We are getting on a Germanwings flight taking us to the second largest city of Russia: Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург, Sankt Peterburg). Referred to as simply “Peter” (Питер, Piter) by Russians, Saint Petersburg was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great (Пётр Вели́кий) and started serving as the capital city to Russia in 1732. When World War I started in 1914, the city was renamed “Petrograd” to get rid of the German sounding “Sankt” and “Burg”.
In 1918, due to the city’s proximity to enemy forces, Vladimir Lenin moved the capital from then “Petrograd” to Moscow. (Read about Lenin and his Irish accent here). 3 days after Lenin died in 1924, the city was renamed yet again, this time to “Leningrad” in his honour. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a vote was held to restore the city’s name to Saint Petersburg and since then the city is called Saint Petersburg again.
After landing at the Pulkovo Airport in Saint Petersburg I got through passport control with only two questions: Where I’m arriving from and purpose of visit. Then I went straight to the exchange office to get some Russian roubles. Surprisingly the exchange rate wasn’t based on ripping off clueless tourists as is the case in most airports (28m visitors to Russia in 2012) and I was able to exchange Euros with a fair rate and without commission.
The bus from the airport took us to Moskovskaya (Московская) metro station. The challenge at the station was to buy a metro ticket. To avoid the queue at the counter, I resorted to the ticket vending machine. Purchased a travel card with rouble notes and started putting coins in to top up the card. Little did I know the machine would end up swallowing my coins. That’s when I started knocking the protective glass at the counter to get some attention while pointing to the machine and signalling to the metro employees that it’s broken. After a while a middle aged lady stormed out of the little office and opened the machine to reveal my swallowed coins. Finally I topped up my card and got on the metro to venture towards the city centre.
Nevskiy Prospekt (Невский Проспект) is the main avenue in the centre of Saint Petersburg and also the name of the metro station.