MonthJuly 2015

Kazakhstan–the real deal

As an Austrian friend we met later on in Ulaanbaatar would put it, the Kazakh part of the border is a “Vogelhäuslverschlag” which means a collection of birdhouses but in broad Austrian dialect. The Kazakh part of the border was rather confusing so wen ended up standing in front of the departure hut without knowing it. After half an hour, when it was our turn, the lady gave us a wink, laughed and waved over an officer who gave us a lead to the correct house. From there on it was straight forward, even the officer was speaking English. After getting the necessary stamps and all the other border procedures we wanted to get ourselves an insurance for the car, even that hut was quickly to be found. Along the way we met a Turkish truck driver who wished us good luck for being so mad to go into Kazakhstan. Well, by that time we did not know what Mongolia should throw at us.

So we made our way in direction of the very first city and fetched us some Tenge. Then we drove out of town into the steppe and for the very first time we noticed this intense scent of “Erika” in the air. And although we could still see the city, this feeling of freedom. The steppe was exactly our place and we should enjoy our time in Kazakhstan a lot.

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Moscow–the city of contradictions

Moscow – the city of contradictions

 

Leaving St. Petersburg and its grand architecture behind, we made our way to the Russian capitol – Moscow. We were not sure what to expect, having heard a lot and imagining even more. Will the main streets be often blocked because of some “VIP” needing to get to his mansion or job faster, will the face of Putin be seen on a lot of billboards? Whilst driving on from St. Petersburg we had a lot of questions in mind as you can see. The first great surprise was the motorway we found ourselves on. As far as we knew these motorways are toll routes – therefore we wanted to avoid them – but surprisingly there was no toll to be paid, as the whole infrastructure was yet to be build so we had a very new and well build street nearly all to ourselves. And what a motorway – the nearer we came to the city, the more lanes the motorway seemed to have and finally by nightfall and heavy rain, we entered the city. Once again Klaus was the driver and I the co-driver. This is important to mention, as in Russian cities you need both. It’s a bit like a WRC rally. One needs to pay attention to all the drivers and the road, whilst the other looks out for red lights, pedestrians, stray dogs and the route. Changing lanes to take an exit was a process better to be started at least 1 km before the exit and as it was heavily raining, even before that.  Being an experienced team by now, we managed without any real problems to find the hostel we had booked a room for two nights. As we weren’t lucky enough to register our Visa in St. Petersburg, we urgently needed to do so in Moscow. The hostel was nice and clean and mostly used by Russian people as a permanent residence whilst working in Moscow.

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Border Crossing Estonia – Russia

One might think that crossing a boarder from an EU country to a non EU country is hassling enough, but no – the border crossing in Estonia takes this to another level. Please check out this website https://www.estonianborder.eu/yphis/index.action before you want to cross the border in Narva (Estonia) – Ivangorod (Russia). Âs far as I know this information applies also in basic to other border crossings from Estonia to Russia.

You have to reserve a spot for your crossing (online or if you are lucky in person on the day of your crossing – but be prepared for some waiting).
First of all , or second if you have reserved your queuing spot online, you have to make sure to go to the truck terminal at Tuleviku Street. Don’t go to the border itself without this queuing reservation, they will send you back. Bring your car papers with you as you will need them to make the reservation.
We had to find out the hard way. You need to pay EUR 1,50 to reserve a spot in a queue to then stand in that queue till your number plate shows on a screen (therefore car papers are needed), than you pay another 3 Euros to get your reservation.

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Everyday live – Thoughts, rants, hints…

Here you will find some hopefully useful links regarding all sorts of questions a fellow traveler or an overlander might have.
We will constantly update this page with our own information and experience. Please note that we don’t claim this section to be 100% accurate or up-to-date. Please feel free to ask if you want to know anythings in more detail, but please don’t hate us if something is not correct or if you made other experiences.
Share your knowledge and write us an email to [email protected] so we can update the section accordingly.

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St Petersburg: Up the game, white nights and a beautiful town

The first thing we saw in Russia was the border town Ivangorod. It was one of those ugly border towns and in the meanwhile we had learned that border areas don’t have much to say about countries.   First thing we searched for was  an ATM and found one after some attempts (yay, our first rubles) and the second thing was an insurance office, but no luck with that. In other travellers blogs and books I always read that one needs an insurance for the car in Russia and although we knew the name of the state-insurance (Ingostrakh) we could not find one. We gave up and hoped to find one in St Petersburg, hoping not to crash into someone on the way there. And guess what? we had a close call in St Petersburg.

The first thing we noticed on the Magistral was that Russian drivers must be plain crazy. We had heard many stories about them, but the stories and the reality were two different pair of shoes. Scared of the stories about corrupt police and what not else we drove exactly the speed limit and were overtaken at any possible and impossible place by new cars as well as old Ladas and with the twilight setting in we decided to have a brake. At a McDonalds. So yes, our very first meal in the mother of all former communist countries, was in one of the most globalized, capitalistic restaurant chains possible. When you kick tradition in the guts, then do it with a head start.

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