I have spent the last hour trying to control a PC that speaks Russian. Sorry but the photo download became difficult.
I departed Vosu in northern Estonia 2 days ago after enjoying a peaceful break with saunas and an entire campground to my self. Already the jibbers was setting in in anticipation of getting into Russia as it had been so hard and time consuming and expensive to negotiate. Narva-Joesuu was a small but touristy place to stay before my last swansong in what I would say has been a very enjoyable stay in the Baltics especially Estonia. It is vibrant and optimistic. Underlying this attitude is all the things that we westerners are now acutely aware of. The credit squeeze will hit the Baltics in different ways as I think there are many more dangerous situations that people face. Repossession is a way of life for the Baltics . Here today gone tomorrow!
Narva-Joesuu gave me the feeling that this place was the summer haunt for some very wealthy aristocrats in a bygone era. The beautiful Russian style villa's were still present but attempts to construct a modern 'calypso' village has been very hard. The beaches are good and clean but many multistorey building remain unfinished and lacking almost any maintenance.
Entering Russia proved to be time consuming officious and predictable. The roads were 'designed 'to put anybody wanting to travel past the first 10 kms. I was travelling in mostly 2nd,3rd and 4th gear for the first 2 hours. This the national highway. There were crevasses in the road not just ruts and holes. Cars in both directions just weaved their to and fro trying find a way of avoiding the BIG ones. Meanwhile local taxi drivers who were drove these roads everyday just ignored the road condition and drove on in their trusty Lada's.
I arrived in peak hour (6pm) and to my utter surprise managed to get close to the centre without too much bother. Finding a hotel was another drama. My guidebook was in english and 'all' the names were in russian. So I asked some locals. Young educated people all speak a little bit of english luckily for me. I walked for 5 hours yesterday hoping to get close to the old city where the fampus galleries and museum are. Footsore and weary I gave up and came back deciding that the metro was the way to go. St petersburg is both modern and shabby. It has some very modern motorways and some appalling cobbled streets. The facade that is the main boulevades is often just one building deep with some pretty run-down industrial zones existing behind. There are some very new apartments and hotels being contructed and St Petersburg certainly is a big city. International tourism is just a small part of this infrastructure. People are very fashion conscious. Women wear tons of makeup and dress to the 'nines' when out on the streets. High heels, tight pants or mini-skirts for the girls. Mature women still dress well but thet are different to the Baltic people. The men are more casual about their dress. I walked through what I would call low grade apartment accommodation areas where the streets were clean but all building sadly lacked any exterior maintenance. Yet shops and I am sure peoples living areas were very good. I guess Russians spend more time in doors than out. And at ther moment they are all trying to get their dose of sun. Cos the days have been hovering around 15deg. pretty pleasant weather.
So far since leaving the UK I have seen not one drop of rain. Now thats got to be good luck!
On Monday I head into the never never that is trans-Russia. There is a lot to see Pushkin, Cheropovets, Vologda and the Urals before reaching Novosibirsk in approximately one week and a few days.