The Curse Of St Petersburg

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Russia  ,
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"You like my fish? They're supposed to be relaxing, you know, stress? You must have something similair. How do you cope with stress in Russia?"

"Vodka"

Red Heat, not one of the best films in the world.

OK, so we're still in St Petersburg after nearly a week when we were only supposed to be here for four days. There is, like most things, a story behind it. Our story starts in a train station.... so often the way...

We checked out of the hostel yesterday and went to the train station to buy an overnight ticket to Moscow. We had to stand in a queue for an hour and a half. It was annoying. We had forseen problems, so we had written down in Russian the train number and time that we wanted, and Vinny had "Two second class tickets please" so good I thought he was Lenin reborn.

So we got to the front of the queue, and we asked our question... and were given a big fat 'nyet'. So we then tried to ask about a later train, or one tomorrow, at which point the Comrade behind the glass started to shout at us irritably. We stood our ground for about a second, by which time she was squaring up to us and - we're quite sure - breaking off a Vodka bottle under the desk and getting ready to lunge.

So we left it.

We went back to the hostel and asked the very helpful girl there if she would write us a note, in Russian, explaining exactly what we wanted. Basically the next available night train to Moscow.

So we went back to the station (about an hour round trip) armed with the note from Mother. We found a different queue and after only half an hour were served and sheepishly handed over our note. It was like being back at school and you've just been told to get your P.E kit on. Fortune shone on us though and she wrote down the next train time and offered us the tickets. It was in two days time, but beggars can't be choosers so we leapt on it.

So that was one thing.

Today, we went to a tourist information centre to ask about our tickets for the Trans-Siberian Railway. The girl there did speak English, but didn't know anything about it. She was able to direct us to the central ticket office though.

We got there, and queued at the information desk for an hour where the girl obviously didn't speak English, but after some gesticulating she pointed us down to a travel agency in the corner. We went there, and were pointed back outside.... We explained that it's hard to buy a ticket when we don't speak Russian, so we were advised to try upstairs where the students work as they all speak English.

Yet another queue, and we were sent back downstairs, but this time we were told to find ticket booth number 82. We felt like we were making progress - excruciatingly slow progress granted, but we'd take that.

A queue at ticket booth 82 and we were informed, via convoluted sign language, that we would be better off at booth number 85 where the girl spoke English.

One more queue, and we asked the magic question... "Do you speak English?"

"Nyet".

Bugger.

But we tried anyway, and had written down "Moscow - Beijing (China) 24/7/6" and tried our luck. Moscow was all right, but Beijing and China turned out to be issues.

Just when things were looking desperate, a chap in the queue next to us leant over and said "They mean Peking". Bless him. A few nods and smiles later and we had our tickets, leaving on the 25th and arriving 6 days later.

It was only after everything had been paid for in a rather final and un refundable way that we realised we had also bought tickets to Moscow from St Petersburg - which we already had..... But under the circumstances we were still happy with the result.

It may have taken four hours and a lot of stress, and we really don't need to travel to Moscow twice, but we've saved 1300 quid on the travel agency's cheapest price...

In your face, STA Travel.

I've only got a minute left so have to end abruptly, but let me also point out that we've had requests for photos of what we look like at the moment (I really can't think why). We'll upload some as soon as we get to a computer with USB, but in brief, I look the same (unshaven and unattractive) and Vinny looks like Chewbacca.

Be good. xx
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