Thursday 19.7.2018 532km Total:1403km
This day is purely transportation.
I get the bike from the old guy in the machine gun nest and ride off.
Most of the day is just an endless drawl of 90km/h (outside populated areas) and 60km/h (inside populated areas).
Due to the fact that no one really cares about speed limits at all the average speed is still acceptable or some small part of my soul would have died.
I'm actually a bit surprised that the Russian infrastructure is this bad as they're as a nation pretty oriented around their military and what I've seen so far doesn't make for very effective troop transport.
The only glorious exception is the M11 highway which is to 100% modelled straight after the German Autobahn apart from the fact that it's a toll road here.
2-4 lanes with 130km/h speed limit. It was just heaven.
I've definitely gotten the impression thus far that they have a pretty large middle class in this country and the vehicles people are riding around in supports that theory so I wonder if it's a matter of principle that they avoid toll roads because I was pretty much the only vehicle on it.
Except me the majority of other vehicles where big rigs but there wasn't a lot of them either.
I can't really see it as being a cost issue because even if you where to ride on the toll road all the way from St Petersburg to Moscow it still wouldn't cost more than about €20.
I paid that in road tolls before lunch while riding in Spain.
But the fact that there's a lot of people struggling for income is also quite obvious when riding along the B-roads.
You don't have to ride very far until you spot an old lady/man sitting by the side of the road selling jam, berries and mushrooms.
I was incredibly lucky riding through a radar at 70+ km/h (most likely closer to 80) on a 60km/h stretch of road but I seem to have been saved by the fact that the area designated to handle the speeders was already quite full which actually was not at all surprising.
Catching speeders in this country must be the easiest job in the world, they don't even need a radar gun as no one is driving anywhere near the speed limit anyway.
Later in the day I ride past a cruiser in about 105 in a 90km/h zone.
I rode embarrassingly legal a while after until they turned off but I'm still a bit surprised I got away with it.
I manage to stay clear of the rain which the forecast said would be pissing down all day until late in the afternoon and the closer I get to Moscow the worse it's hammering down.
I deliberately delayed my arrival in Moscow by taking more and longer stops along the way to not arrive at 4PM rush hour but considering that last 10kms to the hotel took an hour anyway I wonder how much worse it could have been really.
I choose to stay at Ibis for the sole reason that they have a garage but the receptionist seemed to think I was a bit crazy as I was prepared to pay that amount of money (R1900/night ~€26) because there was an awful amount of questions and excuses before she finally managed to arrange a spot.
I'll admit that compared to the very reasonable price of the room (<€50/night) the pricing on the parking was pretty insane but I've never considered it a waste of money knowing that the bike is safe and I still don't.
Parked up and installed in the room it's already past 8PM and it's still raining.
I haven't planned on taking a single step outside the hotel today if I can avoid and it turns out I can.
I eat a delicious but ridiculously expensive meal in the hotel restaurant before setting up the waypoints for tomorrow.
Friday 20.7.2018 0km 11,31km Total:66,87km
I get breakfast and head off toward the absolute most obvious sightseeing destination of the whole trip, The Kremlin.
The weather starts as it left off yesterday with some light rain.
When I finally get to the ticket sales the line is completely astronomical but there's just no way I'm missing out on this so I queue up with the rest of my proletariat brothers and sisters.
I'm actually thankful the sun isn't scorching as it takes me an hour and a half to get to the ticket booth and by the end it's starting to rain pretty heavily.
At the ticket booth there's quite confusing menu of sights inside the Kremlin to choose from and many of them where on strict time tables.
I definitely wanted to see the armoury but apart from that it wasn't easy trying to decide what I might have time for.
The babushka in the booth was probably a pro as she doesn't give me the ticket I order at all but instead gives me a ticket that covers everything that's actually open and it really wasn't expensive.
So considering she didn't listen to me at all I'm very happy with the service.
Well, all that got me initially was the privilege to stand in another line, this time for the safety check but at least it was a lot quicker and a quarter of an hour later I'm on the Troitskaya bridge.
A short walk on the bridge and through the Troitskaya tower I'm inside the Kremlin.
Inside it was pretty hard to not immediately notice the Tsar Cannon.
A bronze cannon cast in the late 1500s with a caliber of 89cm and a weight of 39 metric tons.
Every one of the cannon balls in front of the cannon has a weight of 1 ton but is only decorative as the cannon was made to fire grapeshot in the sense it was actually made to fire anything but according to legend it has at least been test fired.
A more tragic fate befell the Tsar Bell.
It is the worlds biggest bell at 6.14 meters and 216 tons but it has never chimed as a fire broke out when it was still in its casting put and when they for obvious reasons used water to put out the fire, the bell cracked and the crack that got dislodged from the bell alone weighs 11.5 tons.
The bell remained in its casting pit for more than a hundred years.
Napoleon is said to have wanted it as loot 1812 but was unable to sort out the logistics.
It has at some point functioned as a chapel with the crack being the door opening.
The French poet Voltaire have mockingly said that the two biggest treasures of the Kremlin are a cannon that's never been fired and a bell that has never rung.
He does have point but disregarding function they are at least very aesthetically pleasing objects.
Unfortunately Ivan the greats clock tower was closed so apart from a couple of minor exhibits the only thing open was churches.
In some way I can admire the architecture of the Russian orthodox but where normal protestant churches would have windows they've pretty much abandoned that concept all together in favour of more wall space to paint icons so it gets very gloomy and dark inside.
It's an extreme contrast to the usually bright white exterior and golden domes.
The Kremlin Palace was an extremely impressive building and even though it's closed to the public for obvious reasons just being there felt a bit weird.
Growing up in the 80s during the cold was it's really strange feeling just being able to get on the bike, ride to the heart of Soviet Moscow and walk around (almost) freely inside The Kremlin.
After all it is the home of the most powerful man in America.
The armoury was rally an abundance of treasure but despite all the shiny gold and silver it wasn't what impressed me the most.
As the name implies it was the guns and amour that I found most interesting with the collection of royal horsedrawn carriages as a close second.
After the visit to the armoury I take a detour through the park back over the Troitskaya bridge exiting the Kremlin through Alexander Garden and on to the tomb of the unknown soldier where I miss the changing of the guards with the slightest possible margin.
The Red Square was an amazing experience with the Iberian Gate, The Kremlin wall, The Lenin mausoleum, Saint Basil's Cathedral and the beautiful exterior of the GUM department store.
GUM that in its full meaning means State Department Store is now a privately owned mall littered with top market brand stores.
I gave me immense satisfaction to spend the evening opposite Lenin at the mall's open air restaurant enjoying a liqueur from a long since liberated Soviet state.
Cheers to capitalism comrade!
Saturday 21.7.2018 0km 17,18km Total:84,05km
Today I have my sights set on Saint Basil's Cathedral and the Lenin Mausoleum.
When I get to Red Square it's completely sealed off, judging by all the uniforms it's because of some kind of military parade.
I didn't investigate further as I have no interest in a Russian show of might so instead I take the longest detour in the world to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
Even though I've seen it throughout my stay as it dominates the skyline of Moscow I wasn't any less overwhelmed standing at the foot of it.
Without a doubt the most impressive buildings of the trip thus far and one of the most beautiful buildings I've seen in my whole life.
Apparently the original plan was to build some sort of Soviet palace at this location what a 100 metre high statue of Lenin.
Regardless of beliefs it's no doubt the Moscovites dodged a bullet there.
Unlike most churches I've seen so far the interior was on par with the outside and the walk up in the towers offered a magnificent view of the city.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying high culture as I was in the same neighbourhood as both the Museum of European and American art (which wasn't really my cup of tea despite works of Matisse, Renoir, Rembrandt and Picasso) and opposite the Pushkin Museum.
The latter had apart from traditional artworks also a large collection of very grand statues and if that wasn't impressive enough the building itself was a work of art as well.
I tend to forget to eat lunch when I have stuff to do so I do another pitstop at McD just to refill some energy, boring but convenient.
This evening too is spent at the Bosco open air restaurant but as I felt I'd already upheld my duty towards our Baltic neighbour I treated myself to a whisky with my beer this time.
I sat there quite a while enjoying a beautiful evening before taking a detour through Old English Court on my way back to the hotel.
I get supper at a café which only real merit was that it neighboured O'Donoghue's Irish Pub.
Take a wild guess what I drank for dessert?
The Russian state library with a statue of Fjodor Dostojevskij