- Each station has its own unique design and flavor. It is exciting to go to a station you have never been before, as you have no idea what to expect.
- Metro is clearly not designed for tall people. Escalator hand-rail is placed too low and you have to stretch your arm a little bit more. Plus horizontal bars in the metro cars are placed too low, so if you are taller than 190cm, than you run into a risk of hitting your head.
- Speaking of the escalator hand-rails, they still haven’t fixed the synchronization problem between the hand-rail and the escalator ladder. The velocity of the hand-rail is slightly faster, so you have to fix the position of your hand now and then. This problem has been there, for as long as I can remember.
- The metro network is now equipped with signs in English and transliterations of every station name. Now THAT is an improvement. As a slight overkill the personnel only doors have the “Staff only” text in English. Why? The doors are locked anyway and an English-speaking tourist would hardly have any business going through such a door.
- The metro is dug very deep and a trip down the escalator can take quite a bit of time. Interestingly enough, you see many people pass the time while going up or down reading books and newspapers. St. Petersburg truly lives up to its name of a cultural jewel of the North.
- You are obliged to free up your seat for any person that looks remotely like they deserve it. This etiquette goes sometimes into Kafkaesque territory. E.g. once a guy around my age took offense of me taking up a seat and told me to free up the seat for a middle-aged women standing a couple of meters away and not even looking into my direction. He gave me evil looks for the rest of the trip, after I declined. If you want to keep your seat, the best way is to get buried in a book or a newspaper.
St. Petersburg is lovely. Think of an European style megapolis offering everything under the sun, but with a touch of Russian exotics. Beautiful architecture, amazing night lights (try walking around Neva during the night), restaurants ranging from ubiquitous sushi joints to Azerbaijanian cuisine, all kinds of shops and boutiques, impressive underground network with each station being a piece of art and gorgeous women. And all this is only 400km away from Helsinki, certainly much closer than Stockholm and with a lot more to offer. It has been a while since my last visit here and it is pleasure to see that things have changed for the better. All sorts of construction and restoration is going on full force and general infrastructure has improved considerably. Shops, restaurants and fast food places have sprung up everywhere. How about a sushi place in the suburbs of the city or a hypermarket opened 24 hours a day? You got both. Customer service, something Russia is not renowned for, is now much better than it used to be. Old-style Soviet confusing as hell stores are becoming a thing of the past and self-service supermarkets have now taken place. For the curious a typical Soviet shop works like this: first you inquire the price of the goods at the counter, then do the summation in your head, pay at the cashier desk and then get back to the counter with a receipt to redeem the goods. And you would most certainly get shouted at and insulted in the process. Oh well. Anyways back to the subject, on a slightly negative side, general price level is now much higher from what I remembered. Given this rate, the price level will match the rest of Europe in a few years. Food is still considerably cheaper than in Finland, plus the selection is much greater in many aspects. Thank goodness, there is no food cartel here and there is a plenty of different stores to choose from. Although Kesko is trying to penetrate the local market with introduction of Prisma and a brand new Stockmann will be opened here in a bit. Finnish cartel versus the infamous Russian corruption machine, let’s see who wins this fight.
All in all, St. Petersburg is an amazing city with a lot to offer and see. It would make a great destination for a week-end trip, especially when you do not need a visa for an one-day boat from Helsinki. Seal of approval, highly recommended and et cetera, et cetera.
PS: An older psychologist dude stroke a conversation with me in a park and without further ado started analyzing my life from a Freudian point of view. All problems are rooted in sexual frustration and all that jazz. I came back with some buddhist gems, which left him confused. Siddharta Gautama – 1, Sigmund Freud – 0. A true story.