Three of us stayed (day 15 - 21)
Tolyatti - Kazan, 11 - 12/08
The third week of our trip starts today, while we are in the city where they produced Arkadia. The plan for today is quite simple: visit the Tolyatti Museum of military equipment, the "Avtovaz" museum of Lada's and then get back on the road.
At least at the beginning of the day, yes. We have a long walk through a park full of huge war tanks, planes and the biggest electric -diesel submarine in the world. Russian children climb the trucks like if it is a game, but considering the place from another point of view, I have to admit that it's just a weird, big playground. We get out of the museum, and we find parked another Zhiguli: it's a special lady that during communist times travel all around Europe. We put our super dirty car next to it and take some pictures. While we are driving out of the parking lot, we discover that we actually visited only half of the exposition, but no way we go back.
We have a quick lunch and then finally go to the Avtovaz. It is closed. The museum for which we enlonged our trip of a total of 500 km, is fucking closed. All of this because nobody - of course - thought about checking it online.
Anyway, there is nothing we can do about it, so we get back to the car and start to drive.
Destination: Kazan. On the way, we stop in a small village to record some videos and local people come to us, curious about our journey; the road is completely destroyed, and we reach the city late in the evening. Thankfully, our hostel is central, and we can go grab a beer before sleep.
Every one of us spend the morning wandering around the city alone, we need a small break from each other, and this place is so beautiful that walking alone recharges your mental batteries. I meet Cris by accident and we start walking together, ending up in a small market full of old people selling fruit and vegetables. It starts to rain hard and, since I am feeling a bit sick and I forgot the jacket, I call a taxi and get back to the hostel. In the evening, we go to have dinner in a craft bar, with half intention to get drunk, but after the second beer we realize that a full day in the car with hangover is not the best idea, especially for our driver.
Nijny Novgorod, 13-14-15/08
We leave Kazan very slowly; the rain is falling again, and we feel sleepy like babies.
After some time, we meet a sign about a small island off the road and decide to get a detour there. The place is called Ostrov-Grad Sviyazhsk, placed in the middle of three rivers, is a sort of fortress full of churches. We go around and buy a lot of piroshki, with the excuse that we didn't have lunch yet. The wind is cutting our faces, so we run back to the car and start driving again.
Destination: Nijny Novgorod.
The traffic slows us down a lot, we all fall asleep in the car, except Kuba, of course - but he was probably about to do it too. It takes us a lot of hours to arrive to the city, we stop several times for short breaks and eat bread and hot dogs every time we have to refill the fuel. We are supposed to stay one night and then, finally, head to the capital of Russia, because the guys have never been there. While we are entering the city, a heavy rain starts falling again and Kuba drives like a 75 years old guy, because he can't see anything. Moreover, the trucks and cars that surpass us splash water on our car, and, having the windows open due to a little problem of condensation, poor Cris gets a couple of showers. Ah, and the funniest thing of all? When we are almost in the city the brakes stop to work all of a sudden and, when Kuba uses the handbrake, it doesn't work either. Perfect evening today.
We reach slowly the apartment that we booked, with the owner calling me every five minutes to ask where we are and saying that we have to hurry, even if I told her before that we are late.
We finally get to the apartment, get inside under the rain with the woman complaining because we don't understand one question she makes and because she is not able to open a normal passport - my nerves are quite sensible right now and she is being very rude -, she leaves and we discover that the mattresses are completely dirty and disgusting. Today is not our day.
After the time we settle, Ania tells us that she will leave tomorrow afternoon for Saint Petersburg.
In the morning, we visit the Kremlin of the city, but we have zero will to see the rest of the churches and statues, so we just go for lunch in a very nice Russian place and stay there for a long time. We walk through the centre and visit a small, hidden market to buy old Sovietic cigarettes to bring back home. We get back to the car and Ania takes her backpack, sleeping bag and mattress and leaves.
Cris and Kuba try to figure out what happened to the car and to fix both the brakes and the radio - needless to say, we stay there two hours for nothing -, but at least a nice woman working in the building next to us comes over and starts talking without stopping for the whole time, lets us use the toilet and gifts us some piroshki.
When the two engineers I am left with give up, we finally go to a mechanic, that tells us the car will be ready in the morning. We book a hostel and go have dinner to a shisha place. The shitty hostel is located a bit out of the centre, during the night I can't sleep due to the people shouting in the corridor, a drunk guy that enters the room several times claiming I'm sleeping in his bed, and Kuba speaking in his sleep half in English and half in Czech. Sleepless night for me.
When we get up, we literally run out of that shithole and reach the mechanic, that says the car is ready. We ask him to fix the radio too and he puts a 10 rubles coin between two cables. I am quite worried about this solution, but the guys are fine with it.
We pay and start driving: after 5 minutes we are on fire. The cables are burning due to a short-circuit to the radio. I knew it. They immediately cut everything and put the radio out - I think we will keep using the JBL for our full trip.
On the highway, after about an hour that we started, a car honks and makes us sign to follow it. We stop the car behind it and a guy comes out and starts talking in Russian to Kuba and Cris, when I get out of the car, he invites us all to a restaurant in Moscow where he works. We gladly accept and search for the place on google: it's a restaurant on the 85th floor of a skyscraper in Moscow city. How the hell did it even happen?! I mean, he seriously stopped the car to invite us! We are super excited about it and decide that maybe it will not be appropriate to go there with our slippers and shorts: we will get fancy for our Monday night. We stop in Vladimir for lunch and then finally reach Moscow in the evening.
The first day in Moscow, we decide to spend the morning looking for souvenirs in the Izmaylovo Bazar. The taxi leaves us at the beginning of the park and we have a nice walk, looking at old men fishing in the river with cigarettes in their hands and others sitting shirtless under the sun. In the park, there are speakers with the music and we even meet a power plant: only in Russia you can find a fucking powerplant in the middle of a park. The market is full of people: old men and women trying to sell old stuff, probably found in the dark corners of their houses, and we assist to the weirdest fight since we are here: two old babushki shout at each other, because one of them put her stuff in front of the other, and then the push and slap each other, until one of them falls on the ground. There is a crowd around them and all the people from the market are trying to divide them, exept one man that approaches the still standing babushka and physically confronts her. That is serious crazy stuff. We keep going through the market and buy more souvenirs than we need - I even get a hat, because Kuba was buying one and the seller convinced me. After the market, we get stuck in the shopping centre looking for nice clothes for our night out and we get back to the hostel completely destroyed.
Monday morning, the weather is pleasant, and we have a good mood moving us. We take the metro and reach the centre of Moscow to see the Red Square, but we find it closed by fences: such a disappointment. We go for lunch and feel in a coma: maybe is not the right day to go around. We head back to the accomodation and have a nap in the afternoon, until the moment our friends Alex and Nastia - a couple we met during our trip in the Altai Mountains in June - texts us that they arrived. We chat with them and Alex tries to drive Arkadia with a lot of struggle.
We say goodbye to our friends and go to get ready for the evening. Alex, the chef, booked a table for us. We arrive even a bit late and, for some minutes, can't figure out how to get inside the skyscraper called 'OKO' - russian for Eye. Eventually, we reach the 84th floor of the building and Alex comes to greet us, showing the way to the 85th floor, where there is the restaurant.
We go up the roof and the view of the skyline of the Russian capital leaves us speechless. How did we end up here? Arkadia is bringing us a lot of luck, since we started the journey.
We have dinner in this fancy place, ordering whatever we want just because Alex gave us 50% discount. The guy sits with us and invites us to contact him every time we are in Moscow, so that he will host us: he's super nice and we have a conversation half in Russian, half in English. After he leaves, we have a couple of drinks and then go back to sleep.
Tomorrow we will finally head to our last Russian destination: Saint Petersburg. It's so weird to think that our time in this country is about to end, after all the adventures we've been through and the people we've met, but, at least for me, it's almost time to go back home.
Alessandra De Santis