Beaches in Russia: Everyone Goes to the Beach!

Beaches in Russia: Everyone Goes to the Beach!
16 May 2016

Summer is finally coming to Saint Petersburg and many students talk of getting out of the city on weekends to visit some of the nearby beaches on the Baltic.
Here are a few things I learned riding the elektrichka – the local train service – to Solnechnoye last Sunday.

5 Tips on How to Reach Nearby Beaches Riding on Local Train Service

1. Get to the station early.

On a public holiday like last week, and I’m guessing especially around 10.30 in the morning, everyone is looking to get out of town: the station is packed and the lines in front of the ticket booths are massive. Give yourself at least half an hour before the train leaves or you’ll have to wait another half-hour or more for the next one.
Few people dare to use the electronic terminals, so the lines to these are shorter. They are, however, only in Russian, and you cannot buy tickets with the student discount. Tickets are still really cheap, though, (140 rubles to Solnechnoye and back) so if you can brave the terminal, you’ll get your ticket faster. The map of the stations can also be quite confusing but there are plenty of staff walking around who can tell you which train you need to get onto.

2. Leave from Finlandskiy Vokzal.

This is the first station the train towards Vyborg leaves from. Already here there were droves of people, but we managed to get seats and by the time we got to Udelnaya, further up, no one else could get on. It was really sad to see them all left on the platform.. Therefore, even if you live further north, I suggest taking the metro to Finlandskiy and leaving from there.

3. Don’t count on keeping your seat.

In Russia, it goes without saying that if you are young and healthy you must give your seat to those who might have a harder time standing. Expect some middle-aged lady or parent and child to stand next to your seat, throwing glances at you until the guilt is too strong and you have to get up and let them sit. A lot of youngsters nowadays, and not only Russian ones, tackle the problem by plugging in their headphones and pretending to be asleep.

4. Ambulant Vendors – some are pretty loud

Get used to the sight, sound and smell of ambulant vendors who come in to drolly list the properties of their products, repeating the drill from wagon to wagon. Most of them are people in the direr straits of life, and are not a pretty scene, but sometimes they do sell useful items.. though I would strongly advise not to buy ice cream from them.

5. Train Conductors, caution, while visiting beaches in Russia

The train conductors (usually middle-aged ladies) are unforgiving and generally very rude, pushing their way unapologetically through the crowds to check each and every ticket, and they don’t miss a single one. Be ready with ticket in hand when you see one coming, or risk being thoroughly dressed down for making her wait on you.

At Solnechnoye we followed the crowd to the main beach there, and were happy to see that it is large enough for everyone to scatter and be sufficiently out of each other’s hair. It was a glorious day! Only minus points were:

  • the wind, which is always quite strong and can be chilly – bring blankets or better yet, a wind tent;
  • the Baltic Sea is cold and uninviting, so I doubt you’ll want to swim;
  • the absence of shops and bars – so come adequately stocked;
  • the unspeakable public toilet. I advise to walk further back inland into the forest or, if you can’t or won’t, halfway back to the station (about 15 minutes walking) is a fully equipped facility you can use for 20 rubles.

The train back was almost as crowded as the one we came on, so we had to stand there, too, but everyone was much more cheerful and sun-dazed coming back from the beaches around the city. And when we arrived back at Finlandskiy, several groups broke out in spontaneous singing. We had all survived the elektrichka!

Esther, currently learning Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg 

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