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Archive 2012 · Japan vs Russia
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p.1 #1 · Japan vs Russia

I have the choice of visiting Russia and the Baltic with a tour group or visiting Japan with a friend this spring. Because of my interest in eastern Europe, my inclination is Russia and the Baltic (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Riga, Helsinki . . .). Although I am an amateur photographer, I will be carrying high-end equipment and will be concerned about personal safety, especially since I like to walk away from tourist venues and into areas where ordinary people live. I don't like the prospect of being mugged, which I think will be a higher risk in Russia than in Japan. Or am I being prejudiced against Russia? Staying with the tour goup will be an obvioius safety measure, but it would also impinge on my autonomy and my photography.

Any thoughts about this are welcome, especially from photographers who have visited Russia and the Baltic.

Many thanks.


Jan 01, 2012 at 05:33 PM

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p.1 #2 · Japan vs Russia

I visited St. Petersburg in August last year. Absolute magic place. The Paris of Eastern Europe. I went there with friends but we also split up sometimes to visit specific things of interest as there is only so much you can see in 1 week in the city heh. However, it's those times when alone, I've realised you are most vulnerable to pick pocketing (not so much being mugged or attacked).

In St. Petersburg I actually felt safer and more comfortable compared to Rome or Paris despite one pick pocket incident. I was walking down Nevsky prospekt, one of the main, central streets in St. Petersburg and there was suddenly a bit of commotion, lots of people walking by and a man ran up to me trying to sell me postcards, waving his arms around in front of my face, talking quickly (actively trying to distract me). I expressed my disinterest but he was still persisting. Suddenly I felt something at my backpack and even though I was fairly aware of the pick pocketing situation in certain European cities I was quite surprised when I realised I was about to get done. Lucky that I did realise and stopping dead in my tracks (I was walking quite fast), the guy behind going at my backpack almost toppled over me. As soon as that happened he proceeded to pretend to want to buy a postcard from the postcard seller. I then checked my backpack, I had a Lowepro Fastpack 350 (http://products.lowepro.com/product/Fastpack-350,2087.htm) which is also designed for such situations whereby you have two clips coming over a main zipped compartment, and these two clips first need to be undone before the zip (which is also difficult and tough to unzip as it moves fairly difficultly). Anyway the whole incident was really quick, lasted 2-3 seconds but already I had two clips undone, but luckily the zip was untouched (where I had my 7D + 70-200mm IS II and NEXC3 + Voigtlander 50mm f1.1 and Zeiss 35mm f2).

What I've learnt from this experience and other travels is to be most alert when someone walks up to you wanting something. I instantly go into "f**k off" mode.
Being alone be on high alert especially when there are sudden chaotic situations, any commotion or sudden crowds with lots of noise and traffic is when you're at biggest risk.
In groups or with someone it's a lot less likely to get targeted but still don't get complacent, just be sensible. Obviously don't leave any camera bag on a park bench while you take a shot of something (at least seems obvious but I've heard people do it and as a result turn around to see their camera bag gone). Get yourself a good backpack like that fastpack 350, where it requires a bit of effort to get into and not just a silky smooth easy to open zip.

I've realised I may have drifted a bit off topic But getting back to Russia and the Baltic. As I said before, I'd rate Petersburg and Moscow safer in terms of mugging/pick pocketing compared to Rome and Paris where there just seems to be a lot more dirt/scum/gipsies around. Helsinki is a lot less of a problem and it's a very civilised and friendly city, as with most of scandinavia. I can't comment on Japan because I haven't been. But definitely go see Russia and the Baltic is my opinion

Jan 02, 2012 at 01:50 AM
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p.1 #3 · Japan vs Russia

Thanks for your thoughts on this, which I find somewhat reassuring, since I tend to get off the beaten path, which pickpockets would seem most likely to frequent. I wish I had another male to accompany me on such outings, to "ride shotgun," as it were.

Jan 03, 2012 at 05:13 PM

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