Insane driver alert!

Trip Start May 10, 2009
Trip End Jul 02, 2009

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Flag of Russia  , Sankt-Peterburg,
Monday, May 25, 2009

So this morning we caught the Sibelus train from Helsinki to St Petersburg - it was cheaper than flying and we did get to see the country-side. Although the country-side is really mostly just pine that almost looks like it's a plantation.

The Russian border is quite guarded - everyone on the train had to hand their passports over to a bunch of hefty looking officials who then processed them over the course of the next half hour before returning them to people. So for a whole half an hour you aren't really allowed to leave your seat. The train was also running a few minutes late which wasn't helped by it also seeming to run at a snails pace through the suburbs of St Petersburg.

Somehow both Tamara & I managed to walk past our guide who met us at the train, but we did find her - her name is Olga and she's going to be our guide the whole time while we are here. We loaded our stuff into the car that they had waiting for us and we set off for the hotel.

In Russia:
- speed limits are treated like guidelines
- the white lines marking out the lanes on the road are "only a guideline"
- indicators are for the polite
- cutting people off is standard practice, that other car isn't going to drive through you... so you may as well pull out in front of him.
- changing lanes while turning corners is normal, even better if you can cut someone off at the same time

In short, these people are nuts on the road (and that's coming from someone who only a few days ago did 240kph down the autobahn).

Our next couple of days are completely planned out with tours that our guide will be taking us on, but we didn't really have a lot of time to go do much else apart from have a bit of a stroll down Nevsky Prospect which is the main street.

Did go inside the "Church of Spilled Blood" aka "Church of the Resurrection" - not sure why it has two names, nor why those names are so completely dissimilar! This is really quite a pretty church, and it was only built in 1907 by the last Tsar of Russia. It has a number of those really cool spiral towers with loads of colour on the outside, and on the inside the entire wallspace is taken up by glazed tile mosaics that depict all the major stories in the Gospel, and some other important moments from other parts of the Bible as well.

We'd heard all sorts of horror stories about the pricing of food on the main strip, but by pure chance we happened upon a pizza hut buffet style place that was pretty reasonable (for example, only about a third of the cost of some of the other nearby places which were more restaurant-y)

So far, with all the wandering we've done this afternoon and into the evening, I would have to say that St Petersburg isn't really all that pretty - except for the pretty spots. Those spots which are the tourist attractions really are like no-where else on earth, but the rest of the city that you'd see isn't really something to get too excited about. That may change after going on the City tour tomorrow - maybe we've been walking in the wrong spots!

Tested out the shower in our room for hot water before going to bed... Mmm, good thing we did cos all we got was cold water! Mentioned it to reception who said that is normal, we just weren't running the taps long enough - long enough being about 5 minutes :-O  So not used to wasting that much water, but I guess they do have heaps of it up here at the moment.

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