With a 5:45am meet in the lobby, the boys were ready for the next transport required for the tour. After spending a few days in Moscow with the company of Alexander, we moved on to St Petersburg with a 4 hour fast train trip. The train got up to speeds of 200 km/h which allowed us to have the next half of the day in St Petersburg.
After what feels like nonstop travel, it was fantastic to be met by an astonishingly cheerful guide, Alena, and her pink flower with which she used as a beacon for the boys, and as a pointer. One of the first things she told us was, "Moscow is the brain of Russia, but St Petersburg is the heart and soul of the country." Alena was perfectly right with this statement, as St Petersburg really does feel like a lively, vibrant and colourful city.
We had a quick bus tour around our new destination where we went through the city and down the main street, Nevsky Prospect. Some of the boys were describing St Petersburg as a city similar to Venice due to small canals running throughout the city. Our first stop was outside the Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts, where, upon the foreshore, we looked upon the Hermitage Museum and the Peter and Paul Fortress. The first thing that hit us was the intense wind that seemed to be characteristic of St Petersburg, the second being the crippling default volume of the ear receivers which Alena spoke through.
We split up all around the main street to find a nice place to spend lunch. Alena recommended that we find a Russia pie. We and a few other boys went out to find this "pie", stumbling upon a shop that was advertising por on the window. After getting a pie, we soon realised that what we call pie is very different to what what we were served. We weren't expecting a Four'N Twenty pie, but we got what looked like a loaf of bread stuffed with meat. Despite this, it was quite appetising.
St Isaac's Cathedral was our next stop. Beginning with the inside, we were all astonished by the intricate design of the building, which had taken over 40 years to build. The columns and roof were all covered in detailing, some of which seemed too good to be true. It really was a statement as to the wealth of some, yet none of us were complaining about the beauty of the place. Following this, we scaled a 250 step flight of stairs, onto the colonnade above. Whilst busy...and windy, it provided exquisite views of St Petersburg from above with a full 360 degrees. It was easily one of the best buildings we had seen, granted we're three days in.
It was nice to finally arrive at our hotel that we would be staying at for the next two nights later that evening. It's a cute hotel with no lobby with just one small elevator and stairs wrapping around it. Dinner was at a local restaurant where we were able to eat some of the local cuisine. After, we visited a St Petersburg metro station and a park where two lots of presentations were heard (or not, due to the sound of the fountain in the back). Later, the boys were ready for a good nights sleep, ready for the busy day to follow.
By Nick Fitzsimmons and Raymond Huang