Nice relaxing morning before I had to head to the train station to catch the train. I had left myself plenty of time, so was able to have some breakfast, grab some coffee, and go for a bit of a walk before heading to the train station.
It was a gorgeous sunny morning, so decided to walk the 10 minutes or so to Byelorusskaya Station to catch the metro to the train station where the trains to St. Petersburg leave from. Caught the metro to Komsomolskaya and when I came out of the station I was on what is known in Moscow as “three stations square” because there are three long-distance train stations here: Leningradsky, Kazansky, and Yaroslavsky. Not surprisingly, the train to St. Petersburg goes from Leningradsky Vokzal, and I had no trouble locating it.
I had more trouble resisting shopping at the Red Army Hockey store in the station, but somehow managed…
I had read there was a lounge in the train station, but had a bit of trouble locating it. When I did, it was confusing because it looked like it was also a coffeeshop. I asked the agent sitting in the front and she confirmed yes, half is a coffeeshop and the other half is the lounge….and can I bring you some coffee or tea?
Right on time, my train was ready to board. It was one of THREE trains to St. Petersburg in an hour, and they were all the SAPSAN high speed train. Forget priority boarding here, though, after getting your bags scanned by security it was a mad dash to the train:
First class was all the way in the front, which gave me a great excuse to grab a picture of the front of the train:
Extremely spacious seating in a 1-2 configuration:
The pair of seats on the other side would be great for people traveling together – and the RZD Russian Railways website is great about letting you pick your seats in advance, and the diagrams are completely accurate.
There were also a couple of sets of four seats facing each other:
Pre-departure champagne was offered, and I didn’t have to be asked twice!
Wow, not only was there a choice of meals, but a printed menu! Sorry for the slightly blurry pics.
I went with option two, and got the “roastbeef rolls” to start followed by the rolled porn with bacon and potato croquettes. Overall, it was reasonably tasty, and much better than I would have expected on a train! Only wanted one glass of wine, so unfortunately can’t report back if it was all you can drink or not.
First stop for the train was in Tver, where we were treated to the golden domes of an Orthodox Church while we waited less than 10 minutes for joining passengers.
Double cappuccino cake and black tea for dessert. The crew spoke extremely basic english, which was barely enough to keep the several Chinese tourists in first class happy. Unfortunately, the tourists spoke even less English so it was a bit of a struggle for them the whole trip.
Overall, the trip was super comfortable and I would definitely book the SAPSAN again versus flying between the cities. Internet access the entire time, power outlets, a ton of space, and maybe (at most) an hour longer once you take into account the need to arrive to the airport early for security, etc. Definitely a very positive experience!
Upon leaving the station I decided to see if my good luck with Uber would continue, and yup, absolutely no problems whatsoever. Soon, I was checking into my hotel – the W St. Petersburg. Not too much to say about the hotel. The staff all spoke excellent English and were warm and friendly, although the hotel was not able to offer any room upgrade at all despite status. When I arrived my room was initially a bit warm, but it cooled down pretty quickly after the sun set.
Quick shower, and out to enjoy the last 90 minutes or so of daylight. Statue of Peter the Great along the Neva River:
St. Isaac’s Cathedral, as seen through Alexandrovsky Park:
The Hermitage Museum and the Alexander Column…looks a little different than when I saw it in 1988 in the dead of winter during the Soviet days. The first time I left North America really was in 1988, and after a few days in London it was straight on to Leningrad. I guess my love for traveling to out of the way/unusual (at the time) places was born way back then. Returning felt like coming full circle a bit.
The Arkha Glavnova Gate:
Panoramic of the square, with the Winter Palace on the left:
The Winter Palace was gorgeous in its shades of blueish green and gold. I’ll have to see if I can find my old hard copy photos to compare it to – I can’t imagine it was always this majestic.
By this point, the sun was setting, so I headed to the W’s rooftop bar to watch the sunset…and freeze. It was only 8 degrees at this point (yes, in August)_ but the view was worth it:
St. Isaac’s Cathedral again. Did I mention the W is in an absolutely fantastic location?
After the sunset, I googled some ideas for dinner, and ended up finding a great brewpub just down the street. The Craft Brew Cafe was certainly nothing fancy, but it had a great selection of local craft beers on tap, and actually made a reasonably good burger for dinner as well.
Short walk back, something about the streetlights in Russia feels distinct to me….so a selfie was warranted.
Early to bed, because I had planned a very, very long day of walking for the next day!