Published: January 30th 2009October 11th 2008
The change of the guard, Russian stile
Early in the morning we ended our transsiberian journey. After 3 days in Irkutsk near lake Baikal and 4 great days and nights in the train, enjoying beautiful scenarios over the windows we had to come back to real life, or more precise backpacking life. As soon as stepped out of the train in Moscow we had a mission. Find a cheap place to stay. Soon we discovered why Moscow won the title of one of the most expensive cities on the planet. The hostel/Hotels/Guest Houses prices here are just absurd. Floating from 25 to 40 dollars for a dorm bed. We tried since Mongolia to find some accommodation in the couchsurfing and hospitality club, without success. With out pockets almost empty (easy to guess after 3 years traveling)
our only chance was a last try at one very special place: The nunnery from a Orthodox church in Moscow. Was listed in couchsurfing, can you believe it? It is run by a priest who is a former hitchhiker, anarchist and metal-band drum player! Just reading the description we knew it had to be something really cool. We found a Internet cafe, send a message and in a few minutes we had
Its cannon fired the begin of the revolution.
a reply saying we were welcome to stay there. We were so relief. In return to their hospitality we helped in the kitchen and spend a few hours cracking nuts for the next days meal!
Moscow was built to represent the socialism. All the good things about the system are there. Lot's of money were invested during the socialist times. The city is rich, beautiful and well developed, a big contrast to the rest of the country. Were the money was collected but never reinvested.
After crossing thousands of kilometers on the Russian countryside seeing only wooden houses, no pavement at all, small ill maintained train stations, old Russian made cars, we arrived on another world. A modern city, full of beautiful buildings, subway lines connecting every corner of the city, with stations looking like a ball room taken from a dreamland castle with chandeliers hanging on rich adorned ceilings On the streets you almost cannot see the local car brand, Lada, there are mostly German cars (not Volkswagen but Mercedes, BMW, Porsche). Looking out of the road the sidewalks are filled with AA class shops (Rolex, Luis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada...)
. It honors it's title of the most
The colors of St Petersburg
I took so many pictures for my screensaver!
expensive city in the world.
We wondered why was like that. It was because all the government people earn fortunes and live there? Or maybe the oil companies employees? What all that money was doing there if it is so needed in the rest of the country. Where is the equal "social"
system? The biggest chunk of the population is starving and begging to have a single penny in their pockets while there is so much in the hands of a few.
We walked around town for two days, visiting the highlights of this beautiful capital realizing how far it is from Marx's ideas described on "The Capital"
Remaining from old times, the bureaucracy in Russia is still huge and if someone stay more than 72 hours in the same city, a registration is compulsory (for locals too)
and the fee is around 20 dollars for foreigners. To avoid the registration, we decided to leave before the time limit expired. In the evening of the third day, we left the nunnery and jumped on the train to St Petersburg.
In St Petersburg Lyubomir and Olga hosted us. They replied our request in the "last minute couch" and introduced
The laid back town by the Lake Baikal
to us a complete different approach for hosting travelers. He and Olga host hundreds of CSurfers in his apartment sharing his own room. He picked our request because he knew that is harder for 2 boys to get accommodation than for a couple or a single traveler. This wasn't all, he not just hosted us but also took us around town, really like a guide and showed all the cool sites and explained the history of it all. Amazing! Knowing more about the places and episodes that happened in these places made us see the town in a different perspective, different from only looking at the beautiful buildings and reading the guide book.
Walking around St Petersburg we witnessed a strange habit they have. To be honest we've heard about it a few years ago but we didn't really believed until we saw it with our own eyes.
In sunny days, the Russians go to certain places where big walls face the sun. In this walls, protected against the cold wind and heated by the refraction of the light on them, they strip down to their undies and stand there for a few hours in order to get some
"Is not too cold, the problem is the wind" We were told by the locals
suntan! Just like that, half naked in the middle of the city.
After only 3 days we had to go on, our flights back home were booked departing from Germany. This last part of the trip was going to be tight, 5 countries in 2 weeks. We jumped on the bus to the border to Estonia where Lyubomir had arranged a place for us to stay just after the border!
At one point we thought about going north all the way from Russia to Norway and around Scandinavia back to Germany, the end point of the trip, but with the tickets booked we wouldn't have time.
What we didn't check was if we needed visas for Estonia...
There are more photos below