It was approaching 6:30 in the evening and my rooftop tour guide was late. We were suppose to meet at 6:00, far from the touristy part of Saint Petersburg on the square of the Sennaya Metro station. I was considering backing out.
I first heard about rooftop tours while investigating things to do in Saint Petersburg. A guide takes you to the tops of buildings for breathtaking views and a different perspective of the city. Blinded by the desire for a unique travel experience and seduced by the pictures I’d seen online, the tour sounded romantic, adventurous and magical. Who could resist climbing dozens of stairs to emerge on top of the world? I signed up!
The hesitation starting to sink in during the 28 minute wait for my guide – it was just enough time to ignite the left side of my cerebrum (the bit responsible for logic and rationale). My idle mind transformed my potential rooftop experience into something reckless, not exactly legal and most importantly, really stupid. What was I thinking? Did I come to Saint Petersburg to die?
I decided, if homegirl didn’t show up in five minutes I would head back to my hotel.
Guess who showed up as soon as I finished that thought?
After identifying the other members of my rooftop tour we made our way to a six story yellow apartment building. The guide gathered us together and took a deep breath before delivering some super serious news. In our group huddle she informed us that:
- We were basically about to break into this building and it’s attic
- The residents, annoyed by people invading their home, can sometimes be unpredictable and scary
- If we bump into a resident asking questions let her do the talking
- If we heard the Russian word for “police”, RUN
Let me get this straight? Breaking and entering? Cops? Running? In Russia ?
My rationale was wrong! I wasn’t going to die, I was going to live a long life rotting away in a Russian prison! I wasn’t sure if her warnings were meant to add a sense of adventure to the tour but I was scared and proceeded with caution.
After walking up the stairs in complete silence we arrived at a locked metal door. Our guide produced a key and ushered us inside. Using the light from our phones we made our way through a pitch black maze, making sure not to hit our heads on the low ceiling. We eventually arrived at a window which our guide told us to crawl through. There was no ladder at THIS window, just some sort of floating insulated pipe halfway between the ground and the window. She kinda hopped up there like a cat and motioned with her hand for me to come on up as well.
Um what? From the casualness of her hand gesture I figured she didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of what she was asking me to do. ‘Come on, just through here’ – like I wasn’t about to take a dive towards the unknown. “Is there a ladder or a chair or something that I can use to gradually lead me to the end of my life ?” How did she expect ALL of me to get ALL the way up there? I let my fellow tourist head out the window first to study their technics and when no one was looking I literally pulled my big ass through the window and onto the sloped roof. It wasn’t pretty but I made it up there.
Sh*t had just gotten real. The roof was very steep and I couldn’t get a steady footing. I was sliding towards the safety railings we were reminded were not-so- safe after the ‘Run-from-the-Russian-police’ speech. Now what? I began to panick, all I remember is someone saying, ‘Here, here, here, lean on this!’ The same window that I pulled myself through served as my anchor to the roof. I was slightly relieved as I sat there looking around, searching for clarity. Clarity hadn’t arrived yet, all I could think was, ‘Sweet Baby Jesus, please dont make me die today, my mother would kill me!’ WIVGS
Eventually the majority of my fear subsided long enough for me to take in what I was actually doing. I was in Saint Petersburg, high above the streets, on a lovely summer day with a view that most people would never get. The air was clean, the sky was clear and I was high above the hustle and bustle below. In that moment felt truly blessed. Nicole, from Newark, New Jersey was sitting on a rooftop in fricken Saint Petersburg !!! (How you like me now, son?) I literally climbed, crawled and pushed myself to be up there, on the top of the world. It was unbelievable!
I wasn’t brave enough to walk around the roof but my hands did stop shaking long enough for me to take a few photos. On our next roof I was lucky enough to catch some newlyweds taking photos. (ignore that man’s white socks, OMG) My evening on the roof tops of Saint Petersburg was indeed a magical experience. I can’t say I would do it again but the experience is something that will be with me for a while.
So you know I’m gonna ask…would you take a roof top tour? If I can do it, anyone can do it. LOL
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