To Russia and Beyond!

Posted: February 1, 2013 by geeza11 in Uncategorized

So this post was meant to be up and running a fair while ago, but maybe putting “Tsar” in our name wasn’t the best idea as we haven’t actually been able to access our website…In Russia internet use you! But with the wonders of a few taps and clicks from Patrick we will now keep you up to date with all the tasty packets of information from our adventure. Anyways, this is what I had written all those days ago on the train as it twisted and turned its way, like a headless snake writhing away from the two headed eagle, into Russia and from there we shall begin…

Hei, moi, Привет, hello!

The past few days certainly have been a whirlwind of snow, walking and a myriad of weird and wonderful European languages. We’re currently on the train to St Petersburg travelling through the snow covered countryside. The train left at the inspiring time of 5:15 meaning a 3:15 wake up 30min trek through snow with all our luggage and a half hour wait at the station. But the jet lag certainly helped out here and with St Petersburg two hours ahead we should be back to normal soon. So here goes, I’ll try and give a brief account of the pretty awesome experiences we’ve had over the 118 hours prior (seems short when you put it like that).

I’ll begin where I last left you (so many flashbacks), embracing the refreshing air of the reheated pizza at Perth Airport. We got a bit lost and went to the wrong gate on the other side of the airport, but luckily there was thirty minutes until our plane left and we managed to arrive at the correct one with…thirty minutes to spare (What is this?! An airport for ants?!..no just FIFO). It was close. One point I would like to state again is the kindness/awesomess of the lady at the QANTAS check-in counter. She went out of her way to get us exit row seats, which made the flight all that much better! Singapore airport was at least three times as big and we were glad we had the three hours between connecting flights. The most interesting part about the 17.5 hours of flying was the heated argument this couple were having on our left in Finnish, that and the guy behind us wearing a GoPro strapped to his head for a decent part of the trip. Anyway with the flying out of the way it was time to embrace the Architecture in Helsinki (#32 of that joke).

We jumped off the plane grabbed our bags, flashed our passports, got a stamp for being awesome and then headed out to the icy cold in our super bright matching red and green mid layer jackets at 6am. How dandy! Almost every taxi was a late model Mercedes, BMW or Volkswagen and the fare matched the tailored suit the driver wore as well. However we weren’t worrying about that, because outside there was an obscene amount of snow covering literally everything, not figuratively at all. The roads even after all the snow ploughs and salt were still layered in slush, though apparently 120km/h is still safe. $100 later we had arrived outside the Hostel Erottajanpuisto. It was a very quaint building and the hostel was on the second floor with big wooden doors and high ceilings. After placing our bags down we kitted up in our limited gear and decided to face to the cold to find something to eat, much easier said than done.

With the Sun rising at 8:41 it makes sense that nothing, not even a breakfast cafe opens until 9. However we only discovered this after walking around in -5 with no gloves or thermals for a couple of hours until they did. Albeit it was a damn good hot chocolate when we finally got it! The rest of the day we spent walking and exploring the city. It’s a mix of the extremely upmarket boutique and designer shops as well as some large department stores, I would imagine that the Mercedes and BMW dealerships are somewhat busy all the time. The buildings vary from the incredibly old to new with crazy architecture (I refrained there). There are some amazing churches there, from the era of Russian occupation built completely from red bricks and adorned with gold spires. Very beautiful when covered in snow! One of the highlights of this first day was walking across the frozen port and wandering around ships trapped in the ice. On one side were these guys ice-fishing and the other were people walking dogs as you do on the port. We also saw one lady jump straight into a hole in the ice in her bathers for a refreshing dip. With a long day behind us, and realising that it was actually Australia day we decided to have Nepalese…But then, with a number of other Australians, headed to the Aussie bar and shared a few beers there. Imported VB tastes much better than in Australia, and serving it ice cold only requires a quick walk outside. We finally headed home at 7:30 and were in bed at 8:30. We go hard.

Off the coast of Helsinki is an Island fortress covering 80 hectares and 8 islands, the only way to visit said fortress is by going in a ferry and breaking through the sea ice. It makes for a very interesting journey filled with wonderful loud thuds on the hull and cracking, ever hoping that these sounds and shudders are the not in fact the ice breaker becoming ice broken. But we made it across live and well and ventured out into the maze of walls and small streets. One of the most striking features was the light pink wall of the first building surrounded by dark leafless trees and snow, dappled in sunlight. We managed to almost freeze to death on the far end of the island although our new coats were dealing with the wind somewhat better than before. We followed these mystical signs halfway across the island looking for a café, that according to the guidebook “served the best warm apple pie and hot chocolate.” But after pretty much getting frostbite from our necks upwards (talk about a brainfreeze), lo and behold the warm tasty pizza place and apple crumble café were closed. Seriously who only serves apple pie in summer. After sailing the good ship Icebreaker (not actually it’s name) back and just being general hooligans around snow we returned to our hostel and went to bed even later – 9:15! But not without stopping by a couple of bars and being passed notes written on the back of a postcard for a government advertising campaign to reduce slips and falls in Finnish. Who knew Liukuesteitä could mean lube by simply crossing out –esteitä and replacing it with –voiteita. Ah Finnish how witty you are!

At the top right it reads "I am a Puma!"

At the top right it reads “I am a Puma!”

The following day required another brisk wake up and chilly walk to the port for our ferry  across to Estonia, as you do. Never having been on a cruise ship, it was a marvel to be able to go for a quick shop at the supermarket or buy an expensive watch or both. Whatever floats your boat I guess! Other than that the trip went swimmingly and soon we were meandering our way around 500 year old battlements, and climbing up tiny staircases to the somewhat hard to find mulled wine. A good advertising tip is to put the sign for your tasty drink/meal at the bottom of a number of ladder climbs so by the time the customer gets to the top he/she doesn’t have many other options – a defibrillator may have been a good addition too…! We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the day there and even stumbled across an abandoned Soviet concert hall with steps that rather than lead to the entrance actually take you completely over the top of the building and make you walk away. In Russia you don’t go to concert, concert go to you!

Anyways after that we pretty much caught the ferry back, had some dinner, woke up early (3:30am) and caught a train to St Petersburg which brings you back to where this story started. Make sure to keep an eye on the page as I’ll fill you in with all the juicy gossip of our time in St Petersburg, which may or may not include samba, vodka and some crazy brazilian funk!

до свидания

Guy and Patrick

Selfie #42

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