Greetings from St. Petersburg! Bolshoi in Russia is my variation on Big in Japan. (Bolshoi means “Big” in Russian. Get it?) Stay tuned for my live dispatches from Russia this week.
Did I mention how expensive Russia is? Oh yeah, I pretty much mention it in every blog, don’t I. It really is quite shocking how little you get for your money here. It’s one thing to travel around Southeast Asia and stay in crappy hotels for $20/night. You get what you pay for. Russia is different. That same crappy hotel will cost you more like $200 in Moscow and St. Petersburg. It often seems that Russia has all the disadvantages of a third world country (dirt, smog, poor services, etc) and none of its benefits (not cheap).
We stayed in one such crappy little hotel right on 44 Nevsky Blvd (the main drag in St. Petersburg). The hotel entrance is pictured here. The outside is really not the problem, although its classic communist realism look is not exactly the picture of hospitality. It’s the inside. It’s the smell.
One thing you’ll notice about a lot of Russian bathrooms is that they tend to smell bad. The reason? Poor plumbing. It was explained to me that they don’t use a “trap” in the shower. Hence, most bathrooms smell of raw sewage, worse than the New York subway on a hot summer day. All that for only $180/night.
They do give you breakfast with it, though. I even documented it for you: a piece of stale toast, piece of nondescript cheese, some tea and a yoghurt. What they don’t give you, however, is a place where you could eat that breakfast. So, you have to take it back to your room and enjoy it while sniffing the aroma coming out from the bathroom.
It was not nearly the worst hotel I have ever stayed at. It must be up there in terms of value for your money, however. The best thing to remember about Russia before going is that you will spend a lot of money and get very little in return. At the end of thee day, it’s all about expectations.
From Russia, with love.