Madloba Georgia

Having serviced the bikes we were ready to keep going further Southeast. However before we decided to stay a few more days in Georgia, enjoying stunning mountain roads, beautiful sights and the incredible hospitality from the people living here.

Leaving Rustavi we drove about 250km through the mountains up to 2500m above sea level to visit Vardsia a UNESCO world heritage site. The monastery was built into a mountain in the 13th century included a fresh water spring, a church and offered incredible views and interesting history.

On the way we were quite amazed by the beauty of the mountain range and enjoyed driving the perfect curvy roads up and down.

We had a quick lunch break at the lake Paravani and a bit of off-road driving around it.

About 20km before Vardsia it started raining quite heavily so we looked for a place to get shelter and stay for the night. Luckily we saw a sign guesthouse Mtkavi. We followed the signs riding through a muddy road up a hill and were lucky enough Koban a very friendly and funny guy had a room for us to stay. Even more we got a fantastic dinner all made from „the house“ and all organic. Even the wine was homemade and Natalie just didn’t stop serve more dishes accompanied by wine and fresh water from the spring to drink.

What a feast, we rolled into the bed after and had a very tight sleep in the quietness of the valley.

After visiting the monastery we were heading for Armenia. Going to spend our last Laris at a gas station a Mercedes car showed up next to us and we were invited to have a coffee. Surprisingly the driver spoke German. Merujan, a super friendly Handwerksmeister who lives with his parents in Schwerin and is visiting his family in Georgia invited us to follow him to his grandmothers house. Gladly we did and met his parents, grandmother and friends.

We’re so grateful for the hospitality and the wonderful time in Ninozminda we had. We learnt a lot about Armenian traditions and history, enjoyed incredible tasty food once again, nice Cognac too and were even offered to stay for the night. Thank you so much – hope to see you guys in Hamburg!

The next day we drove to direction Armenia and got check how our bikes and new tyres are working on muddy and difficult road conditions up to the Armenian border. The check out leaving Georgia went smooth, however we faced a 2 hours delay at the Armenien boarder – lots of paperwork to be done – but were once again rewarded for the hassle by stunning views, fun riding, sunny weather on our way to Yerevan, the Armenian capital. We checked in to a guesthouse, did some laundry and had the first Armenian beer.

Now it’s time to discover Armenia for a bit before heading to Iran.

See here where we are and how we got here.

Back on track

3 weeks of rest for our bikes, 3 weeks of time-out for us.

We are happy to be back in Georgia, happy to be re-united with our motorbikes which stayed safe and sound at KTM Georgia.

Today we got the tyres changed, new break pads mounted, oil changed and the bikes are ready to go. Big props to Lewan from KTM Georgia for all the support and help!

A bit of refreshment for our gear, sorting the equipment and planning the route was the task for later today.

The sweat, dust and dirt from 8500km sat inside the helmets which got a good clean as well as the boots and gloves.

The next few days we will be driving around in Gerogia before heading to Armenia, slowly making our way to Iran, the next milestone on our trip.

We are looking forward to the next adventures, beautiful sights, friendly encounters, panoramic views, tasty food, dirt roads, mountains, desert, rivers and much more to come and will be back blogging on here in usual manner.

Cheers!

From Rostov-On-Don to Sochi

The distance from Volgograd to Rostov-On-Don is about 550km on good roads, partly on M4 which is a well built 2 lane highway. However we decided to have a stop over in a hotel about 170 km before Rostov so we don’t have to drive so much too much that day.

Nice hotel, nice food, good rest. The next day we headed to Rostov-on-Don or Росто́в-на-Дону́ or Rostow-na-Donu. Smaller than Moscow or St.Petersburg, still 1.1 million, but cozy, relaxed right at the river Don. We had booked an Airbnb in the center of the city before we arrived there, walking distance to the Fan Fest and the Rostov arena as we were going to watch the round of last 16 Match Japan vs Belgium here.

Firstly in Rostov-On-Don we had to get rid of our extra tickets for the game, went to Decathlon with the hope of finally getting new gas for our cooking stove (still no success) and checked out the city for a bit whilst feeling to be on a cooking stove ourselves – still 38 degrees during the day…

Nothing more, dinner at night and good rest again. Walking distance in Russia means 8-12km a day. That needs good rest for sure. Sightseeing and Russia playing Spain deepened our T-shirt-tan in the burning sun and to our surprise we gonna watch Russia in the stadium in Sochi on 7th July…What a party! Happy Russians everywhere and surely we are also happy to see a match of Russia live!

Finally it was game day in the Rostov arena! Before our highlight of the day we went to the Fan Fest to watch Brazil beat Mexico. From there the shuttle bus took us conveniently direct to the brand-new stadium on closed roads and to watch what we thought will be a boring game – but yeah we were wrong! 2nd half with 5 goals and Belgium conceding the winning goal in the 95th minute… we felt sorry for the Japanese!

We had some traditional tasty Khachapuri (picture 1) and excellent Khinkali (picture 2) in a neat local restaurant after the match. The next day we planned to arrive at the Black Sea, we were very excited after so many kilometers over land.

2600km more or less on straight roads within Russia has been less attractive hence we were happy to drive through the mountains to the coast of the Black Sea. Windy roads and some stunning views were very much appreciated! And it’s nice to see some other bikers again even more as everyone is greeting while heavily waving in full stretch of the arm. We even got some fist bumps while overtaking! And in between the horns or thumbs up from passing cars. Cool stuff!

After a 2 nights stay at the coast in Lermontovo in the very nice guest house Shokolad close to the beach and a lot of tasty shashlik we drove another 5 hours on the beautiful coast line to Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Olympics and the quarter final of proud Russian’s Sbornaja. We’d love to see the next World Cup’s surprise – GO RUSSIA!

We have passed the 7000 km mark by now, check out our route to Sochi.

Russians rock, drivers suck!

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…

Crossing the Baltics to Finland

6th – 11th June

After a good sleep in the tent again in Barzai we headed off for Latvia. The perfect road behind the border (nothing reminds of a border here) gave us the hope that the roads would continue like that. This hope was taken after 20 kilometers or so. The strong wind coming from the coast pushed us from side to side like ping pong balls. Luckily there weren’t as many trucks on the road as in Lithuania or Poland.

Riga was never really on our itinerary from the beginning, as we both have been visiting already. It is the only city in the Baltic area considered as metropolitan city. A coffee and a quick lunch was everything we dedicated Latvia’s capital and went off to Tuja, a very little town with a campground and a supermarket – nothing else. So far it was the most scenic and loveliest designed campground. A selfmade playground, fireplaces all over the property and direct access to the beach. We made a bonefire and for having the perfect camping feeling it even convinced us to take a short dip into the calm but freezing Baltic sea in the morning. This gave us enough freshness for the most tiring 200km through Latvia. Sorry for not spending an appropriate amount of time in your country, dear Latvians . We make that up some time in the future…

It didn’t get really dark all night long. This picture was taken after midnight:

Pärnu, the weekend exile of many Estonians lead us to a very touristy little town in Estonia.

We found a cool little spot to set up camp in a backyard in the city.

We had a stroll in Pärnu, met Cocran a Canadian guy who is driving around in Europe and also owned a F650GS. It took him around South America and further. More than 115.000km in total – this made Jendrik feel pretty confident. Some advises and little anecdotes later we were sure that you not necessarily need the best and newest equipment for such a trip. Not even your own bike. Safe travels amigo, it was a pleasure.

After these 3 nights in the tent we booked an Airbnb very close to Tallin Old town.

It was a perfect stay. Close to everything and finally a nice bed again! Thanks Nataly for helping us finding a laundry place – it was about time and surely we would have passed it…

A walk through the beautiful old town and the harbour area confirmed what we already expected. Estonia is not only geographically closer to Scandinavia, as the other Baltic countries: The language, the architecture and also the appearance of the people show many similarities to their Scandinavian neighbors. We recharged all electronic devices, proved to be good chefs – again 🙂 – and went for an early sleep to stand a quite tight schedule the next day.

Have you ever heard of ice-sailing, Konstantin Vassiljev, three times Estonian footballer of the year or a restaurant where glasses, plates and forks are just not existent? The fantastic maritime museum, the friendly match between Estonia vs Morocco in the LeCoq Arena and dinner in Ill Draakon restaurant taught us.

Especially the restaurant impressed, while the game didn’t so much, Morocco won 3:1… It just needs a huge piece of meat from the bone and big tasty beer out of a huge clay pot to be happy.

A great day found its end around 3 o’clock – measured by daylight 8 o’clock in the morning, see here:

Our plan was to take the ferry to Helsinki but only god knows why, prices had risen for about 400% this day so we booked another cheap stay in the countryside, to take the ferry the next morning. It was a beautiful stay actually, next to a lake and perfect sunshine. Great to rest and relax.

Ready for new adventures we took off to find some brekkie and cartridges for our camping stove the next morning. Very difficult as there are different standards all over Europe – mission not completed yet… We made it to the ferry terminal in Tallin just in time. Premiere on a ship with our bikes – the name says it all: M/S Finlandia.

After 2,5 hours we arrived in Helsinki/Finland, the 7th visited country during our trip! Sunshine welcomed us, lunchtime and a nice 2 hours walk around the capital, we took some pictures and drove further East to stay a night on a campground in Porvoo, actually on a hill for skiing. 28€ for a standard campground – not surprising but 5 times the price of the average fee in Poland. Frustrated we bought two beers for 10 Euros. It’s vacation 😉

Follow our route as we are getting closer to Russia, the next milestone on our trip!

Lithuania

June 1st – 5th

From Danzig we drove through the beautiful landscape of Mazury. Little valleys, lakes everywhere and the sun shining all day long. After a quick stop for another face off with the cruelty of Nazi Deutschland at the Wolfsschanze we stayed for one night at the Wydminy lake in our tent.

The day after the streets took us along the Russian border to Kaliningrad into Lithuania, the 4th country during the trip. We followed our plan to visit Trakai, a picturesque town and capital of the medieval Lithuania. The most visited Lithuanian landmark is the well preserved and impressive watercastle at the Galve lake 20km southwest of Vilnius.

Heading for Vilnius, we took the direct route via the highway, the first time on our trip we chose this fast but boring way of driving. We covered approx 350km in 5 hours. Inbetween we spontaneously detoured to Kaunas central, the 2nd biggest city in Lithuania and had lunch at the surprisingly charming riverside, close to the castle.

After drifting through the awesome bends around the lakes in Trakai for a while, we stayed at a residence. Pretty fancy for a campground. Wi-Fi covering the entire area allowed us to watch the friendly Germany vs Austria via live stream.

The German invasion of camper vans here for sure had satellite TV, but this is not the company we prefer on our tour distancing Germany a little bit more every day.

Sunday was another „holiday“! History session at Trakai castle and cuisine lesson in one of the traditional small townhouses with late breakfast. Kibanai, little baked dumplings with diverse sweet and hearty fillings really blown us away. Our belly worked on these Kibanai while we rested at the beach of one of the numerous lakes around. We met Saulius, who listened to us speaking German and initiated the conversation. He’s a former professionell basketball coach, who was happy to practice some German again! Super friendly and inspiring. It was very cool to meeting you Saulius!

Later that day we literally flew the remaining kilometers to Vilnius where we stayed in a nice apartment. We went for a stroll downtown and straight into a typical Lithuania restaurant serving traditional food – again 😉

Typical beer plate!

What a feast it was!

After two mains each and a few more beers we walked back to our apartment and had a fantastic sleep – not very surprising, huh?!

The haircut, scheduled for a long time was finally accomplished and let us look a little less like travellers before meeting up with Povilas, who Jendrik knows for a long time, in Vilnius‘ old town. We had dinner and a very nice evening with many laughs! He was so kind to receive some mail for us from Hamburg, amongst were all our tickets for the World Cup in Russia as the FIFA wasn’t able to send these out in time… thanks again Povilas!

The next day we took off heading East, after getting done some work on the motorbike (with some parts also received with the mail) and set up our excellent MSR tent in no time in Northern Lithuania, even though we faced heavy wind. Our routines seem to be almost perfect by now.

Barzai is supposed to be our last stop in Lithuania as we’re heading to Latvia tomorrow. That day was the first time we actually had some rain while driving…

Holidays

28. May – 1st June

After we arrived at Campground Rafa 52 in Osrodek we set up our tent and used the new bought camping stow for the first time. We had some Polish Borsz instant noodles. Poland seems to be a instant soup and biscuit nation – the supermarkets are full of all kinds of flavors. Looking for standard Tempo tissues on the other hand- hopeless.

We called it an early night and got up the next day woken up by the sun – that would have never happened at home 😉 We managed to get a surprisingly delicious coffee in the Taverna and relaxed at the lake, went for a swim and just chilled out. Not having a daily routine on the trip, doesn’t mean every day it’s like holiday. This day was, for sure.

By the way: how lucky we are! We haven’t seen a single raindrop since we started two weeks ago. We definitely expect it to be continued like that the next 24 weeks 😉

The next morning we went for another 200km ride to Bydgoszcz where we headed to a hidden camp at a river Brda deep in the forest. Very natural location, almost nobody there. Our camp-set-up-routine is quite good already, so we did and had again another pasta. Salt should be on our shopping list…

Daniel went to get some beer while in the meantime Willi from Bavaria arrived who is riding a bicycle from Berlin to Vilnius. We had a beer all together. He really appreciated the drink and the company. Being on the road alone for almost 10 days he seems to be happy for the chat. So were we. Have a safe ride Willi!

We booked an apartment in Gdańsk (Danzig) where we stayed for two nights. Very adventurous driving through woods and fields, on cobblestones and sand roads. I don’t have to mention that we prefer empty and more remote routes to enjoy riding on our way to our destinations. That worked out very well that day until we reached the city. Stop and Go everywhere and the heat on the bike without the chilly breeze is hard to stand and made us sweat immediately. The happier we were once we arrived.

We recharged all electronic devices, recharged our bodies, recharged our nutrients with some good food again after all these pastas. An early run to the beautiful beach of the Baltic Sea also quietened our conscience and sightseeing in the old town put some more miles to our account. Gdańsk is beautiful and worth a weekend trip from Hamburg.

Check out our route, we are constantly updating.