11000 Km, 14 Days, 6 guys, 4 Trains and -34C. Met countless people, forged many friendships and picked up good memories. Thats how I would sum up the trip. The trip is over but the journey continues. It is impossible to sum up the journey with words or pictures. The memories will fade over time but they will also morph into tales that will be told for a long time. And there are many adventures in the last couple of weeks that will grow into mini stories on their own.
Russia is a vast country, and I think it is fitting to finish the trip in St.Pete’s. I understand now the essence of Ilya’s statement. Siberia is the heart of Russia. The landscape and people dominates the real Russian experience. Ekaterinburg is the intellect, Moscow the bank. St.Pete is the soul, the cultural essence of Russia. True that it resembles some town in western Europe, but it embodies what Peter the Great envisioned in the 17th Century. It is a face to the rest of the world and it is a pretty face.
We landed in St.Pete at 6:45 in the cold morning. The charm of the city is apparent even in the darkness of the early morning. I think I have met more english speaking people in this town than the rest of Russia. I do not judge a town based on the fluency of english but it certainly helps to get things done. The breakfast spread in the hotel is the best I have ever seen (with real honey, in honey combs). St.Pete is a lot more nicer town than Moscow is and I certainly prefer the cultural capital over the political one. Dawg observed that the city is flat. That is such a welcome sight compared to the crowded skyscraper’d cityscapes of every other city I have seen.
Once rested, we had to do the sights of St.Pete. First stop Hermitage. Let me put it this way, even if you don’t understand art, you hate museums, know no history, make it a point to visit the Hermitage. Like Cap’n Cliff put it, it is Visual Sensory Overload. I cannot even recall the number of paintings and ornaments I have seen but the master works blow your mind away. I have distinct memory of Rembrandt’s – the lighting and composition of his paintings are stunning. Da Vinci, Monet, Van-Gogh, all in one place makes my head spin. I did manage to pick up some interesting paintings by local artists that I will add to my collection.
After that, we headed to the Cathedral of Peter and Paul which is inside the Fort that Peter the Great built. It was a good walk in chilly weather with strong winds but the views made up for the hike. By random coincidence, we learnt that the cathedral is closed on Wednesdays and we had to forego the saintly duties for the day. Oy my way, I met another artist who was trying doing some good oil paintings. He was standing in the cold trying to paint and sell and I had to stop. I love picking up stuff direct from artists and I couldn’t resist picking up a couple of his works. And it turns out they were painted on Christmas and the New Year’s eve. Awesome.
We had planned for a proper end to the trip by setting up a Vodka Night and we hit up a local restaurant called the Russian Vodka Club and Museum. An evening of reminiscing about the trip over shots of crappy and some great Vodka followed. I raised a shot of Altai to remember the people I met on the train and finally a Beluga Gold to toast the trip. This morning, all of us are hung over but that’s alright. Epics always end that way 🙂