Chernobyl

Kiev (Ukraine), 03.11.2013

After a few hours sleep I woke up for a tour of Chernobyl. I had read about visiting the place of the worst nuclear disaster ever many months ago in Der Spiegel and wanted to see it. I still remember hearing the news when I was a kid on the way to school. We couldn’t drink milk and eat vegetables for weeks at the time and nobody knew what exactly had happened. The incident made me read books about nuclear meltdown and ever since I have developed a lot of respect for anything nuclear. It seemed a technology hard to grasp with common measures for me at the time. So here it was, few km from Kiev, and at 09:00 I met the tour bus at Maidan square. Continue reading “Chernobyl”

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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.

Continue reading “A Gem in the North”

Moscow

Moscow (Russia), 28.10.2013

Leaving Volgograd on a dizzy morning, the day ahead promised many km – and delivered more then expected. There is not much to write about the day on the road. Bad weather, low visibility, OK roads, and just a lot of time driving on flat land with trees and occasional ditches or hills. The more interesting part came in the evening, approaching Moscow. The last 150km I drove in the dark, and only the last hour or so there was some kind of motorway. From a country of this size and richness I would have expected more bigger roads, especially because for once there was traffic, enough cars for bigger roads. Continue reading “Moscow”

Volgograd

Volgograd (Russia), 26.10.2013

Leaving Atyrau in the morning the sun was shining, although temperatures reached just 2 degrees. The road out of town towards the Russian border was in bad shape, with frequent potholes and bumps, but time went by quickly and before I even realised it a couple of hours had passed and I reached the border. This was the last stretch of steppe, with camels and cows strolling across it. Continue reading “Volgograd”

Space and the Lake

Aralsk (Russia), 22.10.2013

Today I saw two soviet relics in the desert of what today is Kazakhstan. The first one of scientific and technical significance, the second one a an ecological disaster on a staggering scale. The morning started with no water and a “shower” with a small bucket of water plus the 5 liter tank I had bought the night before. Shortly before 09:00 the phone rang and somebody asked me something in Russian. I just understood “lunch bag”. Then the phone rang again while I was in the bathroom, then again. Now it was Yana, my translator: “Do you want breakfast?”. “Of course, but I was told to be downstairs at 09:00, and I am leaving the room now.” I walked down the stairs to the hotel restaurant. The corridors smelling of cigarette smoke in the morning, the big empty halls with cheap sofas and decorations, the concrete stairs in rough cement and bad manufacturing, the restaurant with fake privè corners and real disco lights – this place was a fine example of a soviet relic adapting to modern times without hiding its past. Continue reading “Space and the Lake”

Towards Kazakhstan

Semey (Kazakhstan), 15.10.2013

The first sunlight woke me up on the day that marked six months on the road. The showers of the “gostiniza” were indeed hot, the heating warmed the room, thinking about the last two nights in Mongolia everything was good. In no rush I washed my food containers, made sandwiches with the delicacies from the supermarket in Ulaan Baatar, prepared tea and coffee, peeled apples. The host handed me back my passport and the registration papers that are needed for every night in Russia, and wished me “good travel” with a smile. Continue reading “Towards Kazakhstan”

Goodbye Steppe

Onguday (Russia), 14.10.2013

There was no warm water in the morning and the cold shower went quick. I fled the filthy hotel, opened the car’s frozen doors, turned the engine on, started to pack and prepare breakfast and food for the day. Slowly the Evoque and I warmed up, the kettle gave its first dose of hot water for a tasty Nescafé, and at 09:00 I left Khovd. Continue reading “Goodbye Steppe”

Ulaan Baatar

Ulaan Baatar (Mongolia), 06.10.2013

The morning welcome today came in form of a white car even whiter – covered in snow! At -2 degrees and windy, a freezing cold welcomed me as I left the hotel to drive to the border. I barely got the doors open, and had to stand in a big half-frozen puddle on both sides of the car as I packed. It took quite a while to get the car warmed up, but the blue sky and sun behind the hills on the Mongolian side of the border, cheered me up. Continue reading “Ulaan Baatar”