After being woken from various shallow dreams by incredible pains in my unnaturally contorted body I decided to sit up and attempt primitive conversation in order to pass the time. Soon enough we approached the Russian border and prepared ourselves for the first of many exchanges with steely eyed guards who didn't take kindly to our types.
After showing our passports and boarding cards for the first time we waited around 20 minutes to be allowed to remove all our bags from the bus, walk through another checkpoint (our bags, were of course, at no point inspected) and then get back on the bus again.
We then crossed over an epic, fenced bridge with an enormous, gothic looking monastery looming over it only to find ourselves at yet another checkpoint. This one simply involved the bus driver making a series of grunting noises at an overweight man smoking a filterless cigarette whilst wearing a mixture of old bits of uniform and his clothes from home. The gate was lifted, the bus hissed on and finally: we were in Russia.
|From St Petersburg|
We arrived at St Petersburg Baltic Station at around 6:30 in the morning, a distinctly Russian looking blend of grey functionality and grand Tsarist columns, and took the Metro to our hostel on Nevsky Propekt.
We quickly made a series of realisations:
1. The Tsars had it coming to them
The degree of opulence that invades your vision at every possible turn is frankly stultifying. The entirety of Nevsky Propekt is an almost pornographic display of wealth. Every building is mind blowing in its design, any single one of them would be the defining centrepiece of almost any city (or country) in the world.
When you see how awesome St Petersburg looks and compare that to how poor the living conditions for peasants at the turn of the 20th century were you can see that it was only a matter of time before people spoke up.
|From St Petersburg|
2. Russians love roller-blading
Not the regular kind either, we're talking full on Tampax advert attire: lycra pants, helmet, wrist protectors and neon t-shirt. I have never seen so many people on roller blades in my life.
3. Russian women are really hot
Whilst most Russian men look like a cross between a bear and a bag of mashed potatoes. The disparity between genders here is crazy. Almost every chick you see would be, much like the buildings here, the best looking in any British city. The constant bombardment of incredible women was almost too much, which probably explains why one of the showers in the hostel delivered only cold water.
4. There is probably more Sushi in Russia than in Japan
The following places are awesome:
Valhall - a restaurant serving meat on viking shield 'platters' with proper coffee for 50roubles
Teremok - a Russian fast food joint serving borscht, pancakes and various types of buckwheat porridge.
Place we didn't bother to remember the name of - for 300 roubles (less than 8 quid) you are given a 1 hour key card to an all you can eat buffet featuring a range of pastas, salads, meats, pizza, pies, espresso, soft drinks - alcoholic drinks costing extra. Beer and wine are included in the price however as Russians do not consider them to be alcoholic (seriously).
Everywhere else in all of Russia is a sushi bar now.
We spent the next four days seeing what is possibly the most incredible looking city on the Earth. It is a real shame that more people don't come here and that more people don't realise quite how much St Petersburg has to offer. The Hermitage alone holds such a large quantity of great works of art that the process of cataloguing them all still isn't entirely complete. One room had every wall covered in paintings by Picasso the next was filled with Matisse. Downstairs was filled with Roman statues and pottery, Egyptian sarcophagi and classical paintings from Rembrandt to Leonardo. The place is sick.
Due to our inability to get in contact with the Russians, coupled with George's one day illness from hell, we didn't get a chance to train any sambo. We made do by rigging up our portable chin up bar and blast straps as well as using the resistance bands and some chairs (for tricep dips) to set up a training ground.
|From St Petersburg|
We used the chin up bar not only for chin ups but also as a bar bell (in conjunction with the bands) and as an anchor for the blast straps (for suspended push ups).
Considering how immobile and massive the majority of guys over at elitefts.com are its somewhat ironic that the shit they sell is so useful for travelling around the world with.
Next post: Our time in Moscow