White Nights Bike Tour
Trip Start Jun 03, 2010
154Trip End May 28, 2011
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So, you want to hear about our White Nights bike tour, do you? What a great experience!
We were to meet at a Bike shop just near the Moscow train station at 22:30… yes, that's 10:30 pm.! So we set off from our campground on our bikes at about 9 pm, wanting to allow time if we got lost. We rode restfully through the mixture of decrepit small industry, rundown apartments, and green parkland on the riverfront towards town, having done this route the night before.. We then had to ride up the main drag, Nevsky Prospekt for a couple of kms, using the wide sidewalks, but still tricky threading through lots of pedestrians. We stopped at a little fast food joint, mostly for the toilet, as we did not know if there was a toilet break on the ride (there wasn’t).
At about 10 pm we found the bike shop in a basement shop in a dingy little back square….not a criticism, this is what the town is like off the main drags. www.peterswalk.com
We were greeted by Anya, our very fit looking twenty something guide. A few others were arriving as we were, and were getting fitted out with their rental bikes. We were the only ones with our own bikes. Eventually we assembled a tour of 18 bicycles. It was a mixed bunch… we were the only North Americans, but some Brits, Germans, Swiis, Italians and an Aussie married to a Swiss. We were probably the oldest, with one other couple getting close, with a number of forty somethings, and only one very young guy, a 20ish young Brit on his way to Peking to visit his professor Dad, via the Trans-Siberian.
Off we went, following Anya closely, as there was still traffic around. It was still quite bright as we set off, and we wound our way fairly briskly through city streets, backroads, parks and sidewalks from site to site. The first few sites were old Soviet history sites, Lenin lived here, Stalin killed a guy there, the KGD tortured people here, the workers revolted there. As midnight approached, it finally became darker, the sites became more dramatic… a fortress here, a bridge there, Peter the Great lived here, the Hermitage is there, lots of guns and armaments here, the best art in the world there… you know, that kind of thing
As 1 pm approached, the streets were getting a little more lively, it was darkish, and the buildings and bridges were beautifully lit. We stopped at a small shop to pick up a beverage of choice (why the hell can’t we just pick up a beer at a local convenience store?), and then found ourselves a spot on the riverfront to watch the famous "opening of the bridges", feature of the trip. At around 1:30 am every day, the bridges on the Neva all open up to let the marine traffic through. It is a great spectator event, even for the locals, and even though it happens every night. By this time the riverside was quite festive with tour busses, young people dancing to buskers, fire baton jugglers. Sure enough, those damned bridges opened up, and a couple of big ships came through. You might think, big deal… well, so did we. But, it was very beautiful and festive. Apparently the bridges stay open for a few hours, so cross town traffic is cut right off for a few hours every night.
From there, through some mildly darkened roads, past the incredible Hermitage… just us on a bunch of bikes, and a few young folks on bikes and scooters, in this huge square, past one of the most beautiful buildings in the world… wow!
Finally, wound our way back to the bike shop by 2:30 am! And then we still had the 10km back to the campground! The streets were fairly deserted by then, so a relatively quiet ride back. We didn’t feel any danger at all, though I had wondered about that.
Finally to bed by 3pm (getting light again), and managed a good snooze til after 9.
Overall, a great adventure, a wonderful tour, and some good exercise!