Sochi was supposed to be our last stop in Russia unless there’s no ferry from here to Trabzon (Turkey) or Batumi (Georgia). It’s not and costs us a detour of 1000 kilometers to the next open border to Georgia. No big deal. We don’t mind staying in Russia a bit longer. What is definitely over for us is the World Cup 2018. We had tickets for 7 games in 5 cities in 6 different stadiums. Here are our impressions:
Check out the route before start reading todays post. You’ll see that we were on the road for quite a while getting to watch all the matches we have tickets for. You’ll also see that more or less for the first time we really visit places apart from the two most famous and biggest cities of Russia.
But let’s start with leaving Moscow. A great time and the longest stop on our route so far was over and our bikes also got some rest for one week. All four of us exited to hit the road again decided to start slow, get out of the city and concentrate on the big chunk of the route to Volgograd the day after. Good idea, as we experienced a very uncommon and rare phenomenon on our trip. When we rested in our beautiful Russian Motel room with the „special taste“ bedsheets, it rained 😉
Not too hot, cloudy and dry, perfect conditions the next day for the 550 km in the direction of Volgograd. Time to drop some words about the things we deal with on the bikes during the long hours driving.
Actually there is one rule to follow: Always expect everything to happen! Parts of broken cars, burst tires, holes, bumps, dead animals, strong wind, cyclists, people walking in the middle of nowhere, cars overtaking left and right, with or without cars on the opposite lane, trucks driving 120km/h, speed cameras, and never slow down on roadworks sites, it’ll jeopardize yourself more if you do so.
On the other hand there is much to see actually. It seems as if there are certain areas or villages where one sort of goods are being sold. These things don’t seem to be originated in that particular region. Why should you sell popcorn and Russian bread in a village named Electric? Why are pickled beans, peas, peppers, carrots, pretty normal stuff being sold out of cars on a stretch of 30km and then never again? Why are in whole Russia Cafès, gas stations and little restaurants along the street, selling coffee and tea and all of a sudden there is one village with approximately 30 little booths selling tea and coffee out of the traditional Samowar? Apple juice, fur boots and vests, carpets, garden gnomes, stuffed animals, squirrels and we probably forgot something exceptional that was being sold at some points.
The Russians are a very proud folk and remember the latest history. That mirrors in war memorial statues and sculptures in dozens of places along the route. Sometimes it’s just a tank or a fighter jet, sometimes an individual piece of art. The most stunning monument of course is the Mamaev Kurgan statue in Volgograd. The woman with the sword in her hand measures 87 meters and encourages her sons to defend their homeland. It also commemorates the battle of Stalingrad (later renamed to Volgograd) and the 30.000 soldiers who lost their lifes on that hill.
Before we got to see this statue, we detoured approximately 250km eastbound to meet an old friend Daniel has a special relation to. 10 years ago Daniel and his brother travelled to this more remote region of Russia. Reason was to find out where his grandfather was born as Wolga German. A coincident brought the brothers together with Artur Kaiser, whose parents shared a similar past as Daniels grandparents. Artur not only hosted them, he also drove them around in his Lada. Far away from smartphones and internet they hadn’t have contact for ten years. We found Artur and family in good health and we couldn’t deny to stay at their place for the night. We can’t say how thankful we are for such friendliness as a matter of course. They don’t live in wealth with good office jobs and social security services, with foodora, shopping malls and Netflix. But they were as happy as we were that google translate also works offline 😉 We generally experienced that in Russia. Russians sometimes come across as a bit fierce and very serious. But once the ice is broken we had fun and help everywhere.
We looked forward to see Volgograd, though we just had two nights here. We liked it very much but bottom line the following things happened. It was 38 degrees on both days, what simply restricted us to do things outside between 12 and 4pm. We walked to the fan fest to find out that they show Mexico-Schweden 10 minutes before kick off. Met Andi and his squad to watch in a nearby hotel Germany get eliminated from the World Cup.
The next days match Japan vs. Poland in the new Volgograd arena was less interesting and less atmospheric than all the games we’ve seen so far. Though we had sympathies for Japan before, we wanted Columbia to draw their game against Senegal and England to win against Belgium for our round of 16 game in Rostov to be more exciting. Nothing of it happened. Now we watch two teams playing we already watched. „No-atmosphere-Japan“ against „Let’s-be-polite-and-just-score-3-goals-Belgium“. We decided not to watch England vs. Columbia in TV 😉 Last but not least the morning of departure we figured out that the battery of Jendrik’s BMW was empty. Then again everyone went way beyond to help. Russlan, the parking guard and Andrey who was just passing by helped pushing the bike, organise a starter cable and even a battery starter for us to get it started. It worked, however took 1,5 hours and destroyed our plan to escape the heat of 39 degrees at noon on the way to Rostov. We expected these temperatures in India but now we know how it’s gonna be…
St. Petersburg, stated to be the most European of all Russian cities became smaller in our rear mirrors when we hit the motorway towards the Russian capital city. Almost hit the motorway to be more precise. A huge puddle in the curve leading onto the motorway was hidden behind the crash barrier and unavoidable when visible. The bike slipped away under Daniel and both him and the Tenere slid 20 meters on the asphalt. Fortunately no irreparable damages on man and machine were caused by this crash. We don’t have any explanation how this incredibly huge amount of oil got on the street and most likely remained there for quite some time. What is clear, that it needs more attention every single minute from both of us. We kept going but were happy to get off the bikes in the evening in Valdai. Spoiled by St. Petersburg, Valdai is probably a small town which is more representative for most of the small to midsize towns in the Russian countryside. Damaged roads, crumbling house facades, less fashionable clothes, dirt – an obvious difference to what we experienced a day before. Luckily we witnessed some kind of anniversary of the town which was celebrated with a small public festival. We didn’t expect the Hamburger Dom, but small monkeys, snakes, camels and reindeers, plus laser tag and 15 inflatable jumping castles are a little bit unusual.
Another daytrip to Twer left us just a short distance to Moscow, our home for the next 7 days. A cosy Airbnb apartment from Danila in a Northern outskirt of Moscow was the perfect base for several day trips to the stadiums and the inner city of the 12 million inhabitants metropolis.
Despite the 20 kilometers to the city center it doesn’t take long to get there at all. Busses operate in a 7 minutes interval, trains departing every 3 minutes and less – on every of the 20 lines, wow! I don’t have to mention, that Wi-Fi is everywhere: subway, restaurants, shopping mall, you name it. You want to buy a ticket for the train, a coffee, a bun or just a bottle of water in the smallest grocery store ever and you don’t have cash on you? No problem, take your credit card and pay contactless. By the way it’s probably open 24/7.
Before live match #two of the world cup for us we got off at the closest metro station to the Iranian embassy. We still had no visa for the Islamic Republic of Iran one of the future stops on our route. We got an idea of the distances of this huge city. It was quite a walk. We handed in all documents, information and fingerprints (like a criminal in the 80ties with a inkpad and paper) and hoped that it would be granted until Friday.
Next stop was the Spartak stadium for Poland’s opening match against Senegal. The support of the Polish fans was incredible and they outnumbered the Senegal follower by far.
Though the Africans showed more creativity in appearance and performance. They really danced and clapped their hands throughout the whole game without stopping for a second.
What seems to be a big advantage could turn into a disadvantage if you don’t deliver as expected. The Polish crowd whistled and shouted against their team with no mercy after Senegals second goal.
The next day we already got to see the stadium where the final game will be. Luschniki, a huge 78.000 capacity bowl hosted Portugal vs. Morocco that day.
Morocco really played well and deserved to at least equalize Ronaldo’s early header, but was instead send home after a poor performance of the European Champion.
Sightseeing was scheduled for Wednesday and of course the way to the red square and the Kreml was mandatory.
So we walked there around 12 o’clock, expecting to line up a bit. We decided not to get in. An estimated waiting time was 2 hours – for getting a ticket! Then another two for getting in to the Kreml. We visited Poklonnaya Hill instead a huge war memorial for all victims of WWII in Moscow and the fan fest at university.
Also a magnificent building with surrounding park area. As we already discovered in St. Petersburg: Everything is way bigger than in all European cities we have seen. All areas are clean and everything is well organized. Even though it’s hard to understand the language, we get along pretty well and not only in the vibrant world cup hot spots in town. A big „spasiba“ to Moscow that gave us a stunning last day for good bye. Belgium vs. Tunesia 5:2 in Spartak stadium again, top notch seats right behind the goal and Germany’s breathtaking last minute victory over Sweden at the fan fest again.
We even got a decent tan from 30 degrees sunshine weather over 3 consecutive days.
Now we’re facing the next big stretch of road in the next 3 days. 970 kilometers to Volgograd. Let’s go and follow us on our route.
Driving with two different navigation systems never guides us to our destination on the same roads. Choose an exciting route or switch on the adventure mode don’t neccessarily mean the same thing. Though we’re generally seeking for thrilling challenges and for improving our driving skills the unpaved gravel- or kilometerlong cobblestone paths are not always what we’re looking for when we need to cover distance. Enjoy this short summary of Polands streets and environment.
May 25th – 27th
3 nights in Katowice
It was an interesting ride to Katowice in Poland, the 3rd country during our trip so far. The roads were quite nice, some nice curvy passages through smaller mountains and many little towns
We drove more than 340km that day. Very tired we were looking forward to our place to sleep in Siemianowice Śląskie, close to Katowice.
Special thanks to Mats, Tomasz and Patrycja who offered us to stay in their very nice apartment!
The first night we just went to sleep early, as we had planned to visit the former concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau which are located about 40km outside of Katowice the next morning. Surely we know about the gruesome history of Nazi-Deutschland but visiting the two museums gave another perspective and visualization of what has happened.
It was a day to think and recap.
Coming home we didn’t feel like doing anything more that day.
The next day we did some maintenance work on our bikes and went to buy another few things like a camping stow and camera equipment. By now we are pretty well equipped! Remark for myself: we still don’t have a towel to dry the dishes.
After having a small lunch we went to Katowice by tram and enjoyed our first polish beer at the central plaza! So cold, so good!
As it was Saturday, the day of the champions league final we strolled through the city to find a nice bar to watch the game in the evening. We succeeded and went to have a typical polish dinner at a local restaurant. So tasty these Pirogies!
Thereafter we went for a walk through the city and back to the boom-bar where in the meantime about 100 Liverpool supporters had lined up, cheering and drinking beer! We stayed here to watch the game and have a couple of drinks! Unfortunately the wrong team won… that’s just a personal opinion.
We managed to get the last tram back to Siemianowice Slaskie and started today to go in direction Łódź in central Poland. After about 200 we found a very nice campground at a lake and might stay a couple of nights to get some sun and to relax. Holidays …
Check out where this nice place is and how we got there.
Getting farer away from home means also riding the bikes on unknown streets and through beautiful but also challenging environment. Check out the video!
May 17th to 21th – Hamburg to Dresden
Months of preparation are behind of us and finally we started our roadie in Hamburg-Poppenbüttel!
What a feeling! Finally on the road again, finally travelling again, excited for the adventures still to come!
Our first stop was Geesthacht were we had a nice Backfisch, sitting at a nice place next to the Elbe river. Our starting point for the first part of our trip as we are heading to the source of the Elbe river at the Czech/Polish border.
Next stop was in Tangermünde where we set up our brand new touring tent for the first time at campground next to a lake with hundreds of frogs… quite a loud night though.
A bit tired we drove on beautiful roads through the forests and many little towns in the North-Eastern part of Germany to Leipzig where we visited the city a bit, bought some equipment we forgot and after a nice Czech beer we had a good sleep in a cool Airbnb in central Leipzig.
Since two days we are in cosy Freital next to Dresden. It was a nice and smooth ride on beautiful windy roads on a couple of smaller mountains, always with Elbe river next to us. Passing through picturesque Meissen, famous for its Porzelan manufacturing and old houses.
In Freital we were very welcomed by our good friend Intigam who lets us sleep in his caravan and showed us around in his hometown. After visiting Dresden, having good food and watched the DFB cup final, the next day we had a nice open air party:
Good people around, nice music, fantastic weather and many drinks!
Today it’s time to chill out, exploring the city of Dresden a bit more and just relax before we are driving to Spindlermühle in Czech Republic, the place where the Elbe source is located.
Check out our route, we are constantly updating.