The Trip to St. Petersburg

Written by Herra Honkonen on Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

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Our trip started on Tuesday morning, when all of us met in front of Lasipalatsi in Helsinki. Mr. Vuorensola arrived from a movie project related meeting, Mr. Haapanen and I dropped in by a taxi. Finding the St. Petersburg busses was easy, since Ilmari spotted them when going to get keys to his apartment, from which he got locked out in the previous night. When we started trudging towards the busses, loaded like camels with our band stuff, a blond woman with a sign for St. Petersburgh caught us and led us to a slightly run down bus. The situation was a bit weird, since neither the woman nor the bus driver spoke a word of Finnish or English, and in between us we knew about ten words of Russian. Our first piece of local colour was a big and very drunk Russian man who attached himself to Mrrs. Haapanen and Vuorensola, showed them his fists and told how he’s a boxing champion and a police.

The trip itself was pretty uneventful, but it took a lot longer than we anticipated. The reason
for that was the bus stopping on every goddamn supermarket, once dropping people to one and then driving back to visit another. In spite of that the ten hours in the bus went surprisingly fast. The border was a bit of a hassle, since in the Finnish side the first two officials didn’t have any idea about the arrival forms which we were told to get, and the third one realised that it’s something you have to do in the Russian side of the border. In there we had to fill out five forms with the texts in Russian, using only one pen and being dragged off one by one by the beautiful but less than friendly female customs official.

We finally arrived to St. Petersburg downtown half a hour late from our estimate. We unpacked our stuff and uncharacteristacally I almost forgot the laptop we need for streaming the gig in the bus. Or I actually did forget it, but someone from the bus brought the bag to me. Our hosts arrived, gave us a small bottle of booze which we emptied there right on the spot, before even touching the band stuff on the ground. The next step was to follow the hosts to a small restaurant, where we had a late dinner of borsch soup and several different kinds of dishes from a buffet. During the day we had eaten only a sandwich and a half per person, so stepping into a restaurant with the smell of food in the air made the drool flow freely. I did a sort of “one of everything that has meat in it” -kind of order, which turned out to be quite filling.

Next we were led to the apartment where we were staying for the night. First we entered through a low archway with very industrial looking pipes and cables, then slipped in through a backdoor to a very dilapidated staircase, with paint peeling from the walls, crumbling concrete and the smell of sewer and mildew. After climbing up several floors we were ushered in to an apartment, which was deemed the coolest and coziest any of us had ever seen. It was one of those old, high apartments, which had been converted into a series of small rooms and corridors. The apartment was decorated beautifully, there were a lot of CD and movie shelves on the walls, plants on the windowsills all kinds of interesting items and equipment lying around, plus everything was very neat. The apartment is apparently some kind of commune with only a few fixed inhabitants, the rest changing now and then. We were given some tea which we drank from small bowls and shots of the Salmiakki-vodka we brought as gifts to the hosts.

The food, tea and booze gave us enough energy to go to a sightseeing trip, in spite of the time being after midnight. The trip ended up being quite long, but interesting. Our main host Gosha spoke only little English, but his girlfriend acted as a translator and a travel guide, telling us about the buildings and areas we walked past. Mr. Paalanen and I made a decision to come to St. Petersburg for a cultural trip with more time. As an interesting note, when we reached the Mars Square with the flame that’s burning in memory of dead soldiers, there were some police warming their hands around it. Mr. Paalanen, the master of passports, had left his papers in our hosts’ apartment. The police noticed us coming near and perked up, asking in Russian for us to leave. The reason is the Military Day, when they’ll be expecting some demonstrations from communists, fascists and so on, and apparently they are a bit fidgety about stuff relating to terrorism.

When I’m writing this, it’s about half past three in the Tuesday morning and it’s time to get to bed. I called the dibs on the only actual bed in the room, the rest of the guys are sleeping on the floor over some blankets, side by side. All in all, this tour has started really well.

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