St. Petersburg, Russia - July 10, 2012
Made it to St Petersburg with no real problems. Took about 2 hours to cross the border but most of the time was spent getting out of Estonia! The guy there was questioning my bike registration because it is issued by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia... the mandatory government insurer and registrar and he was thinking that it was just insurance. Anyway, we eventually got that straightened out.
Very smooth on the Russian side as one of the customs agents helped guide me from place to place. All very helpful and patient. Once I got through, however, I had to go buy insurance and stopped at the first place I saw. Recognized the word in Russian as there is no English at all. Nice lady there with only two words in English. Start and Stop. That's all we needed and we got through the rest with my Pigeon Russian, gestures and so on. She asked me something that took me almost all the way to St Petersburg to figure out. She write down KPH, which I took to be Cyrillic for KRN... couldn't figure it what she was asking. So we skipped it. No, she meant KPH (kilometers per hour) and she was asking me what was the maximum speed of the bike was for the insurance application. Guess I didn't figure it out because the question caught me by surprise. Normally they ask for cc or horsepower. Anyway, we had a good giggle as as I was leaving, she said "beautiful" (so I guess that's three words) and drew a big heart in the air. I took that to mean she really loves her job.
The Border... Russia on the Far Side
Anyway... the Russian drivers are nearly up there with the Turkish and Italian drivers... maybe even better in that category. I didn't even stop on the gravel shoulder of the road for pictures because they seem to randomly use that as a passing lane. Once, while being passed on the left with a transport truck coming our way, the passing car had no room and so went across the road and used the left shoulder to pass. So the transport had oncoming traffic on both sides! Yikes. Yes, if I die on the road, it will be here in Russia.
Anyway, long winding route through town to the hotel. Right in the heart of the old center though. Nice hotel, cheap, air conditioned, courtyard parking, and a 4-flight walkup. Glad I didn't bring my side cases.
Haven't seen anything yet, but will wander out later. They're holding my passport for two hours anyway for registration. Time for a shower and a quick email I figured.
OK... I'll send some more after I've done something here. So far very nice. Winter Palace looks beautiful. Blood corpuscle kind of traffic flow though so didn't do too much gawking on my way in.