Day 1: Setting sail on the Baltic Sea

22 May

7:35 p.m. Tuesday, May 22: I’ve been up 25 straight hours and I’m going for a few more in hopes of waking up on St. Petersburg time in the morning. Right now the sun is still blazing, on what must have been one of the hottest May 22nds on record around here.

I’m chillin’ on the Princess Maria, the half-cruise ship/half ferry that’s taking me into St. Pete the visa-free way. I’ll probably sleep through all the fun stuff tonight — I overheard one female passenger say “My goal is to have at least one drink in every bar on the boat. ”

I managed to drop a couple of Russian lagers before we even pulled away from the dock!

Here’s a quick recap of how I got this far:

– Flight form Seattle to Frankfurt was pretty uneventful. Didn’t get any sleep. The struggle was my transfer to my connecting flight to Helsinki. It took me an hour and 20 minutes and I had to walk briskly when I wasn’t standing in line, which is what I was mostly doing. Passport control and various security checks were worse than Heathrow.

– Caught a bus into city center from Helsinki airport. From there I managed to get lost before finally getting directions from a flower seller. I gotta say it: cobblestone streets are hell on roller bags. In addition to checking in for my overnight boat to St. Petersburg, I went ahead and bought my advance ticket for Saturday’s ferry trip fro Helsinki to Tallin.

– The Princess Maria, the pride of the St. Peter Line, is a little past her prime. My little inside state room has dingy yellow walls and a rather tiny shower/toilet compartment. But the hot shower and change of clothes was great after all that sweaty walking around. The duty-free shop seemed to be bustling, and most of the passengers seemed to be Russians going home after a shoping trip to Helsinki.

– After a good night’s sleep in my cabin, I’m hoping to rise early and watch as the ship pulls into Russia’s second largest city. Then, if I can make it in time, I’m aiming for a walking tour that begins at 10am.

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