Saint Petersburg, Russia
Sat in the departure lounge at London Heathrow, I was very tempted to miss my flight, and get a train home. I opened a diary that had been bought for me to document my travels, to find that my family and Dan had each written a little note to me. So I began my journey in floods of tears, on my own, with everyone staring at the girl who looked like she was ready for the ice age to hit.
Boarding the plane, surrounded by Russians, I was pretty sure I was the only Brit on board, bar the airline staff. It was only towards the end of the flight that I realised the lady next to me was English. Her name is Catherine, an expat who moved from England to Moscow. She eased the worries I had about my upcoming expedition, and gave me lots of tips and recommendations for my stay in Russia. We were arriving in Russia on their Christmas day, and so it was a public holiday. Probably not my best move! Luckily, Catherine took me under her wing, taking me in her taxi to the centre of St Petersburg and dropping me off at my hostel.
From the outside, my hostel looked like an abandoned building home to squatters. But after walking up what felt like a million stairs with my heavy bag, the hostel itself turned out to be quite nice. I shared a room with some Chinese girls who gave me oranges and tried their best to speak English to me. I thought that having met so many people already, making friends was going to be a doddle. How wrong I was!
The next morning, I moved to a hostel called 'Friends'. How ironic.
For the next 3 days I did not meet another person who could speak any English, or that wanted to be my friend. Lucky the City is beautiful!
For a lot of my time in St P, I wandered the streets. I feel it's the best way to learn about a place…
The buildings and architecture here is beautiful. Every few yards you walk, there is another monument, statue, cathedral or palace to gawk over. The main street which the city functions on, Nevsky Prospekt, is constantly busy, day or night. Many of the great sites of St P are off this main street, such as the Church on the Spilled Blood, the Winter Palace, the Hermitage and Kazan Cathedral.
I will not bore you with the details of every place I visited, but it is worth mentioning two things that are a must if you are ever to come here.
The first is the Hermitage museum, which is situated in the grounds of the Winter Palace. It is absolutely amazing. Each room is magnificently decorated and adorned with paintings, statues and sculptures by some of the most famous artists in the world. The place is huge, and after strolling around for hours on end, every muscle in my body ached.
The second was going to see the ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre. I booked in to see the Nutcracker before I arrived in Russia, as I thought it would be a nice start to the trip. I have never been to the ballet before, and being quite tired before it even started, thought I was going to fall asleep. But it was so good! The Theatre itself is again so grand and exquisite.
Although I have felt like a social recluse in St P, the beauty of the City has eased my loneliness. It has been magical in the snow, but I need to return when the sun is shining!