Get the Russian visa in Tallinn, almost delayed me one week; and I was lucky because the Chilean guy that I knew in the embassy couldn’t get it, in spite of that he had an invitation. I processed my visa through an agency of tourism, the easier way to getting it.
From the capital of Estonia, I took a ship toward Saint Petersburg, in fact more than a ship it was a cruise, because immediately I entered I got lost. It had 8 floors; with cabins of different categories, restaurants, bars and a dancing disk. And although I travelled with my bicycle and in the cheapest cabins, I felt as a tourist of upper class because I had never boarded to one. And it was amusing, at midnight I attended to the show of Russian dances and then to the erotic show.
I arrived to Saint Petersburg on Sunday morning, after 12 hours trip, we disembark in the port which was only some km to the centre. And I was lucky, in spite of the cold the day was nice and I could stroll for great part of the city, during almost the whole day.
I visited the church of Christ’s Resurrection, the temple monument which I saw in some photos about San Petersburg when I was child. There I knew that the church was raised in the place where the emperor from Russia “Alejandro II” was hurt deadly in 1881 but it was built between 1883 and 1907, under Alejandro’s approval III.
It was one of the places more frequented by the tourists, so without losing opportunity I placed my bicycle in the sidewalk that surrounds to the temple, I opened my map and I began to sell my trip pictures and my dolls. During a long while, I was one of the attractions of the place, people surrounded me and snooped the bicycle and many of them bought some dolls. But suddenly a man wearing security clothes arrived and he ordered me to cross of sidewalk. But in the other side the sales were not the same ones, so with some money in my pocket I left and I went to look for a place to sleep.
In a family home
During the afternoon there were several people who said to me to take care, “the city is dangerous and the robberies to the tourists are very frequent”. I tried to find the information tourism office, but none of 10 people who I asked could indicate it. So I called Alex, a Russian guy who worked with tourism; an Italian man had given me his telephone in Tallinn. Then Alex told me about a family home where the lady rented some rooms.
The hotels in San Petersburg are too expensive and there are not many options for the simple travellers, so when I saw this room I paid per two nights that I would remain in the city, but then I was sorry.
In my second day I was invited several times to people’s houses who I knew while I worked in one of the pedestrian streets of the city. An older gentleman present me one of the cakes that he sold; a boy a giant chocolate too; and other people invite me during several minutes to go to drink a vodka. The nice thing was they didn’t care about the language, sometimes we couldn’t understand each other, but they only wanted to be kindly and participate on my trip in another way. They were very nice people.
The following afternoon I returned to the Church of Christ’s Resurrection because I wanted to visit it, but the security guy ordered me to remove my bike from the door, and to leave it outside, on the other sidewalk. So I desisted.
Very different to people of the place, the police are not kindly and for anything they scream intimidating one as if was a criminal.
That same afternoon I stopped to sell near the temple, but this time, in the other sidewalk. Ten minutes later another security guy came and he began to scream and although I didn’t understand him I supposed that I should disappear, but I stayed there. But the person who was talking me became nervous and he advised me to leave the place immediately, being that a mafia controls all the best places to work and none can arrive and to sell its merchandise.
So I moved my position for the other side of the temple, where the tourists also frequented; but five minutes later the same guy came to me and an brave tone he continued screaming me. And according to another person it was the last time that he told it to me.
And it was true, because I didn’t return more.
The night in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is a giant city, it has 5 million inhabitants that expand in a area about 600 square km. Due to its location on the river Neva the city has several bridges and channels that together to its architecture as majestic as fascinating becomes it in an singular place.
In the night it would seem that anything stop, it was the last days of summer and their people took advantage of them, because in winter the temperature can be more than 30º below zero. In the street many people walk with their bottle of alcohol in their hands, it doesn’t care their age, everybody drink too much, the youngest too. Here I saw more drunken than no one other city. The police cars come and go with their lit sirens. What have it happened? In the main avenue: “Nevskiy Prospekt” operatives and trucks work breaking the sidewalks as if was midday. It was the 23.30 hs and St. Petersburg didn’t stop. It surprised me.
In my last day I witnessed a great multitude that showed against the attack of “Osetia of the North”, where died more than 300 children, it was difficult to come closer with my bicycle and all my things, there were thousands of people and I couldn’t cycle, so I thought that the better option was to leave the place.
I also visited the fortress in the island Zayachiy and the museums “Central Building of the Academy of Sciences”, where a collection of embalmed foetuses exists of “Pedro the Big one”. Among the most curious several foetuses exist some Siamese and a Cyclopes (a single eye).
But the biggest surprise in St. Petersburg was to meet Claude Marthaler, a Swiss guy from who I had read in Argentina several years ago, when he was travelling by bike around the world too.
I was inspired by him to come true my dream. His odyssey ended after 7 years, in those that he travelled 122.000 km. The reason of his trip to Russia was to carry out an exhibition of pictures of his journey without ends of lucre, because according to Claude, Russia had been his favourite country.