Day 167 – 169|Moscow to Latvia

Day 167 | Sunday August 28

After some thrilling days in Moscow it was time to leave. Latvia is the country where I want to go next. I tried to look for possibilities to travel to Asia via Moscow but it was impossible because I couldn’t make that within the 30 days of my visa and it was to short time to arrange visas for the countries.

The M9 is the highway to Latvia and the nearest city from Moscow Rhzev, so I aimed to get there today, a 225km drive. In a small town of which I even don’t know the name of I found a gasstation with a 32A socket where I recharged. With my translation document I explained my situation and they allowed me to charge there.

In Rhzev I didn’t have a place to stay and after a lot of days with people around me all day I was up for a bit more privacy, so I tried to get into an hotel again. With Google I found 3 hotels in the city, the first 2 didn’t exist anymore but the last one, Hotel Rhzev, was still there. It was a challenge to explain what I was doing and what I needed but the document and the newspaper article helped a lot. They were willing to offer me a room. Some Russians came to me and had big interest in the car. With translators in iPhones I explained most details of the car.

Day 168 | Monday August 29

Andrei my host in Moscow found a friend of a friend in Veliki Luki who was willing to host me. The city was 250km away so I knew it was going to be a long day. I needed 3 gasstations with electricity supply to eventually reach the city around 9pm. I met my host Sergey at his office and we drove to his apartment. A very modern one, more than any other I saw before in Russia. Sergeys English was not so good but still he did everything to make me feel comfortable, making me shaslicks and more delicious food. After some food and drinks he went back to work, apparently he is a night owl and he left me alone to do some work.

Day 169 | Tuesday August 30

It was time to leave Russia for good. My time in Russia was unbelievable interesting and pleasant. I love the Russian mentality and their hospitality. Also the country is something else and I love how things work here, it’s not so smooth as the countries I’ve been before and I like that.

I reached the border with Latvia around 3. I was a bit nervous because I was afraid for problems with the late registration but fortunately I could pass without problems! And way quicker then when entering Russia.

After the border my battery was nearly empty, rain reduced the range a lot. There was a town called Ludza but I stranded a couple of miles before that and actually had 1% left. Normally I am a bit more cautious but today I just wanted to go. I stopped the car and started walking and look for electricity. It was on the country side and was hoping to find my luck at a farm but no-one was home. After a kilometer there was a street with more normal houses and some people were working in the garden. I approached them and asked if the spoke English. One of the guys started talking in a perfect British accent. He was a Latvian but moved to England 10 years ago and was here now for holidays. What a gift. It was ok to charge the car there so I picked up the car, drove back and plugged it in. He and his dad offered me some tea, cookies and we had some interesting talks. After 2 hours I had enough range to reach Ludza.

In Ludza I had no plan too and when the darkness started to fall I needed to hurry up. The woman at the local gasstation didn’t speak English so I thought to ask somewhere else first. I walked around and some young people where smoking outside. I asked them for help and they thought the gasstation was the best option. He wanted to help me as an translator. At the gasstation they explained it was not possible as she had only one socket and than she needed to unplug to ice cream fridge, not an option. But the guy had an solution, he told me to wait a few minutes. Than a friend of his stopped by with the car and he told me “he you are from the Netherlands” in almost fluent Dutch, huh? Apparently this guy, Dennis is working in Holland and learned the language. Such coincidence. His friend stopped by who just picked up an extension cord and we drove to another house where we plugged in.

He offered to come to his house to have some food. I was constantly switching between English, Dutch and Russian to explain what I was doing. They were very impressed and thought I was a bit crazy. They don’t travel much, they like to stay around their house. The guys, 22 and 23 already had children so life here is a bit different.

When I told them I had no place to stay for the night I could crash on one of their beds. Latvia so far pretty awesome!

Pictures

Day 163 – 165 | Only in Russia

Day 163 | Wednesday August 24

My host Olga took me for a sightseeing tour in Moscow. Tours from locals are always the best ones as they take you off the touristic route and tell you more about it than most tour guides. So we went to see some churches, cathedrals, parks and what more. Moscow has beautiful areas, some modern, some old, all very impressive. We visited Moscow City, the business area with lots of high rise and fancy shops. In one of the buildings every hour they showed an fountain show, the water almost hit the roof.

Yesterday I heard that as a tourist in Russia I needed to register myself to show that I am still in the country. I asked the Dutch embassy for some advice as no-one really seemed to now the procedure for this. Now I received a mail and they told me I needed to register today otherwise I would receive a fine. We hurried to a migration office but on Wednesday they didn’t do administrative business, so the only options was to do it tomorrow.

Day 164 | Thursday August 25

Today turned out to be a long and weird day. A long story in a few sentences: we went to the migration office, they told us they didn’t register foreigners here. Next office: ok you can register here, it took us 45 minutes to fill out all the forms than they said: sorry you (Olga) are registered in Moscow so you need to go there. Went to Moscow: you are too late, you need to talk to the boss and possibly pay a fine. Boss: you can’t pay a fine, you need to go to court on Monday and the chance is for 99% sure that you will be deported. Other option: go to the border and see what happens, which was the best option according to her. Oh oh. This didn’t sound so good so I contacted the Dutch Embassy.

Day 165 | Friday August 26

Around 9 in the morning I received a call from the Embassy, I needed to come right away to talk with the consul. I took public transport as with the car it takes hours to reach the city. Olga gave me passes so I could travel around. At the embassy they told me it was strange that I couldn’t pay for the fine as it’s regulated by law. They already made some phone calls to the migration office and even there they said it was weird. Strange experience. The solution: I needed to check-in at a hotel and they would register the visa and I needed to pay a fine because I was too late. Problem: no money. First I went to a few hostels as they are cheaper but they couldn’t help me. A hotel was willing to offer me a fictive room for a cheap price and they would do the paperwork, damage: 2100 Rubles/ Troubles. They send all the info to the migration office and they would give me a call how it would work out. Late in the evening they told me everything was good en didn’t even need to pay a fine. Funny how things work here. I payed for the room with my creditcard which means I am 2100 Rubles in red and need to find a way to earn some money.

Anyway everything is fine now and I would like to thank the Dutch embassy for their help. Because of the struggles these days I had to cancel two interviews with interesting companies. I was really looking forward to meet them but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I traveled back to Olga’s home, packed my bags and went to a new host: Andrey who lives on the east side of Moscow. He saw me on Bjorn Nylands video and had been following me since. He drives an electric Lada so I was very interested in how this works. More about this tomorrow.

My hosts

Special thanks to my hosts were I have been staying for 4 nights: Olga, Dacha, Roman and dad. They took care of me really well, making nice food and sharing their stories.

Pictures

Day 161 & 162 | Moscow

Day 161 | Monday August 22

After all the treatments I received I felt almost 100% ago and left to Moscow. The navigation told me it was a two hour drive to the city center but it took me 3.5 hours. The traffic here is unbelievable busy.

Late in the afternoon I arrived and had a little bit time for some sightseeing. I took some selfies at the Red Square and than went for dinner with Diana. I came in touch with Diana via Vlad from Bellona in Norway. Diana has her own company, MosPrivet (HelloMoscow) and she takes care of tourists by arranging visa’s, giving city tips etc. So for me she arranged a letter of invitation so I could apply for a visa and everything worked without problems. She wanted me to taste some real Russian food and got me a huge pig.

In the city I picked up my new host Olga and her friend Katya. She didn’t find me on the website but a friend from Holland knew someone who knew her, I believe. So with 3 people in the car (2 on the right seat) and dabbing from the police now and than we drove to her house, 30 kilometers outside of Moscow. It was a big house, front garden and back garden and shared by almost the whole family. Her sister Dacha with husband Anton, father and Babushka.

Day 162 | Tuesday August 23

It’s almost becoming an habit, to visit the Dutch embassy in every capital. Today it was again the case. In the middle of the center and very close to the Kremlin Pauline and some colleagues welcomed me. They were very interested in the car and my story and took me to a restaurant for lunch. Also part of the delegation was Geert, a Dutchman living here since 20 years and now doing business for a Dutch company who produces EV charging stations. We talked a lot and the people at the embassy send some requests to companies who might be interesting for me to visit.

After lunch Geert took me to the Kremlin, he found that I really needed to see it and payed my admission. The Kremlin is the geopraphic and historic capital of Moscow and also of Russia. Cities in Russia were never surrounded by walls but only the central part were the most important churches and palaces were based were fortified. Kremlin means “fortress inside a city”. There are many Kremlins in Russia but the one in Moscow is of course the most famous one. For every building you needed to get a separate ticket and Geert got me one for the Armory Hall. A huge building with many relics from years ago.

Until so far the fun part of today. After my visit almost everything went wrong. A short recap: I wanted to take a picture of the car with the Saint Basil Cathedral in the background. The people at the embassy thought my best option was to go to the parking deck and the riverside of the red square. It was very busy and unclear and I took an exit in the wrong direction. Immediately a cop pulled me over. They checked all my documents, continued talking in Russian and than translated a text on their phone. Something with you will loose your rights for 6 months. Which rights were not clear but I knew it was not good. I tried to talk with them but impossible, it was clear what they wanted. I called Olga for translation, told me indeed that I could pay them off with some bribe money. 50 euro would do, I had that in my pocket as I received that from Seppo, gave it to them and received me license back.

Time to go back home. It was traffic jam all the way. While there cars weren’t moving at all some guy in a van hit my car from behind and started yelling at me. Weird experience.

After 2.5 hours I my navigation told me I arrived at my hosts. Unfortunately I didn’t. I drove to place with the same street name as my hosts and needed to do another 45 minutes home. When turning around I hit a bump with the underside of the car and I might have damaged a cell. Today I was not so lucky.

Pictures of these days

Day 160 | Some lessons in Tver

Day 160 | Sunday August 22

The Babushka’s treated me with even more fruits, vitamine C and herbal tea. I started to feel better. Today they took me for a tour through Tver. Hundreds of years ago there was a battle between Moscow and Tver about which city would be the capital, so it’s a place with much history. The river Volga flows through the middle of the city and has it’s spring nearby. The famous poet Pushkin has 2 statues here and also Lenin has one. There are still some small reminders about the Soviet Union times, in the heart of the centre can be found an old theater from that time.

Tver has 400.000 citizens which they consider not much people for a city in Russia. It is quite, nice and interesting to walk through. The woman had a lot to tell about it. One monument reminded of the 1.400 people that died on submarines during WWII. They had no idea why this was placed here as there was no submarine base nor any other relation with submarines.  

Yesterday I asked them if they knew anyone who could cut my hair. My hair became quite long, it came over my ears and to the back of my neck. They immediately took all their phones out of their pockets and started making phone calls. They couldn’t find one but offered to pay for a barber today. So we did. I showed the barber some pictures of the model I prefer and I think she managed to cut it like that, I feel young again.

Sustainability

I tried to talk with the woman about what they think about sustainability. They didn’t really understand what it meant and after I described it with some examples they understood but apparently it’s not really a issue in Russia. Tanya told that she thinks about it sometimes but hasn’t really started to work on it.

A problem in Russia is clear drinking water. It doesn’t come out the pump here at homes so you need to buy it at stores. Some people use the pump water to cook, others don’t. Some companies installed water supplies on the streets, for a cheap price (4 Ruble or €0,05 a liter) you can refill your bottles here. The company claims it’s pure drinking water but most citizens don’t believe this and buy bottles at the stores.

Pictures of today

Day 159 | Valday – Tver

Day 159 | Saturday August 20

My hosts Ivan and Dascha left in the morning for work. Ivan is an IT-specialist and takes care of the ATM’s in the region. He had to go to another town and would be back around noon. With the other Ivan I visited two museums in Valday. The first one was the bell museum. Valday is well known for this. Since a long time (already since the year 1400 if I understood correctly) they have been making bells here. Small ones and huge ones. For example on all the churches in St. Petersburg the bells came from this place. Their market was not only in Russia but even in China their bells were sold. In one of the rooms it was possible to play with the bells which was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. Most of the visitors left quickly.

The second museum was the museum of history from Valday. Many artifacts (including lots of bells) from ages ago could be found here. Very interesting to see old pictures from people in their original costumes.

Unfortunately Ivan’s work was delayed and I couldn’t say goodbye to them. Ivan’s mother Nina wanted to be sure that I was allright and when I got there she gave me 3 huge bags of apples, some drinks and potatoes, she is a true “Babushka”, as they call grandmothers here.

My next stop was Tver, 220km farther away were brad Seppo found a relative were I could stay. Seppo was one of my hosts in Helsinki. 220km is a distance which I can make under the most ideal circumstances. Today there were some hills, the temperature was 22 degrees and it didn’t rain. Almost ideal. When I had 10% battery left I had done 180km (which is a good achievement) and now knew that I just couldn’t make it. I stopped at a restaurant next to the highway to ask if I could charge here. The woman didn’t speak English and luckily I was prepared for that. Before entering Russia I made a document with an explanation of my project and some basic questions like “where can I find a socket?”, “where can I find a toilet” or “can you offer me some electricity”. That worked and she showed me where I could plug in the car.

The highway to Tver was party a tollway and I didn’t know that in advance, it was 200 Rubles and luckily I had received some money from Vlad and could pay for it.

Around 7pm I arrived at my hosts in Tver. The whole family came out to see me. They lived in a single house with a huge garden, which is special in Russia and especially in a big city as most people live in apartments. They served me a good Russian meal with Borscht and meat. They noticed that I was not feeling well, gave me a lot of medicines and sent me to bed quickly. The Russians know how to take care of you.

Pictures of today

Day 157 & 158

Day 157 | Thursday August 18

After a few hectic days it was time to leave St. Petersburg. Vladimir gave me some food for the trip and even 1000 Rubles “so you can buy some food if necessary”. 200km from Pete is Novgorad, when I left I had no place to stay there yet but Vladimir and the Dutch consulate were trying to find something.

Driving the roads in Russia is interesting. Next to the highway are people selling fruits and other things which they collected in the woods. The highway is a single road with a big emergency lane, speed limit 90km/h, which is perfect for me as this is the most economic way to drive. But not for the Russians. Apparently it’s allowed to drive 20 kilometers faster than the signs says. When a car approaches it’s normal for the first car to drive half over the emergency lane and let the other car pass. When they pass they thank you with blipping their emergency lights a few times. It seems that there are some other unwritten laws in place but I haven’t yet figured out what it is.

In the afternoon I reached Novgorad. Exactly when I parked the car to take a break Victoria from the Dutch consulate called me. Via the tourist center they found me a place to stay. The tourist center gave me a call and asked them to visit their office. They explained me where I could stay and gave me some sightseeing tips. Apparently Novgorad is a really beautiful city but in the morning I started feeling sick and it got worse during the day. I decided to sleep today.

Day 158 | Friday August 19

When I woke up I felt even worse then yesterday, a fewer got hold of me. Still I needed to continue. I decided that my next stop would be Valday as this was right between Novgorad and Tver, which is the biggest city on the way to Russia and I have a place to stay there. But not yet in Valday, I send some requests on CouchSurfing but from my experience this never works on the day itself. I was in touch witch some people in Moscow and asked them if they knew some people here. They didn’t but they places a request on a forum on valday.com, a website about the region.

Valday was 140km from Novgorad, when I arrived there I saw some people watching at my car and pointing at it. I didn’t really pay attention to it and drove around the town for 30 minutes to explore it. When I got back and parked the car the same people as earlier approached me. One only spoke Russian and the other one a bit English. They told me they saw the request on the forum and wanted to help out. Funny how east stuff works sometimes. They made some phone calls and told me that I could charge the car at Ivan’s motor, Ivan was the Russian speaking guy. We drove there and plugged the car in. Ivan’s mother Nina invited me for some food and I could take a rest here, she saw I was sick and made a lot of tea other stuff which mothers usually give you when you’re sick, I knew I was in good hands.

On Facebook I received a message from Kseniya, she saw my car driving around in Valday and when she got home her mother told here a Dutch guy was looking for a place to stay, she saw that also on the website. Kseniya contacted me and asked if I still needed help. I was oke but she wanted me to show the town so she and her mother picked me up. They way I have been welcomed to Valday was very warm.

Later in the evening Ivan, Dascha and another Ivan took me for a ride to the Monastery, on the other side of the Valday lake. An impressive compound with many buildings, golden towers nice parks.

Pictures of these days

Day 155 & 156 | St. Petersburg kicks ass!

Day 155 | Tuesday August 16

Another busy day in St. Petersburg. I was invited by the consulate of the Netherlands. They are located very close to the Hermitage. I was welcomed by Victoria and Hans Wesseling, the Consul-General. When I got there they showed me an article about me in the Metro, I didn’t even know that I was in there. We talked about about my plans and how I reached St. Petersburg. They even got me some presents, a cap and a coffee mug.

Victoria even arranged that I could enter the Hermitage for free and without having to wait in the que, starting almost to feel like a VIP.

The hermitage was beautiful, didn’t really know what to expect from it but the rooms, the decoration and all the art is stunning. There is art from many different era’s and different countries.

After the hermitage I visited the Russian branch of Bellona. Bellona is a Norwegian environmental company who I visited in Oslo. They helped me with the letter of invitation to get my visa for Russia. I talked to them about their goals in Russia. In Russia they have different struggles as in Norway. For example the government doesn’t give any details about the levels of pollution in the city or others places. Bellona in Russia promotes sustainable living, tries to fight the government by lawsuits and is involved in many other organizations. A full interview will be published soon.

After 3 nights at Samvel’s place I switched from hosts. I always want to meet as many people as possible who plugged me in. I was invited by Larisa. When I met her she took me to the Corona Sport Club. Larisa is connected to these people and they told them about what I was doing. They wanted me to visit the club to tell about my ecological experiences. Together we went to a restaurant were they introduced me to Russian and Azerbeidjzjan food. Most of the people who joined the dinner were related to the sporing club, there was even a world champion wrestling with us.

Larisa was rebuilding their house so I stayed at Vladimir’s house and his wife. He is the owner of the sportclub. Very interesting to see how Russians live. Most people in Russia life in apartments, so did they. The way they decorate their houses is not that different from most European houses.

Day 156 | Wednesday August 17

Elena, who works with Dimitri and Larisa took me for a trip to Peterhof, also know as the Russian Versailles. A series of palaces and gardens, developed by Peter the Great. It somehow reminded me of Disneyland, there are many weird creative objects and fountains. And gold, lots of gold is used on the many statues in this place.

When we got back Vladimir took me for a boxing class. 2 hours long I got a drill exercise which I really enjoyed.

Russians are really the nicest people. They really do everything to make you feel at home and have the best experience here, can’t wait what will happen in the coming days and weeks here. 

Pictures

Day 154 | Media madness

Day 154 | Monday August 16

Today was an important day. A few weeks ago I received a message from Evgeni at the Polytech University in St. Petersburg. They are working on their own solar car and thought we should share experiences. They set up an press conference and invited journalists from all over Russia.

Around 10 in the morning I was welcomed by some people of the University who showed me around the complex. An impressive university which was build in 1899. Some famous people studies here and even some Nobel prize winners!

Before 11 the first journalists arrived and already had to give some interviews. I did many for newspapers and radio but this was my debut on television. We went inside were all the press was waiting in a room, an interesting experience to have all those cameras pointed at you. A professor of the uni introduced me and told about the their solar car in which they are going to compete next year in the Australian Solar Challenge. Than all the attention went to me, first they showed the trailer and I gave a short update about the past months, my plans for Russia and the coming months. Than the journo’s started me all kinds of questions. I think it took about 30 minutes before it ended. Funny experience and interesting that they expect me to be some kind of all-knower about electric cars and sustainability. Maybe in a few months I will get to that point.

There was even a live broadcast on one of St Pete’s TV channels and I was featured in Russia’s Metro newspaper, here are some links:

Metro News

Life 78

RTR

After the pressco there were even more interviews outside and I took some journalists for a testride in the car. Than we went for some food with the team and they showed me one of their cars they are working on.

Kirill and Anastasia, team members of the uni showed me around the city, we went to an old caste in the middle of town.

To thank the team for their efforts I arranged that we could go to an escape room. It’s a room where you get locked inside and by solving puzzles and riddles you need to escape in one hour. In Amsterdam I played many and it has become an addiction. This room from Questrooms was a very exciting one. It had a horror team and there were many crazy scary elements inside the room!

If you want to play there I have good news because if you book now and use the code “wakker” you get 10% discount! Thanks again to Questrooms for offering this experience!

Pictures of today