12th – 16th June
We didn’t really get to experience Finland as we had only two nights here. However we did enjoy the stay at a well located campground in Hamina at one of the several beautiful bays of the Baltic Sea, approx. 50km before the Finnish/Russian border. We were ready to finally go to Russia, get into the World Cup spirit, inhale the special atmosphere and explore this huge country. But first we had to get into the country and as we had been told before it’s not as smooth as other borders. Hence we were prepared, well we thought we were…
Firstly we were quite happy not seeing queued cars and long lines on the Finnish side, a quick stop, passport check and off we go through the green border and into Russian territory, not at the border yet:
The Russian border building showed up about 1km later. We can’t deny a certain nervousness, we really couldn’t explain. We lined up behind a few cars and then were told to drive up front and park our bikes. Is that a good sign or bad? We did and waited. The young soldier whos job it was to coordinate the arriving cars didn’t look too friendly and there wasn’t any English word coming out out his mouth on the other hand our Russian not existing. We figured out to go to the booth where we showed our visa (so called fan ID as we had tickets for the World Cup), passport and immigration. Pretty quickly done actually and we were ready to get back on the bikes. It can’t be that easy…surely not. Bikes registrations and customs are on the list…second booth!
We met some guys who went to Russia with their bikes last week or so and they gave us a form which must be filled out for the bikes for the customs beforehand. We handed this thoroughly filled out form together with all paperwork and documents over to the Russian customs lady in uniform after queuing up for 20 minutes. Light blond shoulder long hair cut straight, heavy make-up and a chewing gum, didn’t say a word just gave us exactly the same form 4 times which we had handed in before to fill it out again. She needs a copy (the word says it – make a copy!!!) and we had a spelling mistake in it, which she highlighted with a marker… puuuhh. We did it and after 30 minutes of standing in line again we were hoping that we did everything right then. We felt like in school and we weren’t nervous anymore, just annoyed. Finally we passed this test but the bikes needed to be registered… it took another 10 minutes for each bike and people behind us got a bit impatient. But finally we had to sign another pile of papers and the lady even smiled for the first time, wished good luck for the World Cup and we were ready to drive off. Another customs lady had to check our luggage and of course the paperwork again! Now we were good to go and we were even allowed to pass by all the cars 🙂 Another check point came up 2 minutes later, again paperwork and passport check. 2,5 hours at the border, about 10 stamps later we were happy in Russia. This whole procedure is annoying but in the end we felt treated kind of friendly.
First impressions of Russian traffic wasn’t as rude and chaotic as we thought it to be. A calm 4 hours drive into beautiful St. Petersburg didn’t even change our mind. Surly more cars and traffic lights but not worse than Hamburg traffic. It took us quite some time to find our hotel as it was more a student house at the Christian university – how should we know? Anyways it was very convenient – location wise. A bit tired after a long day we went out for some Russian food and a beer and had an early night.
A bit of garlic bred and meat with garlic, whole grilled garlic and garlic sauce…
The next day was just for organising stuff like SIM card, check out fan fest and get into Russia and strolling around in the city. The deep down crazy metro system and beautiful stations, huge houses and plazas, the river and big streets are impressive! Beautiful city with many cafes, bars and restaurants.
And of course the opening game of the World Cup took place! Well done Russia!
Another good night of sleep and finally it was match day for us! Before leaving to go to the beautiful St. Petersburg stadium we had to handle some ticket issues and hand overs at the ticket center were we also met up with Alex, a nice guy from Berlin now living in St. P. who took one of our left over tickets, Daniel met him on the fan fest the day before.
Awesome atmosphere everywhere. In the streets, in the train, on the way to the huge stadium the Iranians as well as the Moroccans made that day, celebrating their teams, just like a big party. Finally we felt the special World Cup mood!
The game, well it wasn’t the best but it was one of the loudest. Crazy loud. The sounds, the chants, constantly. You could barely talk to each other but on the other hand that’s what makes the mood. Passion and craziness!
So even our team wasn’t playing we were enjoying and even more when in the 95th minute the only goal has been scored. Own goal from Morocco… the Iranians went crazy, crazy happy!
After that game also Spain vs Portugal was on TV so we decided to watch this game in the city center in a bar. It was nice to enjoy these teams playing, 6 goals in total after the pretty boring game we witnessed. We had dinner together with Alex at a sushi place and just enjoyed the white and light night in the streets of St. Petersburg. Our impression of St. Petersburg and its people is very positive. We enjoyed best weather but also can imagine that this city is enjoyable in freezing winter time. We didn’t stay out for so long as we had to start to the 900 kilometers away Moscow the next day as we had to be there 3 days later…
For convenience here is a short video summary of the last 10 days: