around western Russia
Russian hospitality - 09.07.03 - Kirishi,
Monday. When we woke, it was rainng heavily
but by the time we had checked out the rain
had ceased. We went to the other rock store
where Veronica and Svetlana were working that
day to buy an CCCP pin to go with my Ural vest.
We changed a few words and started our bikes
with Staraja Ladoga as our aim for the day.
After some 100 km. I suddenly run out of gas.
I simply hadn't thought about the fact that
the previous day we had driven almost 100 km.
with two peersons on my bike. Bergie went looking
for a gas station and I stayed at my bike waving
for cars to stop. Finally a biker driving a
car stopped. He didn't speak any english but
I managed to explain my problem. We didn't have
any proper hose to get the gas so he couldn't
help. Fortunately there was a gas station in
5 km. so Bergie returned soon. When I again
had some gas to get me to the station, the guy
- his name was Sergei - invited us to eat. He
was just on his was to her mothrs with her wife
and said we could also sleep there. We followed
him for about 50 km. and arrived to a small
village with cows and goats walking freely on
the roads. When we started eating Sergei bought
a bottle of vodka to the table and started filling
our glasses. After having satisfied our stomaches
the drinking continued. The memories past this
point aren't that clear anymore. I remember
we drinked to Finland, to Ural, to Motorcycles
and to Berenov - is that was the name of the
village. Despite our language difficulties we
managd to communicate without any major problems.
At some point of the evening we also had a chat
with some local young guys on small bikes and
got invited to Sergeis sisters wedding in the
beginning of August.. All together the three
of us poured down two liters of vodka. Before
going to sleep I had to go and throw up and
so did Bergie during the night. When he was
walking around the house they also mesured his
blood pressure. All in all, the experience only
made stronger our feeling about globall biker
Tuesday morning we woke slightly hang over.
I played backgammon with Sergei and we watched
Mummy dubbed in Russia. After eating some pelmenies
and thanking our hosts we continued our ride.
Staraja Ladoga, despite being more like a village
was a nice looking place. W stopped there to
have something to drink just before rain started
and shortly after we rode on, the rain ceased.
At about 6 pm we arrived to a city called Kirichi
and checked in to a four star hotel - a room
for one person costed only 1000 ruplas which
is about 30 euros. We had a good dinner and
after that decided to try the sauna of the hotel.
The sauna had sofas in the rest room, gym equipment
and a poreamme. Henry called the reception and
ordered us some beers. After the sauna is was
already midnight so we turned in.
On the road again - 09.07.03 - Saint Petersburg,
The sun was shining. It was (by the way, Henry
is at the moment playing Bounce on his new Nokia)
a beautiful Firday morning when Bergie came
to fetch me from my apartment. I loaded my bike
and we left for lunch in Atelje. Unforuntately
it was closed so we decided to get the visas
and eat something on the road. We changed some
money and got the visas and were ready to hit
It felt really good to be on the road again.
I had some doubts about the condition of my
bike, but it run like the russian dream it is.
We had decided to take the Kings Road to Vyborg
and continue from there to St. Petersburg. In
the distance there were dark clouds, but we
were lucky to miss the rain.
The Kings Road was mainly in a good shape and
felt nice to ride. There was one section of
about three km with no asfalt, but that was
it. And especially the last part of the road
from Hamina to Vironjoki was a really nice twisty
We arrived to the border at about four pm.
On the way there we passed almost five km queue
of trucks. We filled in the customs declarations
and drove past the queue to the passport control.
About thirty minutes later we were enjoying
Sojuz Apollon tobacco and some soda in Russia.
Crossing the border was easier than we had expected
and the officials - mainly young guys - were
only fascinated to see tourists on bikes.
We arrived to Vyborg at about 7 pm and checked
in the Dhruzba hotel. 30 minutes and some freshing
up later we were enjoying the first beer of
the trip. After that we walked to the beach
had some more beer and ate shashlik. This is
We had a walk in city and decided to have one
more beer in a bar near the hotel. It didn't
take five minutes when we had been asked twice
if we'd like some sex and once if we'd want
some drugs. We finished our beers quickly and
called it a night.
The next morning we left for St. Peterburg.
We took a small curvy road through Primorsk.
For the first 20 km the road was it pretty bad
shape but after that it got better and it felt
good to ride through the Russian nature with
trenches on the both sides of the road.
When we arrived to St. Petersburg it started
raining. The fourth hotel we tried finally had
a free room in our budget so we checked in.
At about 2 pm. we hit the town in desperate
need of beer and food. After walking around
a little we found a restaurant where Bergie
had ate previous time when he was here. It was
expensive in Russian stadars but we were hungry
so it was good enough. After the dinner we chcked
out the main sights of the town ad started our
search for the local metal club. In the first
supposed-to-be metal bar they played electric
blues we decided to try more traditional means.
And the traditional mean walkd right to our
arms - a metalhead had lost his wallet and sopped
us to ask for money. Before giving him any I
asked if he knew any good bars in the town.
Unfourtuately he wasn't local but knew a metal
store near by. Having nothing better to do we
decided to check it up.We found Castle Rock
without and after noticing the price of the
records - about 4 euros - we decided to buy
some. At the cashier Bergie asked the girl working
there where's the best metal bar in town. The
answer to our surprise was that there arent's
any. In disbelief we kept asking for a metal
bar until te girl offered to take us the the
best bar - a rocabilly one - after her work.
The store was closing in 15 minuts so we decided
to wait. After a while she came out with a friend
of hers and we went looking for the bar. The
girls were named Veronica and Svetlana. The
bar - Money is Honey - was indeed rockabilly
but it was better than the traditional Russian
techno you hear everywhere so we didn't complain.
The girls said they didn't speak any english
but after a moment we were conversing and learning
new Russian words. At about 2 o'clock we decided
to hit the hotel. Before that Veronica had arranged
herself the next day off - Svetlana had a free
day anyway - so that they could come for a motorbike
Sunday started somewhat cloudy. At noon we
called Veronica and arranged a meeting at the
Chernyskshvskaya metrostation an hour later.
We met the girls and hit for Peterhof - the
summer palace of Peter the Great. Even though
helmets are mandatory in Russia, the milizia
didn't stop us - our own helmets we had given
to the girls. Peterhof was impressive. The palace
itself was huge but still it was nothing compared
to the sights around it - fountains and statues
everywhere. No words can explain the majestic
feeling of the place so look at the pictures.
With the girls on the back we rode back to
St. Petersburg, left our bikes to the hotel
and went to look for some food. We ended up
in a Ukrainian restaurant. While waiting for
the food we asked the girls if they had enjoyed
the day and both of them were complitely thrilled
by motorbike ride. After the food we went for
some more beer and learned some more useful
words. We couldn't have had more fun without
meeting Veronca and Svetlana and made them promise
to call us when they were coming to Finland
later this year.
After bidding farewell to the girls we went
back to the hotel and checked our map deciding
to aim for lake Ladoga the next day.
11.07.03 - Novgorod, Russia - Ural problems
[Bergie] In the morning Skoll noticed that
his left cylinder wasn't firing. We replaced
the spark plug with Skoll's only spare and that
seemed to help.
We left Kirichi in a depressingly grey weather
and took some pictures in front of a tank near
the city entrance. We found a nice roadside
barbeque to have brunch at, and then continued
Rain started in about 10 kilometers, and we
had to wear the rainsuits for the rest of the
trip. At one checkpoint the militia urged us
to race the engines a bit. So far everybody
has shown very positive interest in the bikes.
People stop to look, want to shake our hands
and pose with our bikes.
In Novgorod we had some hassles with finding
a hotel but finally checked into shabby soviet-looking
place called Gostinitsa Rossija. The price was
only about 9 euros for night, and we had a splendid
view over the river Volhov and the Novgorod
fortress. I asked the receptionist whether the
hotel parking would be safe and got a prompt
"nyet" as an answer. The sun also showed itself
for the first time in a while.
[Skoll] While driving in the city I again noticed
that the bike wasn't behaving normally - it
didn't accelerate properly and misfired. The
last few kms it was clear that the left cylinder
wasn't working anymore. we decided to troubleshoot
the bike the next day and get to know the city
The hotel was only some 5 min walk from Kreml
- the ancient fortified center of culture, politics
and trade. For the first time on our trip there
were no clouds on the sky and the sun was shining
hot. We had a walk around the city trying to
find a photo shop to check the prices of digital
cameras in here, but alas, had no luck. After
having a nice dinner in a viking-themed restaurant
we walked back to the hotel planning to have
a good nights sleep.
Wednesday. The sky was all grey again. Both
of us woke tired. The room was very hot the
whole night and we had many mosquitoes. For
breakfast we had mashed potatoes and ham. Before
checking out from the hotel we went to check
the condition of my Ural - not surprisingly
it hadn't got any better during the night so
we decided to stay here for anothre day and
find a repair shop. We checked out one car service
place we had noticed earlier but unfortunately
it was closed so we decided to try the tourist
info center. The lady there spoke good english
so we explained our problem and she promised
to help. After the first few phone calls it
was abvious that there are no bike service stations
here in Novgorod. In a bike shop - which also
acted as the meeting point for all bikers in
the city - they promised to call some local
bikers and ask where do they get their bikes
repaired. Ten minutes later we were called back
and told that a few guys would be here in half
an hour. 20 min later indeed to guys showed
up and with the help of the lady from the tourist
info I explained my problem. Their diagnosis
was that I have to change the carburator. Bergie
had in the mean while left to upload pictures
in an internet cafe so I left with the guys
and their car to ger to carburator.
The shop was called simply Moto (Veliki Novgorod,
Popova street 14/32, phone (8162) 615-871) and
they sold there also bicycle parts. Mihaill
- the other of the two guys walked directly
behind the counter and started looking for spare
parts. We got what we needed and headed back
to our bikes. By the time we god back Bergie
had also retured from the Internet cafe after
managing to upload only some 5 pics because
of strict transfer limits.
Our new russian biker-friends wasted no time
and started removing the left carburator. When
looking inside the carburator it was apparent
that it had seen its best days. During the process
we exchanged a few words in their poor english
and our even worse russian, and heard again
that Russian bikes - including Ural - aren't
respected much here. Mihail himsef had Yamaha
Intruder and his opinion was that Japanese and
British bikes are far better that Russian. In
addition to changing the carburator he recommended
to change the whole bike.
After changing and adjusting the carburator
the Ural clearly run better but still not as
good as it had some time ago, so Mihail recommended
to change the other one also. The other guy
- unfortunately I didn't get his name - went
to get the spare arts and we stayed by the bike
removing the other carburator. Some time later
my Ural had two new carburators and was running
like a dream again. Te service with the spare
part had costed alltogether 1500 rubles which
is less than 50 euros. We gave the guys our
site address and bid farewell. They said had
been nice meeting us and asked us to send them
an email when we got back to Finland to hear
if everything was allright. The whole experience
once again made stronger our impression of Russian
people being friendly and open.
We drove our bikes back to the hotel and went
to look for some food. Just when we arrived
to the restoran it started raining heavily.
After the dinner we walked back to the hotel,
had one more beer and called it a day.
A glimpse of the real Russia - 12.07.03
Friday greeted us with a deprssingly gray atmosphere.
After a quick breakfast we loaded the bikes.
My Ural was running nicely. To our surprise
the can of Binding beer was gone. We were sorry
we weren't there to see the exprssion of whoever
took the beer, when he first tasted it. It had,
after all, been with us for almost a year and
several thousand kilometers.
Our aim for the day was Staraja Russia - Sergei
had recommended it. The scenery in western Russia
is somewhat interesting - there are roads with
not a single curve in 50 km and only bushes
on the both sides of the road. That's what it
was also for the first part of our ride for
Staraja Russian was nothing to see really.
I had a cup of coffee, Bergie some Orange juice
- or Apelisinavi sok in russia - and we continued
for Demjansk. For the first time we decided
to take a road markd i yellow on the map. The
first 40 km. the road was in pretty good shape
but after that we had some 30 km of gravel road.
The riding was slow but we saw some real Russian
countryside. On the road to Demjansk I noticed
again that my Ural isn't running properly. We
reached Demjansk only to find that it was nothing
more than a village so we decided to ride for
Valdaj which was some 70 km more to the east.
We missed the exit for the city once but managed
to find it after all and checked in to a ghost
hotel, which by the way had no sign no hotel
whatsoever and looked as Soviet it it can get.
The room for two costed about 12 euros. When
driving around the city I noticed clearly again
that the left cylinder misfired repeatedly.
We had a dinner in the only restaurant in the
city - Dar Valdaj - with both of us having a
beer, a soup and some delicious pelmenis. It
all costed less than 5 euros. After that we
had two beers at the local beer tent where one
pint costed 60 cents. When back at the hotel
we were asked if the two bikes outside were
ours and after a positive answer they propably
tried telling us, that if we leave our bikes
there, they won't be there the next morning.
After three beers we didn't care anymore so
we walked to our room, watchd some bike-stuff
on the TV and made plans for the next day -
if our bikes are taken we take the train to
Moscow othervise we aim back south to Holm.
13.07.03 - Veliki Luki, Russia
On the Banks of Volga
The Saturday morning in Valdaj was once again
gray. To our surprise the bikes were still there.
Still, even when we were loading the bikes,
we were instructed to take them to guarded parking
area (stajanka). Despite of our plans, we decided
to push on one more day and have a look a Tver.
Before leaving I also adjusted the valve clearance
in my Urals left cylider which had made knocking
We also stopped by the local Internet club
to try to upload some pictures. The square where
we had walked in solitude the previous evening
in look for food was crowded with people. We
left our bikes by the market place and Bergie
went to check out the Internet club. In the
meanwhile a crowd gathered around our bikes
and old men came to talk with me about the them.
As uploading the pics wasn't possible we turned
our bikes toward Tver and opened the throttle.
Again, when driving in the city I noticed that
that one of the cyliders was't functioning properly,
but once we got to the highway it worked normally.
The ride to Tver was uneventful. Twice we had
to wear our rain suits, but that was it. Tver
was a surprisingly big city with dolby cinema
theater and everything. We checked in to hotel
Centralnaja - another legacy of the soviet times
- and went to find some beer and walk around
the city. At that time Bergie noticed that almost
all of the pictures waiting to be uploaded -
about 20 of them, covering our time in Novgorod
and Valdaj - were broken. We bought a new Compact
Flash card, ate our first pizzas on the trip
and turned in.
Sunday morning wasn't any different from the
ones earlier. We left the town with plans to
drive as long as we feel like - or goal was
to be in Pskov near Estonian border in two or
three days. Slowly the sky got brighter and
after an hour or so we even saw sun shining
every once in a while. The roads were boringly
straight with nothing but fields as far as the
eye can see on both sides. At least there were
small villages here and there to cheer up the
scenery. The asphalt was in some parts new and
in good shape but mostly it was bumpy and worn
out by the countless trucks.
Some 30 km before Veliki Luki - where we had
decided to stay for a night - we were stopped
by the milizia for the first time. In Russia
there are these milizia checkpoints on the border
of the cities and this was one of them. Apparently
we hadn't done anything wrong and the officials
were simply bored as they were only interested
in our bikes and how fast do they go. After
answering their questions we were asked to show
and accelerate all we could. A stupified smile
on our faces we did as asked.
In Veliki Luki we checked in to a hotel which
from the outside did't look like much but turned
out to be pretty nice from the inside. After
a quick shower we decided to go search for some
food. Not more that two steps after we had stepped
out from our room, our administrator - as they
call them here - asked if we'd like something
to eat. We gave a positive answer and were directed
to a small empty dining room. We sat down and
a moment later we were brought a can of every
beer they had and some juice and water. We picked
the beer of our choice. Another moment later,
without being asked what we'd like to eat, we
were brought some chicken salad as the appetizer.
While eating the salad we could hear microwave
oven being used and shortly after that we were
brought a simple but tasty meal of rice and
pork in mushroom and onion dressing. After a
walk in the city and a few beers it was time
to get a taxi back to the hotel and get some
rest for the ride to Pskov the next day.
My friend milizia - 14.07.03 - Pskov, Russia
Monday morning in Velike Luki was the first
one to greet us with sunshine. Dark clouds still
covered most of the sky but that didn't bother
us. During the last few days I had noticed odd
cruching sound coming from my Ural's engine.
The previous day I had topped up the oil but
that didn't help. This morning, after a bit
of investigation, it seemed to come from the
alternator. Feeling relieved we started our
250 km ride for Pskov.
In Pustoshka, some 70 km from Velike Luki,
we stopped for a moment. I left to the post
office while Bergie stayed with the bikes. When
I came back there was a crowd of boys of 5 years
to men of 60 years around of our bikes bombing
Bergie with questions. Initially there had came
only some young boys looking at the bikes, shortly
after them some older boys who even dared to
open conversation and encouraged by them the
The questions were typical: "Where are you
from? Is that an Ural? How many cylinders does
that have? How fast does it go? 200, really?
Is that really an Ural? How much does that cost?"
We continued our ride, but it didn't take more
than a few kilometers when we were stopped by
the milizia. This time it wasn't one of these
usual checkpoints and we knew we were speeding.
We didn't quite understand what was the speed
limit - possibly 50 km/h - but we were shown
we had been riding at 81 km/h. The officer,
with a smile on his face, tried to explain us
the situation but we didn't understand a word.
Almost laughing he kept asking us what should
they do with us now. He also said something
about fee, but when I asked how much would that
be, he seemed to ask us back how much would
it be. After repeating 'Ja ni ponimaju' (I don't
understand), still smiling, he said 'ladna'
(okay then) and gestured us to ride on. I doubt
their attitude would have been the same had
we been on a car.
During the next 100 km we were stopped for
two more times - these luckily on the normal
checkpoints. The procedure was the same as on
the first time - a few guys - one of them holding
a machine gun, the others only pistols - walked
to our bikes and started asking questions. First
a few more 'official' questions like where are
we coming from and were are we going to, and
then questions like how fast does it go, how
many cylinders, is that really an Ural, What
does this button do, what oes that button do
and so on. Eventually, after satisfying their
curiosity, we rode on.
Pskov was a city celebrating its 1100th birthday
some time this year. We checked in to a hotel,
and had a walk in the city. The walls surroungind
the center were old and imposing, but other
that that and the usual Lenin statue, there
wasn't much to see. We had dinner in a restaurant
built to an old guard tower and enjoyed documentary
The sun was still shining when we walked walked
back to the hotel. The next day we would be
again safely in west - Estonia that is. Before
that we would pass some time by watching Russian
TV and consuming beer.
Go west - 16.07.03 - Nurme kula, Pärnu, Estonia
Tuesday morning in Pskov and not a single cloud
on the sky - the first summer day during our
vacation. Wearing only t-shirts we aimed for
the Estonian border. We were there at about
1 pm. There was no queue, but then again there
didn't seem to be any officials either. While
we waited some Latvian cars came behind us and
we started wondering if we were at the Estonian
border or at the Latvian. Some 30 min later
the officials returned from their lunch break.
The customs went without problems but when
we walked to he passport control the lady there
started asking us where was the migration card.
The same card was asked also at the hotel in
St. Petersburg. As we didn't have it, the official
made a few phone calls and then asked us to
wait. And - joking whether we are going to get
safely back to west - wait we did. After a while
we were brought the missing migration cards,
which we apparently should have filled when
entering Russia and where the hotels should
have stamped our stay. We filled them in and
were finally free to go. Hooray!
To our surprise we were actually at the Estonian
border. On the other side the officials asked
us a few questions about our bikes and after
changing some money we rode on. It took us some
two hours to get to Tartu where my cousin lives.
Half of the road was in excellent shape, the
other half had some heavy road work - courtesy
of the World Bank. After Russia Estonia really
felt like a modern western country.
The day was the hottest one so far in Estonia
and they had promised even hotter for the next
day. We had a dinner at Marju - my cousin -
and she showed us the sights of the city. After
that we went to visit a restaurant built in
an old gunpowder cellar. They served there 0.3
liter beers for juniors, 0.5 for ladies and
one liter biersteins for men.
The next day was indeed even hotter. We had
a breakfast and left for Pärnu. On our way we
stopped to for gas and had a chat with a local
who had had a Jawa years ago. Riding felt really
good. The sun was shining and the scenery was
nice. At some point we got a bit of light refresing
rain. On the way Bergie proved that you can
do the most amazing things while riding a bike
- like spread sun lotion to your legs, not to
speak about taking photos and writing SMS's.
We arrived to Nurme - a village some 10 km
from Pärnu where my aunt keeps an Inn - and
had a refreshing swim in the river. The rest
of the day went nicely sitting outside, chatting,
swimming in a river and drinking beer.
Nurme kula, Pärnu, Estonia - 19.07.03 - Bike
problems in Estonia
We started the next morning with another refreshing
swim in the river, and continued to the centre
of Pärnu for beers and some shopping. The day
was very hot so we had to stop to a beer terrace
every couple hundred meters.
After seeing the centre and arranging Mark's
bus tickets we went to the local biker pub Alexandri
to enjoy regular-sized (1 liter) beers. Bergie
was trying to learn some Estonian, mainly focused
on buying beer without appearing too poro, the
name Estonians use for "drunken Finns" (whereas
all Finns are considered drunken).
In the evening we went to Kuursaal, the self-titled
largest pub in Estonia, located on the Pärnu
beach. We met some friends of Skoll's cousins
and enjoyed more beers. After discussing differences
between travelling in Russia with a truck and
a motorcycle we returned to the Uueda inn for
The next morning we packed up with all the
intent to ride on to do some camping in the
Saaremaa island. However, the battery of Bergie's
Triumph had emptied during the stay. We went
to buy new battery fluids with Skoll's little
brother. After recharging Bergie gave rides
on his Triumph to the large horde of motorcycling
enthusiasts that quickly materialized.
After lunch we said goodbyes and rode on to
the Lihula highway. After some kilometers of
riding Bergie noticed Skoll getting left behind.
The Ural had started sputtering and failed to
accelerate past 40 kmh. As the front light had
gotten very dim we attributed the problem to
dead battery. The alternator had made very strange
noises for the last week so we diagnozed it
Luckily we got the Ural limped back to Uueda
and put the battery into charging. While waiting
for the Ural problems Bergie took a look at
the Triumph in more detail and noticed that
the ignitor cord of the middle cylinder was
hanging loose. When JL Bike had replaced the
ignition box and coils they had apparently forgotten
to plug the cylinder in. This explained the
lack of power and high fuel consumption Bergie
had been experiencing after the ignitor changes.
With all three cylinders running the bike had
a completely different character. It had real
Intent to still do some camping we set up the
tent on the backyard of the inn and spent the
rest of the day alternating between sauna, beer,
barbequeing sausages and swimming in the river.
While we missed Saaremaa, this still was a proper
We went to sleep listening to fireworks in
a nearby wedding party.
This story was kindly provided by Routa, a
Finnish touring-oriented Motorcycle Club, www.routamc.org
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