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Try to say something about Russia on one side of the web is impossible. Russia is a country of contradictions, a country of great wealth and great poverty. Atomic power, which counts the whole world and at the same time struggling with post-Soviet Union. economic problems During prepariation for the Silk Road 14 expedition we stumbled scientific information with the entire beaters which grows around Russia over the past several months. And even though our plans assumed shorten the stay in Russia fate was more clever than our plans. But we know one thing – Russia and Russians in particular really there is nothing to fear. They are oriented to the Poles either positively or at least neutrally. So what is worth paying attention to follow in our footsteps?

Geography

Our plans were focused on passing through the western and south-western part of Russia. Due to the geopolitical situation, we planned to bypass Ukraine and Russia cut towards the Caspian Sea. Geographically, between Ukraine and the Ural mountains extends East European Plain. As a geographical region has impressive dimensions: about 5 million km2 – which equals the surface of the whole of Europe east of the Bug River. In terms of terrain, however, it is very interesting. The average height of elevation is only 170 m above the sea level To the east of this area, northeast of the Caspian Sea are beginning to rise Ural mountains. South – between the Black Sea and the Caspian area rises gradually until the massif of the Caucasus.

Journey through this region is simply boring. The roads are straight (see next chapter), and during the day we were able to overcome hundreds of kilometers without any problems. At the surface equal to the rest of Europe it is also much less populated – the distance between major cities date back several hundred kilometers, meanwhile running through the woods. In contrast to the Polish – you see a lot less of farmland (although there are regions that look just like the landscape of Central Poland or Germany). Although the original plans had the opportunity to compare impressions of the way to the Urals (and further to Siberia and Mongolia) and the region on the Caspian Sea. The same Caspian Sea is undoubtedly one of the wonders of the world. Although it is called a sea because of the size, in fact, it is the largest lake in the world. According to estimates, it contains a more than 40% of the global water lakes. Is a remnant of the ancient Tethys Ocean that stretched from the Urals to the Mediterranean. It is also interesting that the Caspian Sea is depressed, the average height is here -28 m below sea level, the deepest point of interest is Sea sinkhole Karagiye (-132 mppm) in Kazakhstan. Caspian Sea is considered the Volga, Europe’s longest river, the course starts almost from St. St. Petersburg and ends just in the Caspian Sea, feeding them 75% of the new water. Volga-Matushka is for the Russians that the Poles Wisła, and for other European nations Danube. Historically the Volga basin was inhabited in the Bronze Age, then settled here Scythians, Huns and Khazars, and at the end of the sixteenth century. South of Volgograd begins Volga delta, west stretches Channel Volga-Don , allowing the water transport transport connections with the Black Sea.
Even thousands of kilometers away from the mouth of the river makes a stunning impression. Especially that the edges are separated by hundreds of meters. Volga Delta is equally impressive: a 200 km wide and covers an area of 19 thousand. km² (that is, as much as the entire Lower Silesia) River has a strong impact on the northern part of the Caspian Sea, which in this part is very shallow. The water has a salinity of approx. 10-12%, the further south the higher the salt concentration up to 35% in and around the Gulf of Kara-Bogaz-Gol. Delta area is protected and is the site of the occurrence of a number of unique species of fish and birds.

Worth seeing

When planning a route cruising by Russia through the south of Russia between Ukraine and the border with Kazakhstan we found little of interest. The most interesting points we only get to Volgograd and Astrahania. Taken hot made the decision that we visited important for Poles – Katyn . The Katyn massacre is written in Poland much. It is perpetuated in the memory of the Polish nation as one of the greatest tragedies, but to understand its impact on our current (war and post-war) story is less well known. I realized the impact of the murder of 4421 officers, after reading the book Anders “Without the last chapter” and Jozef Czapski “The inhuman land” . The Katyn died elite Polish officers and generals. If it were not killed in Katyn, General Anders would not have been nominated for the commander-in-chief of the Polish Army in the Soviet Union and have written a glorious your card. If it had not killed the Polish government in London and the Polish Army would look completely different. Perhaps otherwise they would have taken the fate of the resistance movement in the Polish lands. We do not know. But still aware of the impact of the murder of the Polish elite is little known. I would recommend the book, I recommend visiting Katyn. In the area of the forest where murdered Polish soldiers are currently Polish War Cemetery . Access to the cemetery is quite simple – you need to follow to the west of Smolensk route A141 towards the village of Katyn. About 2 kilometers from the center to the left (south) side will be visible crisp white church and in front of her parking lot in front of the Katyn memorial. Admission to the cemetery is free, you can visit a small museum with a souvenir after the exhumation. Sam cemetery impresses with its tranquility and majesty.

… The aggression Polish territory, made by the Russians in the eighteenth day of the Polish struggle against the Nazi invaders, the Soviet troops took prisoner about 200 000 soldiers who then parceled out after hundreds of camps in Soviet Russia. Almost all the officers and several thousand soldiers captured at gunpoint in September 1939 than between October 1939 and May 1940 by the three camps set up in the abandoned monasteries in Starobilsk in Koźle and Ostashkov.
April 5, 1940 in the three towns were fifteen thousand people, including eight thousand seven hundred officers. Of this number, only 448 survived officers and soldiers. After the evacuation of these camps, they were interned in Griazovets and in prisons in Moscow, where they then released after the beginning of German-Soviet war and the conclusion of the Sikorski-Stalin.
Gone all the rest, that is, 14,500 to 15,000 people. Who were these people? They were officers of all grades, professional officers and reserve officers, non-commissioned officers of the army and police. More than 600 airmen, 800 doctors among the first which developed Poland, more than a dozen university professors, among other prominent neurologist and widely respected scholar Prof. Pieńkowski, dr. Nelken, a brilliant surgeon Kołodziejski, and representatives of the professions of technical engineer as Eiger, Vice-President of the Legion of Hitler in Poland, etc.

Pits which brought the officers, ending their lives inside the head are covered with checkered plates, while the names of all the fallen are engraved on the tablets inscribed epitaph placed on the surrounding inner wall of the cemetery. At the inner square, the symbolic cross cut in the vertical walls, there is an underground bell and before the wall was built field altar. The cemetery is not only the Catholic cemetery. It displays the signs of the religion professed by 4 officers and crosses of the Order of Military Virtue and the September Campaign. Whether you are interested in contemporary history or not, Katyn is the place to visit and realize how much has changed in our history.

Volgograd (Stalingrad)

Another must place for fans of the history of the world is Volgograd. During World War II, in this town – then called Stalingrad – was the largest battle of the war. Historians even claim that this was the greatest battle in the history of mankind. It changed the fate of both the war on the Eastern Front, and the fate of the world. From the moment of capitulation 6 Army commanded by Frederich Paulus, Germany has been pushed onto the defensive. During the 5-month siege killed more than 1.2 million soldiers (of which 60% were German soldiers). More than 650 thousand soldiers and civilians were injured. The city emerged from this battle completely razed to the ground. With a population of 850 thousand people in 1945. Survived 1500. After the war, Stalin was rebuilt in the same place. In honor of the fallen defenders was erected one of the largest sculptures in the world – The Motherland Calls monument. It is 85 meters high and weighs 8,000 tons and in 2008 was included in the 8 Wonders of Russia.

Southeast of Volgograd there are two interesting places: Top Bogdo and salt lake Baskunchak . Bogdo mountain is composed of a rich blend of geological: colored clays, limestone, gypsum, chalk, copper ore, quartz crystals, jasper and many others. All this creates incredible colors of the 149 meter hill. The colors and shades vary depending on the time of day and year. Under the mountain stretches labyrinth of caves, partly carved by the wind. Further to the east – on the border with Kazakhstan extends salt lake in the shape of a dog’s head. It is bezodpływowy reservoir fed by the surrounding salt source. The salt extracted from these areas is considered the best in the world.

To the south the last town before the coast of the Caspian Sea is Astrakhan . As to Moscow far, you can see the local Kremlin. The name “Kremlin” has historically meant a stronghold or fortress of all the following center of the local authority. Astrakhan Kremlin dates from the late sixteenth century and is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List (since 2013.). 120 km north of Astrakhan and 55 km south of Volgograd are the ruins old and new Sarai – two medieval capitals of the Mongolian Golden Horde – the great center of cultural and commercial twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This place strongly associated with the history of the Silk Road, which is worth a visit.

Roads

As I mentioned, the challenge of the motorcyclist is not difficult terrain, but the distance between the endpoints and the quality of roads. Transazjatyckich network of major roads covers the southern edge of Russia. To realize the enormity of Russia have to visit her. I am passing over 3000 km I thought I saw a lot longer – after all, it’s just like the route to Portugal. But then I looked at the map of Russia and saw that I beat only one-quarter of its length. It builds respect for people who overcome these distances driving to work, on holiday or to study.

Russia AH map

In Russia, crossing roads is free, the only exception encountered while driving from the border with Latvia. To our surprise, at some point there are indications of a private road and at the end (about 60 km) waited detention and place of toll. I ended up but luckily (we did not have even 1 ruble) because instead of us get an unknown amount of an older man picked up the gate and showed to keep going. Other road already defeated no cost.

Our original plan (summer 2013) assumed a toll on Crimea and then crossing the northern coast of the Azov Sea (route E58) or when crossing in the town of Kerch (route M4). These plans effectively thwarted geopolitics or the annexation of the Crimea and the fighting in the south-eastern Ukraine. Eventually we gave up at all transit through Ukraine selecting northern route, Lithuania and Latvia. Then we had to go the main route AH8 Moscow. At the last moment we decided to change the route and drove south along the border with Belarus.

from Bryansk/Karatchev – south route to Volgograd and Astrakhan – Kasia, Malina, Stojan, route to Moscow and Ural – Janusz”

The first 750 km to the Smolensk is the first side of the road and then route E95 (M20). Route simple, one-lane, running through the woods. Surface smooth, no major pitfalls of such a hole like. The traffic small, can make a decent average. Lack of police patrols. Petrol stations on the route is not too much but in larger towns can be found both ATMs and gas stations. To the east of Smolensk should see Katyn and then you can continue your way to the south.

From Smolensk secondary A141 as simple to ride. The area is equal, there are sections of pavement very very good. Traffic getting denser, more or petrol stations. Bryansk You can drive around the ring road (recommended) and stay in Karaczewie.

After breaking his hand I had to revise the logistics of the trip and select a route access roads to Kazakhstan where I encounter no off-road sections. The team went further south according to the original route. I returned north in the direction of Moscow driving M3 motorway (E101). One of the main thoroughfares of the Ukrainian wide, two-lane with very good surface. Traffic average, you can meet regularly petrol stations – mainly Lukoil. Moscow itself wanted to bypass the simplest way. The capital of Russia is four ring roads: the first A107 route farthest away from the center about 50 km, the second E105 / E115 is located about 25 km from the center. The other 2 are already within the city. I drove the route E115 heading for the Vladimir . Traffic on the Ring Road is very very big. There are several sections of the single-lane, przedzielanych roadworks and level crossings which are cumulative columns of trucks. You have to watch out for GPS because frequent tours are led urban roads and better do not miss turns.

Getting out from Moscow to the M7 towards Kazan immediately feel that this is the main route to the east. The movement of trucks and cars is very large. In contrast to the fame built on movies from youtube, Russian drivers drive very quietly and very aggressively. On the route M7 is mainly one-lane road with wide shoulder but you can enjoy plenty of sections of dual carriageways. The only difficulty for motorcyclists is the fact that it is extensively rebuilt and renovated. Often going by long sections of the surface of the peeled combine road. The surface after such treatment is covered with long and deep grooves that run unpleasantly tire, causing the vibration of the steering wheel and forced to focus. My way to the surface was riding a gentle hose, so that the tire is not flowed into the grooves only catch her grip on the edges.

While the tour itself was not demanding it unfortunately did not manage to get around the major cities of Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Naberezhnye Chelny and Ufa. The road cuts through the streets of urban traffic which slows down the pace of the trip. Traffic does not differ, however, on how this can be found in Warsaw or Bucharest. The only surprise was crossing the Naberezhnye Chelny. On the road a 3 lanes, but without any painted signs going 5 (sometimes 6) columns of cars and trucks. Moving even a motorcycle in this mess caused high levels of adrenaline (especially if I preferred to avoid using broken arm). Fortunately, after about 10 km fight all these cars drove up to the center and I could turn right at Ufa. I do not even remember passing through the Kama which here also looks impressive.

The last section is worth mentioning drive through Ural . In my imagination Ural majestic mountains which divide Europe and Asia. The truth is much more prosaic. Episode mountain starts in Ufa and ends before Czelabińskiem. About 200 km one-lane road leads through a landscape reminiscent of Beskidy or Slovakia. Low up to 2000 m asl dispel notions. There is no breakneck serpentine although visible from time to time the wrecks of trucks bit dampen the enthusiasm of a vigorous cornering. In addition, truck traffic is very large, especially for corking age ziłami kamazami or towing a trailer with wood slowly. Often there is no way to overtake because the road is narrow and you can not see what lies around the bend. On the route packed with shops resembling a cross between the fair bazaar. From time to time there are also cafes and Gostinica. After leaving the Urals way again he returns to the straight sections of leading Asian part by exactly the same as the forests in Europe. The landscape is changing rapidly, however, when getting to the border with Kazakhstan but more on that in another chapter.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Russia can be found at most major roads. You can also pitch a tent but always tried to descend from the eyes to all services. Chronologically, it looked as follows:


Prices and supplies

Prices in Russia (May 2014) are lower than in Poland and make it even longer trip becomes economically feasible even with a small budget.

Accommodation prices described above – for about 30-40 zł you can get a room in gostinicy with the possibility to use the bathroom. In many gostinicach and cafe (but also petrol stations Lukoil) can take advantage of access to free wifi (best to ask whether it is “wifi”).

Food prices are slightly lower than in Poland, if we are talking about brand-name products – you can buy cheaper local brands. Vodka is cheap, but we were interested mainly beer. The choice is quite disputes of brands available across Russia and its neighbors to the Czech beer produced under license. The cost is about 3 zł for 4-5 local brands as brands licensed for example. The Golden Pheasant.

The price of petrol in Russia will cost about 3-3.5 zł (data 2014) per liter, petrol is mainly Lukoil or local stations selling fuel Lukoil.

Visas and border crossings

Given that Russia now has strained relations with the rest of the world were expecting that they will be difficulties in obtaining visas and meet us obstruction at border crossings. It fulfilled only the first. The visa ubiegaliśmy 3 times. First zawnioskowaliśmy of double visa business. Supporting our WizaSerwis We organized an invitation from a tourist company in Moscow. Then he advised us that we have submitted visa applications individually. This requires submitting an application to arrange via the website.

Unfortunately, the Russians decided to see if in fact we do not have the intention to do business in Russia. At the talks with the consul we were knocked out as having little business attitude and our requests politely rejected (with the shadow of pity over such a simple attempt to circumvent the rules of emigration). This meant that our plan to return to Russia became impossible. Zawnioskowaliśmy so politely with a 14 day tourist visa – the time it was already a little so we applied for the issue of her in express mode. Again, we rejected the request as groundless because … for entry into Russia we still had 1.5 months. Only writing a justification that the Russian visa is required to obtain a visa Kazakh helped us deal with the bureaucracy consular. Driven visa was delighted us most of all.

Sam entry to Russia was too bureaucratic experience but less exciting than expected. At the border we arrived in the morning, went through passport control relatively quickly (several minutes) and then collided with the vriemiennym vvozem – or customs declaration. Fortunately for us, the form was described also in English and on the walls you can find examples of correct filling. Well and filled in the Latin alphabet rather than bukwami. A four-hour delay in the border owe … horses. Kasia and raspberry celebrated very quickly despite a very thorough check wszystkuich papers and compare the serial numbers of the motorcycle with documents and declaration. Then, unfortunately, he appeared on the verge of koniowóz, that guy with the big Landrover and trailer with 5 racehorses. So they began the stairs because I was missing some important for our pedantic officer of customs papers. The discussion between publican and transporting horses driver, lasted more than two hours we spent with soyate warując the window. We did not dare to move anywhere because in the meantime already gathered quite a queue increasingly irate drivers. Everyone stood and waited for the end of negotiations. Most probably, however, they were impatient horses.

My trip from Russia to Kazakhstan was a formality passport. Vriemiennyj vvoz is valid under the Customs Union in Kazakhstan so the Russian side did not fulfill anything. The crossing lasted only 20 minutes.

Security

As I mentioned, our fear of Russia were constructed on the media reports. Even just before we left we had a number of reports that the Poles beat the same plates. And that in and around Moscow dangerously, and in general to the Russian police is a non-stop picking on.

The reality was quite different. At the border they checked us carefully but without persecution. Then in Russia we met a lot of people who are on this news that “we from Polsha (Poland)” greeted us with a smile. So it was almost at every stop in the hotels & gostinicas, so it was in a hospital in Karatchev and so it was finally in the Russian bikers camp next to Kazan.
As for the police …. This is another legend screwed media gossip. Certainly not to be found in the eyes while driving recklessly but drove 5000 km Russian roads and the police had to do 2 times. The first time I rolled moto. Unfortunately, the broken arm can not be decoupled well and so smoothly dohamowywać moto went down at a speed of 0 km / h. Pissed off very figuring how to lift the equipment when I stopped patrol. Holding the hand of a little hidden – I do not know yet whether he does not cling to the moto with his hand in plaster go – told the story of his awkwardness. They smiled with pity … and went. Of course it did not help but he could arrest :).

The second meeting of the patrol road took place on the border of the Republic of Chuvashia. At the entrance to some Russian republics (like Uzbekistan) you might encounter permanent checkpoints that control traffic selected vehicles. Fell on me and the policeman wanted to know or not smuggling drugs. I ended up checking tankbag and the greatest interest aroused spare tube wrapped in black plastic and planted in between the fairing and clocks. I had to pull out and demonstrate the complete innocence.

Apart from the above it did not happen any attempt of theft, threats, etc. tension. The country can ride alone and completely safely.

Practical information

Vaccinations

Using the recommendations of the World Health Organization got the following recommendations

Get vaccinated prophylactically against:

Motorcycle Insurance

From January 1, 2009. The Russian Federation is a member of the Green Card System. Traveling by car must purchase liability insurance. It is advisable to take out insurance against accidents.