Destinations: Helsinki, St Petersburg
Distance Travelled: 390 km
Drivers: 0, since no hitch-hiking this week 🙁
Recipes Collected: 3
You’d think that after waking up from a good night’s sleep in a soft bed, having a warm shower and eating a good breakfast, we would be feeling energized and ready to go check out our new host city of Helsinki right? Well, not mbquite. For us Spicyroad members, it took us a whole 24 hours before we could finally force ourselves out of our host’s comfortable apartment and into the city center to do some sightseeing.
We did and saw quite a lot in Helsinki; from sitting in the “toilet bowl” chapel, to exploring the sea fortress and conducting several interesting interviews. But out of all the fun things we did, the highlight of our time spent in Finland’s capital was experiencing the true Finnish sauna culture – at the Sompasauna!
For hours we sat, chatted and let off steam with the locals in the tiny wooden shack, whilst through the cabin window we watched the sky change colour in its transition from day to night. Once we couldn’t take the heat any longer, we simply cooled off with a quick dip in the Baltic sea a few meters away before heading back inside once again. Back and forth we went, each time starting a new conversation with whoever we found beside us, be it about our project, Finnish culture or why Iron Sky is the greatest cult classic film that we HAVE to watch. The atmosphere was so relaxed and it was definitely one of our favourite experiences that we’ve had on our journey so far!
Although we would have loved to stay longer in Helsinki (yes, mostly just so that we could go back to the Sompasauna), our Russian visas beckoned that we continue onwards to our next destination, St Petersburg.
On the eve of our departure, we decided to celebrate our last night in Finland with a (or should I say several) celebratory shot(s) of international liquor with our host. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we were sitting on the kitchen floor at 5 am eating frozen meatballs and arguing rather aggressively about whether Finland, Germany or Italy makes the best meatballs. (*cough*cough*it’s Italy*cough*)
Needless to say, we missed our 8am bus and almost our second bus (due to a certain someone forgetting their passport) but we were finally on our way to Russia! We just had to get past border security and then we would have officially entered the world’s largest country.
For myself, I almost didn’t make it across the border, as I strangely got pulled aside for questioning. 20 min later and after I had convinced the Russian border guard that I was not a British spy, I was released and allowed to return to the bus. From there, the remainder of our drive into St Petersburg was a smooth one, and we arrived to our hostel by nightfall.
Due to complications concerning the arrival of a package that we had organized to be delivered to us in Helsinki, half of our members were actually forced to remain in Finland for another week until it arrived. In the meantime, the two of us lucky enough to be in St Petersburg spent our time walking around its beautiful city center, being taken on a tour of the city by friends (thanks Artur and Katya) and having our host surprise us at every mealtime with delicious Russian delicacies (which you can be sure we are collecting the recipes for)!
Another thing that we discovered during our stay in St Petersburg is the existence of anti-cafes. These businesses typically provide snacks, desserts, drinks, board games, wifi, films and video game consoles but instead of customers paying for these facilities individually, they pay for the time spent in the cafe (usually by the minute). The concept for these anti-cafes was invented by a Russian writer in 2010 and they are designed to put more focus on interaction and communication rather than consumption. We Spicyroad members were fascinated by the concept, so much so that we spent an entire afternoon strolling up Nevsky Prospect in search for as many of these (often hidden) cafes as we could find.
It’s a real shame that the group has been split up for so long but soon enough we will be reunited once more!
For now though, the two of us here in St Petersburg are going to relax, have a beer and enjoy this amazing night-time view of the city from a rooftop we just snuck onto with our newfound friends. 🙂
See you again soon Ia and Jina!