Russia 28.April 2012 >>> 7th of May 2012

Under construction,,,,

2012-04-28 > 59km of cycling, sunny, moving time 3:40hrs, 258hm, about 15km from Kerch to the pier, long time waiting for the ferry. Custom and immigration procedure very easy on both sides – Ukraine and Russia. Friendly officials, on the Russian side, I was virtually just waved through, ahead of all the cars and pedestrians. No checking of luggage. Some security guard warned me about traveling in Russia by myself, too many crazy people out there, especially after dark, by that time it was already near sunset,,, and still 44km to go…  so, I pedaled as fast as possible to get to the next town, Aktanizavskaya. The main roads in this part of Russia are much better than in the past countries, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania,,, About 22:00h I managed to find a nice guesthouse with a charming Lady. N45°20,871’/ E037°07,703’

2012-04-29  > 175km, 272hm, sunny  33°C, Ø20km/h, moving time 8:45hrs,  very good road, but heavy traffic, I think Russian drivers are very polite and considerate, except bus and mini-bus drivers. Out in the country it is very difficult to pay with a 1000 Ruble bill (about 25€) nobody has change. In the first hotel the lady told me that I had to leave the bicycle in the street, but then I found a really nice little hotel, with very helpful staff and friendly boss. They put the bike into the ironing room. Breakfast was delivered by room service, WIFI, Rich Man Hotel, Krasnodar N45°03,182’/ E038°56,7’

2012-04-30 > 100km. 200hm / sunny 29C / Ø20km/h / pedaling time 5:05hrs / elevation 90m, Endless pedaling on mostly straight, good roads, few villages. Heavy traffic. Overnight stay, in kind of a truck-stop motel, good food, shower in basement for 80Rubel extra.  Ladozhskaya  N45°18.930' E039°55.419'

2012-05-01 > 115km. 200hm / sunny 17°C - 23°C / Ø16km/h / pedaling time 7:05hrs / elevation 329m, strong headwind. Met many nice people, first police at roadblock with Russian tank, communication bits of English and German. Later first long distance cyclist stopped when he saw me taking a banana / bread break on the side of the road. He is a retired mathematic lecturer from Petersburg. On the way to the Black Sea, to visit a friend. Does lots of velo trips. Really interesting fellow. Later at a gas station, I wanted to buy a road map of the area, when another customer, got into his car and to get me his road-atlas with the entire Russian federation including Kasachstan and Usbekistan. Gave it to me and wished me good luck for the rest of the trip,,, one sees mostly old German and Dutch trucks on the road, still having the German painting on the side. Edeka, PEMA, Dekra ,,,, Guesthouse in Novoaleksandrovsk  N45°29.414’ E041°12.089’

2012-05-02 > 183km. 426hm / sunny 25°C - 30°C / Ø19.6km/h / pedaling time 9:30hrs / elevation 329m, favorable wind conditions. Mostly straight roads, sometimes people ask the standard question, where do you come from, where are you going to and how old are you,,, Again sunburn on thighs, even when I use 30% sun-blocker,  (just like Reinhold on the first trip to Riva del Garda!!!) Guesthouse “INSIDE” in Ipatovo  N45°42.244’ E042°54.221’

2012-05-03 > 142km. 412hm / sunny 27°C - 32°C / Ø18km/h / pedaling time 8:00hrs / elevation 133m, today passed 1000km mark since Simferopol (day 9)  For some unknown reason, this morning I received a lot of gifts, whenever I stopped to ask for directions or just looking at things, mostly women gave me apples or sweets and wished me a safe trip. Russians are truly very friendly people. Around noon I crossed the border to Kalmykia, In one of the first Kalmykian villages I saw a temple type of building, so I made a short detour to have a closer look, when I got there, a very friendly Kalmykian man signaled to me to come closer and he opened the gate and the doors for me, to have a look inside. (ref. pics,,)  Kalmykia is so far the most interesting part of the trip. One feels like being in China or Mongolia. in this part of Europe, the Kalmyk people are actually the offspring of the Mongolian invasion under Genghis Khan. They really had an eventful history, and are happy to have their own semi- independent province, also being the only Buddhist country in Europe,,,, more to follow,,, N46°18.428’ E044°15.912’ ELISTA, Elista Hotel

2012-05-04 > 0km. 0hm / sunny 32°C / Ø0km/h / pedaling time 00hrs / elevation 133m – today I decided to stay in Elista (Capital of Kalmykia) – what an fascinating place, had a great tour of the city with many interesting sights,,,,  N46°18.428’ E044°15.912’ ELISTA, Elista Hotel

2012-05-05 > 89km. 238hm / sunny 32°C / Ø15.2km/h / pedaling time 5:52hrs /, strong head wind again,,,  left Elista about 13:00h Endless straight roads, few places to get water or food. Prepared to sleep out in the bundu tonight, but was then informed that there is a guesthouse in a small Kalmykian village called Yashkul.  No running water, toilet in the backyard,,, good food and Kalmykian tea (like Mongolian tea with milk, salt & butter) N46°09.966’ E045°20.107’

2012-05-06 > 118km / 479hm / sunny 31°C / Ø13.3km/h / pedaling time 8:52hrs / day 12 / total 1225km, extremely strong head wind again, all day,,, Landscape, like steppe, During WWII the German Wehrmacht was stopped here and pushed back by the Soviet Army. Big monument on the side of the road. Found well hidden space behind a hill to pitch tent for the night. Cool 13C, and quiet night, some mosquitoes, N46°16.988’ E046°46.246’ out in the bundu,,,,

2012-05-07 > 117km / 501hm / sunny max 33°C / Ø13.5km/h / pedaling time 9:23hrs / day 13 / total 1344km, extremely strong head wind again, estimated 40-50km/h,  all day except the last 20km.  On the way many lakes, without water, only salt, perhaps they have water during the rainy season. Very few places to get food or water. (highlight of the day: a cold coke at a truck stop,,,) several places selling dried and smoked fish along the way.  Near the Volga delta very many dead snakes and turtles on the road, run-over by cars, I counted an average of 12 to 15 per km. Arrived in Astrachan,(approx.. 500,000 inhab’s) in heavy traffic closed to sunset. Crossing huge Volga bridges. Fascinating architecture, this could be a place to stay for weeks and see something different every day. Hotel AZIMUTH, right on the banks of the Volga. N46°20.926’ E048°01.220’

2012-05-08 > 107km / 280hm / sunny all day 28°C / Ø 16.6km/h / pedaling time 6:29hrs / day 14 / total 1453km, I left Astrachan about 3pm, did some shopping and a small sight-seeing walk. There were many tourists in the hotel waiting to board the ship for a 14 day cruise up the Volga River, all the way to St. Petersburg. Today it was a bit less windy, The road through the Volga-delta up to the Russian border reminded me of the Danube delta in the Ukraine. Swampy / sandy flat landscape.  As I reached the border area after about 60km, the sun was almost gone. Custom / immigration formalities were no problem on the Russian side. This time a very young and good looking lady officer was in charge of the passport section. No checking of my luggage. On the road I noticed a remarkable number of fairly new, big Willi Betz trucks being lined up to enter Kazakhstan. After about 6km the final Russian border post, with no significant interest in an old pedaling man. Then one has to cross a bridge over another arm of the Volga, to get to the Kazakhstan border post. Again no problem, the officer saw my birthdate and told me that I was as old as his father, so no problem getting across into the new country and into a new time zone. Now I am 3 hours ahead of Central European time. On the other side of the fence the usual lineup of money changers and trucks and some taxis. In the meantime it was fairly dark and the guesthouse that I was hoping to book tonight, did not exist,,, And I did not feel the urge to pitch up my tent in the snake and mosquito infested Volga swamps. The only choice I had, was to pedal the additional 40km to Ganushkino.  Kazakhstan’s roads are not exactly suitable for after sunset cycling, so it was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately my head and tail lights are pretty powerful, almost better than some of the local old Ladas. I arrived just before midnight and got a nice room with hot shower and clean linen at a reasonable price. Location: N46°35.831’ E049°12.500’