Sunday, March 4th, 2018
Distance covered: 329 km
Driving: 9:30am – 7pm (border delay)
Lowest temperature: -10C
Border crossing: Finland – Russia (real border control)
Another great sunny day. Listening to the SPD GroKo press conference, we drove to the frozen lake ice road, took a couple of pics and crossed the lake.
It feels scary at the beginning (I hate it to even walk on a frozen lake) but offers a great experience and special perspectives when driving close to some islands.
After some more hours of snowy forests and frozen lakes, we finally reached the Russian border. And yes, it feels different than driving to Italy or Austria or even Switzerland. The Finnish part of the border was friendly, professional and empty, but few hundred meter further we had to queue up in front of the Russian control post.
When reaching the post, you need to stop your car, walk to the booth, fill in some immigration card (next to the up-front Visa in your passport) and some customs forms for your car. As my Passport was brand new and in the latest format, obviously unknown yet to the Russian border officer, it got looked at again and again. 10 minutes and a phone call later, I finally got my stamps and was ready for the next step of the Russian welcome committee. We were ordered to get all suitcases, boxes as well as the two winter tires out of the car and open everything. Great fun with -7C and super dirty tires…
Anyhow, it took just a bit more than an hour and we were on the road again, heading towards St. Petersburg.
Being the second largest Russian city and a major location for the 2018 Football world championship, many highways are brand new. The stadium looked impressive and next to it a new skyscraper was still under construction.
In the dark we reached our hotel: Trezzini Palace, a 5-star boutique hotel, located directly at the Newa and offered for just 104,- € on booking.com in the morning. We were hoping for a really nice hotel, but what we got was just great.
After being introduced to my 3 room Suite, I was searching again and again for the mistake regarding the price (wrong Rubel conversion, etc.). But it was real and therefore even better that we stayed for 2 nights in Petersburg!
We had dinner in the restaurant of the hotel, hering as a starter and boeff stroganoff as main and made company with a nice Dutch couple, running an interesting charity project for the widows of Srbrenica. After some shared Vodka, we took a walk through beautiful Petersburg at night, enjoyed some more vodka in a student bar and finally went back to our very own palace…
… really looking forward to a day without driving!