«You’re going to Russia in January? Why? It’s so cold!»
Those were usually the first words that my friends and family when I told them the news.
In July 2017, after coming from work one day, I received a call from my good friend Miriam. She had had a rather frustrating day and in her need for a well-deserved vacation, she had impulsively booked a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. She’d found cheap tickets and affordable hotel booking, and she’d be there for a week in January. She then asked me whether I wanted to join her.
In an act of solidarity and because I am a good friend, I decided to accompany her. I had never been to Russia before and I honestly wasn’t planning on going to Russia anytime soon, not because it didn’t interest me (in fact, I had wanted to go in 2016, but my moving back to Mexico made it impossible) but because there were other countries on the top of my to-go list. But Miriam was right, the flights to Russia were considerably cheaper than any flight to any of the other countries at the top of my list. So, I booked my ticket, too.
Flash forward to January 2nd, 2018 and we were both on our way to St. Petersburg. We had woken up early, we would be transferring in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and would be arriving around 5 pm in Russia.
Miriam had been in Russia once before, she’d been learning to speak Russian for a while now, she had a printed map of our route to the hotel and had a travel-guide book for the city. I had barely gotten my visa on time and I had never even bothered to look at the Russian writing system. I only knew that 1) there was a statue of Pushkin somewhere near the main avenue that I wanted to visit and 2) I was loving the Amsterdam Airport.
I love airports. I love not only travelling but also picking up and dropping off travelers; I like the stores and the decorations around Christmas. I love how at an airport you find fancy travelers in suits and expensive coats, people who look that they haven’t showered in over 30 hours, or recently-showered people wearing pyjamas, or, occasionally, giant teddy-bears passing through security.
I’m the kind of person that doesn’t mind having to wait four or five hours till the next flight, but that was not the case in Amsterdam, which was a pity because, although I had heard that the Amsterdam Airport was cool, I’d never seen it. I was sorry that we didn’t have more time there to see it. Perhaps some other time. Since you’re not here to read about airports, I will show you just one more photo:
We arrived in St. Petersburg when it was already dark and it took a couple of hours to get from the airport to the hotel, mostly because we had to figure out which bus to take, then get SIM Cards for our phones (which were, to my surprise, really, really cheap), then see which metro to take, which metro-tickets to buy, and then go through metro security. Fun fact about it: almost no one working there speaks anything other than Russian, so if you have questions or some trouble understanding why it is that you have to purchase another ticket, ask a young person to translate for you.
But it was okay. I was in a good mood, despite being hungry, not just because I was on vacation in a new place, but because the first things I saw when getting out of the bus that took us from the airport to the city were the Christmas decorations.
It turns out that Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January, which meant that we were still in the Christmas season, and we all know that there is no season I love more. During Christmas time, the whole city is covered with lights and ornaments: the bridges, the trees, the street lamps, the buildings. It is wonderful.
Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia. It is located on the Neva Bay of the Gulf of Finland and through it flows the Neva River. It is considered the cultural capital of Russia and its Historic Center and related monuments are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is also home to over 200 museums, including the Hermitage Museum, which is one of the largest museums in the world, much like the Louvre in Paris, the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and the British Museum in London.
So, how cold was it? Not as cold as I’d expected. The coldest day was -7ºC, so we needed several layers of clothes and a good jacket, but it didn’t feel like our noses would fall off.
Saint Petersburg was also the city that several writers, musicians, painters and poets called home, so there are lots of houses, museums and works to see. One week was not enough to do it all, but what we did see, we enjoyed, and we promised ourselves that we would return.
Of the literary routes, the museums, the music and the coffee, I will tell you soon. So, keep an eye out for new posts. For now, I hope you are having a great week.