“Mother Russia how are you sleeping
Middle winter cold winds blow
From the trees the snowflakes drifting
Swirling round like ghosts in the snow
Mother Russia poetry majestic
Tells the time of a great empire
Turning round the old man ponders
Reminiscing an age gone by
Dance of the Tsars
Hold up your heads
Be proud of what you are
Now it has come
Freedom at last
Turning the tides of history
And your past
Dance of the Tsars
Hold up your heads
Remember who you are
Can you release
The anger the grief
Can you be happy
Now your people are free”
I really didn’t know how to start this post but with the lyrics from this masterpiece from Iron Maiden: the epic song Mother Russia! Of course, this was the song that was stuck in my head on our train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, except when the Russian immigration officers spent a long time checking our passports, then I was kinda worried. For those of you who don’t know this, Brazilians do not need a visa to get into Russia, as well as most of the South American citizens, but this doesn’t mean you’ll have a welcome party waiting for you at the border! but after that, finally, I was in Russia! 🙂
And for those of you who don’t understand a single word in Russian (well, now I know spasiba and pajalsta) or the Cyrillic alphabet, I suggest you pre-book a taxi to and from the hotel when you arrive and leave the country, otherwise you’ll have some issues during your trip. Also, take only the subway when you’re walking around the citiy… Never take a bus! I tried to ask a bus driver if that bus was going to the Hermitage Museum, and he nodded his has in such a sad way as if he was saying “now I have to kill you!” I don’t blame the citizens there for not speaking English, Spanish, Mandarin or any other language rather than Russian, mainly because there are almost no foreign tourists there (only people from other parts of Russia), but if they are really going to host the 2018 World Cup they better get ready for it starting immediately! Please, do not make the same mistakes as my country is doing now!
So we pre-booked our taxis with our hotel, the Ibis St. Petersburg Centre, which by the way is really well located and its staff is very helpful (and they all speak English). This hotel is a very good option for tourists with a limited budget that don’t want to stay hours from the main attractions, or even worse, in a dangerous neighborhood in the middle of nowhere. As we arrived there on a Sunday afternoon, we had to do the check in and run like crazy to the State Hermitage Museum because it was going to be closed on Monday and we wouldn’t have time to visit it on Tuesday. We had only 3 hours to visit one of the biggest museums in the world, that takes around 3 days to see its more than 3 million works of art… Do the math: 1 hour per day of visit? Yes, we made it! Of course we didn’t stop at every single piece of art there, but we could admire the main attractions such as the mummies from Ancient Egypt, the Siberian collection, pieces of art from China, Japan, Mongolia etc., and what is now my favorite painting of all time: The Angel of Death (1851), by Horace Vernet. I’ m not a big fan of paintings, but this one kicks some serious ass, and of course, the name helps a lot!
After the museum closed, as we had a few hours free before our “special event” that night, we decided to visit the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood with its beautiful architecture, a must-see attraction in the city.
Then it was time for our first Heavy Metal concert of this Eurotrip: one of my top bands of all time, HELLOWEEN! It wasn’t difficult to get to the venue, called Cosmonavt, as we just followed a guy with a Metal T-shirt from the subway station… Oh, the St. Petersburg Subway is another great attraction! One of the deepest in the world (86 meters underground), marble walls, infinite escalators, and those old ladies dressed like soldiers monitoring “something” there… Simply amazing!
I won’t say too much about the Helloween gig… I guess I hadn’t seen them for at least 5 years, and they were better than ever in Russia! The set list was perfect in my opinion (check it out HERE), all the new songs from Straight Out Of Hell (their new album) sounded excellent live, and my favorite moments were the intro with Eagle Fly Free (of course!), I’m Alive, Steel Tormentor (I guess I hadn’t seen this one live since 1996) and the insane medley of Halloween/How Many Tears/Heavy Metal (Is the Law)! I made a video of Eagle Fly Free for you to see how great the band and the fans were that “night”’, check it out:
And I wrote “night” like that because when the gig was over and we left the venue at around 11:30pm, it was still day! That was what people call the White Nights, a unique experience if you travel to St. Petersburg in the beginning of June. Three nights of day for us!
I forgot to mention that during our entire visit to St. Petersburg it was extremely hot: the temperature was over +30oC all the time with lots of sun and no rain at all. The next day we walked so much in the sun, visiting places like the Peter and Paul Fortress, that by the end of the day we had to get into the Galeria, the second biggest mall in the city, just to breathe some air-conditioning air… And did you notice how “easy” it is to eat in Russia? Not even our good old McDonald’s is the same there.
I can’t imagine how the rest of Russia is… Such an enormous country, it might be so full of surprises… I enjoyed St. Petersburg a lot, with its huge streets and buildings, but as I said it’s very hard for foreigners to feel comfortable there because of the language, the different rules and how the society deals with tourists. Anyway, I would go back there for sure! Мы победим это к матушке России!
Now it’s time to fly to Warsaw, Poland!