A Travellerspoint blog

Arrival St Petersburg, Russia

The Anastasia was to arrive in St Petersburg by 9.30. I was up early and had my stuff ready. I went upstairs to the cafe and luckily found some oatmeal, coffee and a Danish. I sat outside on the deck and watched the arrival into St Petersburg. By the time I was outside, we were in a canal like waterway and coming into an industrial shipping area. I did get some really nice pictures of a nice white bridge that reminds me of Portland's newest bridge. Once we stopped we all started lining up to disembark with our bags. It probably took us 45 minutes to get off the ship. I was close to the end of the line. Once we got off the ship, we went into a terminal and that's where the fun began. We stood in line for at least two hours. There were probably half a dozen windows working on non-Russian visitor but the "work" they do on each person is quite long. It seems that it takes five minutes a person to get them processed. I picked the short line that turned out to be the slowest line. I finally moved to another one and was almost the last person to get checked in. Then we waited for quite a while for the shuttle vans. Wow, was that a mess. Luggage overflow was piled inside the van. Luggage in aisles. I was the second to the last person on that shuttle. Not sure why I gave that driver a tip!

While in line I talked to a couple from the UK. She had just retired and they took the ferry to St P's. They are then headed overland on the rails through Russia and Asia. They will end somewhere I've forgotten, with a flight to Bali and then a flight to Australia, their final goal. OMG! I asked her to put me on her travel blog -- I really want to hear about this trip. We talked about other things...they live in Manchester and she said the homelessness is overwhelming and they are a rich country and there is no need for it. We talked about the price of housing being out of hand. Manchester is sort of central England. They were a fun couple -- what an adventure.

The shuttle dropped us at St Issac Square. I don't have wifi - my SIM card doesn't cover Russia - so I relied on a downloaded map. Amazingly it went pretty well. Finding the hotel was hard. It is on the second floor of a building and it is not well marked. I walked right past it the first time and then walked across the street. Finally figured from the numbers I needed to return to the other side. The number guided me and I found the hotel. I'm at the Comfort Hotel near St Issac Square.

People that work at the desk speak English. The hotel has a charming breakfast room. I love my room. I HAVE A/C. Other than the Raddison where I spent one night in Helsinki, this is the first time I've had A/C. The room is old-fashioned but wonderful clean and chariming with high ceilings, nice drapes, chandelier, shower with jets. Two large windows (never mind that they look out on a construction site) that I get light from. The bed is large and comfortable. I have a desk and plenty of room for my stuff. It is very quiet. I feel like I'm in a 1950's movie or something....but it is really nice and comfy.

I asked the desk where to eat and they suggested Jeromes on the first floor. It was very nice. I ordered a pasta dish and it was very tasty though it had cheese and not tomato sauce. I always think I know what I'm getting! But it filled the bill. They were very nice and speak some English. I ordered a big bottle of sparkling water and drank it all. I decided to spend the rest of the day doing Hop-on Hop-off tours. I was so tired of standing in line in the heat to go through passport control, I needed a break. Also wanted to get oriented to St P's. The ticket was for both lines, red and green. I spend the rest of the day doing both of those lines. Lots of traffic. HOT, HOT, HOT! But I stayed up top with a tiny breeze sometimes. The trip had English earphones. I enjoyed it and had good views of the city.

In the evening I went back to Jeromes because I liked it in there. I had a beer and an crab and corn chip appetizer. It was very tiny. But tasty. After that I walked across the street and found a grocery. The first one didn't have cold beer so I walked to the second. The first was low ceilinged and small but it had a meat market in the back end. Wow. It was crammed with two checkers but did have fresh veggies and I noticed bread comes in small packets of about 8 slices if wanted. I thought that was cool. I bought some cookies. I walked to the next grocery on the same street. This one had no produce or meat but it had cold beer. So I bought one. 92 rubles for a tall one. No idea what kind as everything was in Russian.

I went home and watched TV - couldn't find one English station so gave that up.

I worked on my computer and worked on a plan for the next day, though I had booked a guided tour of the Hermitage before hand. That starts at 9:40 a.m. I stayed up until midnight which is unusual for me with my jet lag. I'm usually asleep, or want to be by 9 pm.

Posted by Linda K 11:23 Archived in Russia Tagged hotel in petersburg st ferry passport russian comfort control grocery hop-on hop-off jeremy's Comments (0)

Helsinki and departure to St Petersburg.

I love my hotel room at the Radisson Blu Seaside. It has plenty of light, some A/C , a nice bed and is spacious. I spent the morning downloading some maps and stuff to my phone as I won't have a SIM card in Russia. After showering, repacking and trip planning, I finally left the room at 11 a.m. I was still trying to figure out how to ride the trolley to St Peterline. It was walkable but difficult with my bags and I've noticed the sidewalks for the walkers are not smooth like the bike sidewalks. I finally downloaded the transit app and with the help of the desk clerk learned how to buy a ticket online for the trolley since there was no ticket booth close nor do the drivers sell them. Interesting that the ticket on my phone had a circle that goes round and round in bright colors while the ticket is valid. That way you can get on the bus and the driver and see quickly that you have a valid ticket.

I walked over to the "Old Market Hall near me again and this time ate at a shop that made "Super Bowls". It was vegetarian and full of yummy vegetables and rice. Healthy and I loved every bite of it. One thing I like in Finland is when you ask for water you get a whole quart of it in a bottle. No ice but that's ok with me.

After I ate I went back to the herring booth and talked to the young women who I talked to yesterday that has started this restaurant and is from Riga. I thanked her again for picking out the perfect herring for me (the vinegar ones) the day before. I asked her where her dad's shop was in Riga and she gave me a handwritten map so I can find it. She is so sweet and her English is so good. I walked down a couple different streets and then back to the hotel to get my bag. I left the hotel at 2 pm because the Moby Peterline ferry to St Petersburg started check in at 3 pm. After I got there I found out the ferry didn't leave until 6:30. Somehow I had missed that. So I checked in and toured the ferry (an old cruise ship I think) called the Anastasia before most people were on board. It is much like the Viking line ship I took from Stockholm. Both were built in the 1980's. They are old but clean and well kept up.

The bar on top opened at 5 pm so I had a beer and found a spot in the shade. A couple sat next to me. They are from New Zealand. He was a principal (Lindsey) and she (Trish) is a teacher. We talked for a couple of hours about everything from travel to politics. They have two children in the UK working. They housesit -- have done half dozen. Last year one in Wales. It saves them from spending so much to travel and they enjoy living in neighborhoods and meeting people. They travel to Europe almost every year since they have kids there. They said it is common for kids to do a year abroad. When I asked what they thought about Trump, Lindsey put his hand to his head...making like a gun. They live on the southern New Zealand island - near Christchurch. They highly recommend coming there and not just the northern New Zealand Island. We talked about the earthquake a few years ago and the rebuilding. We talked about helicopter parents and the trouble they have in the schools with them. Those parents act like their child is always right and is the only one. He said he is old and cranky and stands up to them. He doesn't think the new principals do. They said their educational system is test-based now too and they feel sad about the way the education system is going. We finally parted to go eat.

I went to the Italian restaurant where I could order minestrone soup. Oh my. It was green, weak, overcooked veggies and oily. I ate it just to have something in my stomach. There aren't many choices for a light meal without meat. I'm glad I didn't try pizza as they were large.

Off to a shower and bed. My bed was harder than the Viking ferry. But I slept ok but woke with a kinked neck.

Posted by Linda K 12:53 Archived in Finland Tagged market petersburg finland old st ferry hall Comments (0)

Enroute to Helsinki

I woke about 6 am on the ferry. I slept very well on the ferry Surprised. I spent some time packing and went to the cafe. I had coffee, porridge (oats with jam in it) and a roll. It was just enough. I spent my time in a big swivel chair by the window and then a little outside enjoying the morning. We arrived in Helsinki right on time at 8.15. I admire the maneuvering of the boats through the islands and rocks along the way.

De-boarding was very fast and easy. I followed the crowd and walked toward central Helsinki. I found myself at Eteläesplanadi, the long park downtown with walkers, bikers, picnickers and coffee kiosks. It seems like a real gathering spot. I walked by shops and looked around. I'm pushing my bag so I made my way to the Radission Blu Seaside. I chose it because I take the ferry tomorrow to St Petersburg and this is close and also has a bus stop near. The hotel is very nice and I LOVED my room after being in that tiny odd room at the Grand Hotel Central in Stockholm. This room is spacious, large windows that open, heat controls, a refrigerator, a desk. All nice. I took a rest and headed for a Helsinki's "Old Market Hall"-- a place to eat lunch. There were many wonderful choices and I ended up at a little place that specialized in herring. The woman that ran it was from Riga Latvia where I will go next. This is a branch. I asked if she spoke English -- she said "that is all I speak". I chose a plate with three types of herring. There were many types and some were oil based and some vinegar based . I chose vinegar and let her pick them out. It was served with two small baked potatoes with herbs and butter and onions. It was all wonderful - I am a herring eater!

I talked to a woman who happened to sit across from me and had herring on a flat cracker, more like an opened face sandwich. She spoke very good English and she calls it broken. She works for a metals company and travels a lot doing customer service (on a corporate leve). She had just been to St Petersburg on business for the first time. She loved it. She was working so didn't get to do much touristy stuff. We talked about Finland. She lives on an island connected by a bridge and wrote directions for me to go see some darling cottages. She has a home on a lake for summer. She swims in the sea in winter. She gets dressed, walks to a beach area, plunges in and then walks home. She finds it very invigorating. Wow. She doesn't swim like some do. Too cold. She talked about the water freezing and they walk or even drive. But accidents happen and last year a young man who was just finishing school cross-country skied into a soft spot and died. She said it was an area locals should know not to go because the water is such that that place stays soft. Nevertheless. She said her taxes are not as high as Americans think. She is married. She says her tax rate is about 30%. Her college was free plus you get a stipend while attending school and a very cheap loan if you need a little more money.

I asked her about it being the happiest country in the world. She said she thought it might be Denmark. She said you will always find people to complain but she thinks life there is nice. She said public transportation is outstanding. She only uses her car f37.5 but or road trips. She does get groceries delivered sometimes -- they give three hour window. She feels like it is worth it when she is busy. She works 40 hours a week. Her last job they were paid for 37.5 but worked 40 and the rest went to paid time off. Right now she gets give weeks vacation but they give you perks and opportunities to earn more time off so she usually gets two more weeks but those weeks, the time has to be more at the discretion of the company schedule.

It was very nice to talk to her. It is so easy to talk with people here - they speak English so well.

I went downtown and visited the women's store my friend likes. Mariekka or something. Cute things but pricey. I walked through town, visited a big department store - was it Stockman's? I walked to the park mentioned above and ran across a free jazz concert and watched that for a while. Finally heading back home. My friend suggested walking a street over from the Boulevard and looking at quirky shops which I did. I stopped in a small grocery and bought a couple of beers and some chips. I'm exhausted. It is about 7 pm. I watched some BBC news, fiddled on my computer looking for maps for St Petersburg. I won't have WIFI there. I don't think I'll bother buying a new SIM card for two days. My hotel has WIFI.

To sleep by 10 pm. This room is much more comfortable temperature wise. The 85 degree weather continues for another week unfortunately.

Posted by Linda K 19:59 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Stockholm - Day 5

Stockholm library, ferry to Helsinki

I went to breakfast at 7 a.m. and managed to sneak a picture of the beautiful spread they put on at the Grand Hotel. I spent time packing and about 10 a.m. headed to the Stockholm library designed by Gunnar. It took me about 20 minutes to get there. I wasn't the only picture taker -- the library is fascinating. It has books three floors high around a circular room with ramps to each level. It is beautiful to look at. The staff is very accommodating to us picture takers.

I stopped at the little clothing store that i saw boat neck 5's in the window. I didn't find much inside. And then I wandered to the Central Train station to convert my Swedish Krones to Euros. I had 360 Kroner and got 30 Euros and 32 Krone in change that couldn't be converted. I bought myself one more Swedish cinnamon roll for my purse and spent all but one Krone. I ate a Caesar salad at a nice little restaurant in the train station.

I had bought a bus ticket the previous day at the 7-11. I took bus 53 to the Viking Line terminal. That worked very well. I'm glad I scouted the location the day before by foot as it was hard to tell which direction to go from the bus stop. I was able to do self check-in, got the card that opened my room and waited in a lounge for boarding. There was no security, only one additional scan of the boarding pass and we were off to our rooms. It was all very fast. There are over 2000 people on board -I was surprised how easy it was.

I had a teeny inside room which was fine since I spent my time on deck. I pulled the bed from the wall and had a nice clean duvet and pillowcase. I spent a lot of time on deck. I wasn't hungry much so I just bought a banana and had my cinnamon roll for dinner. There were lots of restaurants on the shop from cafes to fance seafood restaurants. I sat outside and drank a beer at first. In the sun. It was hot but I enjoyed the beer. Later I walked down the side of the ship and sat there. Then up to the front and found a chair and sat in the wind and it was the coolest I'd been in days. YES!

The Stockholm archipelgo was beautiful. Islands and islands. Some inhabited, some not. Very northwest looking, with lots of pines. Charming homes. All beautiful. I sat inside for a bit on some swivel chairs but about 10 pm the scenery had changed to more open sea and I was very tired so I went to bed and fell asleep faster than you can imagine. But first I had a shower. It was tiny but worked fine. No hairdryer in the bathroom, which I knew from reading online. I fell asleep very quickly.

By the way, internet on the ship worked very well.

Posted by Linda K 19:44 Archived in Sweden Tagged ferry library Comments (0)

Stockholm - Day 4


sunny 85 °F

Again, enjoyed the wonderful breakfast at our hotel. It really is the best hotel breakfast I have ever seen. I found the 7-11 and bought a bus ticket so I can easily get from my hotel to the Viking terminal on Monday.

I walked to the island of Sodermalm today. It is an island that is more residential and not quite has touristy and i thought it would be interesting to see and it has good views back to the main islands. I walked through Gamla Stan and then to Sodermalm. There was lots of construction going on by the waterfront so the trip wasn't direct. I walked towards the VIking ship terminals first to see where my ferry leaves from for Helsinki tomorrow. The ships are big and I'm hoping air conditioned. Nothing in Stockholm has AC.

It was hot again today. About 85 I think, which feels very warm when out in it all day. Rarely do I catch any breeze. It is also humid and my skin feels clammy. I went to the Fotografiska musem on the waterfront. I toured the gift shop and decided not to visit the museum. Just not interested enough. Then walked up the hill to the higher part of Sodermalm. I was heading for the shopping street on Gotgatan and the "lively" heart of Sodermalm called Nytorget. I am amazed how awful I am with google maps on my phone as well as paper maps. Of course the tourist maps don't have all the streets so you never know how many blocks you need to go to get to a street. Nytorget had a nice park and the blocks surrounding it have lots of restaurants with lots of outdoor seating. The buildings above appear to be apartments. I walked a lot, never saw a single family home. Lots of walkers, bicyclists, some shops. Much calmer area than central Stockholm and old town, of course.

I was tired after walking from 9 a.m. to 2 pm and headed home. On the way I decided to tour the waterfront on the opposite side of the bridge and I ended up on Gotgatan street purely by accident. I walked the street, looked at some shops (love the colorful clothes for woman and love that they like lime green), and decided to eat Italian food - some marinara sauce. The Swedes eat a lot of fish and meat. I do see a vegetarian restaurant once in a while but not when I need them. I was able to sit on an elevated deck outside under an umbrella on this busy street. It seemed perfect. The spaghetti had thick noodles, not the best sauce and slabs "buffalo" of parmesan which was soft. Not a great meal but the glass of proseco was wonderful.

I headed back home through Gamla Stan and sat here and there on a bench and rested and watched people. I observe that women wear dresses a lot -- casual cotton dresses. Swedes love bright shoes and bright clothes. On the other hand some where black or beige also and look very pretty. People don't wear helmets on bikes, or rarely do I should say. The bikes appear to be simple with hand breaks. No speeds on them. I thought that was interesting. There are coffee shops everywhere. I see the word "fika" a lot - meaning taking a coffee break or taking a rest for joy or something like that. On one corner I saw a coffee shop on three corners.

We had a small thunderstorm. It was so short I took cover but never used my umbrella.

I shopped a little on Gamla Stan. I got back to my hotel about 5 pm. Again, I'm so tired from the heat and the walking that I want a nap. I fell asleep with the fan blowing on me at 6.30 pm and decided I would get up at 8 pm as I work to get over jet lag. I turned off alarm and woke at 10:30 pm. Got dressed and went outside to walk a bit; the air was somewhat cooler. Sat in the lobby on my computer for a bit and back to my room by 11:30. I watched BBC news, learned of the earthquake in Bali. I talked to Dinda - she's ok but she felt the earthquake. I think I was asleep again by midnight and then I was away about 3:30 a.m. It is 5 a.m. right now and I'm doing my blog.

I catch the ferry at 4 pm. Boarding is 2:30. I think I will leave about 1 pm just to allow lots of time since this will be my first use of the bus system. And I'm not sure how far I have to walk from the bus to the ferry.

I have a little money, Swedish Krones, to spend today. I might do that this morning as well as try to see the Swedish library if I have time -- it is award winning and beautiful. In Finland I will use Euros.

Posted by Linda K 19:43 Archived in Sweden Tagged walking terminal viking sodermalm nytoget gotgatan Comments (0)

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