June 18, 2008 GMT


Moscow! What can we say?

Well, quite a lot actually, starting with our stop at the town of Velikiy Novgorod on the way there from St Pete.

This ancient Russian town was an important part of the formation of the Russian nation and culture and it wears its heritage with considerable pride and style. Located on the Volkhov River, we loved the way that they had created a little beach culture right below the wall of the kremlin (kremlin is a general term referring to the fortified central administrative district in an old city).

Novgorod 006.jpg

This huge Millennium of Russia Monument in the centre of the old city was also of interest...

Novgorod 012.jpg

...unveiled in 1862, it has all of the important characters of Russian history in three llevels of statues and base relief. In 1944 the visiting Germans cut it up and were ready to ship it back home. No wonder they are suspicious of tourists here!

We also liked this “leaning” bell tower...

Novgorod 015.jpg

...but the best for Jo was this tiny 1406 Church of Peter and Paul.

Novgorod 002.jpg

Our great find in V Nov was this little cafe...

Novgorod 025.jpg

...obviously named after our friend and neighbor back on the Gold Coast, Gioia Berry.

The run down to Moscow was also notable for our first encounter with the notorious Russian constabularies (there are many). The first was a show and tell with a radar gun which resulted in a stern warning, a big grin and best wishes for our visit.

The second ran closer to the script and resulted in me purchasing a ticket to the Policeman's Ball in exchange (fair of course) for return of my documents. The Elephant, honest soul that it is, disapproved of all of this, grumbled a bit, and spent the afternoon being naughty and splitting lanes in the city traffic.

The Moscow traffic was almost a pleasure after the run down, and that is certainly saying something as this is a huge city (more than 10 mil) with world class traffic congestion! It is also monumental and beautiful, clean, safe and well organised.

Moscow 027.jpg

We only had a few days in Moscow and we had a lot of administration to get done in addition to seeing the sites. This proved to be less of a task than we had anticipated thanks mainly to the efficiency of the Moscow metro. This masterpiece of organisation moves 9 million Moscovites each day with admirable speed and no real fuss at all. At 75 cents a ride it is also affordable to all.

We stayed at a hostel, that was cheap in Moscow but dear anywhere else in the world. Its best feature was its helpful staff, Ana...

Moscow 002.jpg

..., known to us as Madame Cinq Dihrum, after swapping great stories about travels in Morocco, and Dimitri, who avoided the camera, but finally explained the Russian visa registration requirements.

We rode the subway and walked, and walked and walked. By the time we had our Mongolian visas and done the main sites, we had covered 30 km around inner Moscow. Another city we know pretty well!

Interestingly, the Russians had told us that we would have a terrible time with the Mongolians as they are “so bureaucratic”. On the basis that it takes one to know one, we expected the worst. What we encountered was a friendly and helpful consul who sorted the papers, separated us from $90 each, and had us out the door with our visas in record time. You may recall that our Russian visas took months and cost us about $1500 all up. There was nothing for it but to go sightseeing.

The Kremlin, including the Assumption Cathedral shown here...

Moscow 047.jpg

...was spectacular without being ostentatious. They had this great old gun called the Tsar Cannon, which I have included in honour of Burkey, who used to be a devotee of St Barbara, and who remembers a time when gunners really did have big balls!

Moscow 051.jpg

Red Square wasn't red at all. In fact, they were setting up the stage for an Independence Day celebration which seemed decidedly un-Red to me.

Moscow 053.jpg

St Basil's, at the end of the square, looked better in real life than it had in the glossy travel shows. Inside, however, we were surprised at how small and pokey it is.

Jo reckons that Moscow strays are a little spare on it after those in Athens...

Moscow 021.jpg

...but this lot seemed content with life on a warm Sunday afternoon.

The best thing by far about our visit to Moscow was our chance meeting with Ksenia and Andrey, a Moscow biker couple we met through a chance Internet contact. Hearing that we were having difficulty finding affordable accommodation, they kindly offered us a billet at their flat. Unfortunately, timing and location combined to stop us taking advantage of their offer. We did, however, catch up with them on a warm Sunday afternoon for a ride around Moscow.

With Andey setting the pace on a Yammy FJ 1300, that looked like it had more “blues” than hot dinners, and Ksenia as Tail-end-Charlie on her pristine GSX 600 (Suzuki, way of life), we charged around some of the important Moscow sites.

Moscow 013.jpg

Although our hosts were modern, sophisticated young professionals, we were delighted to find that they were proud of their country and its heritage and that they knew all of the foundational stories and told them well. We visited the memorial complex at Victory Park ...

Moscow 008.jpg

...and had a reminder of the still raw trauma of WWII in this country. The complex includes monuments to all of the armies and fleets that fought in the conflict and a public reference database to help family trace the history of those who served.

On Sparrow Hill...

Moscow 012.jpg

...we had a great view of the city, including the football stadium where two English teams recently played the European Cup final. When I asked if the English fans had been a problem, Andrey just laughed and said that compared with Russian fans they were nothing to worry about and that the police had plenty of practice at dealing with stroppy crowds!

In an inner-city park we found a jazz band...

Moscow 034.jpg

and an exhibition of underwater photography...

Moscow 030.jpg

...including this Leafy Sea Dragon from south eastern Australia. Since I had seen Dragons similar to this diving in southern NSW, I enjoyed telling Andrey something about the GSL.

We rode past...

Moscow 028.jpg

...the famous White House, and...

Moscow 026.jpg

...visited the site of Moscow's new Multi-Function Center. All of this was very impressive, but the highlight of the day was a visit to the Moscow Bike Center.
Moscow 042.jpg

This amazing complex is the home of the Night Wolves, Russia's oldest bike club. It is inside a secure complex and includes a coffee shop and restaurant, stage area, bike servicing facilities and the clubroom (off limits to non-members)

Moscow 037.jpg

The complex looks like a set from Mad Max 2...

Moscow 038.jpg

...amazing in the daylight, it must be eerie at night.

Moscow 040.jpg

The facility provides a drop-in place for all bikers, not just Night Wolf members...

Moscow 041.jpg

..., but the big glasses in the photo of Andrey telling Mike why the Ural was such a good bike they named a mountain range after it, contain tea! The new drink-driving rules here are so draconian that any alcohol on the breath and its shanks pony for a half a year! What makes it worse is that if you decide that you would like to purchase a ticket to the policeman's ball, the cost would be astronomical. Bikers' Tea it is then!

We were lucky enough to meet the President and Secretary of the Night Wolves. They were interested in our journey and offered to provide contacts along the way in case we get into a jam. We were quick to accept. It seemed to us that they would be handy blokes to have around in a crisis.

By Tuesday evening 9 June, we had all of our administration done and we were ready to go. This included the purchase of a new set of knobby tyres for the Elephant. We will take these forward to Irkutsk and fit them before the roads turn to mud or dust (depending on the weather). Moscow is the last place to get them. We had our route planning done and, apart from breakdown, nothing good co wrang.


Two extra tyres!

Posted by Mike Hannan at June 18, 2008 04:29 AM GMT

HU DVD Summer Special!

Now that summer is here, get On the Road! Take 30% off the Achievable Dream - On the Road! 2-DVD set until August 31 only. Get On the Road! Learn the tips to staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure!

Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.

"A fantastic, informative and inspirational DVD."

"It's brilliant - thank you very much!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'ONTHEROAD' on your order when you checkout.

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!