Hermitage? Nah. Peterhof? Too lazy. Canal tour? Nope. What exactly did I do with my three days in Saint Petersburg?
Okay, so I ate a lot. And I walked a lot… but not in parks; Mostly just around run down industrial areas in the rain. And I saw some raccoons and owls and dire wolves… Es, really. I did research some stuff to do but apart from the main sites (which inexplicably I wasn’t entirely keen on making my way to see) I just didn’t know what I was doing.
I have become the Anti-Sightseeing Traveller. Not because the sights are what everyone else is seeing, but because I’m just not that into art… Or museums. I like coffee and food and scaring myself. So I did a bit of that instead.
If you like doughnuts, keep reading.
Luckily, I had managed to book myself a ‘rooftop tour’ in the days leading up to my arrival in the city and this, along with a self guided tour of the metro, made my stay in Saint Petersburg an absolute blast (even if it did rain 24 hours a day and even though the ‘white nights’ became nothing more than gloomy slate grey extensions of gloomy slate grey days).
I couldn’t check in to my hotel until 2PM so I dropped my suitcase at reception (at 8AM) and headed to McDonald’s. It had been somewhere around three months since I’d had bacon and for the first time in a while I was awake and near a McDonald’s in time for a bacon and egg McMuffin, so it was a no brainer.
Again, it was early on a Sunday morning so there were a ton of teenagers sprawled across benches and tables and floors and well, whatever they could sprawl across. Either nursing hangovers or still in the throes of utterly gazeboed.
I visited Udelnaya Market, but in classic Zoe style I misinterpreted the directions and thought the market was closed that day. There were a few old ladies selling old clothes from old rags on a very old bit of pavement, but nothing exciting. Turns out, you’re supposed to exit the station, walk past these ladies (obviously you can still take a good gander as you do) continue further along the street lined with second hand goods stalls and THEN you reach the real market. I turned around somewhere amongst the fruit.
Which was at the start. Go figure.
I found myself back in the centre of town and I stumbled across both Kazan Cathedral and The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. I say stumbled because I literally had no bloody clue where I was or even who I was. I made plans to visit both of these locations again the next day, but when it came to it… I just didn’t.
And do you know what? I still don’t regret that decision, because I had blisters upon blisters and I had had no sleep and all I wanted was Indian food.
On the subject of food, I enjoyed a very not Indian meal at the Ivan and Maria gastropub which actually turned out to be the most tasty stroganoff ever AND the waiter was all kinds of hot. So I left a good tip.
I returned to the hotel early with a Russian pot noodle and some Milka.
At 9AM I realised I couldn’t climb across rooftops in dolly shoes (and they stank so it was about time I bought new shoes).
First, I visited the Market Place (name of restaurant, not weird flea market I had visited the day before) for breakfast, where they give you an electronic card and you make your way around the buffet choosing whatever you like and scanning your card. You pay the host at the end of your visit. It was good and pretty cheap.
And then, once I’d purchased a more suitable pair of trainers from H&M, I set off to Rubenstein street to meet Maxim, the rooftop tour guide. All I had in the way of picking him out of a crowd was ‘nothing special. Young guy, good looking.’
The rooftop tour was actually better than I expected it to be. The photos I had seen seemed to show a kind of colourless skyline and left much to be desired, and although the day was overcast I had a really great time. The adrenaline of tip toeing across the rooftops and ducking beneath TV cables, all whilst the metal slats beneath you bent and creaked and cracked under your weight, was what made it worthwhile.
There were times you would slip or lose your footing, and although it would take some serious doing to go tumbling off of the rooftop, it still made you poo your pants.
Afterwards I sought out the old soviet pyshechnaya on Bolshaya Konyushennaya. This place has been frying Russian doughnuts and serving sweet milky coffee to customers since the 1960s and nothing has changed. Not even the customers. It’s still frequented by many Russian citizens and I think that I might have been the only foreigner there.
It is said that they serve the best pyshki in town and at 13 rubles each you could certainly afford to live in that very cafe for the rest of your holiday. Don’t be deterred by the huge queue, it moves very quickly and the pyshki are worth it.
Refuelled with sugary goodness I ventured back underground. I armed myself with a transport card for 60 rubles and topped it up with 330 rubles, which gave me ten uses across seven days. It’s way more convenient than purchasing single tokens every time you visit the metro.
At the station you scan your card at the barrier. This then allows you usage of the underground for as long as you want provided you don’t exit (then you’d have to scan again to get back in). SO for the cost of one trip (32 rubles) you get unlimited access to one of the most palatial transport systems in the world… To my knowledge, anyway.
Here is a St P underground map:
Here are my top five stations:
Now GO FORTH and plan your very own DIY St Petersburg Metro Tour.
NOTE: Admiralteyskaya station is the second deepest underground station in the world. How cool is that?!
After all the excitement I began to flake like badger. I grabbed a pizza and a free beer from Any (cheap pizza and pasta chain) and went back to the hotel to die.
I made a mistake. The mistake was hitting snooze on my alarm. HOWEVER, it pleases me to know that all I was sleeping through was thunderstorms and shitty weather. When I did finally surface at around 10AM I spent two hours debating whether to shower and researching a tour that I could be persuaded to go out in the rain for. I didn’t find one, BUT I did manage to create my own.
Unfortunately, due to very bad planning on my part, I’d wasted most of my day and I hadn’t researched the nooks and crannies of directions and possible trespassing. So when I stepped out into the pouring rain with only 77% battery my day could only go one way… And that was down the drain with my very unwaterproof mascara.
Despite not seeing or doing the majority of things on my genius Grim History of St Petersburg tour, I am STILL going to write and post it. One day, I’ll return to St Petersburg but in the meantime, the post will be there in all its glory on MOOMADs.com, ready for you to follow or disregard as you see fit. So keep your eyes peeled, ghost stories are coming.
I think the highlight of my day was indeed having a good ol’ chin wag with Nikolai I and Catherine the Great, plus an impromptu visit to not one BUT TWO chocolate factories.
And this brings me to now (last night actually), laying face down on my bed with a full bladder and half a chocolate unicorn stuck to my cheek.
I hope that this has been entertaining, if not useful. Please feel free to drop a comment in the box, especially if you’re looking for some further info regarding what I’ve been up to here.