MOSCOW/ ST PETERSBURG/ HELSINKI

Hello again Moscow. Such a contrast with Siberia.
Full Sapsan to SP where I arrive early afternoon. Just in time to check in at the hostel and head to the famous Yamskie Banya (Russian baths) because 3 days of train without a shower. There, as it is custom, I get a scrub mitt and some Banny Venik (white birch scented branches you soak in hot water and use to hit and massage yourself). I missed the felt hat. Next time.

After a couple of hours of scrubbing, soaking, intense heat and ice cold dips, I’m ready for some Kvas. “Small or big?””big”

I’m now presentable enough to meet with my sister in law parents, for some fantastic dinner at The Idiot,a venue inspired by Dostoievski novel. Place is surreal and cosy. I had a great chat with my extended family. Vodka was obviously involved.

Too short of a time to fully enjoy it but glad that I at least stopped over rather than go straight to Helsinki.

By 11pm I’m too exhausted (banya+vodka) to keep on exploring, so headed back for some good sleep in a proper room.

25/08 the time to haggle a proper cab rate and off I am to embark on the Allegro, the fast train connecting St Petersburg to Helsinki.
Today I experienced a few symbolic moments. Following the blue dot on google map to check when crossing into the EU border. Mixed emotions.

I am happy to be finally done with visas. I’m in the EU. I feel home (I know this will get some blood boiling from a few people. But I also  don’t care). Then stepping into Hesinki and finally being able to read again!

But for all of the above reasons I am sad to leave Russia. I’m realising I’ve now left fascinating unfamiliar environments that forced me to get out of my comfort zone.

And then leaving the Finnish shores.
The realisation that I did Hanoi to Helsinki all on land.

No seriously check that out on a map.

Think about it. All these vastly different cultures, languages, food, people, all these bloody visas, all part of and connected by one piece of land.

My mind is wandering, as the ferry is actually more a cruise ship. With shops, bars, sauna and pools. Pokies and karaoke.

I tried the sauna which had a window overlooking the coastline, and later headed for a tasty veggie burger, with a  Punk brewdog IPA. I met a lovely Finnish couple& their dog, we spoke about travels and Bondi for a couple of hours. They used to live in Curlewis street. Olof made me try a Finnish Ale.

There is no amount of beer or vodka that will make me withstand a karaoke so it’ll be an early night for me.

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