Back home (day 30 - 39)

Saint Petersburg, Pskov 25/08

Leaving the apartment of our Russian friends in the morning meant also the beginning of the end of our long journey throughout Russia. 

The morning is kind of weird, we are packing our stuff and waiting for Pasha to come back from work to say goodbye. We are just hanging around the house doing nothing, not really in the mood to start again, even because, according to our plan, tonight we will leave the country with no possibility to come back due to the Covid issue: our visas will be cancelled and we will be back in the European Union. For me is hard just to think about it, after one year in this part of the world. Kuba gets out of the house to get the car in the parking and put it closer, so that taking all our luggage down will be easier but when he enters the car he notices that the bags have been opened and everything is on the seats and ground: someone got inside the car and seriously thrashed the place. We leave all the bags out and check if they stole something, but, thankfully, they didn't take anything: probably some bored kid saw that he car had no locks and got in for fun. It takes us half hour to put everything back on place, meanwhile, Pasha comes back, and Sasha is getting ready to leave. 

We load the car and say goodbye to our friends, promising to meet again as soon as possible. However, Cris notices that he forgot his jacket in the apartment, so he has to run to Pasha's job and get the keys of the house and then bring them back, so me and Kuba sits in the car and buy two bottles of Vodka Beluga to bring back home (we will get back to our bottles later). 
We finally manage to start the car and leave the block, the brakes stop working for the thousand time and we have to stop in a parking lot, but this time the two engineers know how fix it and they do it. It's raining again and I even have a cold, so I just sit uselessly in the car. At this point, I don't even get mad at Arkadia for breaking every day, it's been a very long trip for the old lady. We are getting out of my beloved Petersburg, destination: Petergof. We take the highway and finally I see what I've been missing for one year: the sea is all around us. There are small islands with abandoned buildings all along the way, and they give me the sensation of some mystical places. While on the highway, the car gets a bit too heated and start to spit smoke again. We stop on the bridge for some time to make it cool down and then get on the road again. 
We reach Petergof in the early afternoon, tired and hungry. I want to see the castle and the gardens with the famous fountains, but when we get there, we discover that the entrance ticket is very expensive for all the three of us, so I get inside alone with the camera and the guys go to sit in a café. The place is wonderful: the palace with the golden decorations, the huge fountains all over the park and the bay with the endless sea in front of me. 
However, I don't' stay for more than half hour, due to the delay to our trip, and I literally run all around the park to see everything. When I reach the guys, we get back and have lunch in the car, while on the way. At this point, we are heading towards the border with Latvia, stopping for the night in Pskov. 
When we are finally in the city, it's almost 11 p.m. ad we go around looking for a place to have dinner, but everything is close and the car is overheated again and the brakes are giving problems again. 
We give up and just get to the apartment we booked to eat noodles and sleep. The place is super nice; we have a view on the city that we will not visit. We go to sleep late after getting showers and chatting for a while.

Pskov, Latvia, Lithuania, 26/08

When we get up in the morning, we already know that we have to fix the car again, so we get out of the apartment and start working. We have to put litres of brakes and motor oil and test the car around the parking for one hour. We are almost professional mechanics at this point and this is so funny, because I don't even have a driving license, but now I can understand what is going on. 
We leave Pskov and have lunch on the way, hurrying to reach the border with Latvia, since it will take us hours to get out of Russia with all our baggage. We don't have to drive a lot, but it's already three in the afternoon when we get there. 
The border control police look at us like if we are aliens; they are all laughing and staring at the car. We keep capturing interest in people with our dirty loaded car. We go through the first and second controls without problems, but then they have to check what we are carrying and they ask us to get down the top of the car the big suitcases. We have no intention to do it, since it took us three hours back in Tomsk to put them on. So, we try to distract the police officers showing all the interiors of the car and taking just the small one on the top. 
When they realize it would have taken too long, they just give up and let us go. 
We almost made it. 
When I hand them my passport and they cancel my visa, I feel about to cry, because this very moment signs the end of my year abroad and almost the end of the trip too. 
We are in Europe, though, and the moment must be celebrated: we made it, against all the sceptical comments about the craziness of the idea of doing more than 6000 km with a 33 old car. We put the music n and start singing aloud. The mood is completely on, we go all over across Latvia in one and a half hour and, in the evening, we are in Lithuania. Our hearts start to shrink painfully when we see the prices of the gas: Russia was so cheap. We have dinner at 10 p.m. in a pizza restaurant and they speak English to us: another thing we are no more used to. We keep driving for another couple of hour and sleep in a gas station.

Poland, Pardubice, Prague 27/08 - 28/08

Early morning start means we will be in Czech Republic by night. 
Now everything feels accelerated, we just want to reach our final destination a soon as possible. In the morning, Cris finally drives for the first time Arkadia, but after a couple of hours, he gives up: it's too hard to get used to her on the road. We will push it to Pardubice, in Czech, today, so Kuba drives all day long with short stops. 
We get out of Lithuania and go all over across Poland, having dinner in another fast food. When we are almost two hours far from the city, Kuba calls her friend Nikki and tells her we will be there at 1 a.m., but she says she will wait for us. 
At midnight, we pass the border with Czech Republic: WE MADE IT! 
More than 8000 km and Arkadia is still taking us around. We get to Niki's house and she leaves us to sleep in the apartment. Now we feel all the tiredness of the day and fall asleep like babies. In the morning, we all have breakfast together and go out to have a walk around Pardubice, a very nice town, and it's even sunny... after weeks of rain! We feel blessed and positive. For lunch. we stop to have some typical Czech food and then start to head towards Prague, even because Cris has the flight booked for the 1st of September. We say goodbye to Niki after taking some pictures together and we get back on the road. 
After less than two hours, we are in Prague! We head to the centre, since one guy from Lada Svetom, a project that involves old Ladas going around the world, wants to meet us. We park the car and meet Junior that offers us a beer and listens to our crazy stories around Russia. After he leaves, we have to get the keys of Thuthi, a friend of Kuba who is going to host us for the night. We start walking around the old city and a bloody storm starts raining on us. Well, what a surprise... We get the keys and go back again under the rain. When we arrive at the apartment, even though we wanted to get finally down the luggage on the top, we postpone it for the next morning, given the amount of rain falling from the sky. 
What a big mistake it was, we will discover the next day. 
We dry ourselves and go to a pub nearby: goulash and beer, perfect Czech dinner. I feel super heavy and sleepy, but I'm having fun especially because there is a group of international students from all over the world at the table next to ours and it reminds me of all the friends I said goodbye to in the last 8 months. 
When we go back to the apartment, Thuthi finally arrives and we introduce to her. She's super cute and funny and we make plans for the next day.

Prague, 29/08

They stole our suitcases. 
That is the first thing that I notice in the morning when Kuba and I go out to smoke a cigarette. 
Two big suitcases and a small one. I start to curse and run to the car, while he didn't even realize what is going on. We call the police to report the robbery and say it Cris and Thuthi. Fucking Prague, It's the first day in this country and we have been robbed. We spend the whole morning at the police station, with Kuba explaining what they took. After some time, they find my suitcase in a playground and bring it to the station: there are some things missing, but almost everything is there. We are starving and nervous, they can't find the other two Kuba's suitcases and take us back to the apartment. I go around the block and find other stuff on the ground, so we spend one hour walking around looking even in the trash bins, but with no results. We lost all the t-shirts Kuba made for the trip and all his winter clothes. 
I can't even explain how we are feeling today, but there is nothing we can do. 
We go out for lunch, rest a bit in the afternoon and then go to the centre, where we will meet Kuba's friends and Jakub, our friend from the Tomsk period that is from Prague and we tell him about our adventures, since he was watching us leaving Siberia from the dormitory. We drink and have fun with all the new people we are meeting, spending the night in an arcade bar and, as a tradition, getting Cris drunk, because he will leave soon.

Prague, 30 - 31/08

On Sunday morning, we decide to finally visit Prague, but it's still raining, so we start walking around under a waterfall and stop to get a coffee to warm ourselves up. I'm feeling sick, so we decide to head back to Thuthi's, where we start to prepare our stuff, since today we will move to Petja's apartment, another of the guys we met yesterday. We will leave the car at Thuthi's, since Petja live in the centre and find a parking would be an impossible task. 
We get to the apartment and get a shower; we just want to rest at this point. 
The Monday is a completely lazy day: we stay on the sofa all day watching TV-series and eating like pigs, we just get out in the evening to get to the pub with other friends. 
We all meet and even Thuthi joins us. The atmosphere is very joyful and we are drinking and chatting all the time. We move to another pub later and there are a couple of guys playing the guitar, with all the other Czechs singing the songs. It's seriously amazing and I'm already in love with this place. All the people with us are travellers, crazy people like us, so we exchange stories about our adventures around Europe and Asia. 
We don't want to go to sleep tonight, even because tomorrow will sign the very end of the journey. I can't believe it's been more than one month on the road.

Prague, Ostrava, 01-02/08

Today Cris is leaving us. 

After all these months spent together, he's heading back to his home in Italy and we will go separate ways. 
We leave the apartment after lunch and take Cris to the airport, under all the bags that we had to put inside the car. The moment to say goodbye is sad: we are exchanging hugs and kisses and then watch him get in the airport with all his stuff. 
Now it's just me and Kuba. 
He drives out of Prague with the final destination on the map: Ostrava. The lights of the car stop working, so around 7 p.m. we stop at a gas station and spend hours in the KFC until it's closing time. We sleep in the car again in our smelly sleeping bags and get up at 8 a.m., not really rested, but ready to drive the last 300 km. We go across Czech Republic under the sun, the fields and villages on the way reminds me home and we are a bit silent in the car. 
It's so weird to be almost there, after all the things that happened on the way. After all the places we visited, the people we met and left and the times the car broke. Now everything already seems like a big blurry memory, even if it was just some weeks ago that we left the dormitory in ulitza Arkadia Ivanova 8 in Tomsk. 
We've been through so much, that I think I will never forget the feelings of my first super long road trip from the heart of Siberia to Ostrava. It's impossible to remove those moments from my head, as it's impossible to believe I really followed Kuba's crazy idea of buying a Russian old car and start driving. However, I think it's the best crazy thing I have ever did until now. 
We reach the VSB-TUO, Kuba's university, and our adventure is officially over. 

Here is a map of our journey. 

For now we will stop... until the next new journey!

Alessandra De Santis