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June 2nd 2012
Published: July 7th 2012
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In spring we decided to go to Madrid Open tennis tournament. The idea was vague and was quite suddenly replaced by the idea of going to Roland Garros. There was also an idea to visit Belgrade for Serbian Open. Luda wanted to see Novak Djokovitch. I would keep her company with great pleasure, though I do not know a single thing about tennis, but I’d be happy to see the places. Finally, it was firmly decided to get ready for Roland Garros. There were about two months for that, if not more. I bought a ticket, and then another, for the tournament (there were almost none of them for the main court). We applied to the France Visa Centre for visas and then happened a magical thing for me – I applied for a two-week single entry visa, instead I received a multiple visa, 90 days within a year. I am too glad of that; such trips will demand lots of money. Luda got her first one-month multiple visa.

So, I planned and booked various tickets and accommodation. We decided to have separate rooms in the hostel – it seemed a bit cheaper, though I would much prefer a 2- or 3-star hotel to a hostel. And their prices seemed also a bit cheaper than hostels, and the range of hotels was also wider. It would be cheapest to book a hotel outside the Peripherique. Finally, I booked Montclair Hostel. It was not a good idea to invent the check-in at 15.00 or 16.00 PM especially if one arrives in the morning.

The route of the trip was as follows: St. Petersburg – Minsk (by train), Minsk – Berlin (by Eurolines bus), Berlin – Paris (by Berlin Linien Bus and Eurolines bus; I made a huge mistake of failing to buy the promo tickets of Eurolines, so I bought one promo ticket from BLB), Paris – Berlin (bus), Berlin – Riga (Ecolines bus), Riga – St. Petersburg (bus). We took buses because Luda is afraid of flying. Anyway, we saw a portion of the land on the long way and it was not uncomfortable at all, except sleeping. Buses are much cheaper.

We started our trip by taking a train to Minsk from St. Petersburg at 19.00 in the evening and arrived at 8.30 in the morning on 1.06. We had a bit of spare time before the bus and so had a short walk to the Niamiga trade centre looking for some minor items and then had a meal at Il Patio on Nezalezhnosti Prospekt, from where we went to the bus station (it is quite close there).

The bus to Berlin departed at 12.00, there being only 6 passengers. I wonder whether it brings any profit to the company. We enjoyed our trip observing the countryside and talking; at first I had a bit of headache. At 18.00 we arrived to Brest and quite soon crossed the Poland border (about an hour; there were no queues and no people besides our bus) and already at 19.00 stopped to have a delicious and cheap meal at a road café. In the evening, we passed Warszawa without any stops but we saw the beautiful view of the Palace of Culture and Science rising high above the illuminated city.

I did not sleep very well and at some early hour in the morning I perceived a city through the window and that seemed quite a huge city, turning out to be Berlin. We arrived at 6.00 to ZOB am Funkturm and it was unpleasant to get outside the bus due to the cold and wind – it was remarkably cold. Cold persecuted us till Riga where it finally terminated. I had a coffee and bought the map and we spent rather much time searching for metro and a bit more time trying to understand the principle of Berlin metro. Luda managed to find the right line and so the two of us reached Berolina hotel at about 8-9 o’clock. I would definitely recommend Berolina hotel, the price was 41 Euro for the double room though the shower was only on the floor but that’s no inconvenience. It is located very, very close to metro station and within easy reach to tourist destinations. Gedachtniskirche, unfortunately, was under renovation.

We wanted breakfast so Luda sent me to the nearby McDonalds which I failed to find, and KFC was still closed, but finally I bought some fried potatoes with sausage and then we had a rest.

The sightseeing started from Alexanderplarz, and since I’m very ordinary in seeing and photographing the sights, there is little to relate. We walked along Unter den Linden and I noticed much renovation work there, the street itself looked splendid and cozy to me. Luda wanted to go inside Reichstag but the notice said it required preliminary online registration (which we managed later).

Our dinner time was spent at KFC eating lots of chicken and fried potatoes (fried potatoes were quite a protagonist during this trip). The bus to Paris was due to depart at 19.30 and so did we; the route was spotted with wind stations and I was astonished seeing the trucks transporting their huge elements.

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