13/4 2007 Border, Mongolia-Russia
Lat N 50° 19,44', Long E 106° 29,03'
Today: 46.4 °F ( 8 °C)
13 Apr 2007
71467 km

Russia here we come! Friday 13:th, today. Is that a good day to try to enter Russia?

To get out of Mongolia was easy. It took only an hour. Maybe it was because we met the border chief at the local bar last night.

At the border everyone was smuggling jeans. They looked like they were stuffed; wearing a bunch of them crossing the border, but other didn’t even bother to hide them properly.

To get in to Russia was actually easier than expected. The process took us four hours, but the officials were very friendly and helpful. The mandatory third party insurance was 100 Euro for two months.

We where grateful no to have our car completely searched as the other cars. They probably realized it would be a real hassle for them to empty it all. Instead they asked to see a few of our boxes.

Standing at the border, ”The Cabriolet Challenge” show up. It is 22 cabriolet cars from Holland traveling to Singapore - with the roof down in April! And people think we are the crazy ones?!!

When the custom formalities were finished, we continued to Ulan-Ude, 200 kilometers north of the border. We where pleased to get in to Russia. It was fun to travel again. The Russians are nice, happy and smiling, compared to the grumpy Mongols.

14/4 2007 Ulan-Ude, Russia
Lat N 51° 50,57', Long E 107° 35,23'
Today: 37.4 °F ( 3 °C)
14 Apr 2007
71737 km

My god, everything is so expensive in Russia. The prices in the grocery store and in the restaurants are like at home in Sweden. We can definitely not afford to eat two meals a day in restaurants anymore. Instead we had a old fashioned Inter-rail dinner in our hotel room; sausage, bread and beer.

Arriving in Russia we need to register our visa within 72 hours. To check in to a hotel is the easiest way to get it done. Then they do it for you and you, automatically.

But to find a reasonably priced hotel was hard. We felt that 35 Euro was definitely the limit for us. All we could get for that amount was a rat’s nest, with a dirty toilet in the hallway. The communists have missed a tiny, tiny detail concerning the rules of the market economy. They know how to charge you a hell of a lot of money; but haven’t yet realized they actually have to deliver too.

This morning when we was to take us a shower, they said ”Niet, douch”. What, no shower in this 200 room hotel? Unbelivable! For 35 Euro you get a nice room with private toilet and shower in any country of choice, except Russia. We already knew that accommodation was of poor quality and expensive in Russia, but we mean, this is ridiculously expensive for the terribly low standard.

In the afternoon we continued towards Irkutsk. We rounded the south tip of the huge Baikal Lake, still dressed in ice. We decided not to go camping at the shore. It is just too cold for that.

Late in the evening we arrived in Irkutsk. We found the guest house, in the outskirts of town we decided to park at. After connecting the car heater, we went in to make late dinner.

After short while our car alarm made strange sounds, like someone was tampering with the car. Our car was parked right outside. Only five meters from us. Three times we heard the strange sounds and went out to have a look, but no one was around. We started to think there was something wrong with our car alarm.

The fourth time the alarm went off with full force. When we came out the doors where wide open, and a bloke was running like hell with two of our bags. We chased him for a while but lost him in the dark.

The thief smashed the car window, pulled the doors open and took the two bags filled with brand new sports and winter clothes and camera gear in the front seat. It was the only things he had time enough to steal. The bags where filled with things we bought in Vietnam and China; we estimate the value of the things we lost to 320 Euro.

Natasja at our guest house called the police, which showed a couple of hours later. But it not even worth the hassle of filing a report, since we don’t have an insurance to cover events like this.

Of course we are sorry to have lost all the nice things that we bought. But we are not particularly angry or upset about it. Since we just had paid for them, but never used them it feels like they wasn’t really ours. It feels a bit like easy come, easy go…

15/4 2007 Irkutsk, Russia
Lat N 51° 50,57', Long E 107° Lat N 52° 14,19', Long E 104° 16,87'
Today: 37.4 °F ( 3 °C)
15 Apr 2007
72228 km

When we woke up Bert immediately took on the problem with the smashed window. We are glad he just smashed the small window that is easier to fix. But since it is Sunday no glazier could help us.

Insted we got to use our see thorough Plexiglas board that we have carried all the way from Sweden for an event like this. With a Swiss Army Knife, a piece of string and some dishwasher detergent he got in place after a couple of hours work.

After that we took drive in to town to check out the street life. Surprisingly many are running around town swigging a bottle of beer, in broad daylight. Not only those with alcohol problems, everyone does it.

At our guest house we met Samuel and Gabriel, a couple of overlanders from Switzerland. They are traveling in a real cool Landrover from 1965. They are doing a music exchange project. It was great to meet some like-mined. It has been a while since we met someone.

16/4 2007 Irkutsk, Russia
Lat N 51° 50,57', Long E 107° Lat N 52° 14,19', Long E 104° 16,87'
Today: 37.4 °F ( 3 °C)
16 Apr 2007
72228 km

We have had some problems with our SAAB the past week. Violent vibrations when we accelerate, especially at the fifth gear. The problem occured after the Gobi visit.

The car is running OK as long as we don’t accelerate and drive no faster than 80 km per hour. The engine feels a bit weak, and does not respond as it used to when we accelerate. We are using 92 or 95 octane, depending of what we can find, but we don’t think petrol is the problem. We have cleaned the air filter. Maybe the fuel filter is silted up? Maybe the fuel pump is broken or maybe the fuel injection? We really don’t know. Have you got any idea of what it can be? Please tell us.

On top of that a new clonking sound has occurred too. We only hear it when we switch gear. Any idea about the ”clonk” sound?

17/4 2007 Irkutsk, Russia
Lat N 52° 14,19', Long E 104° 16,87'
Today: 37.4 °F ( 3 °C)
17 Apr 2007
72228 km

Natasja at our guest house checked our visa registration that we got at the hotel in Ulan-Ude. According to her this one was not valid, since there were new rules for visa registration from this year. This means we have to do it all over again. We went to Sprutnik a travel agency, asked for a new registration and paid 18 Euro per person yesterday. Today we could pick up our papers. This is obviously what it is supposed to look like .

After that we hit the road towards Krasnoyarsk. We wanted to get started as soon as possible since it had started to rain. And the 1 100 kilometers between Irkustk and Krasnoyarsk is famous for an already terrible road getting even worse in a wet condition.

After a couple of hour’s journey we heard a new strange sound from our car. When we checked it out we realized our precious SAAB had aborted a bad part, all by himself – the rear muffler. When the muffler was thrown away, our SAAB felt much more alert again. The muffler had obviously been covering the exhaust pipe, that why the SAAB was a little bit weak. But we still haven’t figured out the problem with the violent vibrations.

In total we traveled 570 kilometers today, fifty of them were on a bad road. Even if the road was bad it was ok, and it was possible to pass. To cover as much as possible of the bad roads before they get too ugly we kept on driving until midnight, before going to sleep. There is a good risk that the road conditions will be more wet tomorrow.

18/4 2007 Truck-stop Sibiria, Russia
Lat N 55° 05,30', Long E 98° 49,82'
Today: 32 °F ( 0 °C)
18 Apr 2007
72798 km

Oh, no! Snow, a lot of snow. This was just so NOT what we needed. When we woke up the ground was all covered in a white blanket of snow and it continued to snow all day too. This was really the worst that could happen right now, when we have several difficult passages of terrible muddy road ahead.

This is exactly like the horror pictures concerning the terrible state of the Russian roads someone sent us a year ago. We are here early in the season to avoid this muddy road problem. But it seems that we are here a little bit too early. The roads where just as terrible as we expected after all the wet snow, with kilometer after kilometer of cars, trucks and busses in line to pass the mud holes or just stuck in the mud.

The first 30 kilometers took us three hours. At the worst mud holes they were working hard to drain off the worst pieces to get the traffic past it. When Bert saw the first mud hole he decided it was time to prepare the towline. We left the towline haning there all day , it was no use to take it off. Since the road still looked terrible.

In total we covered 40 kilometers on terrible muddy roads. In between we could relax with some ok parts of asphalt. Even if the road conditions were bad we have still made it by ourselves all day. But sometimes we were very close not to have made it. We just love our SAAB. He is fantastic, a real hero !

If we have understood this right we have only 30 kilometers of bad road mixed with 150 kilometers better road left to Krasnoyarsk. We really hope we can make it by our selves.

There are caravans of new cars traveling from Vladivostok to Novosibirsk. The brand new cars are driving like crazy through the mud holes and on these terrible roads. To protect them from flying stones, the hood and areas around the wheels are covered. We definitely cry if our new car was treated this way before delivery.

When we see what the weather can be like in April, the Cabriolet Challenge crowd got away with it real easy last week. Wonder what they would have done in their expensive cars in this situation?

19/4 2007 Truck-stop Siberia, Russia
Lat N 55° 52,60', Long E 94° 59,43'
Today: 32 °F ( 0 °C)
19 Apr 2007
73164 km

This morning there was frost on the inside of our windows! And it was really hard to get out of bed. After a Russian breakfast; sausage, three fried eggs and a piece of bread we hit the very foggy and slippery road to Krasnoyarsk.

We waited for the last part of the mud road. Luckily it never showed. Instead we got a very bumpy asphalt road, packed with huge potholes. But that is still far better than the muddy road we had yesterday.

At lunchtime we arrived in Krasnoyarsk. Found an okay budget room with shower and toilet outside. It was only 14 Euro a night. But it was by far much nicer than the one in Ulan-Ude.

After that we tried to find a garage, just any garage, to take a look under our car. We put in new spark plugs, cleaned the air filter and coupe filter, fastened the parts of the muffler we still have and checked that the gear box oil was okay.

The axel joints showed too much play, Bert thought but the mechanic said they were supposed to be like this. We also took out lots of mud from between the skid plate and the engine.

After that we took our car for a ride to see it we got rid of our problems. The “clonk sound”, and the vibrations are still there, but our SAAB feels more alert.

20/4 2007 Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Lat N 55° 58,65', Long E 98° 44,18'
Today: 35.6 °F ( 2 °C)
20 Apr 2007
73465 km

New day, new garage. This time we tried a combined Audi, Mercedes and Skoda garage. Maybe we have a greater luck of adequate help here. Bert took the boss for a test drive. When he saw our car he started to laugh till he nearly cried.

During the test drive the SAAB of course turned out unusually well. But when the mechanics took a look under it, they said it must be the right axel joint that is the problem. There was no axel joint for a SAAB 900 to be found in Krasnoyarsk. And they took out the broken one to measure it to see if they could find another one that fitted.

While waiting we got invited to lunch in the staff dining room, a big Russian lunch with salad, soup, bread rice and meat and fishcake. My god, they really eat a lot.

After four hours a new axel joint was in place. They had found one for a SAAB 9000, which seemed to fit the 900 too. We paid 190 Euro and left the garage with a big smile. Hopefully all our problems are solved by this.

Then we cleaned our SAAB inside and out. And the engine room got a real splash. There were still lots and lots of mud stuck there after our adventurous mud road journey a couple of days ago.

21/4 2007 Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Lat N 55° 58,65', Long E 98° 44,18'
Today: 35.6 °F ( 2 °C)
21 Apr 2007
73465 km

We think our SAAB wants to go home. He is probably fed up with our adventurous way of life and wants to go home and have a nice, well earned rest in our garage.

The first 30-40 kilometers on the highway towards Novosibirsk went well. The new axel joint seemed to be exactly what was needed to be done. But soon after the vibrations came back again, not as quite as violent as before, but still they were definitely a problem. Maybe we should have put in a new one on the left side too? Bert asked about it but they said there was no need for it.

After another 60 kilometers on a nice flat road, we hear a distinct “wrooooommm”, accompanied of a metallic ring. Well, there is no need to have a brain like Einstein to know what that meant. The muffler system was completely broken of in front of the front muffler. Bert tied it up so that we could keep it and have it fixed in the next town, 100 kilometers away. The skid plate and the muffler system have taken a lot of beating during our journey.

The weather has improved immensely. The sun is warm, but the spring winds are still freezing. The coltsfoot is in bloom at the roadside and a relative to our wood anemone too. The scenery is starting to look like Sweden with birch-trees and pine trees.

In the outskirts of the next town we a suitable garage were we could get our muffler welded. When we drove in the, we pumped a bit on the accelerator pedal, to make sure they understood what the problem was. No further explanation was needed. It took an hour to get it done, and we paid 110 Euro.

The mechanic said that the right engine hold needed to be repaired. Also the front engine hold was in a bad shape. We have to take care of this when we arrive in Novosibirsk on Monday.

By the way, thanks a million all the emails we have received about possible solutions for our problems with the violent vibrations and the “clonk sound”. We really appreciate all help we can get in this matter, since we haven’t managed to figure it out by ourselves. Thank you all!

22/4 2007 Truck-stop Siberia, Russia
Lat N 55° 19,90', Long E 85° 56,82'
Today: 68 °F ( 20 °C)
22 Apr 2007
74038 km

We have spent a nice day in Tomsk. It was the first warm day of the early spring. The Russians were all out in the streets and parks enjoying the nice weather. Some of the young women wore very light clothes, some so light we thought they might have forgot putting on their skit . They also walk around in extremely high and razor sharp leather boots.

The Russians are just as fond of barbecue as the Swedish people. Everywhere we look they are making barbecue sticks. A normal stick meal is a few pieces of meat, ketchup, onions slices and a piece of bread – and they eat it this everywhere.

In the park there was something going on . The first thing we hear is an army orchestra playing the ABBA song, Money, money, money. Funny, isn´t it?

In the evening we started our journey towards Novosibirsk, since we wanted to arrive early in the morning to find a garage. After just an hour we hear a distinct “wrooooommm”, again. The muffler is broke again, but this time in a new place. Well, we guess we have to get this fixed too tomorrow.

23/4 2007 Truck-stop Siberia, Russia
Lat N 55° 49,35', Long E 84° 41,89'
Today: 71.6 °F ( 22 °C)
23 Apr 2007
74341 km

We arrived at lunchtime in Novosibirsk. The fist thing we did was to try to find a reasonable garage. After asking around we found a Mercedes’ garage, but it still wasn’t quite right. Then a couple of customers in the Mercedes’guided us through town to a combined Volvo, Ford, Range Rover, Jaguar, Toyota and Hyundai garage.

In a second we where in the workshop, and they started to weld the exhaust pipe. While waiting Catharina was making lunch out in the parking lot.

The workshop was huge, 200 employees and very modern. Dmitry was the general manager. They checked our chock absorbers, and they where still okay after our long and hard journey, isn’t that amazing? Then they verified that the left axel joint had to be replaced. Shit, why didn’t we do it a week ago when Bert was suspicious about the left one too. He asked the mechanics about it, but they said that one was okay. That could have saved us a lot of problems.

The right engine hold definitely needed to be replaced, and the front one too. Unfortunately we can not find new ones here. That has to wait until we get home.

We checked with Lasse Andersson, the Shipping expert at Metso in Sweden, if it was possible to send a DHL courier here with the spare parts needed. The answer was a big NO. Send plain documents yes, but to send something else to Russia is impossible. It will take months to get the customs clearance for it.

We also tried to get in contact with the SAAB 900 club in Moscow. We thought they might have spare parts, but we didn’t get a reply.

But Dmitry found an axel joint in Moscow; they are going to fly over to Novosibirsk. Hopefully it will arrive here Friday morning. So now we just have to wait for a few days.

24/4 2007 Novosibirsk, Russia
Lat N 55° 07,29', Long E 83° 00,51'
Today: 75.2 °F ( 24 °C)
24 Apr 2007
74574 km

Today we went in to Novosibirsk. Bought tickets for tomorrows opera performance of Macbeth and checked out the Lenin statue in the square outside. Every single town we visited this far has had a Lenin Square and a Lenin statue.

Then we got caught by the police for drinking beer in a park. It is obviously not allowed to drink beer in a public place, even though EVERYONE is doing it. The Russians just hide the beer when the police show up. But the police just told us, no, no, get rid of that one.

In some of the towns we have been eating in something called ”Stolovaya” places. They serve cheap and tasty home cooking. It is great to be able to pick and choose. In Siberia all menus are in Russian and absolutely no one speaks English. Normally we eat borsjtsj, chljeba, sjasjlyk and piva, because that is the only things we know in Russian that they for sure have on every menu, that is beetroot soup, bread, skewer and beer. If there are other eating guests we usually have a look around seeing what they are eating, telling the waitress we want to have the same. That also works.

In the evening Dmitry took us for an off road ride to his favorite place on the riverbank of Ob just outside town. Dmitry is very fond of off road, he just took us right out in the woods driving across brushwood, tree trunk and stones. A few times the tree trunks was a bit too much even for him, and we had to get out to help clear the way.

On the back he took us to a beer kiosk, where they sell fresh draught beer. We bought one liter that they taped on a plastic bottle for us. There was a large selection, about 25-30 kind of fresh draught beer, all from Siberia.

25/4 2007 Novosibirsk, Russia
Lat N 55° 07,29', Long E 83° 00,51'
Today: 75.2 °F ( 24 °C)
25 Apr 2007
74574 km

We have found an okey truck-stop . Vi har hittat en helt okej truck-stop i utkanten av Novosibirsk, just a few kilometers from the garage. Here we have shower, sauna, toilet and a couple of road side restaurants. Here we can hang around and wait for the spare parts to arrive.

In the evening we went to the opera. They gave Macbeth in Russian, at the magnificent Opera & Ballet Theatre .

Since opera is not one of our favorite things to do, we bought the cheapest tickets available and got seats on the balcony, high up under the ceiling. The huge auditorium was not even half full, and when the show started one of the hostesses came to get us and showed us to ringside seats on third row. Great!

The audience was surprisingly young, many only in their twenties. But since the opera was in Russian, we didn’t understand much of it. We still think it was fun. But four hours was a little bit long, for a show we think.

26/4 2007 Novosibirsk, Russia
Lat N 55° 07,29', Long E 83° 00,51'
Today: 71.6 °F ( 22 °C)
26 Apr 2007
74574 km

Today we went to the garage to check out what is happening with the axel joint package from Moscow. To our surprise it was to be delivered this afternoon. But when the afternoon came, also a new message came; delivery tomorrow afternoon instead.

While waiting we used the wireless lan of the garage to skype and send some e-mails. Today we came in contact with some members SAAB 900 club in Moscow that we are going to meet when we get there. One guy will try to help us find new engine holds too. It would be great he made it, since we need them badly.

In the evening Vladimir a guy from the garage showed up. He asked if he could take us on tour round town. Of course, we said and jumped in his car. To choose a vodka is difficult, since there are so many brands. We asked Vladimir to give us a hint of which one to pick.

27/4 2007 Novosibirsk, Russia
Lat N 55° 07,29', Long E 83° 00,51'
Today: 60.8 °F ( 16 °C)
27 Apr 2007
74574 km

In the morning Vladimir came to pick us up again. This time to take us to the Akademgorodok Suburbs. It is a kind of elite suburbs built during the Soviet era, to attract academics to the many research institutes in the area. They where offered spacious apartments in beautiful surroundings and extra perks.

In one of the research institutes they have two huge mammoth skeletons in the entrance hall. The skeletons where found here in Siberia, and they are 40 000 years old.

In the evening we where invited to Vladimir’s house to have dinner and to meet his mother Alla. They live in a two room apartment on the eight floor in the outskirts of town. We enjoyed it very much to be invited to a russian home.

28/4 2007 Novosibirsk, Russia
Lat N 55° 07,29', Long E 83° 00,51'
Today: 41 °F ( 5 °C)
28 Apr 2007
74574 km

The absolute middle point of Russia is right in the middle of Novosibirsk. A small church is built as a monument on this particular point. A lot of newlyweds come here to take their wedding photo.

After another long day of waiting, the new axel joint finally arrived. First thing tomorrow morning we go to the garage to get it fixed.

But we got some very good news from Moscow today. Nikolay, a true SAAB enthusiast who runs managed to find a three new engine holds for us. And he will help us put in the new ones when we arrive in Moscow. Great!

29/4 2007 Novosibirsk, Russia
Lat N 55° 07,29', Long E 83° 00,51'
Today: 60.8 °F ( 16 °C)
29 Apr 2007
74678 km

Well, we are happy and our SAAB is happy again. This morning when Dmitiry took out the axel joint we realized how worn out it actually was. All the needles in the bearing were already gone and the axels were staring to get worn down. There is no doubt the t it is the Gobi desert sand that killed them, since the grease was full of sand. As soon as we where done at the garage we headed strait for Omsk.

It must be said that the Russian people are great! All of those we have met has been ever so nice, friendly and helpful. Especially Dmitry, who has gone out of his way to help us.

When we read about Novosibirsk in our guide book, it didn’t sound that great. But we think Novosibirsk is the best place this far in Russia. But that is because all the nice Russians we have met here.

Guess who we met when we parked for the night at the truck-stop right outside The Swiss overlanders we met in Irkutsk. They told us they also had made several visits to different garages to fix their in the past two weeks. Maybe there is something about Russia or the Russian roads, that keep you visiting garages.

4/5 2007 Truck-stop, Russia
Lat N 54° 30,82', Long E 54° 01,59'
Today: 39.2 °F ( 4 °C)
04 May 2007
77731 km

Talk about big fluctuation in the weather conditions over here. First it is summer temperatures, next day it is storm, third day it is, snow, the third day it is frost and hail.

The traffic police must be the biggest employer in Russia, they are absolutely everywhere. This far we have been stopped 16 times to get our documentation checked. But the police have been nice every time and just done their job. And we don’t get stopped more often than the Russians. The police have never searched our car for weapons, like what happened when we were riding Vladimir one evening in Novosibirsk.

But yesterday evening we came across a couple of corrupted policemen. The caught us with the radar claming we where driving 85 km/hour, on a 60 km/hour road. But we were driving the same speed as the rest of the traffic, and we didn’t see any 60 km/hour sign. Anyway they were clearly out to get some extra cash. They started out on demanding 100 $US, when Bert told them we didn’t have any dollars, they asked for Euro instead. Bert told them we did not carry Euro, only ruble. Okeay1000 ruble the policeman said, but after some negotiations we got it down to 500 ruble, claming that was all we had. This means the “fine” dropped from 77 Euro to 15 Euro. We didn’t feel like fighting it or questioning it this time since the atmosphere was a bit tensed, and we didn’t know what we to expect from these guys.

But it feels bad to allow and support corruption like this. We would gladly pay twice the amount for a real fine, if we had done something wrong than support corrupted shitty policemen. We did actually take some sneak pictures of the policemen, and noted time, place and their car number. If we find a way to report them we will do so. It would be nice to have them fired!

5/5 2007 Truck-stop, Russia
Lat N 54° 07,42', Long E 42° 41,22'
Today: 39.2 °F ( 4 °C)
05 May 2007
78638 km

Today we covered the last 400 kilometer leg to Moscow, and finally on a good road too. One hundred kilometers from Moscow we see skydivers landing on a drop zone right next to the M5, and we went there to check it out. The prices where decent, only 11 Euro for 4000 meters, and they had two L31 and one MI-8 in their fleet.

When we talked around a bit we got to know they opened a new wind tunnel 85 kilometers south of Moscow, just a couple of weeks ago. We would love to fly it before we leave Moscow.

At 6 PM we arrived at the GPS waypoint in Moscow Nikolay gave us, but no Nikolay in sight. After some SMS and phone contacts, we realized the coordinates we had was completely wrong; about 80 kilometers wrong! We decided that we Nikolay should meet us at the inner ring road at the IKEA turnoff, to guide us the rest of the way.

When Nikolay showed up in his red SAAB, we asked him to take it easy through the traffic. Yeah okay, he said and stepped on it and of he went in 120 km/hour, zigzagging between the lanes. We gave all we had but still couldn’t keep up with him. My god what a ride, this is the most scary traffic situation we have been in all trip. We said, please god let there be a traffic jam.

When we arrived at the garage they wanted to take a look at our car at once. We lifted it up and they started to work immediately; Saturday night at nine o’clock. It takes a true SAAB enthusiast to do this. In just a few minutes our SAAB had a new engine hold installed . The old one was completely worn out. Then we had an oil change too.

6/5 2007 Moscow, Russia
Lat N 55° 50,21', Long E 37° 38,27'
Today: 46.4 °F ( 8 °C)
06 May 2007
79202 km

We are staying at the Speedparts garage, parked behind a locked gate with guards and all. Here we have access to electricity, water and Internet connection. Great!

We got an explanation of Nikolays way of driving. He has been in street racing for many years. He doesn’t do it anymore. The lack of competition makes it boring. But as soon as he gets in a car he wants to go fast, real fast.

In the afternoon a great guy called Vadim, came to pick us up to show us Moscow. Also Vadim go fast kind of guy. But Vadim is not worried to get fined for speeding, as he is a policeman.

We visited a real interesting museum, the cosmonaut museum. All signs were in Russian, it was still interesting and Vadim could translate parts of it for us. There where moon ships, space suits, space food and worn out satellites and also two stuffed dogs; Lajka who returned to earth still alive and the first one who died. In the park outside we could see the first Russian moon rocket. It looked surprisingly small to have made a return trip to the moon.

Took a ride in the Perris wheel to get the chance to see Moscow from above, after that we strolled around checking out the parks, war monuments , fountains and sculptures, and there are a lot of them in Moscow.

7/5 2007 Moscow, Russia
Lat N 55° 50,21', Long E 37° 38,27'
Today: 62.6 °F ( 17 °C)
07 May 2007
79202 km

We started the out at the Belarus Embassy. A tourist visa took five working days process, and we didn’t want to wait that long and we decided to go with a transit visa instead for the cost of 45 $US per person. Then we don’t need the hassle with invitation, pre booking of hotels and visa registration when we get there. The transit visa is only valid for 48 hours in the country, but that’s okay. We just have to make the most of it.

While we where waiting for the visa, we visited the Red Square. The May 9th and the victory of the WWII celebrations is a huge thing here in Russia. The town is packed with flags, streamers and posters. The national celebration is taking place on the Red Square, and the preparations are at full speed, with the building of stages and grandstand, tv-cameras rehearsals. Due to all this the Lenin Mausoleum was closed. It is a pity; we would have loved to go there.

We visited the old soviet department store GUM , right next to the Red Square. Now it is full of exclusive shops for expensive brand names.

When we rounded the Kremlin corner, we saw a big crowd waiting with flowers in their hands outside the police blocking at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There was a wreath-laying ceremony , accompanied by an army orchestra and marching soldiers.

Group after group of by now very old war veterans with medals on their chest and others, came to pay their respect. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is actually not only a monument. In the tomb there is the body of one unknown soldier, to symbolize the rest of them.

8/5 2007 Moscow, Russia
Lat N 55° 50,21', Long E 37° 38,27'
Today: 62.6 °F ( 17 °C)
08 May 2007
79202 km

When Nikolay checked our car the other day he discovered that the water pump had to be changed immediately. It is obviously the bearing in the water pump that makes the squeaking sound every time we start the car. The thermostat also has showed very low working temperatures lately, and we realized it that it had to be broken. Today our SAAB has gotten both a new water pump and a new thermostat .

In the afternoon we got invited to a real Russian style banya party, with sauna, a very cool bath, a full dinner table of Russian specialties, chilled vodka and beer. It was great fun!

Nikolays wife, Lena runs two banyas in Moscow and we visited one of them. The procedure goes like this; a long hot visit in the sauna, a quick refreshing dip in the icy cold pool , relaxing and strengthen yourself with rich, fat food and vodka, and then it start all over again, and this goes on for two-three hours. And the crowd get more drunk for each round.

The ridiculous felt hats have a good purpose, to protect the head from getting overheated, and it really works. The food we brought to the banya was cooked and served by the banya attendant. Didn’t understand a word of what she said, but she was great fun. Now we know why Russians love rich and fatty food, it is to be able to drink huge amounts of vodka. The table was filled with rich mayonnaise salads, thick slices of pigs fat on dark bread, meat in jelly with hot mustard, pork chops, shrimps, cake as a desert and vodka so light and airy that it almost vaporized in the mouth.

We are so very pleased that we got invited to a real Russian banya party. It was great fun! Even if it came with a bad hangover.

9/5 2007 Moscow, Russia
Lat N 55° 50,21', Long E 37° 38,27'
Today: 60.8 °F ( 16 °C)
09 May 2007
79202 km

What a flop. We had been looking forward to this day for weeks. Finally we was going to see Russian parades, old war veterans and everything, and we where so excited about it. Everything was supposed to happen around the Red Square. Early in the morning we took the underground in to town. The celebrations were to start at 10 AM.

Arriving there we discovered that all streets leading up to the Red Square was blocked by the police. A policeman explained to us that they had been closed since 7AM this morning. This means we would have to have been there already 5 or 6 in the morning to get a chance to get to the Red Square. It was no use hanging around waiting. Nothing was going to happen until 2 PM, when they let the police blockings go.

At the garage they had kind of a garden party to celebrate the victory too, barbeque and vodka. Bert who still was in a bad shape since yesterday, had to drink a ” Sweet lips ” anyway, vodka, tomato juice and beer, to make a toast for the victory. Then it was Catharinas turn to do the same thing. It is really difficult to knock back a big glass like this in one, and she had to fight it.

In the evening we went in to town again. The Red Square was still blocked, and there were lots and lots of police and military everywhere. But now some of the streets where open again, but nothing much was happening, except for some entertainment on some small stages. There where no party at all! People were just hanging around doing nothing. Again disappointed we headed back to the garage again after a few hours.

10/5 2007 Moscow, Russia
Lat N 55° 50,21', Long E 37° 38,27'
Today: 50 °F ( 10 °C)
10 May 2007
79202 km

In the morning we put on our new set of tires. There was not much left of the old ones that were completely blank here and there, and would not last until we get home. We thought it was a good time to get new ones here in Russia where Nikolay could help us find a good quality set.

Nikolay has been a great help to us. Our car really needed a real SAAB friend to take care of it, after close to 80 000 kilometers on terrible roads. This check up will save us a lot of trouble on our way back home. It was also great that we could stay at the garage where we had safe parking, access to shower, water, electricity and Internet. We also had some great days in Moscow, meeting a lot of very nice Russian people. We could easyly have stayed one more week, but now we need to move on.

In the afternoon we went to the FreeZone Moscow Windtunnel. This place will officially open in July, but still it was fully booked for today. But when Tony saw our cool car and heard about our journey, he moved the schedule around to give us some flying time.

FreeZone Moscow Windtunnel is in a bright yellow-orange building right next to the M2, 60 kilometers south of Moscow. Right now the FreeZone Moscow Windtunnel is still a build site. But they for sure have their priorities right, the wind tunnel is up and running. When all is completed there will also be hotels and a restaurant here. The opening hours will be 8 AM to 12 PM. Phone: +7-495-784-2313. The official webbsida will open in June.

It is a 12 ft in diameter windtunnel, which is run by four electric-fans totally of 1 000 hp bringing the wind speed up to 250 km/hour. Skydiver prices; 30 minutes 9000 RUR (about 258 Euro), 1 hour 15 000 RUR (about 430 Euro). Bulk purchase discounts on request.