ST. PETERSBURG? J’ARRIVE!


…OR ARRIVING IN RUSSIA ON THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LIBERATION OF LENINGRAD DAY.

So excited to be leaving London for my massive adventure in the cold! Tiny suitcase and rucksack with me for about two months journey and no qualms. I was finally off hooray!! First stop St Petersburg. Swathed in my Russian military coat and wearing my new furry snow boots, I was far too hot for London and had to travel sweating and regretting until I arrived then I would be very happy with my choices

LEAVING SOHO IN THE MORNING

Even our British Airways pilot didn’t know why the hell, just minutes before landing, we were put in a holding pattern. A little alarming but I was still so excited by the snow-covered land I was viewing the window that I didn’t care. We were here and it was all so alien. The view from the plane window had gone from green and pleasant land to white snow sculpted land and sea. I knew I was going to have the trip of a lifetime. Overexcited and overawed, I waited to land, England already a distant memory.

VIEW FROM PLANE

Half an hour later, the dignitaries and brass band left the runway and we were allowed to land! I still didn’t really understand the magnitude of the day. That would soon be rectified.

A BIT OF HISTORY ABOUT LENINGRAD DAY.

Immigration was much easier than I imagined, actually, everything in Russia ended up being much easier than I had anticipated. And what an honour to arrive on the 75th anniversary of Leningrad Liberation day. It was beautiful and tragic to see the present-day soldiers and fireworks in the swirling snow so I thought I’d make the video below in their honour.

SIEGE OF LENINGRAD

The Siege of Leningrad was one of the most brutal, painful and dramatic chapters of World War II, and saw Russia’s second-largest city hold out against Nazi forces for 2 years, 4 months, 2 weeks and 5 days, at the cost of over 350,000 military and nearly 650,000 civilian lives.

For its resistance, Leningrad appropriately became the first city to be bestowed the title of Hero City in 1945.

RESPECT TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO SUFFERED SO

“The city was renamed Petrograd in 1914, at the beginning of World War I, because it sounded less German, was then named Leningrad after the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, and again became St. Petersburg in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Confusingly, the surrounding region (oblast) is still known as Leningrad
ARE WE CLEAR NOW?! Not sure I am!

TOP TIP: Always pre-book cabs in very alien places as you just don’t know what to expect when you get there, this being a perfect example. I’ve done years of toughing it out, it’s a stupid, false economy and you always regret it and start the adventure with stress and a bitter taste in your mouth instead of wonder and pleasure. (I’ve looked at many a taxis metre accusingly and being strongly suspicious they are taking a hideous scenic route to the wrong destination rather than gaze out the window at the new wonders whizzing past secure in the knowledge I’ve had it all sensibly booked) The hotel sorts it and it’s basically the same price and no effort The man is there with your name on a board just like in any other place, helps you with luggage and takes you straight to the car. ( I also did this for meeting me off the train in Irkutsk that was organised by Real Russia and taking me to Lake Baikal thank god!!) The cab that met me got me promptly to Hotel Bridge. It took only 20 minutes even though there were big fat fluffy flakes falling heavily and two feet of snow on the ground everywhere. Although the tip was included I always give a bit extra if they’ve been super helpful.

J’arrive? I hear you question? What’s that title about? Well, it’s because, in the time of the Tsars (and Anna Karenina!), the aristocracy used French a great deal bearing in mind that the Russian empire sprawled across two continents being both Asian Russia and European Russia, so French was very a la mode for the elite.

ICICLES EVERYWHERE. THEY CLEARED THEM EACH DAY AND CLOSED OFF PAVEMENTS

“The hotel is truly lovely and I have an excellent room with a river view. It only has a bridge entrance that separates it from the Hermitage, and restaurants and shops in spitting distance at the back. From the first night, I knew I had chosen well. My view over the frozen river was of the palaces and classical buildings which house museums and galleries. This is so elegant you feel transported to another time It also feels a very safe area. The staff are lovely and my room although simple is very comfortable. Excerpt from my diary about The Bridge Hotel which I booked in London through ever-faithful Booking.com

This city and this particular hotel are ideal for the Old Birds Club, it’s kind and lovely. It’s not expensive and there is no fear of being a solo traveller, I would recommend it highly especially at this time of year.” from the old birds’ diary

I just had time that night to go to a small smart restaurant and have some delicious, unctuous beef cheeks in a sticky sauce served with creamy mash and kale and then walk with the crowd in Nevsky Prospekt gazing at their superb show in Palace Square.

BEEF CHEEKS

I topped this off with a brandy and went to my room to gaze out of the windowpane juddering firework display! This snowy but bright and crisp environment was a wonder to me. I’d not seen real snow for years, and certainly not this much! And icicles! Some as long as around five feet, hanging from the extraordinary embellishments on these grand buildings! What a place!! So exciting and not scary at all! I’d already been out at night used my Google translate and mimed like a fool to the delight of the locals. I had felt no anxiety at all!

HOORAH ST. PETERBURG, HOORAH RUSSIA, IT’S ME REBECCA, J’ARRIVE!!!

доброй ночи or CALM NIGHT!

Over and out from Rebecca!

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