Saint Petersburg To Helsinki.

You don’t have to be mad, However, if doves help? My companion and I have just returned from another jolly this time from , and .

Before I begin our little tale I like to mention the visa application which was daunting, well it was for me. I booked the flight and hotel through Expedia. The Russian Allegro high-speed train I booked separately it wasn’t the Japanese bullet train, however, a pleasant journey of three hours duration crossing the border all straightforward.

The visa to enter Russia caused the most difficulty; apparently, you have to obtain a letter of intent from the Russian embassy first. I overlooked that and went straight onto the internet, filled in the visa application which was detailed and downloaded to the visa office, a week later I proceeded to the office it was rejected because I never obtained confirmation from the hotel where I was staying. I had given up by this time and wished I had gone to Scarborough for a holiday. I can’t blame the Russian government for they too have problems with terrorism, so their security services are on alert also. The staff at the visa office were most helpful, and everything was smoothed out, plus the help of my companion because I didn’t know whether I was on foot or horseback. The cost of the visa £130 each, if I had it done professionally, the price would have doubled.

Arrival:

St Petersburg pre-revolutionary grandeur of the Hermitage to the ubiquitous reminders of the country’s Soviet period. We only spent three days in this magnificent city, to visit the Hermitage could take eleven years to see all its splendour. We just saw the elegant facade of this palace. Middle of December I don’t think it’s the best time to visit. We landed in snowy St Petersburg at around 4 pm their time; this was my first time in St Petersburg, I had been to Moscow in 1971 during the cold war when Leonid Brezhnev held the reins, the country was known as Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It was dark when we arrived the roads were clear of snow, and it had taken about an hour to reach our hotel “Akyan” right in the centre of town, the cost of this 4 star was reasonable, the staff helpful and friendly with a good A La Carte and Continental Breakfast. There were many restaurants including a good number of excellent Georgian restaurants which we used, including one close to the hotel where the Georgian team were friendly and the food good and reasonably priced. Talking to the staff gave us an idea to visit the relatively new Republic of Georgia, which is situated on the black sea and not yet contaminated by hordes of tourists.

Our first day was over bar an evening meal. Our second day my companion had a footwear problem, the weather was sleety and slushy so new boots were called for, this is the third time we have gone looking for boots, I am building it in the itinerary in future. Anyway, we sorted out her wet feet and proceeded to some sightseeing; St Petersburg was brilliantly lit up with Christmas decorations, we were on our way to the Fabergé museum. However, we encountered the Birdman of Alcatraz!!! Sorry, St Petersburg,  who had two cute white doves, so pictures were called for, the birdman snapping away with the bloody birds sitting on our heads!!! It was a bit unfortunate he wanted a price I had no intention of paying so I paid the minimum and we walked away. That was the only time we accounted a street hawker he said he was licenced; we never got arrested, for not paying his asking price, so we continued to the Fabergé museum.

The Fabergé museum: This is a privately run museum which opened in November 2013 in the Suvalov Palace in St Petersburg. It has an outstanding collection in the world of Carl Fabergé masterpieces and is well worth a visit, and is open late in the evening. We travelled on the metro which is well worth a visit they state its the deepest in the world. Close to our hotel, we had booked dinner at Georgian restaurant where we finished off the evening.

Sunday final full day. It didn’t entirely go to plan we wanted to visit the Hermitage museum, and we had taken the metro. However, it runs only part of the way; not as extensive as the Moscow network. It left us with a three-mile walk through snowy St Petersburg, on our way we did visit the Church of St Catherine the oldest church in Russia, and looked at the facade of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan.  We passed a caviar Delicantesant where I made a purchase, maybe a little ostentatious but Rebecca kept to her beliefs. My beliefs!!! The standard dominator is rise above not sink to the lowest level. Me.

The Hermitage: The weather didn’t help, I think this magnifsant18th-century building should be seen during the summer months, we only saw the facade, by this time I was exhausted, they say it would take eleven years to view every exhibit. It would well be worth a return visit in the future. We decided to have a light lunch. And continued sightseeing. One thing I recommend is to take a taxi door to door it would have cost only £4.

Monday: Our final day in St Petersburg. Nothing much we can today, the time we had breakfast finished packing time to head off to the train station for our 3-hour journey to Helsinki, Finland.

Helsinki; Finland: We arrived in Helsinki around 6 pm their time, just the usual checks crossing the border; our arrival at the central station was within walking distance to our hotel right in the centre of town. The hotel GLO Kluuv a 4 star where the staff were friendly and helpful, A La Carte breakfast which was excellent, the room spacious we recommend this hotel, the time we unpacked had a meal the evening had gone. Snow had been forecast for the following day, and it didn’t let us down at least we had the Christmas market to ourselves, One of the markets was held beneath the Cathedral and statue of Alexander I on Senate Square. We never went inside the Cathedral the steps leading up to the entrance were far too dangerous. The snow by this time was around 20 centimetres deep. The afternoon we visited The National Museum of Finland, which details the development of Finnish life from the prehistoric era to present times. We had our evening meal at a Viking restaurant near our hotel and well worth a visit.

Wednesday our final day in Helsinki we managed to take a city tour which gives a good overview of the city’s main sights with a recorded commentary in multiple languages, and a quick visit to the Rock church which I missed!! and then a coach to the airport for our return flight home. Me.

 

geraldpascal@virginmedia.com

28/12/17.

 

 

 

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