the gulf of Finland and Neva river afforded great views of the embankments.
The morbidly named Church of the Spilled Blood was lined with mosaics and Spanish tourists.
I ushered in 29 at Stirka 40°, a bar-come-laundrette that started life as a degree show art project and wouldn't look out of place in even the wankiest street in East London. Despite the obligatory birthday vodka I managed to get up to visit the Hermitage, an enormous repository of art housed in the glorious Winter Palace. Not even the American cruise ship groups with their CIA ear pieces could spoil the splendour of the interiors.
Tonight we take the midnight train, leaving behind West-facing St Petersburg and heading to increasingly backward-facing Moscow.