Follow me around the world!
Day 1: From Moscow to Brest (Belarus): 1064 Kms.
Yes, my friends. A 3822 Kms trip, driving from Moscow, the Russian capital to the beautiful Alella, just off Barcelona. Starting in Moscow and crossing Belarus, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria (for a few minutes and by mistake, only), France and, finally, home. Almost 4000 Kms, in four days and three nights.
I must admit I was kind of worried about driving for so many kilometres but, after all, it was a very interesting trip and much less taugh than expected.
So, here we are, me and my wife, ready to start our journey. We planified as much as we could about it: budget, where to load petrol (cheap petrol…),where to change some currency, where to sleep and so on. This one is a difficult issue. Not only due to cost but, especially, because in such a long trip, you simply cannot foresee when are you going to be tired or not. You also need to be expecting for some unexpected issues. There is always something unexpected, something which it can be just a funny anecdote or it can simply ruin your plans. Or a bit of both, as we will see…
Aproximately half of our journey was in Russia, crossing the Smolensk region (and getting four traffic tickets back in our home in Moscow, for around €100). We did not see any sign announcing radar or cameras in the road and all four tickets are from Smolensk, so be careful if you drive the same roads. Of course and as we expected, the traffic was horrendous leaving Moscow and in Moscow region but very light once you left the big city.
Leaving Russia and entering Belarus is easy and fast. In fact, there is not even a border or checkpoint. We just drove trough and found out only the day after this situation can carry out some little problems…
Going back to the point of where to sleep, this first day was the only one we actually booked a room in advance so we could drive with a destination in our minds. This place was Brest, the last city in Belarus before entering Poland.
I need to mention that, once you change currency (any currency…) to Belarus rubles yo become a millionaire. I know, you are the same loser you were one minute before getting the change but the conversion makes you feel funny. As an example, we paid 22000 rubles for a couple of coffees.
For those who have never travelled to Belarus, we could easily say it is a really similar to Russia but still stuck in the 80’s. It is also consider to be the only European dictatorship left.
For a borderline city, Brest does not have a very large hotel structure. Some Soviet era hotels (still managed by Intourist) and not much more. We were booked at the Hotel Energiya. A strange name for a hotel but it turned to be a strange hotel as well. We entered Brest at night, around 22h and, following this great invention called Navigator, we arrived to the address quite easily. The problem was the hotel was not announced anywhere: not a sign, not a poster, anything. After asking some people, we were confirmed to be at the right address and found out that the hotel was placed in two floors only of a strange building offering also flats, offices and even some kind of ambulatory. Quite strange but, hey, you are in Belarus!.
Of course we had to pre-pay the room and, of course, it had to be cash. We left some of our stuff in the room (quite nice, I must say, despite the soviet style decoration) and ran out to find some place for supper. The hotel was located next to what it seemed to be a nice boulevard, with different shops and restaurants. It was nearly 23h so, sure, no shops were open and we could only find one place to eat something warm: shashlick, salad and so on. And a couple of nice and cold large beers to celebrate we reached our destination without any inconveniences.
We walked back to our strange hotel, got our key from a even more strange receptionist and went to sleep. We decided to wake up early, by 7am to be able to move to the border the soonest the better, trying to avoid big queues (yes, so naïf I was…). Then, in the morning, the strange receptionist gave us a couple of strange take away breakfast bags and we left the strange hotel. We started to move to the border…