October 12, 2006 GMT
In Europe

Thatís where Iíve been since I crossed the Ural Mountains on September 22nd. I had left Tyumen the day before and spent the night in Yekaterinburg in Eliaís apartment, a local biker. This is the city where the czar Nicolas, his wife and children were murdered by the Bolsheviks. I was glad to have crossed the Urals. I knew that I could relax a bit more from now on; winter west of those mountains was still a few weeks away.

I stayed in Perm for a weekend. I was welcomed there by Vadim, a local biker. I was planning to go down the Kama River as well as the Volga all the way to Nizhniy-Novgorod, as Madame de Bourboulon had done in 1862, but unfortunately the season was already over. The temperature wasnít very high to cover those 1000 km by road but at least it didnít rain.

In Izhevsk, I stayed in Mahratís place, a local biker and I received some help in Kazan by some other bikers. I donít think I could have crossed Russia without the help of all those bikers. Theyíve done more than what I could ever have imagined.

Nizhniy-Novgorod where I arrived on September 28th was one of the finest cities I had seen so far with its Kremlin overlooking the Volga. This is also where Madame de Bourboulon stopped taking notes. Nevertheless, I know than from Nizhniy-Novgorod she went to Vladimir. From there she took a train to Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and, across northern Prussia and Belgium, went to France where she ended her journey. I was now planning to follow the same route by riding along the railway line.

Moscow where I arrived the next day was better that I expected. I still had this image of a city with terrible road conditions and cars with dying engines along the sidewalk. Not at all, and in many ways the Russian capital could easily be compared with some western cities. This is also the last place in Russia where I stayed in a bikerís place. Timur was from Irkutsk but had been staying in Moscow for a while.

I left Moscow on October 3rd under the rain and arrived in Saint-Petersburg the next day still under the rain. The weather didnít improve much during the three days I stayed in the former Russian capital and it rained on and off during the entire day on October 7th on my way to Latvia. I got a puncture on that day but I was lucky that it occurred just as I was passing near a small hamlet. Some local villagers helped me fix it.

It was too late to cross the border and I did it the next day. It took me one hour and a half to clear customs. All the documents I had received entering Russia in the Far East didnít seem to be the ones the officials where asking for. Entering Latvia was a relief regarding customs. They just checked my bike registration and stamped my passport.

Madame de Bourboulon couldnít have taken the train to go from Saint-Petersburg to Warsaw. The line opened only in September 1862. But the line to Vilnius opened in March of the same year. This is where I arrived on October 10th and where Iím planning to stay for a day or two.

Posted by Fabrice Blocteur at 01:12 PM GMT

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