I grew up in Moshav Timmorim – just a small, insignificant, agriculture settlement, one hour south from Tel Aviv – I guess most of you know that – there’s maybe around 150-200 families living there. So 5 million neighbors (as Anna says) is quite a lot. Especially when “it’s Russia”.
After my first hitchhiking trip in Europe (October 10′ Kavod) I decided to avoid the cities, and I did! – Lofoten, Nordkapp, Lapland – what more do you need?! When I got to Helsinki and spent the night next to the railways (as fun as it was!) I asked my self what the f*** am I doing in the city?? Why did I ever leave the beautiful north?? And of course there were good answers and so on.. But you know.. still..
I got to Saint Petersburg (SPb)! F*** me, I’m shaking! It’s not pleasant Europe anymore – this is Russia. It’s what I learned to be scared of all my life.. I’m waiting for my Turkish host, Yasin, to come and pick me up. Sitting on the bench and watching poor people, garbage, poor people looking in the garbage, and so on.. Yasin is coming, we say hello, and I immediately get a better feeling, like meeting an old friend. Great vibes are in the air, and the frequencies are tuned. It will take another hour, or a day, but we’ll become best friends.
Spoiler: After 11 days living with this guy, I can say we are.
In the next day we go out together in the evening to the Italian speakers meeting of Saint Petersburg. Even though I don’t speak more than three Italian words (grazie, ciao, arrivederci) I feel fine and social! I meet Kazakh Katerine, and when she heard I’m heading to Kazakhstan we both got intrigued! A few days later she invites Yasin and me to cook together at her place. We check Google Maps to see the best way to get to her house and we decide to take the bus.
Lets talk for a second about SPb’s metro – The first time you go inside, after using the chip (ז’יטון) you buy for 25 Roubles (рублей) you go to the escalators and you can’t help the ‘wow’ feeling. The escalators goes so deep in the ground! If you stand still, it will take 3 minutes to get up or down… It’s pretty cool.
So, after usually taking the metro (just because it’s so cool and cheap!) we decide it will be faster to take the bus. We go down where we think is good and start walking to find our way to Kate’s. Kate said it’s among a few yellow bricked houses, and we see one and we try to find our way to it. It’s unsuccessful, and we go around it for more than an hour until we get to a wall and we decide to jump over it – only to find out we just broke into an old factory. Eventually, Kate is coming to get us by car, and on the way to her house (10 mins by car) we realize we were far off the place – never mind! On her house we meet her sweet (and hungry) couple of friends and husband, and we all cook together vegetarian stuffed peppers in tomato sauce, until we finally eat at 1:00am – oh.. it was great!
Saint Petersburg’s Couchsurfing community is really strong and at the time I spent there I met so many wonderful people thanks to it.
Alexandra invited me to talk with her Hebrew class at ‘Ulpahn Halom’ (אולפן חלום), very interesting experience meeting all those Hebrew enthusiasts, and listening to their stories of wanting to learn Hebrew. A few days after that she took me, together with Lana and Natasha to Kronstadt (Кроншта́дт), an old seaport Russian town, close to SPb, we walked through its interesting soviet and communistic remains, together with even older remains from the old port.
Lana and Natasha, two crazy, sweet girls, that undertook the mission to cook for me a Russian dinner (wow..), make a Russian pantomime games night together with drinking Vodka (Ouch..) and even wanted to take me on a tour through the roofs, but we “decided” to save it for next time…
Maria. I met Maria, on my 2nd day in SPb – an amazing artist – took me to a walk around her city’s favorite places, and spent a long night with Yasin and me. Even though she didn’t have the best English, we found the way to communicate through drawings and hands signals. Makes you understand that if you really want to communicate with someone, you will find a way.
Next I met Anna, who thought ahead and brought a dictionary! Made our conversations much more understandable.. In the middle of the park she told me she’s a singer and I couldn’t let her go without singing – so she did! Right there! And it was beautiful . . . Later on she joined our dinner with Lana and Natasha – what a great day.
Dear Yasin invited me to go with him to meet Julia, a fellow CSer! After walking through the streets of SPb, eating hot sweet corn, we all had a good bond together and she invited us to join her to blow up hot air balloons – Yes, apparently it was Wishes Day!! Yasin and I decided to make a peace balloon on the behalf of Israel and Turkey. We went to the coast, painted our balloons and waited for the right time when everybody starts to light up the balloons in the air – a few minutes after the sunset it started – hundreds of hot air balloons with everybody’s wishes were going up, filling the sky like glowing fake stars. Everyone around were clapping and cheering – it was magical!
After a week I decided it’s time to move on. But of course I couldn’t do it before walking on the roofs, drinking Vodka and taking a haircut! So I posted on SPb’s forum on CS and asked who’s volunteering to do so. The amount of responses amazed me! So many people, from Russia or not, wanted to join, so making an event out of it was inevitable.. So I did! My first own CS event EVER!
After awhile we understand it is just not legal anymore to go on roofs in SPb and we changed the spot to a roof pub – and it was… interesting! More than 20 people came and I found it very amusing – none of them had a hair clipper or scissors but it was still fun! I got a scissors and went through all of them just to get a small piece of hair for the memory. It was nice.
A day before that, I got a message from Anna, a sweet (but crazy!) Finnish girl, living in SPb for a while, inviting me for a drink with some fellow CSers. Of course I couldn’t say no, so after a 2nd Italian gathering, I went to meet them. It was already late when I got there, and Anna invited me without hesitation to spend the night on her couch. After one of the best pub-crawls – we walked to her haunted apartment. Nice. Let’s do it again tomorrow!
After a week of constant drinking (and learning how to read Russian!), I had to take a day of rest, and after that I went back to my home on the road. Hitchihhiking to Estonia and beyond. Yes, I had some good time at that city . . .