Being a British citizen in this day and age I thought it would be near impossible to travel to Russia. Lucky for me ESN Lapland offered us students a visa-free cruise to Saint Petersburg and Tallinn! It was such a rare opportunity that I had to take advantage of the offer. The trip entailed a lot of travelling; including a 14-hour coach drive and an over-night cruise. Long. However it gave us the opportunity to explore Helsinki for a few hours before we had to board the ferry. I tried sushi for the first time (not a Finnish delicacy but it was good all the same). I also was able to see the Helsinki Cathedral, which was a great tourist photo op.
My first ferry experience was mixed feelings, we were in small cabins that fit four people with limited floor space but it was cool to see the view of the melting ice on the Baltic sea from our cabin window. Arriving in Saint Petersburg was an ordeal. I was not prepared for boarder control in Russia; we were crammed in a room, tired and desperate to make it to the other side to begin exploring the city. We were in the ‘queue’ for nearly four hours, (I am using ‘queue’ in the loosest sense of the word – oh how I miss Britain’s queuing etiquette). When we all finally made it to the other side of the boarder we had a bus tour straight away, I was immediately stunned by how gorgeous Saint Petersburg was. I didn’t know what to expect but I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful. On the bus tour we learnt a lot about the history of the city and Tsar Peter the Great himself. We made a few stops on the way to take photos of the historical buildings and areas including the Peter and Paul Fortress.
In the evening I went to a traditional Russian dinner that I had signed up for prior to the trip. The Russian dinner was a really fun experience; I tried traditional Russian cuisine and was treated to Russian entertainment (singing and games). I also have to mention vodka, it was a primary topic and everyone at the dinner was given two rather large Russian vodka shots. Following the meal we went to a famous Russian nightclub called Rossi, I was also surprised when I turned my head in the club to see strippers on dance poles. Safe to say I was no longer in reserved Finland.
The rest of the trip I explored the city with Lucy and Charlotte as well as other exchange students on the trip, it was nice to make more friends and we all took advantage of the cheap prices of the restaurants and bars. The three days we had in Russia was filled with Palaces, Museums, Cathedrals and Churches. The architecture was stunning; I don’t believe my photos give the place justice. I would love to return and explore more; it is such a big and historically rich city.
As part of our cruise we sailed to Tallinn in Estonia for the day, I had paid for a tour of the old town in Tallinn, which again was interesting. The town was very different to St Petersburg so it was nice to have a change. It was also lovely to meet up with an old friend; Silver who graduated from Coventry University last year in Photography was born and lived in Tallinn. He showed myself, Lucy and Charlotte a different part of the city, which was a really nice experience. We visited a contemporary art museum and other places. It is crazy to think that the people you meet at University can affect your life in the future. If I had never met Silver then I would never have explored a different part to the city, it is important to keep in touch with students/friends from all over the world. I have made plans to meet up with him again in Tallinn in the future.