Monday, December 17, 2007

Barents to Baltic 2008 calendar

The official Barents to Baltic calendar with photos from the 2005 road trip is here! Get one today and support the writing process of the long awaited book!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Updated map and schedule

This is the map and schedule as how things actually went. Red dots are places where we spent significan time. Green dots are longer stops on the road lasting an hour or two.

25th - Drive to Kajani, Finland
26th - Drive to Petrozavodsk, Russia. Late arrival.
27th - Full day in Petrozavodsk
28th - Drive to St Petersburg, via Novaya Ladoga
29th - Full day in St Petersburg
30th - Drive to Tallinn, Estonia

1st - Full day in Tallinn. Klemet hurts back in Coca Cola chair accident.
2nd - Another full day in Tallinn
3rd - Drive to Riga, Latvia - stay at camping site in Jurmala
4th - Full day in Riga - stay at motel on "the wrong side of the river"
5th - Klemet aborts trip, flies back to Norway. I go on to Vilnius, Lithuania
6th - Full day in Vilnius
7th - Drive to Gdansk, Poland via Kaunas, Lithuania
8th - Full day in Gdansk
9th - Full day in Gdansk
10th - Get on ferry to Nynäshamn
11th - Drive from Nynäshamn, Sweden to Malungfors
12th - Full day in Malungfors
13th - Full day in Malungfors
14th - Drive to Skellefteå via Umeå
15th - Drive to Kautokeino, Norway

Fun statistics

Of the cities visited, which was my favourite? Now, there's a question I hear a lot. I thought perhaps the amount of photos I took in each city would speak for themselves. Of those cities where I have more than 100 photos, there are:

St Petersburg126263
Riga and Jurmala114257

The method is, however, a little unreliable. St Petersburg suffered from a flat battery. Riga and Jurmala could probably be divded in two, as they should be considered separate locations. And the number of days are inaccurate (we had a very late arrival in Petrozavodsk, so it's more like 1.25 days rather than 2, while Riga/Jurmala had a relatively early arrival and is therefore closer to 1.8 days. But Tallinn does, without a doubt, stand out from the rest.

And that's my exact sentiment as well. Tallinn was by far my favourite. The rest of the positions are a little inaccurate. (In danger of offending Latvians, Riga was actually at the bottom of this specific list. Albeit, in the FULL list, Malung would have to be at the bottom with its overgrown minigolf course, but the way it ended up at the bottom of the list is the same kind of stuff that makes bad movies good.)

Friday, July 15, 2005

I'm home!

I finally came home from my three week road trip, almost in one piece. Well, actually, not just almost, I'm still in one piece, though there is at least one dent.

This occured in Muonio. I had decided to get dinner there, instead of cooking when I came home. After a satisfying meal, I turned the wheel and backed up. The pole must have been just in the wrong angle, because I didn't see it when I started backing up. As I kept looking backwards, I also didn't notice it rushing in from the side before I heard the crackling noise of crumbling metal. Doh!

At closer inspection, I'm happy to say that I saw more than just red paint on that pole. Also, the damage is only superficial. Should be corrected in no time.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Report from Gdansk

After a wonderful national day in Vilnius, I found my way to Gdansk, far ahead of schedule. One of the reasons for this, is that after Klemet was sent back to Norway, I can no longer divide hotel bills in two.

In Gdansk, I stay for free with a friend, until I room on a ferry to Sweden. The exact schedule, and whether I detour through Sunnmøre, will be decided when I know which ferry I'll be on, how much time I have left, and what visitors I might receive back home in Guovdageaidnu. ;)

I have taken over 900 photos during thw two weeks I've been away. I have written extensive notes, it just takes time to write more verbose about it. It will eventually all be here, though. (Another reason to just go straigh home and start writing, while it all is still fresh. :)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Report from Vilnius

In Lithuania, I apparently get GPRS.

That being said, I am here alone. Klemet was sent back to Norway. This changes the plans a little. More updates to when I am not in a hurry.

Friday, July 01, 2005

(Update from Tallinn)

Time to write has been limited. Plenty of notes on my cell, however, but GPRS is still a problem. It is available in the area, but apparently, Chess is not able to provide it for me at the moment.

At the time of writing this, Klemet has hurt his back in a chair accident. It's kind of ironic, that with all the warnings we have recieved about how dangerous it is to travel in Eastern Europe, the one event that might endanger the future of the trip is because of a broken chair. I will give an update on this as soon as we have figured out what we're going to do AND we have Internet access again.

Apart from this, the trip so far has truly been an adventure.

Cheers from Tallinn!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

First night in Petrozavodsk

While we were waiting for our passports to be registered, we dropped by the hotel's cafe. The coffee served there was the best I had ever tasted anywhere. And this was just the appetizer for tastes to come.

We have this theory that the quality of food and drink has something to do with keeping things natural - such as the natural beauty of the women. Take Olga, the waitress who served us the coffee. She could easily have participated in the beauty pagant and won! It was quite tempting to mention this to her, but there was a natural reason why she wouldn't compete in the first place: She had nothing to prove. Natural beauty does not need to be proven, it just is. Only the most insecure actually NEED to compete for these titles, which is ironic, since self confidence is ultimately the one thing that is most important for winning.

We had dinner at Deja Vu (or "Dyezhavyå" as the Russian sign actually read). We had no luck getting their sandwhich with beef or beef "jal de gaule" which both wore supposed to be excellent. Indeed, they didn't have any beef in at all, so we landed on pork chops instead.

I was warned ahead of time about the mosquitos in Karelia. Either the rumours are highly exaggerated, or this one mosquito has a hell of a reputation. Because we could see only one.

While we were dodging this one particular little vampire, we declared "Babe Overload" at 22.49. This means that beautiful women had become the norm. Even the renown mamushkas were fit and looking good.

Amongs us ignorant westerners, it is frequently thought that the slavic gene pool should be credited for this. Upon arrival of our dinner, another revalation came to us: The food was pure. Unspoiled. Natural. And in correct proportions. Healthy yet naturally tasty. No monosodiumglutamate, not too much salt, only natural fat from the animal we ate, a good balance of vegetables. This could certainly play a large role.

After all, western food producers use chemicals to modify our food in order to gain an advantage on competitors. In the old Sovjet Union, this was not necessary, because food was delivered through the same system anyway.

For now, the food seemed to be pure still. We just pray that it will stay this way for years to come.

What makes Petrozavodsk a pearl is the lake front. While it's no beach, it features a mile long (or longer) promenade, lined with trees and monuments. Most of these monuments are gifts from friendship cities (or "twinned cities" as they say themselves) around the world. It was not without reason, that we decided this to be our first stop in the morning.

But first, a good night sleep was in order. And for once we got decently sized pillows, another Sovjet leftover. Quality pillows so heavy you need both hands to lift them, and please watch your back.

And into Russia...

After a delicious breakfast buffet at Hotel Valjus, the day begins at 8.40 am. Getting out of the parking lot seemed to be difficult, until the receptionist came running downstairs to give us a token.

With Klemet behind the wheels, we refueled outside Kajaani, before we pushed on and arrived at the Russian border at 10.45.

Crossing the border to Russia

Not too unsurprisningly, it took two hours to get through customs, passport control and military control. And with Russia an hour ahead of Finland, we had actually lost the three horus we thought it had taken.

At 13.32 West Russian time, we were officially in Respublika Kareliya, fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. Half an hour later, we almost missed Kostomuksa, as the intersection was small and anonymous, not to reveal that a large city was located just down the road. We would have missed it, if I hadn't looked down the side road and seen the city limits sign.

The road to Kostomuksa

This lack of information along the main roads is not only in great contrast to what we're used to in the west, but it is something you need to get used to if you're ever going to drive in Russia. Then again, who cares about these tiny details when another Babe Alert goes off at 14.08?

Kostomuksa is Karelia's free economic zone, and therefore seems to be quite prosperous. There was no lack of stores, though it would prove difficult to get a map of the Karelian Republic. In the end, we had only a map of Kostomuksa, which was of little help when we wanted more details for our current 660 km leg to Petrozavodsk.

The A134 highway gives you quite a bumpy ride. The road is of varying quality, from soft gravel to humongous holes. The holes are easy to avoid, though, as the dark water that fills them up contrast the grey asphalt. It is harder to notice the large grey rocks piercing through the tarmac, knocking the wheels through the floor of your car. With a little exercise, you still manage to miss the worst bits. Just don't even consider learning from the Russians, who zoom by in 150 km/h. While old Ladas seem to be built to withstand this treatment, your modern CD player is not. Not you Toyota either, but I'm not going to experiment with that, unless they sponsor my future car trip to Krasnoyarsk.

After several hours of driving across Karelia, we arrived at the M18. This is the main connecting highway, running from Murmansk to St Petersburg. Of course, the only reason we found the M18, was that we stopped in the otherwise unmarked intersection, and wondered why everyone else were running left by a gas station. It turned out that what looked like a parking lot was actually the beginning of the on-ram for M18, as far as you can call a full stop intersection an on-ramp.

It would turn out that most of these intersections were fairly anonymous, except in the one instance, where a huge sign with a very long name was pointing towards a single lane gravel road that could barely be seen from the driver's seat.

A few hours later, we arrived at Petrozavodsk, flowing with the traffic, hoping they were all going downtown. We kept going, until we crossed the river, and therefore decided that we must have missed the hotel.

I pulled over and let Klemet out to ask the first young attractive girl (Babe Alert) for directions to the Severnaya Hotel. This spurred a discussion on the definition of "delicious" when it came to women.

The western advertisement industry will have you believe that a delicious woman is covered with chocolate and filled with caramel. We tend to disagree. While a fine body may have its virtues, this alone does not make a delicious woman. Equallt, if not more important, is a specific quality of a radiating positive personality, and a truly honest smile. Interestingly, we found Russia to have a higher than usual rate of delicious women.

Hotel Severnaya (Northern Hotel)

Once we found the hotel, the babe alerts were reaching the top of the charts. There seemed to be a wedding or five going on, as well as a beauty pagant. This meant that the hotel and the streets were flooded with probably the most beautiful women in Karelia. And there, in the middle of it all, we were looking for a room.

did I mention that we didn't have a reservation? When you're travelling in limited time, without really knowing anything about the places you go, reservations only lock you to a schedule that you will regret a million times later. Perhaps you wsh to spend more time here and less time there. Therefore, no reservations. And it is when you have no reservations that you end up in weird situations, like looking for a room in a hotel where they are obviously filled to the rim with beautiful - nay - delicious women.

They had one room for one night available.