August 4, 2012

Where you going? Russia

Filed under: Russia,Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 3:53 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’ve just spent nearly 7 weeks away, so it’s time to start sorting through the photos, posting some on the net so I don’t have to send them to everyone, and writing up a bit of a diary of my experiences (for my own benefit, but here is as good a place as any). I spent 3 weeks in Uganda, then headed off to Russia, Mongolia and China. I’m going to do the photos and blog for the second half of the trip first though, partly because I’ve already posted a few of Uganda, but partly because that’s the part that’s the freshest in my mind. So, strap yourselves in and get ready for a 3 week tour across two continents and three countries, a journey of over 6000km, through the lens of an Aussie tourist!

I began the tour leaving Uganda heading for Russia. Only thing anybody in Uganda seemed to know about Russia was that it was cold. I knew the temperatures were meant to be around low 20’s in summer, but I was expecting it to be cooler in the mornings, warm up quickly, hit the max, then drop back down. A bit like an Australian winter really! I love it that I was wrong about the weather!! It was hot, hot, hot! Our accommodation in St Petersburg didn’t have air conditioning (actually, I don’t think our land accommodation did anywhere until China), so at night it was pretty hot. The window opened directly on to the street about 3 or 4 floors below, so we did have a nice view and some fresh air. But Hostel Life was a nice hostel, clean, plenty of showers and toilets, plenty of hot water, food for breakfast and ice cream in the foyer (which I did not partake of incase you’re wondering!) But the traffic noise is very loud, and it’s really hot in there, especially on the top bunk. But I digress…

So I left Uganda, had trouble at check in when I was leaving – got stuck alongside the Ugandan Rugby Team and somehow everything took ages, so much so that they were issuing the boarding call for the plane and we’d only just got finished at check in. The woman at customs even asked “why you so late”… Well thanks to your friends at check in… Anyway, made the plane, sharing it with the Ugandan rubgy team (my closest brush with fame the whole trip) and not a window seat. Had an overnight at one of the Hotels in Dubai courtesy of Emirates, taking ages through customs, but the alternative was sitting in the airport anyway, so I wasn’t complaining at all. (Just in case you’re traveling with Emirates and have a stopover of greater than 12 hours in Dubai, Emirates will give you a free hotel room and transfer, but you will need to ring and organise it with them.)

Arrived at St Petersburg airport about 50 minutes early, which was chewed up by the extremely slow customs staff in St Petersburg. About 4 plane loads of people in an area about 30m x 30m, looking to get through about 3 or 4 exits. Did learn a bit about queueing in Russia though, which proved valuable at later dates. Tip: Don’t queue, just push toward the front. Taxi driver was crazy, actaully, on comparison to everyone else driving that I’ve seen since, he was probably about normal. Go as fast as you can as quick as you can and weave in and out of traffic cutting off as many as you can! It’s also ok to go straight ahead from the right hand turn lane if you’re the first car in the queue. (Remember they are on the opposite side of the road to us.) The motorbike riders ride down the road like it’s the grand prix – seriously, I am not kidding there. Nice to hear during the night as you’re drifting off to sleep…

Crossing the road is a unique experience, fraught with danger. The lights may turn green to cross, but that’s no guarantee that the cars turning will stop and give way to pedestrians. Mostly they’re going too fast, so you have to be on your toes.

My last meal in Uganda was pizza. My first meal in Russia was also pizza. But we also had some salmon shasliks as an entree. They were so good and devoured so quickly that I didn’t even get a photo. They make the list for one of the best meals while I was away. Actually, salmon in St Petersburg was quite reasonably priced, so I ate a fair bit of it. Nothing quite topped those first shasliks though.

The fashion in Russia, but more generally St Petersburg, was a little different to what we all expected. It was like a page out of the 80’s. Never did get quite used to seeing some odd combinations of clothing. I thought it was just me, but others confirmed it wasn’t.

The sun is a little lazy over here in St Petersburg, it doesn’t get dark til about midnight and I’ve heard it comes back up about 3ish (I was asleep though, so can’t confirm that). Did some washing at the hostel one night. Waited and waited for the machine to finish. It would’ve been nearly 1am and it was dark by then! Thought the machine was fully automatic – it was for everyone else, but I guess we had a bit of trouble interpreting the russian on the machine. We laughed at the teenage boys before us having trouble, but when it came to our turn, we kind of had the same trouble… lol. So we probably spent half an hour watching the machine sit there before we got impatient and hit a few buttons to get it going again.

Oh yeah, one of the other weird things in St Petersburg, and Russia in general, was the size of the toilets. They were tiny! There was virtually no room in them – and thankfully the doors open outwards, which is the opposite to doors over here. The one at the airport I had to do some kind of weird moon dance to avoid actually ending up in it while I was trying to put my backpack/camera bag somewhere. There was less than a foot of space between the edge of the bowl and the door. Talk about the door being in your face. The lifts are also pretty small. One person fits comfortably, two reasonably, 3 is nearly too close and 4 is doable, but pretty squishy. Pretty sure you wouldn’t want to be a big person here coz everything is made for small people (although not short people…) And another odd thing, which may be because in winter there’s plenty of snow… Most shops had basements in them, so you actually went downstairs to get into the shop. It wasn’t at street level, it was down stairs. Which doesn’t make sense, but maybe that’s just the way they did it.

Ok, there’s some random thoughts on St Petersburg. Next post will be a bit about what I did and saw in St Petersburg while I was there, which may be a little more interesting than this one.

Some pics…


1 Comment »

  1. […] personal air con vents & our very own wannabe racing car driver. It would have rivalled the Russian taxi driver from St Petersburg airport, however I missed most of it, because it is inevitable you will sleep on buses… Border crossing […]

    Pingback by Cambodia Day 12, Siem Reap to Bangkok | Thumper... — February 5, 2016 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

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