Sunday  Dateicon  22.7.2018  Tigericon  0km  Feeticon  12,42km Total:96,47km  Weathericon

A bit worse for wear today but I finally depart with a brisk step towards Red Square, I mean they can't have sealed it off two days in a row?
Turns out they hadn't and the line for tickets to the Cathedral was extremely short.
Probably because of the unusually steep admittance of R1000 (~€14).
I actually thought for a brief moment that I'd hardly be worth it but of course it was, it was a fascinating building and the fact that there was a sermon while I was there just made it even better even though I'm a die-hard atheist.

After this I quickly run across the square to the Lenin Mausoleum which closes at 1PM.
The line was the exact opposite of the Cathedrals, it was astronomically long but I make last entry by 5 minutes.
A fleeting moment I thought it was strange that there was no admittance fee but obviously not even the Russian capitalism have gotten as far as to make money off of a dead communist.

He is eerily well preserved the old git, it's hard to believe he's been dead for almost a hundred years as one could easily think he's just sleeping.
When the zombie apocalypse comes someone better be quick and put a bullet between his eyes before he gets up to his old trick because here lies a world champion of genocide.
The whole mausoleum had a definite Hannibal Lecter feel to it, it was dark (as a tomb actually) and cold as a refrigerator.

The whole experience was extremely macabre and strange.
The fact that they still have him on display is weird, the roses at the entrance proved that people actually still mourn him which is even weirder.

Instead of the square they have now cordoned off a couple of city blocks for what seems to be some sort of boxing spectacle at the north entrance of Alexander Garden.
There really wasn't much of a difference in the number of uniforms today compared to yesterday.
All the way along the barriers there are what should be some sort of security guards but what looks like military in grey camo with batons that make the standard police issue look like a toothpick.
We're talking rubberised baseball bats.
But unlike the police they have it strapped to the belt and are not standing around holding it, I don't think I've seen a single cop since I got here that isn't either doing the helicopter with it or is pounding it against the other hand.
The really haven't gone it to the whole hearts and minds thing here yet.
The thought of standing in line for an hour for something that won't even start until sometime tonight didn't really hold any appeal to me so I go into some of the city's shopping malls instead.

Since the weather seems very unstable my plan was to go to the Museum of private collections but that wasn't just closed for the day, it was completely shut down for renovation.
The worst that came of the weather was a heavy rainfall that lasted all but 60 seconds so I didn't really need all that much refuge anyway.
But I had sort of run out of things to see at a reasonable distance so with the Saviour Cathedral close by I get back there again and make my way back towards the hotel through a few of the city's parks.

It's not a great distance I need to go tomorrows, it's about 500kms on some sort of highway but still I'm going to make sure I'm well rested before I head back out into Russian traffic so an early night it is.
Looking back at the forecasts I've been incredibly lucky with the weather during my stay here.
It was supposed to rain every day but in reality all the rain I've had can be measured in droplets really apart from the massive downpour when I arrived.

 

Saint Basil's Cathedral


Lenin mausoleum and the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
Exakt hur historieförnekande måste man vara för att lägga blommor på Stalins grav?


There's no question that the glorious leader is popular.

The Karl Marxstatyn looking towards the Bolsjoj theatre.

Cathedral of Christ the saviour.



Monday  Dateicon  23.7.2018  Tigericon  470km Total:1873km  Weathericon

The receptionist called something very stereotypical Russian like Natasha at the Ibis hotel really impress with her maths skills by charging me 8100 Rubels for parking despite the 24 hour tariff being 1900 and I've been here less than 4 days.
I'm not exactly a rocket scientist myself but I can't really see it coming to any more than 4x1900=7600.
But for some weird reason she couldn't get it into her head the most guest will probably be glad to pay for time they don't actually use when it's considerably cheaper than paying both 24-hour tariff + hourly rates.
I really didn't feel like debating math all morning because of €7 extra for a parking that was already extortionately expensive to begin with so I'll just write that off to goodwill a be glad I prepaid the room because otherwise I'd probably have gotten a "stay 4 nights pay for 5" deal as well.

Considering that the temperature during the riding days thus far have been scorching it was really nice to have some cloudy weather and even though it remains overcast the whole day the only rain I see is a few droplets on the visor.
Even though it's incredibly boring riding it's still a bit nice turning onto a highway (M9/E22) and getting the GPS instruction to continue straight for over 400kms, it isn't very demanding navigation.
I started out well with two-lane carriageway but after less than a 100 kms it turns into dreaded single lane highway.

I usually adapt to different kinds of traffic pretty well but the highway riding from the Finnish border to St. Petersburg was like a rabies infected bull that had been kicked in the nuts, no matter how deep I dig I find it hard to get that aggressive.
My fear turns out to be largely unjustified though as the traffic is nowhere near that level of aggression which in some part is owed to traffic being a lot less dense here.

But it's something a bit schizophrenic about the Russian style of driving because at the same time it's by far the most aggressive I've ever seen but also at times very considerate with indication to show it's clear to overtake and moving over to let others by even though they're already driving past the speed limit themselves.
The I pay my roadtaxes too mentality that rules the Swedish road network is nowhere to be seen here.

The kilometres roll by and I ride into Vilikiey Luki by late afternoon.
Initially I thought it was unnecessarily far from the highway (about 15kms) but it turned out right away to be worth it.
The Hotell Amaris was in a very dodgy neighbourhood but was extremely nice.
Helpful staff, nice rooms, guarded parking included in the price of the room which wasn't very expensive either at about €40 a night.

And last but not least: the hotel restaurant was a Russian copy of a traditional English pub which I obviously go straight to after cleaning myself up to a presentable level.
I manage to order food without any problems but when I'm trying to order a liquid dessert, the black gold of Ireland the language barrier hits full force, the waitress hasn't got a clue what I'm talking about.
A gentleman a few tables over asks me in accented but otherwise perfectly understandable English what I want and translates it to the waitress.

After that he asks me where I'm from and when he and his friend realize that the bike they've seen in the parking is mine they enthusiastically demand that I join them which I obviously do.
The guy speaking English is Sergay and his friend and business partner is Ivan.
They are travelling veterinarians tied to a chain of pig farm.
In total they were responsible for more than 200 000 sows + their piglets so it was definitely industrial-scale farming.

Sergay had a bit of a fascination of Scandinavia and Sweden and his favourite genre of music was Swedish doom metal.
They (it was mostly Sergey talking as Ivan didn't speak English very well) thought it was a pity they hardly came across any tourists in this part of the country, they hadn't even noticed an increase during the Soccer World Cup spectacle.
I do think though that Sergeys fascination with all things Swedish will come to an abrupt end as he had come across a can of surströmming.
Nothing I said would deter him from eating this foodstuff version of a WMD, it was just something he needed to do.
They wondered where I was going and where I'd been and when they realized this wasn't my first longer trip I sat there telling lies stories about my small adventures the rest of the evening with eventual refills of Guinness.
It was a great evening.

Eventually we traded info and had I not already confirmed that Sergey was a guy with just the right kind of twisted humour it was abundantly clear when I got his email address.
A veterinarian with the email rabiess@... is simply impossible not to like.

 

Hotel Amaris

My new-found friend Sergey

Update:
I got this picture in my email a few weeks later.
I quote: "It was awful. It was the worst food I've ever eaten."
In other words, entirely as expected.

Tuesday  Dateicon  24.7.2018  Tigericon  620km Total:2493km  Bordericon #3+4 5.5h Total:9h Weathericon

It's just 150kms to the Latvian border so my last stop in Russia is just to fill the tank with the cheapest petrol of the trip at €6 per litre.
The border crossing is per usual a display of world-class ineffectiveness and when it's finally my turn I'm subjected to a far more detailed check than when I entered the country which is a bit weird.
All the papers are eventually stamped in the right places and I'm free to leave without any bureaucratic complications.

The Latvians on the other hand have obviously reverted back to Soviet levels of bureaucracy as they apart from the usual papers (passport, vehicle document, green card) also want my driving license (which as far as I could tell wasn't necessary for the Russians at all).
Going back into an EU-country on an EU registered bike on an EU driving license and an EU passport was obviously very suspicious behaviour indeed as all the papers where triple checked and the VIN was checked against the documents.
The fact that my name is printed on the side of the bike with stickers that have obviously been on there for years obviously didn't kid a kidder.
And the most stupid of everything stupid the bureaucracy of border crossing, a sort of receipt for the bike that I'm just supposed to give to a guy in an outhouse 50m from the crossing.
That guy really has the most useless job in the whole world, It doesn't matter how many times I come across this phenomenon I will never understand the need to piss away tax payers money on shit like that.

I took me 1.5 hours as an EU citizen to be let back into the EU with a proof of entry for a bike that's already registered in the union.
This while several hundred thousand people were able to cross the entire EU into Sweden unhindered the last few years despite needing to be processed in the first EU country they enter.
What a f***ing joke.

The only stop in Latvia is on a forest road to eat lunch and then quickly onwards, if the next border crossing takes just as long or even longer my hopes of not having to ride in darkness will fail miserably.
Unfortunately there was no reason to assume it would be any quicker and turns out it wasn't.

The Latvian side of the Belarus border goes all in with the bureaucracy when they beside all the stuff they previously did also absolutely needed proof of MOT on the bike to let me out of the country.
Pretty much the only god damn paper I haven't brought along for the simple reason that no one has ever asked for it and it's completely unknown in the overlanding community to be needed.
At about the same time I've managed to mail myself info from the Swedish DMV the customs official comes out waving a printout in Swedish making like he just did me a great personal service while at the same time freeing the world from evil.
He's been browsing the DMVs homepage in Swedish and if he hasn't used Google translate there was nothing on that paper that meant a god damn thing to him apart from a couple of dates he probably could guess the meaning of.
With all the papers including the not needed one in order I'm finally free to leave.
Since the paper pushing took so long they don't even do the cursory glance of my panniers and gear.
I could have had one pannier filled with hand grenades and a nuclear bomb in the other but that obviously doesn't matter as long as you can produce a piece of paper that would take me less than 60 seconds to photoshop convincingly that "proves" the bike is MOTd when I have less than a hundred metres to ride before I leave the country.
It must be some kind of hobby for customs officials to mess with bikers just because they can.
Almost every god damn time I've been asked to move the bike from the normal lane which is far to easy to do because god forbid that any cars would be delayed because they can't process a bike as effectively as a car.
What a jackass.
By this point I'm completely furious which is obviously worsened by the fact that I can't show it at all.
Any protest from me would probably result in my backside making the acquaintance of Mr Latex gloved hand and I will not give them any excuses to make this experience any worse than it already is.

The border check on the Belarusan side isn't exactly a wonder of effectiveness either but in their defence they made up for it by being the most helpful yet by a wide margin.
I now have to fill in the exact same customs declaration for the bike that got stamped out of Russia just two hours earlier with the only difference being that the Belarus version was in the A5 format instead of the Russian A4.
Well, at least I was familiar with it now and knew how to fill it in but still all that paperwork is very time-consuming.
The Belarusians also had a questionnaire that was in Russian language only so one of the officials help to translate while I wrote my replies in English.
It was pretty much the same things I'd already answered in the Visa application but since I only know what the official said the questions where and one of them was a yes or no question I might have confessed to killing Jimmy Hoffa for all I know.
I'm almost embarrassed it took me this long but I finally realized that in the Slavic languages something is completely lost when you pronounce Triumph the Brittish way [Traiamf] it means nothing to them.
I thought it was because they hadn't heard of the brand but if you just pronounce it with a Slavic accent [Trih-umfh] they get it straight away.

The time is way past s reasonable hour when I finally get to enter Belarus and the goal of not doing any night riding is completely shattered, even if I don't stop at all for the 300kms to Minsk it will still get pitch dark before I get there.
One consolation is that the highway is well maintained even though it's pretty lumpy but the best thing is that I'm pretty much the only one on it.
Another goal I'd set for myself before I left was to try to at least stay somewhere close to the speed limit to not give the police an excuse to mess with me or fine me some made up amount of money.
That's also a goal that I've completely crushed.

I see a couple of police cars along the way but they don't seem to pay me any mind and in my defence I'll say that it wasn't a mad dash for Minsk either (which is very relative compared to Russian driving).
With about 100kms to Minsk I'm still riding in dense forest and with it being overcast the darkness when it comes is compact.
It don't notice anything being wrong until I meet one of very few other vehicles and need to switch to low beam.
The road simply disappears.
I have no low beam at all, the only thing showing when it switches off the high beam is a 5w position light.

It dark as sack of coal in the forest so I don't see myself managing to do any real constructive fault finding on the bike instead I turn on the fog lights and run them as the low beam.
I ride until I catch up to a car which luckily took me all the way to Minsk.
If I someone got dazzled by my fog lights they didn't show it so as an emergency solution it worked pretty well.
It's past 11PM when I finally find the hotel and I'm at the same time dead tired and a bit buzzed by the last bit of riding.

I sort out the gear quickly, get in the shower and jump to bed.
The lesson of the day is to take into account that every border crossing will be about three hours, had I known that beforehand I wouldn't have set a distance of 600kms to ride in a day but on the other hand: If it was too easy everyone would be doing it?

 

Lunch i Latvia.

Belarus Immigration Card

Belarus, a war monument in the form of a MIG-23 in honour of the Soviet pilots who patrolled the western border of the union.