When I was doing my research on St. Petes – the best hostel for our purposes seemed to be the MIR. It is extremely well located – 2 minutes to a metro station, 4 minutes to the Hermitage – and it offered private rooms. I carefully took 2 rooms – one for the Intrepid Traveler and I to share, and one for MP and her suitcase. And they were extremely helpful and efficient at getting us the papers needed for our Visas.
In Russia – in order to get a visa – which is required before you leave home – you must know where you will be staying, and of course you must have your tickets to leave. No problems if you are using a travel agency based in Russia – but if you are an independant traveler like MP, IT and myself – well – not that easy. So while in Canada, I had relied on the wonderfully efficient folks at MIR to get me the necessary paper work – and do it again when we realized I’d given them the wrong names.
So – we arrive at the airport and must admire the size of MP’s suitcase – it literally dwarfs both IT and my tiny carry ons (MP is travelling for 10 days, we’re travelling for 4 weeks – go figure). To get to St. Pete’s – you have several choices – Taxi for around 900 ruples and bus/metro for 68 ruples. We choose bus/metro! What we don’t know is that MP’s suitcase needs it’s own ticket. One for her – one for the suitcase – on the bus, and on the metro too! Hence the nickname!
We quickly realize that there is a HUGE difference between the metro’s in Berlin and those in St. Petes. In Berlin, every station has an elevator – plus escalators. And they are all well signed and easy to find. Not so in St. Pete’s. Ignoring the issue on Cyrillic – which since it’s their language, one expects them to use it – the Russian Metros just don’t have elevators. We did find some escalators in the biggest and deepest stations, but certainly not everywhere – and often they are connected by stairs.
Since both the Intrepid Traveller and I have issues lifting our suitcases – tiny as they are – and MP is dragging Mrs. P, well the lack of elevators is going to be a problem.
Only it turns out – it’s not!
MP tells IT to just wait at the bottom of the staircases until she carries Mrs. P up the steps – she’ll come back for her suitcase. But before she can get back down – and often even before she gets to the top – a young Russian gentleman has noticed IT’s issue – and has grabbed her bag and is carrying it up – or down the steps. Over and Over again! We’re impressed. Is it her white hair? IT says she thinks it’s her bewildered expression!
In any case – we navigate the Metro – figure out fairly quickly how to recognize the first few letters in Cyrillic for each station name – and get where we are going – the front door of the MIR hostel.
As advertised – it’s perfectly located – right on Nevsky Blvd.
Unadvertised – it’s also up 5 flights of stairs – with no elevator.
Ensuite bathrooms or not – this won’t work. The Intrepid Traveller and I stayed in a 5 floor walk-up in Sicily – it almost killed us. And we’re older now. We can’t stay here.
MP and I walk up and up and up, go thru security to enter the hostel (video ID required) – and I throw myself literally on the feet of the hosts. Fortunately the hosts speak excellent English – and they take pity on us. They will both cancel our reservation (no refund on the deposit however) – and find us somewhere else to stay. They call around while I search the internet. It’s a challenge. We can’t find any where that has space, 2 rooms, and ensuite bathrooms – and under 3 flights of stairs. It’s impossible in the hostel world of St. Petes.
Finally – the MIR folks find one that can give us the 2 rooms – but we will be sharing the bathrooms. And the reviews aren’t great – noisy, and small and not well located. But at least it’s a bed for the night. MP and I drag our suitcases and our tired bodies back down the 5 flights – and together the 3 of us head back towards the Metro.
My nose suddenly does a sharp left turn. What is that delightful smell? It’s a Pastry shop – and what a wonderful pastry shop it is too! Traditional Russian Pies – some with meat, salmon, onion and egg – and some with Strawberry, Cherry, Cranberry, and Apple. And coffee. Good coffee.
No lunch – little breakfast – and 5 flights up and down have me feeling completely drained – it’s time to stop. So we do. And it’s delicous. And the lovely young waitress speaks excellent English. Sigh – things are looking up in St. Petes.
The name of this haven – Stolle – and afterwards I look it up in Tripadvisor – it’s #88 of 8,034 restaurants in St. Pete’s. Pretty good nose, eh?
While MP and the Intrepid Traveller relax over their tea and crumpets – I search the net for another option – and I find one – the Suricata Hostel
It’s about 7 minutes walking from where we are – only one flight of stairs to navigate – the half-a-dozen reviews are all positive – and at this point. I’m ready to try anything that doesn’t have a description that includes noisy. But how to make sure they have room? And we have reservations elsewhere. It’s back up the 5 flights of stairs to the only people I know in St. Pete’s that a) speak English and b) have a phone that isn’t calling Canada first.
The folks at Mir come thru again – they reach the owner of the Suricata – and we’re booked into a 4 bed dorm – holding all 4 beds for just the 3 of us. Yes we’ll have to use a shared bathroom – but there’s only one short flight of stairs – and the reviews are good.
The Suricata is a brand new hostel – I think we are the 2nd guests – and everything still has it’s IKEA labels attached. We are the only guests – so it’s really a fairly large apartment for 3. The bathrooms aren’t en-suite – we have to walk past the extremely friendly security and front desk and consierge all rolled into one very pleasant young Russian man – to get to the bathroom or the showers – but the beds are nice, the room has a huge window, and there’s a washer! The kitchen is tiny by hostel standards – and if they ever get the dorm rooms (there’s one with 8 beds and another with 10) filled – there won’t be enough room or toilets for everyone – but for us – for now – it’s perfect.
For dinner we wander the streets, eventually finding what turns out to be the most standard of designs for ‘low-cost’ eating in St. Petes – a cafeteria. But it’s a nicer cafeteria – with friendly helpful ‘chef’s’ behind stations – and prices clearly posted. I have a chicken dish, The Intrepid Traveller feasts on a version of a sauage roll and MP enjoys veggies and chicken dish as well. We’ll actually probably coming back – the combination of easy to understand what you’ll be eating – even if the seasoning – while delicous – is surprising at times, and the low cost is hopelessly appealing!
Bed time for bunny rabbits – tomorrow will be a busy day
The Soup Lady and her traveling companions – the Intrepid Traveler and Mr. Piatgorsky signing off.