It’s back to more InterNations news! This time, both our lucky founders, Malte Zeeck and Philipp von Plato, got to travel to St. Petersburg and join in the festivities at their August InterNations Event. Read on to get some of their impressions from the trip!
This is a special community visit. Not only did it take me to St. Petersburg, the city also known as the Venice of the North, which combines history and art in quite a special fashion, but I also went with my InterNations co-founder Philipp. After four years it’s about time that we finally got to visit one of our Communities together! We chose St. Petersburg because neither of us has ever been there before and it is one of our fastest growing Communities in Eastern Europe.
It took us less than three hours to get from Munich to St. Petersburg with Rossiya Russian Airlines. Lucky for us, upon arrival the pilot announced the fantastic news that the weather was perfect with 23°C and lots of sunshine. It took us some time to get the visa we needed at passport control, but we finally managed and were happy to have them in our passports. It must be said, since we are so used to traveling within the European Union so much, standing in line for a visa after only a three hour flight seems a bit strange! The banners, poker chips, and other event material which we had in our luggage to take to the Event, did not make things easier, but thankfully the customs officers let us through.
In forty minutes, our taxi managed to maneuver its way through the traffic jam towards the center of this city of five million inhabitants. We passed by socialist buildings, high-rise slabs, and many old trucks smelling strongly of gasoline, before we reached the heart of St. Petersburg and our hotel. Our hotel was right at one of the canals and I highly urge you to book your next St. Petersburg stay the Pushka Inn a comfortable and elegant hotel for business travelers. We only had about half an hour to freshen up before we headed off to tonight’s St. Petersburg InterNations Event at the newly opened W Hotel.
We were warmly welcomed by Kristina and Peter, staff and general manager of the hotel, who then lead us to roof top terrace where the Event was to take place. The bar on top is stylishly designed with wood and glass and the views of St. Petersburg it offers are absolutely amazing. The setting sun made the evening more than perfect and let the St. Isaac’s Cathedral appear to have a halo. Just around 8pm the first members began to arrive. More than 150 members signed up for this Event and all of them were highly impressed by the view this location had to offer. InterNations Ambassador Nicholas Sweeting, an Englishman who works in wine investment, started out his evening by collecting the business cards of the arrivals. These were used for a raffle later on in the evening at which members were able to win a lunch for two in the hotel’s first-rate restaurant, “miX”. The waitresses served the welcome drink of vodka cranberry, which helped break the ice and made the evening even smoother.
The evening atmosphere was thrilling and simultaneously tranquil in the glow of the setting sun and we were able to chat with many of the 100 or so members present. Kristina from the W Hotel and one of her colleagues were generous enough to lend us a helping hand with the InterNations name tags, so that we were able to talk to members interested in becoming the new Co-Ambassador for St. Petersburg. Later in the evening, we said a few words and drew the winner for the raffle price. The lucky guy was Magnus from Sweden, who runs a Scandinavian Country Club just outside of St. Petersburg where we already hosted a couple InterNations Events.
Later on in the night, fireworks lit up the St. Petersburg sky, which made the rooftop terrace an even more glamorous place to spend the evening. A couple of Russian beers, a club sandwich, and a few local beers later, we asked around for tips on where to go out in St. Petersburg on a Friday night.
“Begemot”, a trendy club and bar, was the recommendation of the night and a taxi took us there in less than 10 minutes. The bouncers let us pass even though we did not have ‘our’ driver park ‘our’ Bentley or Hummer in front of the door! The atmosphere was nice, filled with Russians, expats and resounding musical hits, all in a very trendy location. One of the rooms was reserved for karaoke, and people danced until morning. As they say, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” – in this case the St. Petersburgians – so we joined in the fun and headed home through the early morning mist of St. Petersburg.
The next day, the weather turned out to be just as good as the pilot prophesied and this made us feel guilty about sleeping in, so we took one of the many boat tours on St. Petersburg canals. The boat took us by the many sites such as the famous State Hermitage Museum, the Kunstkamera and the Kazan Cathedral, as well as countless other magnificent buildings. The weather was definitely too nice to visit the inside of the Hermitage Museum, which we will use as our excuse for coming back to St. Petersburg soon!
In the evening we went to “The Other Side Gastro Bar & Refuge”, a restaurant owned by two American expats, where we met up with Nicholas, our Ambassador, and a few other members, and discussed the future of the InterNations Community of St. Petersburg. The expat community in this vast city feels like a close-knit family and we are sure that it will continue expanding.
At midnight, after elaborate discussions and many laughs, we went to one of the nicer restaurants in St. Petersburg, which I also highly recommend, the “VESNA” and the “Barbaresco”, which are both very elegantly decorated and serve excellent meals. We let the rest of the evening pass by between the two and discussed the future of InterNations as a whole. It is always a good idea to break out of one’s frame of mind once in a while and think about the bigger picture and one’s original vision again. And let me tell you, we have great things in mind for the InterNations Community!
The next morning, happy and tired, we boarded the plane and ended up sleeping the three hours to make up for the lack of sleep we got over the weekend. We are absolutely certain that we will do another Community visit together again soon and we both can only highly recommend St. Petersburg to anyone looking for a nice weekend trip to Eastern Europe.
Photos Courtesy of InterNations and Wikimedia Commons.