St. Petersburg – A blessing in disguise

big circuit

When shit happens...

Shit always happens to some types of people, especially people like me. If you have a thirst for adventure, don’t hesitate to travel with me. I can guarantee you will have unforgettable moments being called by airport officers through a microphone because they forgot to tell you that it’s forbidden to bring a power bank, get stuck in passport control, and even be banned from a flight. You won’t ever get bored, trust me.
After staying too long in my hometown in Indonesia while waiting for approval from the Government of Russia regarding my living permit, which was unfortunately postponed due to the World Cup (now I have a reason to hate this kind of event), I decided to use a tourist visa and waited there for 2 weeks before getting a stamp with permission on it to live in Lenin’s homeland for 3 years. And yes, I got it, finally!

Instead of exploring Mother Russia, I prefered to try my luck: I applied for a Schengen Visa to Spain. The process was quite painful for me. I fully understand the fear of the embassy when somebody asks for a visa or even asylum. The responsibility is on their shoulders. They must decide which kind of person to whom they should give a visa. But, to be honest, sometimes they have no idea that a person tricked them into giving them a visa. Therefore, they asked too many documents of me, starting from bookings on airplanes that I needed to pay for in advance and also hotel reservations that they said that I should pay for as well. That’s just totally unfair. They never asked such things of other applicants, but I am Indonesian and the possibility of my migrating there is imminent. Sorry, but I am not interested moving to a country with too many tourists.
So, with a bold voice, I told them to fast track my visa process. I’d rather go somewhere without a visa than be checked on like a criminal. But then, feeling desperate, I opened my passport on the day I took it back from the visa center. Guess what, I won the lottery. A one month visa to Spain!

But, wait, don’t throw a party too soon...

Everything was ready, we just needed to wait for our flight and keep cool, calm, and collected.
On D-Day, right on the passport control, they banned me from flying, sent me to a cabin with some officers, asked me to fill in the form, and pay a fine! FINE! Yep, fine that makes me feel not so fine. They stated that I didn’t have a visa for going out from Russia and back, because the living permit is different from the visa! WHAT! Then, I found out that ‘baba’ (a rather rude name for woman/girl in Russia) at the local immigration office forgot to give me my visa. Seems she is too busy caring for her hair, her fake tanning for her skin, and her appearance, and she even forgot to do her own job well and forgot to say sorry for making such an unforgivable mistake. Nope, I won’t ever forgive her. I will just forgive her if she pays all of our expenses for the Spain trip….

Then what should I do? Of course, I reapplied for a visa and waited for 1 month. As you know, everything in Russia that relates to bureaucracy will take about 1 month. They really don’t care if they can do something in one day, they just follow the rule that states they have one month to do it. So, at this point, I couldn’t be cool, calm, and collected like before. I was panickkkked!!! I tried to solve the problem ‘of not having a holiday’. There’s only one way to travel, by rail, because it seems I have permanent trauma regarding flying, especially from Sheremetyevo, and inside Russia.

Here I come Sapsan!

To set off on a journey inside Russia isn’t as painful as before. If we compare it to Indonesia, where every island has water as a border and the most comfortable way to travel if you have a limited time is by plane, Russia offers some flexible ways to explore its beauty. For the one who loves to drive and doesn’t mind spending more time on the road, a car becomes the best choice. For the one who loves to make a flying visit and can’t drive (like me), travel by plane is more comfortable. They have dozens of budget airlines available. However, as I mentioned before, I felt tired of Immigration Control and anything similar, so my choice was Sapsan. Sapsan is a type of high speed train that connects Moscow and St. Petersburg. Yeah, unfortunately, and at the moment they just have one route. If you need to go to Kazan or maybe Pskov and Velikiy Novgorod, which are a stone’s throw away (in Russian size) from St. Petersburg, you need to make a transit in this city and then take the commuter trains (read: Lastochka) that usually take from 2 up to 3 hours.

Speaking personally, Sapsan has successfully mended my broken heart. The price was surprisingly cheap, despite the fact that we bought tickets 2 days before our departure. It costed only 2,600 rubles per person (around 39 USD).

The advantages of traveling by rail are many. You don’t need to wake up to early to go to the airport and spend about two or three hours just to board the aircraft, you don’t need to feel anxious about the weather and turbulence. However, to make it easier and because our train would depart early in the morning, we stayed one day in a hotel close to Leningradsky Vokzal. My hotel itself was located in Kazanskiy Vokzal, right in front of the train station we needed.

That was my first time going on a high speed train (250 km/hour). It wasn’t as fast as Maglev or Shinkansen, though. Yet, it’s much more comfortable compared to an airplane.

Facilities:

  • Canteen/restaurant, you can also order food from the menu at your seat.
  • Clean bathroom
  • Wi-Fi
  • Souvenir shop
  • Reclining seat
  • Not so bright a cabin lamp so you can sleep without worrying about turning into dust by getting too bright a lamp.
  • Places for people with pets

Welcome to the hotel!

Russia used to be a quite expensive destination, but since the national currency has slumped against the USD, everything looks so cheap. Yep, we can benefit as well from the World Cup 2018, where Russia played host for this well-known (and annoying) event. Moreover, if you include St. Petersburg in your list, you can find various interesting, affordable, and cheap hotels.

First hotel: Ekspo Hotel - Liteyniy Avenue

Second hotel: Greenfeel Apart-Hotel, Nevsky Prospekt

The price ranges from 1,500 rubles (20-25 USD) per night, already with breakfast. The unique thing about hotels in St. Petersburg is that they were built inside a really really old building. So, you might be surprised to find out that your hotel is hidden inside a 4 storey Kruschev-era building, where the lift is just for two people and sometimes it doesn’t even work or they just simply don’t have it.

But when you come inside, the room is really comfortable, especially when it’s cold. The design is unusual; they mostly embrace the mezzanine style. So, you have two floors inside your room, the first one has a sofa, television, and bathroom, while the second one is just your own bedroom.

The weather was horrible…

but I really didn’t care. As long as you have a suitable jacket, an umbrella and a bit of endurance + patience about how gloomy St. Petersburg can be, everything will be alright. St. Petersburg taught me that happiness is not about being under the sun, happiness is inside you; it depends on how you enjoy yourself and the environment around you. Even the most horrible weather could be nice when you just accept it and enjoy it!

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