Arrival in Russia

Things got weird almost from the beginning. As I was settling into my seat on the plane, the message came over the tannoy: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome aboard British Airways flight 878 to Leningrad”.

Leningrad??? Had I fallen into a timewarp? It wasn’t a one-off either; the same message was repeated shortly afterwards. I asked one of the cabin crew about it; she denied any knowledge of it…

The travel agent through whom I bought my ticket had told me the plane would land at 17:00. The onboard screens all indicated that it would be 16:00 – which would really mess up my rendezvous with the contact from the company! I asked the cabin crew what time we would actually land; she said the screen was correct. Later, the captain came on and mentioned that we would be landing at 17:00. As we taxied towards the terminal, I turned on my iPhone and set the location to St Petersburg. It said the time was 16:00. When I got into Arrivals, the clock said 17:00… This is all apparently due to Putin abolishing daylight saving time recently. Or something. I don’t know.

I was taken to my apartment which is in the dormitory town part of Vasilievsky Island. It’s a classic Soviet-era flat, with rugs on the walls and 70s furnishings. It’s very warm, and the temperature can’t be adjusted. There is very hot water on tap, and there’s a bath 🙂 The cold tap for the bath doesn’t work. Taking bath will therefore be a pleasure that will need some planning… It’s so warm that I slept under just a sheet, and was very comfortable. I managed to get to bed at about 01:30 after starting my unpacking, and slept until 10:00. It’s pitch black outside until 10:45ish, so my body clock is somewhat fubarred at the moment!

This morning I found a modern supermarket close to the apartment, so I can buy drinking water and food; this is a good thing. Soon, I’l have to buy an iron, but that can wait for a while. There is no washing machine in the apartment, which is apparently quite normal. Last night I briefly met the colleague who had previously lived there; he said he did all his washing by hand. In the bath. Hmmm. People keep telling me there’s a brilliant laundry very close to the apartment, but the previous occupant said he’d never been there, and nobody else actually seems to have been to the apartment, so I guess I’ll just have to practice my Russian, and ask…

I’m writing this in the Marketplace Cafe on Nevsky Prospect. Now that the essentials are largely covered, it’s time to sit down with the Lonely Planet Guide to St Petersburg and a cold pint of Baltika #7 beer, and get my bearings!


  1. well, Em, u can just choose better appartment with normal working fascilities… it’s the 21st centure so easy to do even for foreigner even in Russia…


    1. Hi Ruzaliya, lovely to hear from you after all this time! I may well do that once I’ve settled in and got to know St Petersburg a bit better – but it’s an expensive city for accommodation, according to what I’m being told. In any case, living in an ordinary apartment in a typical housing block is the best way of getting to know the real Russia….


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