A Travellerspoint blog

Europe. Estonia, Tallinn

sunny 20 °C

2nd July St. Petersburg to Tallinn
You should have seen the bun fight at breakfast this morning. There was a busload of Korean’s staying at the hotel and boy were they in for all they could eat. The cold ham, salami and cheese was gone in no time and it was a pretty sorry sight all in all. They don’t seem to do kornies so at least we had something to eat. People watching is great sometimes!!!

Departed St P’s 8.15am in rush hour. What a good time to set off. Everyone gets strung out at the lights and we all have to stop and let the group bunch up again. Finally got out to the outskirts 9.30am and onto the M11 headed for the Russian border at Narva and on into Estonia. Had heavy rain just before the border so stopped at a service station to gas-up and had a bite to eat. That was a smart thing to do as we spent from 12.20pm to 1.45pm getting across into Estonia. As we were the first car through we then had to wait till the rest were cleared. The Daimler had a problem with their Registration forms so it all took ages. Finally away at 4pm and on to some pretty nice roads. The atmosphere has changed. The houses are bigger and tidier, the farms look more healthy, the roads are great. We are finally in Europe. Had 200kms to drive to Tallinn, so arrived about 7pm. We are staying in St. Olav Hotel in the ‘old city’. It is quite different to what we are used to, but fantastic. The floors are all upsy-dupsy, low ceilings in places, staircases at every turn and it’s quite easy to take a wrong turn. It is so charming we have no complaints. It is a small room in comparison with some but there is Wifi in the rooms so you don’t have to always be heading down to the foyer to send emails etc. So that’s a good thing. The old town is something-else too and we found good restaurant in the main square for a meal and a well-earned beer. All beers are well-earned after a days driving, and especially border crossings.
3rd July TALLINN Estonia.
A free day to do our own thing. Dawned quite nicely after yet another ‘white night’. It is amazing how light it is in the middle of the night. Don’t need the torch to find the loo!! Five of us set out after breakfast and wandered round the city. Found the most delightful coffee and cake shop for morning tea, and then got on the Hop-on-hop-off bus for a tour round the place. They are quite good , double- decker busses so you can see where and what is going on. Also found a great lunch food-hall. We split up after that and Mike & I set off walking the ‘old town’. So fascinating, cobbled streets, churches, old buildings etc. The afternoon turned a little cooler so it was much more pleasant for walking. We have found a Tapas place to eat tonight so hope it’s good.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 07:18 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

Mike's Thoughts on Russia

semi-overcast 19 °C

Mike’s Thoughts on leaving Russia.
I hadn’t realised that Moscow and St. Petersburg are two of the five largest cities in the world, and they are very different. Moscow was huge and crowded and the traffic is hectic. There are many skyscrapers with old character buildings of 3 or4 stories high dotted between them. There is lots of money being spent on refurbishing old buildings and even fixing the terrible roads. Unfortunately the large over weight trucks, break them up almost as quickly as they are fixed. St. Petersburg, on the other hand, has no skyscrapers and more old buildings. It has a much more open feel, but the traffic is still hectic. Having driven for a month in Russia we still don’t fully understand who should be giving way to who at intersections, and it seems to be the quick or the dead. The British Foreign Office travel advisory makes the point that the death rate of drivers in Russia is amongst the highest in the world and that is easy to understand. It seems to be a combination of poorly engineered and maintained roads and a bad alcohol problem. In a similar fashion to the white crosses scattered about rural roads, in NZ, there are rather elaborate memorials, complete with parts of wrecked cars, as a constant reminder. Some include floral tributes and headstones. But Russia is booming. The young people seem to have a good work ethic and are keen to improve their social status. They seem to work long hours, seven days a week and there are lots of expensive European cars to be seen. With their resources and attitudes Russia will continue to become more influential in the world. When I was young we were told to learn Japanese as a second language, but I think the advice should now be to learn Russian. I am reminded that we have not spoken much about how the car is going, that’s because it is going like a dream. We couldn’t have wished for a better car for the job. A couple of the other cars have had their problems due mostly to poor preparation. The Holden is a heap of junk, and the old Bentley is burning oil and has over-heating and electrical problems. The group is functioning better with only one notable exception who is inconsiderate and arrogant and not a team player. I guess there has to be one in every group. We are really enjoying ourselves and are not sorry to be leaving Russia. Apart from the bureaucratic nonsense at the borders (hopefully our last) we are delighted to be is Estonia. It’s obvious that changing from Roubles to Euros things are going to cost a lot more from now on. Food and Petrol are much dearer, and that is what we spend most of our money on. It is great to get your messages via Travellerspoint and the e-mails. We have free WiFi virtually every evening since being in Russia.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 12:39 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Last day in Russia

overcast 17 °C

1st July St. Petersburg
You have heard of the Moscow Circus, well today we have had the St. Petersburg version! Our Tour was booked for 10am and we weren’t even late for it (except Ali). A nice bus ride through town to ‘The Hermitage’. Then it started. There was a huge queue at the front of the building, so our guide Michael took us round the back. The front queue was for ‘single’ persons and round the back was for ‘groups’. So there we were among about twenty thousand other people waiting in line to get in. This then took about an hour till we were at the door and some more time to be equipped with a transmitter and ear- piece, get a ticket and proceed to the start of the tour of the building. Well it was a bun fight to get through the place. I guess Sunday is a popular day to visit such opulent Palaces. WOW, amazing columns, painted walls, chandeliers, mosaics, parquet floors, painting from all the ‘greats’, furniture, statues, tapestries, etc, etc. None of us got lost and we spent nearly 4hours looking at the place. Glad we have seen it but I would suggest if anyone was to go, go on a day with less people. I don’t know which day that would be though. A cool morning but it got hotter and turned out really nice. We all dispersed in different directions and we managed to find another MacDonalds today for a long latte for lunch. That’s twice in 2 days, how are we going to live that down? We walked back to the hotel and snoozed. Might be having Italian food tonight.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 12:37 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

Russia Still

sunny 19 °C

28th June MOSCOW

Well the Moscow Circus!!. Our City Tour started at 10am and were home 5pm. In that time we had 2hours in Red Square and 1&1/2 hrs at a motor Muzeum. The rest of the time we were driving around getting to those two places. So we are OFF City Tours. There are some impressive buildings in Moscow there is no doubt, and the city is clogged with traffic and there are lots of people. Have we seen this before? Yes I think so. They didn’t even give us time for a lunch break so we are off out to dinner early. Some of our group are going to endure a couple of hours of Russian Dancing to-night, but alas not us. We and the two ‘tails’ are eating Italian down the road.
29th June Moscow
We are having a lazy day today. Walked around the local market this morning and bought Mike a Russian Policeman’s Hat (for the collection ! ). Another explore/walk in the afternoon and a quiet night. We are away 5am tomorrow so won’t be up late. It is cooler here today which is a welcome relief from what we have had recently.
30th June Moscow to Novgorod
Can you imagine !! We had a wake-up call at 3.45am. This was to ensure we were through the city and at Red Square in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral to have photos of the cars. Of-course we all managed to do this and get away out of the place before the Police gave us the bum’s rush. (which they sort of did by driving up to us, but we were all on our way by then). Were on the outskirts of Moscow by about 6am which was good as we had 580kms to drive today. Had a very welcome packed brekkie at about 8am. The driving wasn’t too arduous today as it was mostly on dual highways, or on new repaired roads. They are trying to make the place safe for the traffic. Quite a lot of villages but also some wooded areas again. We are seeing some very interesting ‘weeds’ along the sides of the road. They resemble a Hemlock but are huge, and as they are all in flower, give a great look, but must be a menace for the farmers and villagers. Arrived in Novgorod 3.15, which is great to be in a city that early. But we were so tired after the early start that we had a Nanna Nap before heading out to find a meal. Wandered around the ‘Kremlin’ and waterfront. An attractive part of town. Found a restaurant and had what classes as our worst meal. It can be difficult fathoming out what you order sometimes. We ended up with cheese covered snitzel and some chicken & potato hot-pot. The beer was OK though. We are both knackered and have an 8am off in the morning so are once again having an early one. St. Petersburg tomorrow which we are looking forward to.
1st July Novgorod to St. Petersburg
Yet another day on the road. Left at 8.30. Was supposed to be 8am but the hotel was full with a busload of Polish women and getting breakfast was a bit of a trick. That is getting breakfast in a hurry !!! Scenery much the same as yesterday with villages and some woods. It wasn’t very far 200kms. We have found BP service stations and are stopping at them as they have Wild Bean Cafes and you can buy a great coffee. Also Mike is a bit loath to light up the Espresso machine in the confines of the petrol station. St. Petersburg traffic a bit chaotic at 12md as the had a diversion in place and had to negotiate round the back streets. Good look into the real life I suppose. We spent the pm walking about, found a Monastery and the local Mac donalds. Had a latte and a muffin. No we don’t do Big Macs!! Have found a German beer hall and eatery down the way so are heading out to have beer and sausages for tea. Also found a good looking Italian for tomorrow night. We are over Russian food after last night’s meal.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 07:05 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

MOSCOW

semi-overcast 19 °C

26thJune Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod
8am start this morning and its hot already. We weave our way through the morning traffic to go to the Kazan Kremlin. An impressive fort atop a hill overlooking the Volgar. It was mostly destroyed by the Soviets and has been restored. Some of the buildings are wonderful. Was most impressed with the restored Mosque only just commissioned and finished in 2005. The mosaics and tile work incredible. We had to put on plastic overboots and I a scarf on my head, Well worth the 3Roubles. Hit the city traffic again 11am and it was very heavy. Caught up with the Holden (which had a hissy fit and pulled out on the way) and ‘tail’ out on the ring road and off into the countryside again. The roads were ghastly today so many road works. Hard going and slow. We met the city traffic about 4pm and it took us 2 hours to get to the hotel. A hotel worth forgetting, we came out to chunder on the cars in the morning, from a graduation the night before. It also had an Irish Bar, a ‘Sexaphonic’ Strip Club, and Mikes steak was overcooked. Enough said.
27th June Nizhny Novgorod to Moscow
Managed to get away at 7.45am and out of the city was easy at that hour. Almost straight away were on a duel-carriaageway which lasted all day to Moscow. A much easier days driving for Mike. In saying that there was ashort stretch of bridge-works, lighted and only one-way. Once through we checked off 6kms of trucks waiting to go through the light system. Wouldn’t be a truckie on a day like that. There is just so much traffic and the loads are something else. Arrived 3.30pm. We are staying in the Olympic Village accommodation buildings. There are three huge high-rises. We are only on the 9th floor. There are so many places to eat and a thriving village atmosphere, markets, fun parks, malls, supermarkets all around the area. We are quite a way from Central Moscow but not a problem. Have a city tour tomorrow and a lay-day Friday.
28th June MOSCOW
Well the Moscow Circus!!. Our City Tour started at 10am and were home 5pm. In that time we had 2hours in Red Square and 1&1/2 hrs at a motor Muzeum. The rest of the time we were driving around getting to those two places. So we are OFF City Tours. There are some impressive buildings in Moscow there is no doubt, and the city is clogged with traffic and there are lots of people. Have we seen this before? Yes I think so. They didn’t even give us time for a lunch break so we are off out to dinner early. Some of our group are going to endure a couple of hours of Russian Dancing to-night, but alas not us. We and the two ‘tails’ are eating Italian down the road.
28th June Moscow
We are having a lazy day today. Walked around the local market this morning and bought Mike a Russian Policeman’s Hat (for the collection ! ). Another explore/walk in the afternoon and a quiet night. We are away 5am tomorrow so won’t be up late. It is cooler here today which is a welcome rlief from what we have had recently.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 02:31 Archived in Russia Comments (2)

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