Thursday, March 6, 2014

Russia Day 17: Moscow to St Petersburg

I'm done in Moscow! After breakfast and a shower, I packed everything up. My bags are getting fuller as I accumulate more stuff, but so far there is still a little room (in part because I've been wearing my big puffy winter coat), and I haven't yet unzipped the expansion pocket of my large suitcase, so I can still buy more stuff in St Petersburg!

Checked out, picked up a light lunch from the nearby grocery store (not sure how good the food on the train will be), and headed out a little after noon. It wasn't too hard to navigate the subway (one line change) with my two rolling bags, though I did skip one crowded train and went to the front of the platform to get on a less-crowded car on the next train.

Arrived at Komsomolskaya metro station, and followed the signs out to the Leningrad train station. Each train station is named for the main destination of trains leaving from it, and St Petersburg used to be called Leningrad. They renamed the city, but not the train stations related to it. There are 3 train stations near this metro stop! Two of them were near the exit I took. I could see the ticket windows for Leningrad station, and signs pointing to high-speed trains, but it took me a few minutes and asking two people before I figured out that I needed to walk all the way around the metro station building to get in to Leningrad station. Once again, I found the building, but not the entrance!

Walked through the station to the platform, including two more security checks, including X-raying of all my luggage. The train was on the station, and I easily found my car, where there was a short line-up to check tickets.

The Sapsan train at Leningradsky Vokzol (Leningrad Station)

"Sapsan" (Сапсан) means peregrine falcon in Russian. It's a fairly fast train (150km/hr, though it didn't feel that fast when it was going) that does the Moscow-St Petersburg run in about 4 hours.
I stowed my luggage and settled into my seat. It was a beautiful train, very clean and comfortable, and all the announcements were in both Russian and English. A very civilized way to get to St Petersburg. The trip was uneventful, and I arrived in St Petersburg (at Moskovsky Vokzal, of course) on time at 5:40pm. I found my way to the exit, and after one person misinformed me about directions (contradicting my own sense of direction, which turned out to have been correct), I was rolling down Ligovsky Prospekt to my hotel, just a few blocks away. Checked in, and unpacked; my room is small but very well laid out with lots of storage nooks and crannies that make very effective use of the space.

I had dinner at the hotel restaurant, and spend the time figuring out how to buy a hockey ticket. The KHL regular season has ended, and the playoffs start Friday night. The local team here SKA (another Red Army team) finished second in their conference, and will be hosting the CSKA Moscow team that I saw the other night, in the first round of the playoffs. Tickets are plentiful and not too expensive. After several minutes figuring out how to register an account on the web site (partly in English, but it took some help from Google Translate to really figure it out), I managed to buy a ticket in row 5 near the blue line for 1800 rubles (about $55). The hotel concierge got it printed out for me, and I've figured out which metro stop the rink is near. I thought hockey was big here, and I'm astounded at how easy it was to get a good ticket to a playoff game for one of the top teams, at such a reasonable price. Ilya Kovulchuk and Alexei Ponikorovsky (former Leaf) are the best-known (to us) players on SKA; they also have a guy named Victor Tikanov, son of the famous former Soviet hockey coach.

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