That was exactly my way to perceive the magic of travelling. That was my first experience in squeezing myself into adventures. By “squeezing” I mean the conditions I had to struggle: my own fears for leaving a cosy home place and my hunger for strong feelings and emotions.
But I preferred the hunger. And I’d never regret my choice.
The first thing my friend, Sasha, and I did was planning. We set our noses before our computers, exhausting our eyes in the world of the internet. We were organizing our “voyage” thoroughly and passionately, from the railway tickets to the presents for our relatives. Having booked a room in the hostel (Central Hostel) by the internet, we had nothing to do but wait. Wait till the date came and we rushed to the train station overloaded by luggage. I must mention the fact that we promised to limit our things. But two girls can’t help taking all that “necessary” rubbish for perfect holidays. So did we.
Trains. They become our home and amusement center at the same time. It’s a unique opportunity to get in touch with people of all ages and of all trades, to penetrate into the secrets of a narrow professional world. That’s the chance to see whether you are happy in your occupation or you decide to change it radically. It’s up to you to convert a mere shaking over the operating train system into a catchy interchange of experience.
You’ll agree with the fact that much depends on the passengers. Otherwise no communication will be observed. And the plan to create a global interchange ruins at the very moment you enter your compartment…
Thanks to our fellow travellers, we were carrying out that plan in practice. Children full of joy, adults positively tuned up, conductors (!) smiling to your requests – the ideal train trip. We traversed the whole Central Russia aiming to the North, to St. Petersburg (or “Peter” as the others say).
The minute we stepped on the railway platform, Mr. Petersburg received us with open arms. We felt his breath and broad smile. Busy with our luggage and struggling with crowd we forgot about fear and doubt. Our fellow-traveller (who happened to be a native inhabitant of St Petersburg) kindly offered her help in guiding us to a necessary bus stop. Though at home we had studied the city map thoroughly, we were at a loss. Thank God, we met that woman. She took care of us as if we were her little sisters. Moreover, she was waiting for bus with us! May God bless her.
At the doorstep, we couldn't believe it WAS that hostel (Nevsky Prospekt 5). An ancient building with numerous signboards and a squeaking glass door framed with wood... Than it was time for fear, doubt, panic... One feeling replaced another, even worse. It lasted a minute, no more. Our hostel situated on the 3d floor. It looked more comfortable inside. Than we realized that the whole building wasn't so atrocious. Sooner we adored its broad stair landing with no place for an elevator, its specific smell as all the ancient buildings have.
Central hostel has a perfect place (http://www.centralhostel.ru ). We had an opportunity to reach most of the sights on foot: the Hermitage Museum, the Palace Square, the Admiralty, St. Isaac's Cathedral, "The Bronze Horseman" monument, the Alexander Column, State Russian Museum... You can't imagine that quantity of monuments, buildings, palaces per kilometer! You can walk there endlessly, for hours, unconscious of the pane in your feet... That's the magic of St Peterburg.
We were prepared for hours-long walks along the city. Every day was full of events. We corrected our maxi-plan during the nights. The days were so long, and we managed to perform the things we were usually doing for a week at home. That fact made us drunk with pleasure and joy. Peterhof Park and Gardens and Tsarskoe Selo with its museums (http://www.pushkin-town.net/.pushkin/eng/index.htm) demanded the whole day for a visit. Frankly speaking, it’s impossible to cover those immense areas for a day. All in all, Mr. Petersburg had hosted us for 8 days and nights. That was our “brief” travelling but it made us happy and filled with pride.
One need much more time to perceive mood of Mr. Petersburg better.
As for gastronomy, you won't get across such a problem if you look harder at the signboards. The word "cтоловая" [sto-lo-va-ya] which means "canteen" helps you not to die from hunger. The canteen №1 is situated on Nevsky prospekt 25, next to One Republic shop. There you can find all you need: the vast choice of russian soups, salads, different variants of the second course, juice, tea, coffee... The atmosphere is rather positive and friendly. But you may find a long queue in the afternoon, because the tourists and people working not far from it are dinning here. But be patient or come before/after the rush hours. The dinner makes up 3-5 €; that depends on your hunger level. (That exact canteen was our favourite place because it was close to the hostel and the general sights.)
The main streets are full of such canteens (search for the word "столовая"), snack bars, cafes and bistro. It's up to you to choose.
But if you snake into the side streets, you’ll find plenty of supermarkets and cheap shops. Your purse will enjoy it. So, don’t be afraid of strolling a little further. And don’t forget about the souvenirs! They are waiting for you at every corner.
In fact, every person has its own image of St Petersburg. You can’t judge it upon somebody’s words; you are to see it by yourself. Actually, this explanation suits every country and place in our world. I hope my advice will help you greatly. Travel with your heart, share your emotions and regret nothing because even failure teaches and hardens people.
And as one wise man said: experience can’t be taught.