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Russia…day II, travel –> St. Petersburg April 20, 2007

Posted by thebigswede in Uncategorized.
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Congratulations. You survived my diatribe on love and decided to come back to thebigswede for more. You know what this means? We must be good friends. Thanks.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

— Mark Twain

Great authors, great quotes. To me travel is many things, and far too many to go into in one post. However, as a seeker myself, I can appreciate the idea of searching, exploring and discovering for its simple sake alone. Sometimes I just sit back and reflect on the pictures in my head – of places I’ve seen and the people that carry out their entire lives there. We humans are an interesting lot, running around like little ants on a hill pursuing this and that until we die. Our methods are different, our customs contrasting, our foods peculiar and our faiths opposed. But I believe if you strip everything away, we are pretty much all the same. We all desire success, we all long for love. On a biological level we all compete to survive and reproduce. But there is more too it…somehow.

We got off the boat in Turku, Finland, all a little groggy from a night of partying but excited to begin our adventure. With our luggage safely on board we carefully surveyed the bus on which we would spend a long, long time to come. The chairs were comfortable, adjustable, and leg room a little bit lacking (hey, I have long ones, I’m like 6’3” after all). Before we knew it we were speeding for the Russian border. It took like 7 hours or so, but didn’t feel that long due to good conversations, excitement and mp3 players. The Finish border was easy, and amazingly so was the Russian one. It was hilarious really. First you have to understand that I grew up in a country with an uneasy attitude toward everything Soviet/Russian. Naturally in the media, in movies, in books and in popular belief the Russians are not painted with the rosiest of colors. So this cute little Russian women soldier comes on our bus with the biggest smile, motions for us to hold up our passports, gives us a thumbs up and walks off a few seconds later. Everyone on the bus spontaneously broke into laughter. Seriously.

Shortly after the border crossing we hit a gas-stop and Viktor stepped on our bus. He could have been Russian mafia, he could have been anyone, but his pockets were stuffed and stuffed and stuffed with rubles…millions and millions of shiny rubles. Right then and there we exchanged our Euro dollars for rubles, no receipts, no negotiation, just a good exchange rate and off we went. I guess thats how they do things in Russia. It wasn’t illegal or anything, I just wish I could have taken a picture to show this guy, it was great. Shortly after Viktor we found ourself stopping again and again because of our crazy chain smoking Finish bus drivers who spoke no English. Loved those guys. At one particular stop there was this guy with a car packed with Vodka, chocolate, cigarettes – you know, the necessities. He had great prices and it was just funny to see 150 foreign exchange students trying to get a peek into his trunk to buy cheap indulgences. I took a picture but I won’t be able to post it until later, so check back – its funny.

Things were fairly uneventful until we got into St. Petersburg in time for the amazing sunset you saw at the top of this post. Really during the whole trip we were lucky with weather; thank you God. Just driving around the city we were in shock at what a beautiful place we had arrived in. I couldn’t believe my own eyes. Apart from maybe certain parts of Stockholm, I have never seen a more architecturally rich city. What would have been ordinary office buildings back home were old, elegant and decorated with every kind of statue, gilding and pillar imaginable. This was a pleasant surprise indeed and I wished several times that the bus would stop and let me out immediately so I could start exploring this place.

What happened next was skeezy (yes, I made that word up) and unfortunate. We arrived at the hotel we were “supposed” to stay at and everyone got out except the Uppsala students, who were instructed to stay on the bus because the hotel had run out of room for us and we were going to another place. Now normally I wouldn’t care. Normally its like, whatever. But we had been traveling all day. We were in desperate need of a shower and some pillow time. Oh, and we weren’t informed of the change until we arrived either. Bad planning! Long story short we waited on the bus for over an hour before finally leaving hotel #1 and it took some time to get to hotel #2. Ah the joys of traveling with tour groups! Thankfully our hotel was brand new, a lot nicer then hotel #1 and also much closer to the heart of the city (short walking distance!) so our bad moods quickly turned around. We unloaded, got our keys, unpacked and got adjusted in our rooms.

Nice place! We found our friends and it was off to walk around the city and take some pictures, with all the beautiful evening lights.

Those guys you see there, they were my AMAZING group for the trip, you guys rock so much. Seriously, Jan, Christian, Anna, Theresa, and Tom, you guys made the trip what it was for me – one of the best of my life. Lets travel together again soon, ok? We walked the main streets of St. Petersburg for several hours before finding a nice Italian place around midnight, as well as waiters who could speak a little English (a rarity in Russia). Here we are together around the table.

The food was good and by the time we got back to the hotel we were ready to crash, after doing some much needed planning for the next day of course. All in all, day two was a lot of travel but got us excited to really tackle Russia in proper form on day III. And…day III should be coming shortly, but thats it for day/part II. I’ll take a writing break and come back fresh later tonight or tomorrow, depending on how I feel. Can’t rush the writing, after all. Stay tuned.

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Comments»

1. Mela - April 20, 2007

Yeah, 2nd part 🙂 !!! Can´t wait to see the rest of your pictures from Russia….
mela
PS: Fika snart?

2. NR - April 21, 2007

Snygga fotos! Jag tycker om dem!

3. marcovinicio - April 22, 2007

Mike,

Precis, snygga fotos! I can’t wait to hear what happens next. Hey, if the doctor thing doesn’t work out for you, and if the law thing doesn’t work out for me, wanna move to Russia and sell cigarettes, vodka, and chocolate out of the truck of a car? Or tell you what, you do that, and I’ll be the guy that sells the rubles. Sound good?

4. thebigswede - April 22, 2007

Hmm, medicine…Russian black market…wow this is difficult. Med school takes too long…meet you in Moscow!

5. Nicole - April 22, 2007

Hej
i saw your blog and i really liked! i am such beginner… the reason why i started its because i moved to sweden and i would like my family see what´s going on here so if you wouldnt mind nd have some time could you help me with my blog? i love yours and i would like to learn ho wot put the pics so big and more things
kramar
Nicole

6. Nicole - April 22, 2007

http://nicolez.wordpress.com/ its in portuguese but i want to make another version in swedish and english…

7. theresa - April 22, 2007

… can’t wait reading Part III… nu skriv det!!! ;O)
liebe grüße
theresa


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