Travel Blog

Russia      02. - 11. Juli 2015

from  km  2 184  to  km  2 615           total 431 km

On the 2nd of July at about 16:30 p.m. we arrived - after some delay at the customs - on the Russian side of the border. Then I cycled slowly through the rundown city Svetogorsk.

Half decayed prefabricated buildings dominated the city, in between small shops in small houses. Since I don`t speak the Russian language I could only guess what was  in advertised in Cyrillic letters. I ended up in a shop instead of a bank. I urgently needed to find an ATM somewhere to get a few rubles. Finally, with a lot of questioning it worked Now I had to look for a place to stay over night. But I drove on for a while through sleepy villages, almost untouched nature that still reminded me a lot of the Finnish side of Karelia.


Since I found neither hotel nor a camping, I set up my tent in a beautiful clearing. After a quiet night in which I only saw and heard woodcock and again did not get the chance for an encounter with a bear. I drove now on to Viborg.


 

 

Unfortunately, this city is not maintained, although it has still some old buildings. In some places there are you can see landmarks of different epochs of this city. Old church tower and modern  high chimneys.

 


I stayed overnight in the city of Sovetsky in the only hotel which was still run in the old communist style. On each floor was a small room, always with an open door, where a "supervisor" sat and visibly did nothing. Luckily she also never complained. My journey continued the next day on bad country roads along the beautiful Baltic coast, lined with pine forests.


No ugly buildings were to be seen and I felt glad to see that this beautiful coast is not spoiled like the Cote D`Azur in France. Here everything is "common property" and everybody can camp wherever he wants. It should also be mentioned that there is virtually no trash along the sandy beach. If I stopped somewhere, I immediately got into contact with the tourists present and was often invited to eat with them. It happened to me with Vladimir and his friend.


I rode on noticeably better road towards St. Petersburgh and I passed beautiful wooden churches with famous onion domes fitting nicely into the pine forest.


Like most of the Russian weekend tourists I also slept on the beach. The next day I had an easy stroll towards the famous city on the Gulf of Finland. When I had to wait on a pedestrian stripe I was approached from a man with a funny hat from the First World War. It was Anton Detch.


Anton should be of great importance to me. At the end of our common, he showed me a good, not too expensive restaurant and handed me his phone number with the words "if you ever have a problem in Saint Petersburg, please call me". After a delicious fish meal, I continued my way into the City. I also started to ask for accommodation in every guest house, motel or hotel. The answer was always "yes. we have" and as soon as I mentioned my dog - the answer was " nijett". At  11:00 p.m. I already was in one of the hotels in the City center and then i was so disappointed that I wrote to my family on Whats app: "Shit, I cant find a hotel and I will just sleep in a park". My daughter Fiona soon wrote back that she found a "pet friendly hotel" not far from my location. I immediately booked a night there - but how do I find this address in the huge city? I do not even know these dam letters! A telephone to Anton: "Yes in half an hour I will be at your hotel and then we drive together to the new hotel". He then helped me to unload the things and then drove home after midnight. He refused to take any money. One hour after midnight I fell dead tired in my bed and started to dream from the next day.

After I found a place to stay last night, the new day greeted me with a warm sunshine - as if the many golden domes and towers did not shine enough. Of course, I have especially noticed the beautiful and neatly dressed Russian Women. Stylishly dressed and made-up, never overemphasized and always made a very clean impression. On the way to the center I passed the decaying Botanical Garden. The following buildings, however, became more and more splendid and were neatly renovated.


Then the striking golden towers of the Peter and Paul Fortress.


 

By crossing the "Trinity Bridge" to the other side of the Neva I got a short glance at the the magnificent palaces of the czar. A glimpse down the river and I saw huge cruise ships coming almost up to the historic city center.


From this bridge, I got glorious views including the view back to Peter and Paul.


South of the Neva the buildings are by no mean inferior to the northern part. Beautiful gardens, the famous "Church of the Spilled Blood", the canals.  The latter pretended to be in Venice and the relaxed atmosphere of the streets reminded me of Monmartre in Paris


The majestic square in front of the castle with a few hundred meters length, a visit in smaller parks in the neighborhood of the "Flying Dutchman" in the river Newa I ended my long, but interesting day.



In the evening I got the chance to visit all five Rotary clubs of Saint Petersburgh in a meeting together with their district governor.

The following day I rode out of the town together with many others. The tramway in Zürich is ultra-quiet compared withe that one from St. Petersburgh and I have no idea how far this motorist will come with his spare tire? On the way out to the summer residency of the czar called "Peterhof", I passed also many nameless churches.


I allowed myself only a small glimpse into the "Peterhof", because - note the already opened umbrellas - the weather did not allow much more and I wanted to get out of the city.


The next three days I cycled past many lovely flower meadows, but sometimes also along big stocks of not unproblematic and poisonous herbs (Giant Hogweed) and also along slowly disintegrating villages with typical wooden houses.


However, some people have certainly a tendency to individuality.

Then the last, striking orthodox church in Kingisepp and the no longer completely new railway which only goes to the Estonian border.


Goodbye Russia. I believe that I only half-heartened understood the Russian soul. She was hidden from me for one reason or another. If you do not speak the language of a country, you never really understand it. Anton Detch gave me a little insight  and shared Russian life for a moment with me. Thank you, Anton.