Woke up feeling slightly worse for wear. Left the cabin and headed to the top deck for some fresh air where we were treated to views across a grey, industrial St Petersburg landscape. It’s how I thought Russia should look based on my childhood in the 70s, where the cold war and space race were in the news and Russia was portrayed as a cold, drab industrial society.
On leaving the ship, the scary looking pass inspector stared at us and after a few seconds broke into a smile and told us to smile. I guess our faces mirrored the colour of the sky.
Passport control took 45 mins to get through which is frustrating if you’re on a day trip which many of our shipmates were, but we hauled our heavy rucksacks through with pride knowing we had 5 days to explore the self titled Venice of the north.
We dodged the taxi touts determined to walk to the local tube to get to our hostel but after 15 mins and the realisation we needed the 18th left and we had passed four, we weren’t so proud of our heavy rucksacks and spotted a kosher looking cab who agreed to take us to the hostel for 500 Roubles. A decision we were pleased we took when the size of this city dawned on us. The cab took 20 mins to cover a small portion of the map we had.
The hostel were extremely friendly and gave us a shot each of rowan berry liquor which went down a treat at 10 am on top of a hangover. (Yikes) The owner also enthusiastically waved around pistols that he bought from a Berlin flea market so things were a bit surreal but that’s a state we think we can cope with.
As all tourists do we headed down Nevskiy Prospect towards the hermitage museum located within Catherine the Great’s Winter Palace. The streets were wide and very busy and bordered by faded neo-classical mansions which nowadays house shops, restaurants and bars at basement and ground floor level.
Capitalism is embedded and we saw H&M, Zara, M&S, Lush alongside a very cosmopolitan array of restaurants, but inevitably we ended up in a Soviet Cafe for lunch. Al had pelmeni, a dumpling and I ordered fish soup which came with a pasty and a shot of vodka.
Pottered home to do the washing and check the room which had an amazing ceramic heater and a bed 7 foot in the air, ideal for vertigo sufferers.
Had a Korean for tea and were kept up by very loud chinese folk in the hostel.