Disclaimer: Due to the number of comments that have been received it has been felt necessary to clarify that this trip is in no way based on "The Long Way Round" which the authors of the trip were not aware and nor was it first broadcast of at the time at which this trip was drunkenly conceived. The authors of this trip would like to distinguish their intended trip from the journey undertaken in "The Long Way Round" in that unlike Charlie Borman and Ewan McGregor they are not experienced riders (they have both only been riding motorbikes for just over one year), they are not receiving sponsorship and they will not have a support crew with them at any point on the journey. Just to avoid any further confusion it has been thought that it would be helpful to point out that Tom Horovitch and Peter Caley are both fictional characters and are not famous film stars.

Friday, July 07, 2006

St Petersburg, Russia - 4452 miles from London

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We have finally made it into Russia. After four and a half exhausting hours at the border attempting to take on Russian bureaucracy one to one we retreated defeated and spent and acquiesced to the every officials wish for this and that document to be completed and filled out. After giving two copies of this form to the young woman in the first cabin, a payment of 100 Roubles to the woman in the bank (after we had killed one and a half hours waiting for her to finish her evening break), another two forms to the man in the next cabin along and the final scrap of paper to the soldier who was supposed to check our bikes we were free to go.

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The Russian border crossing

Despite all this the whole thing was no where near as bad as we had feared it would be. The customs never even took a close look at our bikes, no-one asked Tom about is GPS and it would appear that no-one seemed to have an issue with the missing stamp that worried us so much in Lappenranta. Of course something had to go wrong and other than the bank closing for an hour and a half just as we were about to pay our 100 Roubles to the woman there the only slight hitch was that we have only been granted a two week import permit for the bikes to come into Russia. Although our visa says that we are allowed to stay in Russia until the middle of August the import certificate we have been given says that the bikes can only stay until the 19th July 2006. No matter as we have been given, by the customs man, a telephone number and address of someone in St Petersburg who will be able to help us; so that’s alright then!
We arrived in St Petersburg just after midnight and, despite all the previous good intentions we had had of booking a hotel in St Petersburg well in advance of our arrival, we have still not managed to sort anything out. One am therefore saw us sitting in a café somewhere in St Petersburg calling hotels and finding out that each was full and had no space at all. While I was on the phone to the hotels Tom was trying to work what on earth was in the seemingly totally solid hot chocolate drink he had ordered while at the same time trying to ignore the blind drunk Russian guys sitting at a table outside the café and alternately dancing, laughing and plastering themselves against the window in an attempt to get Tom’s attention. We didn’t stay there long as we shortly thereafter found a reasonable hotel and hotfooted it to there leaving solid hot chocolate and drunk Russians behind us.

naval college fountain
St Petersburg kids cooling off in the heatwave

St Petersburg has so far proved to be a beautiful and fascinating city. The River Neva is flanked on both sides by Baroque houses painted a multitide of colours and all in good condition while The Hermitage has a huge collection of paintings and other art works which we all housed in the spectacular Winter Palace and which we in our four and a half hours there barely managed to see.

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Photo of the St Petersburg Metro taken shortly before we were fined for taking pictures on the Metro

One of the most intriguing sights we have seen so far in St Petersburg has been the predominance of elderly ladies. They crop up in all manner of places, The Hemitage, the Metro, shops, hotels, on the streets and loitering in and around apartments.

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Babuska's guard The Hermitage

We have seen precious little though in the way of elderly men and can only wonder whether this is because the women are particularly strong and enduring or whether the men drink themselves into an early grave. Certainly we have seen far more in the way of public drinking here than in anywhere else we have been to so far – everywhere we look we see both men and women walking around with cans and bottles of beer and occasionally bottles of vodka or other spirits.
Written by Peter
We have both bought Russian SIM cards our mobiles. Our numbers are:
Peter: +7 9500 145385
Tom: +7 9500 145489
If you do want to call us, perhaps send a text and arrange a time for the call. Remember to check with whoever pays the bill before call! Call charges from the UK to Russian mobile numbers are likely to be exepensive.

6 Comments:

At Wed Jul 12, 06:49:00 pm BST, Anonymous Rod said...

EXTRAORDINARY! CONGRATULATIONS! RUSSIA! 4000 MILES FROM HOME!! well done boys!! - watch out for the Ruskies - does BMW have a swish outlet there?

 
At Sat Jul 15, 11:40:00 pm BST, Blogger fernandomando said...

Good going guys. I've got Slovak relatives staying at the moment (some way from Russia) but they say that people travelling in Russia at the moment would be well advised to carry a weapon of some sort... It's wild out there, especially for BMWs...

Take care- sure you will be fine.

Mike

 
At Sun Jul 16, 08:23:00 pm BST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got a fox investation under my house. When you get back can you sort out for me Tom?

 
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