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.