[Original post by Elliot Mogerman – Transferred from yahoogroups.com]
We left the horrible traffic of Moscow while cutting through middle lanes, and finally made it out, and went to see Eugene (Zenia) in Solnechnogorsk. Zenia is the friend of the brits we met in Ukraine. Funny to hear his mom wondered if we were the stereotypical bikers with long beards, burley, wearing all leather, and tattoos. The roads are less than desirable in Russia but through all the bumps made it to his flat. After getting relaxed as it was around 95 degrees for the ride he offered us an early dinner. His mom, who works two jobs, in between somehow made a feast for us. We ate fried cauliflower with picante salsa, delicious soup, bbq chicken, lavash stuffed rolls, cut fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and tea made in an old press. After we filled our bellies he took us out for a tour of his town and the adjoining city. Starting at the square and Mike getting his statue/monument picture fill we went to a similar place like Dave and Busters. They had bowling, Russian billiards, a bar, arcades, etc. We met up with one of his friends who also spoke English very well and after some beers migrated to his friend’s country house. Here they had a hookah and hash party and let us experience our first Russian Banya. This is the old school sauna. We drank 10 litres of beer among the four of us and sitting in this wooden sauna, they poured water over hot stones. The temperature was 65+ Celsius which translates to fuckin shit it’s hot. Then after 3 rounds you wash yourself off in super cold water. We slept pretty well needless to say. We woke up early and headed out for our 10 hour ride to St. Petersburg.
Riding today was great. It rained on us a little. But not like monsoon, it rains here for a little and then blue skies afterwards. At one section of road, the clouds began to break and the sky was so crystal blue and gorgeous I had the chills. There were multiple shades of striking blues like you would see in those digital fiber optics picture frames. With tall trees on both sides of us there were cloud formations all the way in the direction we were heading. These wavy clouds reminded me of taffy being stretched out before it hardens and is cut. There was one formation that looked to me like a genie fighting a large Doberman pincher. The backs of the trucks look like faces. They have similar horizontal stripping that you would see on a bicyclists backpack, and then the door handles for a nose underneath, and the bumper for a smile. Cops every ten minutes with their speed traps. Thank god for the considerate motorists coming in the opposite direction who signal you of the upcoming trap. Little stands with fresh vegetables on the sides of the road everywhere, and not only them but all the restaurants have little wood burning fireplaces outside. At first I thought it was just for a good smell of burning wood but there had to be a purpose. Ah, I starting itching from all my bug bites and realized it was to keep the mosquitoes away from the area so people would be more comfortable walking around and doing business or sitting and waiting for people to come.
Although not as bad the traffic in Moscow, here it was backed up due to tons of accidents on the freeway. So we cut through the middle of most of it and began riding through St Petersburg. We were awe struck at the beauty of the architecture and the massive city. A fellow BMW rider pulled up beside us and asked if he could help with directions. So Mike wanted to stay at a hotel to get some planning done and skip the hostel and campsite living for a few days, without arguments I agree, and this friendly Russian led us to the best western Neptune. Which is part of a string of secret buildings dedicated to designing Russia’s nuclear submarines. Paul invited us to dinner with his girlfriend in an hour. We agree and meet up an hour later. They take us to a wonderful restaurant with it’s own vodka museum. So starts our Russian meal. We of course have soup, herring, meat pudding, deli meats, and dumplings as a beginning. Of course we also had ice cold vodka at the table. Shot after shot we tasted all the foods in front of us. They also bring a bread drink which is like a mild alcoholic coca cola made from bread and is very tasty. Then I got beef Stroganoff and Mike ate Pelini filled with meat. It turns out Paul’s girlfriend has had experience touring people around the city. So we take water taxi and get a private tour with the couple. Saw many great sites including the Hermitage theatre and the 16 balls bridge. There are four statues with a man and a horse(got it?). When it was finished we were pretty tired, probably around 1 am, they brought us back to the hotel. She will be picking us up today and giving us a private four hour tour on land so we can take pictures and get to see more.
She picked us up from the hotel and we drove to a suburb of the city where Alexander Pushkin has his palace. The famous Amber room is located here and it was amazing. Then after a long private tour, she knew the curator, we were able to go behind closed doors to the public tours and see up close a lot of the original furniture, and antiques. We went out to caucus food at a little place and it was delicious. We later went for drinks at a pub, surprise. Did you know St. Petersburg only has a full 35 days of sunshine a year. There is snow in the winter, and lots of rain, even small micro bursts that go away within minutes, but not more than 35 days a year without at least one weathered event.
So the next day we did our own sightseeing and saw a lot of mullets. Ha. Mike wanted to see the us consulate so we get through security and it was very small. We asked the guy for a tour, he said look around yourself, that concludes the tour. I held the door open for some lady and she scowled at me for being nice, I felt like I was back in the Ukraine. We met up for dinner with Paul and his girlfriend again at another caucus place and another great meal. In the morning he met up with us and rode us out of town. This was nice considering it was raining. The rain was insane.
We rode out and instantly was drenched in 43 degree weather, and with the wind chill was around 20. As we ride down the freeway I felt like I was at bigsurf or sunsplash. At some points we would pass a semi and they would hit a large long puddle at the same time cars on the other side of the freeway were passing hitting large puddles. This created a waterfall effect and put us under waves of water. Can’t see, can’t do anything about it except keep riding. This is what adventure riding is about in the rain. My helmet started leaking fucking HJC crap because of the sunglass feature on the top. So I was soaked and wet, cold, we stopped often to warm up. Also, it has a weird bottom that creates a wind tunnel to blow cold air and debris up in my face and eyes.
We went back to the small town and stayed with Stasa at his country house. He invited about a dozen friends, really nice guys. We drank, had a caucus bbq, and yes banya! Zenia’s car broke down on the way from the store to the country house and the friend that came to tow him, I noticed he was leaking anti-freeze. Older Russian cars are sure fun. We woke up after a long night and ate some pelini with rich, thick sour cream. Sunny ride back to Moscow and went to BMW. We got another oil change, and bought our off road tires for Kazakhstan and Mongolia. I bought a new helmet and am debating to carry mine around as a spare of throw the stupid thing away. So just arrived back in Moscow at the Godzillas Hostel and will do laundry and get ready for our next leg of adventure riding. BTW, who said Russians can’t joke? We passed by a heap of burning trash on the way to the country house(they have no garbage trucks, just community burnings to get rid of the trash) and Stasa points and says look the French Embassy.