This morning we arrived in St.Petersburg, and my first impression was: Wow, civilization! After weeks of shoddy roads, soviet-era concrete jungles, and cities which felt more like left overs from a recent apocalypse than habitable dwellings, the ‘Venice of the North’ was a revelation. After spending a couple of hours aimlessly walking through the wide promenades and architectually magnificent streets (we were lost, but like all good men managed to convine ourselves that we were simply getting a good lie of the land), we checked into our hostel (more of which later), and went for an stomp around the Historical Centre. The opulence on show at The Hermitage, Kazan Cathedral, Palace Square, and The Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood were mind-blowing, and sp far removed from some of our previous exploits that I was almost moved to tears. Thankfully I resisted, pulled myself together and continued with our trek, which culminated with a beautiful sunset down by the Neva River; watching the last rays of sunlight dance on the floating ice and flowing waters.
The name of the hostel that we were staying at is ‘Cuba Hoatel’, and in terms of location it is by far the best hostel that I have ever stayed in. Situated less than a 30-seconds walk from Kazan Cathedral, we are right in the heart of St. Petersburg’s Historical Centre, and ideally placed for numerous ramblings and explorations. The hostel itself is also a breath of fresh air, filled with fellow travellers and staffed by experienced and friendly staff, it is a far cry from some of the places that we have stayed in so far on this trip. However, there are obviously a couple of downsides to staying in what I would classify as a ‘Party Hostel’, especially if you are deciding not to have a party because you got zero sleep on the train as a result of the ‘let’s leave the train lights on all night and starve our esteemed customers of sleep’ policy. Whilst a certain amount of noise was expected, and received, the main thing that I had forgotten about was that a room full of drunken people have the capacity to create a sonic wall of snoring that is terrifying to behold. After my initial shock at being woken by this sozzled nasal orchestra, I began to pick out harmonies and fluctuations, and ended up being gently soothed back to sleep by my very own dawn chorus; the chap on the adjacent bunk to me providing a particulary sublime baritone.