And off we go, Russia here we come!
We had an absolutely perfect start to the riding of this tour. The weather leaving Helsinki was perfect and other than getting a little cool, stayed that way for the rest of the day.
Border crossings, customs and dealing with vehicle import papers is rarely much fun, more so when entering a country in which English is not always spoken. On top of that, Russia is probably not a country listed in the top ten of being easy to enter! Well, we lucked out. Not only did the border crossing go by relatively quickly, 2.5 hours for seven vehicles and ten people, it was a good and easy experience that involved a lot of laughs. Leaving Finland was an absolute breeze and we had two great Russian border officials that were exceptionally helpful and friendly and all spoken in English.
Of course there is always one comedian in every group. Geoffrey had the group in hysterics when he asked how to answer the question on the customs documents, clearly lost in translation from Russian to English, ‘ Date of release….’ Correctly translated it would be ‘Date of manufacture’, alas, that was not quite what Geoffrey was thinking about…..
Once through the border we stopped for lunch a small cafe about 300 feet from a gas station out in the middle of nowhere. The food and service were really good, the ambience was very nice and everyone had a great first lunch in Russia. I guess the dark walls and two dancing poles were a bit of a giveaway as to what our little lunch stop restaurant would turn in to once the sun set….. But it was a great lunch!
The ride itself was short, easy and fairly quick which gave us plenty of time to get through the border, have lunch and get to the hotel early enough to explore the city of Vyborg, our destination for the night.
Vyborg is a very interesting part of the world with several war torn buildings spread throughout the city, historical churches, the Vyborg Castle and mixed in with apartment blocks from the Soviet Era and modern, to date shops and hotels.
A wonderful dinner at a seventh floor restaurant overlooking the ‘lake’ and watching a beautiful sunset was the absolute perfect ending to a wonderful day. We could not have asked for better.
Welcome to Russia!