The Birthplace of Western Civilisation

Athens (Greece), 10.11.2013

Many sites of great cultural significance have shaped the route of this journey, and most of them in Asia. To retain the spirit of Eurasian travel, there are some places that cannot be skipped to make the tour complete. And Athens is a major one of these. Inhabited for over 3.400 years, this city is the birthplace of many foundations of western civilisation, and walking through town I could see history everywhere around me. After breakfast I walked towards the Acropolis, through the Psiri district. There were a lot of people on the streets, enjoying the great weather and the marathon that was celebrated today. Continue reading “The Birthplace of Western Civilisation”

Hellas!

Athens (Greece), 08.11.2013

Sunshine greeted me as I left the hotel, and I was really tempted to take a walk through the center of Sofia, stroll through the streets and enjoy a breakfast in a cafe. But focus! I wanted to see Meteora in Greece where I had been almost 20 years ago on one of my first car trips. So I left Sofia in the morning, and soon after reached a mountain range on the road south where low hanging thick clouds made the sun disappear. 200km into the day, I reached the border with Greece. The villages I crossed in Bulgaria were very poor, run down, half abandoned. The EU’s wealth hadn’t spread until here yet. Continue reading “Hellas!”

The City Crossed Twice

Sofia (Bulgaria), 08.11.2013

The route of this journey runs like an infinity sign with a hugely inflated eastern loop. The place where the lines meet is Sofia, the only city to be visited twice. After the first stop in April, today I reached it again. In the morning I left romantic Sibiu in bright sunshine and tried to cross the Carpathian mountains to the south through a smaller, more interesting road, the Transfagarasan.

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Through Transylvania

Sibiu (Romania), 07.11.2013

This morning I drove almost the same tour I had walked last night, recording much of it with the GoPRO (videos on YouTube soon). Bucharest really was a beautiful city with many spots still waiting to be renovated. Driving out of town I passed several parks and monuments as well as a modern business district. Soon afterwards snow capped mountains appeared at the horizon and I kept driving towards them. Continue reading “Through Transylvania”

Bucharest

Bucharest (Romania), 06.11.2013

Six and a half months ago, reaching Istanbul I had left the EU. Today would be the day to come back. Ever since arriving in geographic Europe in Kazakhstan at the end of October, every day had brought me closer to “home”. Small things changed every day, the climate, the roads, the faces of people, the shops and gas stations and restaurants. It has been a smooth transition from Asia back to Europe. In Ukraine and Moldova I saw two countries on their way into the EU, the former still unofficially, the latter already formally.

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From Odessa to Moldova

Chisinau (Moldova), 05.11.2013

Before leaving for a short drive into Moldova today, I went to see Odessa. This town had been associated to all kinds of dark prejudices, for reasons I cannot recall, since my childhood when I read about the port town, the Potemkin uprising and Eisenstein’s black and white film, jewish emigrants and bitter poverty. So the discovery of a pretty well kept old city center with baroque and neoclassical buildings came as a pleasant surprise. Continue reading “From Odessa to Moldova”

The Missile Base

Odessa (Ukraine), 04.11.2013

As if the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl hadn’t been enough, I went to see one more Soviet legacy today: a missile base half the way from Kiev to Odessa, at Pervomaysk, that had been ready to launch an atomic warhead until not too long ago. In the morning I packed my stuff and left Kiev in bright sunshine with 15 degrees. Driving slowly through the city center I could admire once more the surprisingly beautiful city. Continue reading “The Missile Base”

To Kiev

Kiev (Ukraine), 03.11.2013

The road from Moscow to Kiev, door to door, was over 900 straight km. I had to turn at only 5 points: 1 in Moscow to cross the Moskva, 1 shortly before the border with Ukraine, 1 before reaching Kiev and 2 in Kiev itself. The rest of the day (and night) I drove just straight ahead. I still couldn’t believe there are no proper highways in Russia, a rich and vast country with a lot of vehicles on its roads. I had plenty of time to convince myself there really are none. Continue reading “To Kiev”

More Moscow

Moscow (Russia), 01.11.2013

The short detour to St. Petersburg had been a spontaneous change of plans and totally worth it. Now I had to get back south quickly, to avoid more cold and rainy days. To not just drive for several consecutive days I planned to stay one more day in Moscow. In the morning I left St. Petersburg in the first sunlight, driving down Moskovsky prospekt. At Pobedy square I briefly stopped to take pictures of the monument to the defence of the city. Then came the long drive back on the same road I had taken two days ago. Weather was good and I made good progress without any discoveries or adventures. Highlights were the empty villages falling apart and the WWII monuments with their tanks, rocket launchers and cannons. Approaching Moscow traffic got pretty bad, and I spent two hours on the last 30km in dense evening traffic. Continue reading “More Moscow”

A Gem in the North

St. Petersburg (Russia), 30.10.2013

Moscow was supposed to be the northernmost city on this journey before heading south, but somehow I started reading about St. Petersburg, the Hermitage, and then a friend strongly recommended me to go. So on a sunny morning (obviously the sun came out the day after I needed it to tour the city) I left Moscow to go see the former capital of imperial Russia. The 700km road between the two major cities of the worlds largest country was not a motorway, but a normal countryside road with pedestrian crossings, red lights, police stops. An endless flow of trucks populated it, and I played truck overtaking for 10h straight.

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