Couchsurfing in St. Petersburg, Russia (PHOTOS)

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St. Petersburg’s St. Isaac’s Cathedral

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Outside the St. Isaac’s Cathedral.

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Random street shots of us.

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Some more street photos

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And the sky and a sculpture.

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…More street photo.

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Our host’s home

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And the cat whose name I forgot.

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Random stuff

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Our host and friends showing off the puppets

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Trying to create an impromptu puppet show

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Above: 3am
Below: 6am

Russia

From blog post: https://blissfultrails.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/couchsurfing-in-st-petersburg-russia/

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Couchsurfing in St. Petersburg, Russia

I decided to embark on another Couchsurfing experience when I had two days to spend in St. Petersburg. I signed up for tours to the Hermitage and the Spilled Blood Cathedral on the second day, and we’ve nothing to do on day one. So, I decided to put up a request to “hangout” and get “shown around” by hosts willing to spend time doing such to strangers.

Couchsurfing is also a great way to get a local’s viewpoint on the city and region. It’s possible to ask at the tourists’ information kiosks, but they are in the tourist industry. You never know for sure if they are sending you to authentic place or a place that tourists go. While Couchsurfing, you may be introduced to a new drink, food or simply, a cartoon.

Then I met Christina. She’s new to Couchsurfing and we’re the first CSers she met in St. Petersburg. We had a very productive day. She took us to an art gallery and book  and antique shops. As we walk around the city, we have been exchanging travel experiences to each other. She then invited us to her home, also a studio for creating her puppets.

We happen to have had a great time chatting about travels and such, but the most unforgettable moment from that day was getting acquainted with:

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The first Russian version of Winnie the Pooh, called “Vinni Pukh i vsye ostalniye” (“Winnie the Pooh and All the Rest”)

So, the day has passed and we didn’t even notice that it was already too late. She insist that we should stay the night and leave the earliest the next day. We all have slept next to each other (it was cold and heater is not working). So we did.

Overall, my Couchsurfing experience was great and I can’t wait to do it again.  And the next time I have a permanent home I will definitely be hosting!

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Canal Gribojedova

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Art School in St. Petersburg

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View of the Spilled Blood Cathedral

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Savior on the Spilled Blood is an architectural landmark of central St Petersburg, and a unique monument to Alexander II the Liberator.
It features Russia’s largest collection of mosaics (over 7,000 sq.m.), Italian coloured marbles, decorative stones from the Urals and Altai region, as well as a collection of Russian heraldic mosaics.

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Details of the church’s exterior

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Spilled Blood roof and facade decorations

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Elaborate facade of the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood

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Arts Square, Statue of Alexander Pushkin and Russian Museum

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Street musician outside the church

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This church is magnificent both inside and out. My all-time favorite attraction in St Petersburg.

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View of St. Petersburg from a rooftop where we paid 10 Rubles to get in.

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A museum of Russian photography

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Nevsky Prospect is St. Petersburg’s main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia.

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Our host Christina and her friend, Nastya

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This is Christina, our host. She just don’t make puppets come to life, she’s also a good musician.

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Me. Under a beautiful, ornate chandelier. 🙂

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Playing piano inside the museum.

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Along the Nevsky Prospect.

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Nastya giving coins to the musician

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Street painter along the canal.

Some more from St. Petersburg on next post. Thanks for stopping by!

 

Darjeeling in a Cuppa Tea

12.30.2012 Before seeing everything else in India, our travel started in Darjeeling (It was actually a good start to get oriented with the country, I believe.). We arrived the day before New Year’s Eve via cramped tiny jeep and bumpy roads. Darjeeling seem to have that Nepali vibe. People speak Nepali, and they have momos on the menu! We just came from Nepal couple of days ago and here we are again, up in the mountains, but in a lower altitude. Here, you get a great view of the Mt. Kanchendzonga – the third highest mountain in the world.

Hectares of tea plantation, Darjeeling.

Darjeeling is a region and a town that is clearly alive and well. It has excellent climate all year round – very cold in the night, and during the days, it is perfect. This pretty little town tucked in the foothills of the Himalayas was a favorite during the English Raj era, hence the big part of the tea.

Our first mission is to find other travelers to celebrate the New Year’s Eve with. We already wrote to a couple of Couchsurfers earlier that week and we were fortunate to get a reply from a local woman living in Darjeeling – Christabel.

We met her the next day at the Glenary’s in Nehru Rd., spent a couple of hours chatting with her, giving us helpful information about her hometown, which places to visit, etc. Nice thing about Couchsurfing: you don’t really have to host or “surf” on someone else’s couch – meeting people to hang out with, chat over a coffee or drink is just enough to totally sink into a different culture and make new friends.

Celebrating the NYE ’13 with different nationalities: Austria, New Zealand, India, Philippines, Italy. It was a great night!

The rest of days we are in Darjeeling, we went to see the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, the toy train, and a couple of monasteries which names I forgot.

darj21The HMI was started in 1954, as a result of the success of Tenzing Norgay’s ascent of Everest with Edmund Hilary in 1953. It has two museums – mountaineering and Everest – as well as a training department that runs courses in mountaineering. There’s also the zoo which is housed in the same complex as the HMI. The zoo is small but very well kept. I was delighted to see the red panda, Royal Bengal Tiger and the Black Himalayan Bear.

A monastery nearby the Toy Train station.

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One of the main attractions in Darjeeling is to enjoy a ride on the Himalayan Train, lovingly named the Toy Train.

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We also stopped by the Mall Rd. Mall road is actually a very narrow street with long stretch of shops and kiosks on both sides. Here, one can buy local handicrafts, souvenirs, yak wools, finger foods and whatnots. darj9 Darj11 darj12 darj13 Darj14 Darj16 Darj18

2km from the Khanchendzonga view point, is the Bhutia Busty Gompa. It is said that this gompa stores the original Tibetan Book of the Dead. We actually came here to see that. But there was a big notice by the entrance, saying that the a particular guide book was wrong about this information for they never really had the book at all.

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We could’ve visited some more interesting places in Darjeeling but the fog and cold prevented us from further explorations.

Our next stop: Sikkim

Our Home in Jogjakarta

Once in Jogja, Vale picked me up from the Fajar Utama station. Now, the dilemma is how to fit on the moped with my 70 cu. liter backpack. Well, we did. We managed to fit everything together, 2 medium sized backpacks and my monumental baggage – don’t ask how. We were experts on fitting ourselves in very tiny spaces. One time, we sat with chickens and sacks of rice for 16 hours.

Vale has been in Jogja for a week already and has found a host from Couchsurfing who’s willing to accommodate me too. He said he’s staying in a very big house with 8 bedrooms, with whimsical artworks on the wall, a huge garden with hammocks and… a playful feline.

We reached our host’s place after going through a maze of traffic jam. It’s scary driving on the left side of the road – but I trust Valerio given he’s an Italian who’s used to driving mopeds – I’m just not sure about driving on the left side though!

Our host’s place was situated in a very quite neighborhood, nearby the Taman Sari (The Water Temple), a Mosque and numerous food stalls on the street.

I went inside the house and was welcomed by Gato, the house cat. Our host isn’t around during that time but she’s nice enough to leave us a spare key to get in. The house is huge! It was a pure organized chaos. I fell in love with it. It was a home  a sanctuary for travelers, for artists.

The Couchsurfers’ Freedom Wall

The makeshift bar.

Meet Gato.

..and my favorite part of the house, is this: (below)

the outdoor shower area!