Whilst camping alongside Lake Geneva, and having a couple of rest days, a chap in the motorhome opposite (which had a French number plate), said in the most tremendous Yorkshire accent “is it going to rain then?!!”, pointing up at the dark clouds above us. I was quite confused and said something like “hang on, you’re supposed to be French!” It was then that we got chatting. They were Bill and Cath, originally from Yorkshire, but now living near Angouleme in France, and they were on their way to Croatia for a holiday. We had a good few days with them and they ended up helping us a lot with our route through France, which had to change from what we’d originally planned, due to the time of year we have to come back through next year. This has meant that we now get to explore lots of the middle of France, instead of doing the French Riviera, which we’ll do early Spring. Thank you to Bill and Cath for all of your help, and I hope you made it to Croatia ok, and had a good time!

Before heading in to France, we visited CERN, which is located in Geneva, and is a place where a multi-billion pound research facility, looking into particle collisions, exists. It was not something I knew about before going (it’s more physics than what I do), but it was really interesting to have the tour of the facility and see what goes into their research, even though we didn’t get to see the collider itself as they were running an experiment. We also had a day to look around Geneva city centre, which surprisingly had a very relaxed feel to it, considering everything costs an absolute fortune. There were jewellers and watch shops everywhere, nothing had prices on, but the place was absolutely beautiful, and not a tourist-tat shop in sight!

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Leaving for France was when the Alps and their twisty roads began, and it was the first time I used the GoPro since Norway. We spent one whole day on these roads, and they beat passes like Stelvio hands down. Our first stopover point was in a place called La Grave, where there was a cable car to take you to the top of a mountain (3200m), onto a glacier, and then back down again, or not, if you wanted to climb/walk down. We found a great little campsite in the village, ready to go up the mountain the following day. As the following day was Saturday, I suggested to Roger that we get to the cable car when they opened at 9am, as I thought it would be rammed with people, and it was a good job we did. Although it wasn’t rammed at all, we’d decided to walk down the mountain from the 3200m stage to the middle stage at 2400m, where there was another cable car station to take us to the bottom. The lady in the ticket office recommended it and said it would only take an hour, so that was what we did, except it took us 5 hours, and my legs were shot after the first hour. So I’m very glad we left early, as we only just made the cable car from the middle station before they closed it and we’d have had to walk the whole lot! It was worth it though, as it was beautiful and I did really enjoy it.

We are now further into France and we have seen lots of little villages along the way. We have also been through what looked like a mini Grand Canyon, and the Millau Bridge. A couple of days ago we visited a Medieval village called Guedelon, where there is a castle and village from the 1200s being rebuilt using only the methods that were used in the day, and it will take 25 years to complete.

From here we will move further West to La Rochelle and Ile de Re, before heading down near Angouleme to visit a family friend. After that will be “au revoir” to France, and “Hola” to Spain!

 

Whilst we were sightseeing in Brno, we had a slight issue with the sat nav, which, after numerous calls to the tech support people (who did everything they could to try and help, including giving us access to the app for our phones), still does not work, and needs to be sent away for repair. We were initially slightly concerned/annoyed about this as it is the only navigation device we have, and it has probably made life quite a bit easier for us. However, moving on since, using handwritten notes on our tank bags has been quite nice, as you don’t get suckered in to looking at the sat nav screen all the time, and you notice more of what’s around you, so I’m not sure we’ll bother getting it fixed.

Our destination in Austria was Salzburg, which had been recommended to us by quite a few people we’d met along the way, and it didn’t disappoint. The landscapes were incredibly green, with rolling hills and beautiful individual houses with actual land between them! The roads were the first proper twisty ones we’d used since Norway, and there were mountains all around.

We were about an hour from the city centre when we decided to stop for lunch as it was getting hot, so we pulled into a layby with some shade. We were sitting out on the grass when a chap on a Moto Guzzi Stelvio pulls up and says to us “so, you’re on a world tour then?!” It turned out he was riding past and saw the bikes, so he decided to stop and see if we were ok and needed any help. He then saw the maps of the route on our panniers and worked out what we were doing. After 10 mins of talking to us he asked us if we had anywhere to stay that night or anything to do for the day. We, of course, didn’t have anything pressing, being retired, so we followed him to his house. His name was Chris, and he and his wife Mathilda had a beautiful house only a few km from where we’d met him. It was lovely to meet them and hear all about their travels, which mainly happened before they’d had kids, before sat nav, and certainly before blogs on the internet! We had food out in their garden with them, and a steady stream of friends came by (usually bringing beer!) to say hello. Once again, I was amazed by how kind people are.

The next day we went out for a ride and Chris showed us some great roads, we went out to lunch, and then went for a swim in one of the many lakes in the area. We then said goodbye as Chris and Mathilda were going on holiday the following day. We had a great time with both of you, so thank you, and I hope you had a brilliant holiday!

We spent the next couple of days looking around Salzburg city, which was very pretty, and filled with nice things in the shops, and then decided to move on through Germany and into Switzerland, where we have a tour booked around the Hadron Collider at Cern, in Geneva.

Coming through Germany was where we had our first encounter with the rozzers, because we’d overtaken in a no-overtaking zone, so we were fined €35. The journey also involved both the Fluela and Furka passes, where Oby firstly overheated and sent coolant spewing everywhere, and then broke his clutch cable, which was not ideal, as on a mountain pass, you really do need to be able to change gear! The bikes have both been working incredibly hard on the mountain passes, in really high temperatures, and we can’t fault them for how they’ve done.

We are now camped up on the South side of Lake Geneva, where both we and the bikes are having a well deserved rest for a couple of days, and Oby now has a new clutch cable!

 

Prague was a very interesting place. Having now seen a lot of the rest of the Czech Republic, I can honestly say that Prague is not representative. It was very nice, but there were an awful lot of tourists. Firstly we stayed in a campsite which was in the city, and quite honestly was the weirdest campsite I’ve ever stayed in. It was like a little hippy village, but run by very ‘switched on’ hippies. The area, predictably for a city campsite, was small, but they’d managed to fit in a swimming pool, a tennis court, a basketball court, an area for tents and one for motorhomes, plus a bar area, complete with a stage for live music, a coffee bar area made out of an old double decker bus, a cabin in which you could buy hot food, and some rabbits! This all meant that, although it was an interesting experience, there was very little room, and very little chance of getting peace and quiet, as you were both kept awake at night by a band playing music, and then woken up in the morning by a group of children traipsing across the tent area to get to the tennis courts for their lesson. However, the beer was good and cheap, and it had a really good atmosphere, plus, there was a tram stop right outside so we could get into the Old Town very easily.

The Old Town was very nice, and much like the other Old Towns we’ve visited so far, with narrow, cobbled streets, and lots of bars and restaurants with people eating and drinking out in the sun, but I still preferred Riga in Latvia, as it was a lot less crowded, and had more green space. The time that Mum and Dad were with us was brilliant though, and it wouldn’t have mattered where we were for that. I was sad when they had to leave!

We visited a place called Horice, about 50km from Prague, as it was holding a motorcycle road race event called the Tourist Trophy, which was a lot like the IOM TT, only with a shorter course and less people. It took a while for me to get used to the speeds they were doing on what were town centre roads, the lack of run off in case of accidents, and the fact that there was just a piece of fine plastic mesh serving as barriers between the racers and the spectators, but it was a great day, with no major accidents!

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We had some time before the MotoGP in Brno to explore the rest of the country a bit, and it was a lot nicer than I expected, with lots of rivers and quaint little villages. The people were very friendly and couldn’t do enough to help. My particular favourite was Karlovy Vary, a spa town with its own hot spring in the middle, and somewhere where there were no end of opportunities for pictures.

When we finally made it to Brno, we visited one of their museums devoted to the Geneticist and Botanist, Gregor Mendel, which was located in the Old Town, and I was expecting a museum which explained the fundamental genetic experiments he did with peas. I assured Roger that he would find it interesting and it would be aimed at the general public and their level of understanding. How wrong I was! Poor Roger had to undergo hours of explanation about DNA replication, transcription, translation, protein modification, and then techniques such as PCR and cloning etc. that have arisen since Mendel’s work. They even had a mini lab in there, so people could see what sort of kit we use for all of these experiments. It was a great museum, but massively detailed! We also visited a Capuchin Crypt, where the Capuchin Monks were laid to rest, along with several other important people in the history of the Czech Republic. This was fascinating as all the bodies were mummified (accidentally, by the air currents in the building apparently), and you could see the important people were all buried in a coffin, wearing good clothing, whereas the monks were all laid out on the floor with no coffins, wearing only their robes, with just a brick under their heads. There is rather a good warning inside the crypt “As you are now, we once were; as we are now, you shall be”.

It was also in Brno that Roger and I treated ourselves to a haircut, as we were both getting quite hairy by this point. The ladies in the salon did a great job and we both now have our ‘summer coats’, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep my new short bonce looking as great as when it left the salon, with just my little comb as a tool! Plus, I’ve never had my neck shaved before, or even realised it was particularly hairy, but it was a strange-but-nice experience!

MotoGP weekend then arrived, and it was a belter! We had really hot weather on both Friday and Saturday, but Sunday brought so much rain with it that we were sitting there with a plastic sheet (which was the side off a gazebo we’d borrowed from someone at the campsite) over us for most of it. However, the rain has its good points for us Brits, and we had the national anthem played twice; once for John McPhee in the Moto3 race, and , after the rain stopped at the crucial time, we were able to see Cal Crutchlow have the best race he’s had in ages, and come home to win! We were over the moon, but my nerves were somewhat frayed after thinking he was gonna bin it on every lap! That weekend ended our stay in Czech Republic, so we said cheerio and headed for Austria (again)…

Unfortunately, we didn’t make it into Kraków itself because there were so many people there for World Youth Day, but we did manage to visit Auschwitz Birkenau and the Wieliczka Salt Mine, on the outskirts of the city.

Auschwitz was harrowing and disturbing enough, but when we got to Auschwitz-Birkenau II, which was the second (and incredibly vast) camp built after they had added second and third floors to all the buildings already in the first camp, and still there was not enough room to house everyone, it gave an idea of the numbers of people that were imprisoned there. And then to think that they had to build a third camp, which we didn’t visit… Roger and I just passed through both sites pretty silently, as I don’t think we really had the words.

After we visited Auschwitz, we found a little campsite where we met a couple from Kent; Elle and Mark, and we spent a nice evening with them over a couple of beers (which are now cheap btw!). I hope you guys are enjoying your travels too, and good luck on your return to the UK😉

The Wieliczka Salt Mines were great to visit, not just because they made a refreshing change to the 30+ degrees on the surface, but because all the walls, carvings and sculptures inside were made entirely from salt (it was 95% NaCl and 5% impurities, to my sciencey friends); even the chandliers were made of salt crystals.

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After this we decided to leave Poland, as everywhere was so busy, and we thought perhaps we would return at a later date. We headed into Slovakia, where immediately there were less advertising signs everywhere (people who have been to Poland will know what I’m talking about) and more open space, with less people. We headed in to Bratislava, and found a large and somewhat untidy-but-functional campsite there, where we met a lovely family from Scotland; Allie and the two Andys, plus we had Horace the Hedgehog come and visit us in the night, trying to steal our food (no pics as I was half asleep and didn’t think about it!). Bratislava is a nice place to visit, with not many people for a capital city, and enough things there to see. We spent the time walking around, and visited the castle and (my personal fave), the Cat Café!

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After this we headed to Vienna, on the hottest day yet, so we were glad it was only a 1hr ride away from Bratislava. Vienna has been the most interesting city yet in terms of museums; it has the Stephensdom Crypt (where some royal remains are interred and thousands of skeletons from when there was an outbreak of Bubonic Plague in the 1700s), Josephinum Medical Museum (collection of wax anatomical models and body parts), Kriminalmuseum (museum about crime and murder), and the museum of contraception and abortion. For me personally, life is too short to visit art or architecture museums, so I was quite excited about seeing museums that were interesting to me. Obviously I wanted to visit all of the above, but had to settle for the Stephensdom Crypt and the museum of contraception and abortion, as it was Sunday and all the others were closed. The museum of contraception and abortion took you through both topics from past to present day, and made me really quite grateful that we don’t have to resort to some of those methods now!

From here, we headed through Czech Republic, back into Poland, to visit a church called Kaplica Czaszek, where there is a chapel entirely filled with bones and skulls of the people who died in the late 1700s from the vast amount of wars and infections at the time. Most of these places wouldn’t let anyone take pictures but you can find more info, plus pics, at http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/kaplica-czazek-chapel-skulls.

We are now in the Czech Republic, in Prague more specifically, and we are awaiting Mum and Dad’s arrival on Monday, and also the MotoGP in Brno, for which we have tickets!!

Coming into Poland was where the landscape changed immediately. Gone were the tall, thin trees and completely straight roads with no changes in elevation, and here everything was more green, more full and more like home, which was immediately reassuring. The roads developed some bends and there were a few hills here and there. We were heading for the South-East part of Poland, as there was a possibility of meeting another person from ADVRider, and then for Kraków, as there was a lot of interesting stuff there to see, plus we would meet up with my nephew, Jack, and his wife, Karolina. Another different thing was the lack of camp sites in this part of Poland. The first night we could find anywhere to stay but we happened to find a fuel station in Losice, which had a hotel and restaurant attached to it, but it looked really posh, so when the man said it was 120 zlotta for a room, I was thinking that must be a lot of money. I had to google what the conversion was, as I was expecting them to use euros, and was completely unprepared for another different currency. It turned out this was about £22, a very welcome surprise, so we took the room. We ate in the restaurant; a 3-course meal with some really nice soup, some meat and proper vegetables, and an apple cake. We had no idea what we’d ordered, as the lady there didn’t speak a lot of English at all, but it was all fine. It was only the next morning when I came across an English translation of the menu, that I realised the soup was actually beef tripe soup! It was still nice, nevertheless. We also met a lovely Polish chap, who had the most energy of all the people I’ve ever met, and he was lovely. He travels in his Toyota Land Cruiser in Africa a lot. It was here, after chatting to another couple, that we found out about the ‘World Youth Day’, organised by the Church and even visited by the Pope, which was due to take over Kraków at the weekend, right when we were planning to be there. This would eventually make us alter our plans a lot, as millions of people were coming from all over the world, and even the residents would need a ticket to get into their own city that weekend!

We headed for Rzeszow, as we were told that this was a nice place to go. It turned out that for us, with it being 30degC, us in our bike gear, being unable to find the tourist information centre, and unable to find a parking space, it wasn’t the best day ever, and after eventually getting off the bikes, changed into shorts and flip flops, and getting fed and watered, we were quite ready to leave! Our plans to visit the bikers from ADVRider had fallen through, and we couldn’t go to Kraków yet, so we decided to alter the plans slightly and visit Jack, Karolina and 1-year old Oscar in Katowice first, and then see about Kraków later. First though, as it was late, we rode a number of miles to the middle of nowhere, to the one campsite in the area to see about staying there for the evening. I mention this because it was an odd experience. We arrived and it was quite busy, but I went in and started speaking to a man who was sitting on a chair, surrounded by females all sitting on the floor. I was asking if the campsite was still open, and after he answered yes, it was, and that he was the one to speak to about it, I was explaining that it would just be a tent for one night, and then as soon as Roger walked around the corner and I mentioned that it was for 2 people, he immediately changed his body language and said that he was fully booked! There did look to be loads of room though…We then had to carry on for miles, and in the end stayed in a Mercure hotel, which was also in the middle of nowhere, but where they gave us bath robes and slippers🙂 so all was good, if a little pricey.

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Jack, Mykola and Roger in the bar inside the old coal mine after the tour.

After arriving in Katowice and meeting up with Jack and Karolina at their house, we visited the Tyskie brewery with Jack and his friend Mykola, which was a great experience, and provided my brain with a little bit of science again, before providing my stomach with a free pint! We also visited an off-road driving experience, where both Roger and I drove a little (but very competent) Suzuki 4×4 on a pretty challenging off-road track, with ditches, steep uphill climbs and some obstacles. Video snippet to come! Also, we did something I never thought I’d ever do; we went to a shooting range and we both fired a proper gun (a Glock 17). I only managed 2 bullets as I was absolutely bricking it, and I was worried about not holding on to the gun properly as my palms were so sweaty! It was something I don’t think I’ll ever do again, but I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and wasn’t too much of a scaredy cat for a change. We then visited a local coal mine, and went 320m down into it, where they have some of the machines still there, and still functioning, even though the mine itself isn’t in operation any more, other than offering tours to tourists. It was a fascinating place, tight in places, and surprisingly we got some really good pictures. I know that I have done some pretty interesting jobs that not everyone would be able to tolerate, but that is somewhere I don’t think I could ever work. I’m not brave enough for that! Uncle Dave, you are a brave man!

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One of the tunnels in the coal mine.

It was lovely to see Jack, Karolina and Oscar, and to meet Jack’s friends too, and as we all left in a bit of a hurry on the Monday morning, I’d like to say thank you to them for an absolutely brilliant weekend! We are now on our way to the Auschwitz museum, and perhaps to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, before heading down to Slovakia. We will be back in Poland shortly though, when we visit the Kaplica Czaszek (the chapel of skulls), near the Polish/Czech border.

Our first proper day of exploring Tallinn was great; we got the bus into the centre and explored the Old Town for the whole day. It was a place that made me wish I’d brought the Transit instead of Oby, as there were so many lovely things there that I would have loved to buy to remind me of the travels after we return home. I’ve consoled myself with the fact that I’ll have to go back one day with a couple of empty suitcases, or a small car. The streets of the Old Town were all cobbled and narrow, with the area being mostly pedestrianised. The buildings were all old (I don’t know how old!) and really interesting, and there were shops, artists’ studios, workshops, and many restaurants and bars all over the place. We had a great time exploring and taking lots of pictures. The weather was really eventful; it was mostly blazing sun, with a few really heavy rain showers that flooded the streets for a short time.

 

We collected our bikes from the garage the following day and they had done a brilliant job with them, so we are very grateful. They also gave us some local natural soaps as a present, and although the gentleman assured us it wasn’t because of our aroma, the soap is proving very useful in my bike boots when I’m not wearing them, to hopefully neutralise their odour a bit🙂 Surprisingly, the hostel also gave us gifts; 2 buffs, which always come in useful.

Wild camping at this time was becoming more difficult again, with most land being spoken for, and picnic areas being few and far between. There were also a lot of mosquitos in the forest areas. Luckily though, we followed some big signs directing us to campsites a couple of nights in a row, which ended up being people’s houses. When we stopped to enquire, they said that yes of course we could camp there, and showed us to these large back gardens, with toilet and shower facilities. It cost €10 per night to stay in these, so within budget, and because they were not in woodland, they didn’t have the mosquito problem. On one of these nights we spent time around an open fire with the people living there, and they gave us advice about where to go in Latvia, and shared their red wine with us too🙂 The other night it rained so hard that Oby decided to throw himself on the floor again, and then the next morning he wouldn’t start properly so we thought he had a dead battery, when in fact it was just because he had thrown himself on the floor, and witchcraft had happened with the ECU. He is fine now and is back to his normal self, but I am strongly suspecting he is a bit of an attention-seeker.

The following night was where we found the coastal roads and even managed to find a section on the beach where we wild camped, just shy of the Latvian border. Once we got into Latvia we headed for Riga, their capital city, and more specifically, the tourist info centre, as we thought about spending a couple of days there. We rode as far as we could into their Old Town before it became pedestrianised, and parked outside an Irish bar. Once we had got all the info about Riga we decided to visit this bar to have a Guinness, and to our surprise they were showing the MotoGP qualifying! Obviously we were v. excited, and stayed to watch this, and also went back the next day to watch the racing.

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Riga was my favourite of the Baltic cities. It was a lot like Tallinn with its cobbled streets and old buildings, but it was more spread out, with a more relaxed atmosphere and lovely park areas in the new section of it. It has been lovely being in the Baltic countries; fuel is €1 per litre, and things like food and campsites are a lot cheaper, so we are able to live a bit more luxuriously and not worry too much about going over budget. Plus, the weather has been great for us. I was also able to buy a souvenir in Riga as my parents are coming to visit us in less than 3 weeks’ time in Prague, and they can take things back with them!

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Backpacking Jesus statue in Uzupis.

 

After we left Riga, we headed for Vilnius in Lithuania, where a lovely couple (again from ADVRider) were to host us. We spent a very nice couple of days with them, and visited the Old Town of Vilnius. My favourite part of this was when the tour guide took us to a place within the Old Town, called Uzupis, which declared itself a republic on April Fool’s day, and has its own constitution, which were apparently written by two blokes in a bar (one a dog lover, and one a cat lover), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U%C5%BEupis. and is a place which doesn’t take itself seriously at all.

Helsinki was rather fabulous, with its metro and tram network, which made getting around really easy. It was also very, very clean, and you could tell that the people there cared a lot about their environment. The only bad thing about it was that I don’t think we took a single photograph, as nothing really stood out to us that much, but it was a really lovely and relaxing environment to be in. We spent most of the time just ambling around the shops and markets.

On Thursday 7th July we packed up our bikes and left them at the campsite, and took the metro into the city centre to catch the overnight boat to St. Petersburg. It was a massive great ship, and we spent time on the upper deck taking pictures of all the birds. We had a 2 bed cabin with its own little bathroom, and it was lovely, even though it was the cheapest option, and only one floor up from the cars! I was so pleased that we had our own little space, and if I had to be sick, I was happy that I could do so in my own bathroom. It did get a bit choppy after dinner but it soon settled down, and then we went to bed. I didn’t much care how choppy it was as I’d had 2 beers by this point, so it wasn’t a problem.

We were up early the next morning as the boat docked at 08:30, and after a spot of brekky we went to queue up at the area where we were getting off the boat, and we were amazed at the chaos that had descended, with Chinese people (with their massive suitcases on wheels) pushing and shoving and shouting to get off the boat as quickly as possible! They really wanted to get off the boat, so we just followed! The journey by bus to our drop off point was pretty grim; it was raining and the way the driver took us looked really run down, so it was a world away from what I was expecting. We got dropped off on St. Isaac’s Square as we weren’t staying in either of the hotels the ferry company had recommended, so we had to navigate our way on foot to our hostel, which took about 20 minutes with a brunch stop in between. We got to the hostel and it was quite nice as it had a homely feel to it. After dumping our stuff, we went for a walk with our cameras around the city, and we saw the Winter Palace, the Saviour on the Spilled Blood church etc, and took lots of pictures. In the afternoon we both had a three course lunch for about 700 roubles (about £9 for us both), which made us breathe a sigh of relief after the expensive countries we had previously been in. We had a Russian salad, mushroom soup (the best soup ever, but not if your name is Paul Stimson!) and stir fried chicken with noodles. 

We spent most of the next day exploring the city with our cameras, and went back to the hostel to make dinner. After dinner, we were sitting in the lounge area just minding our own business, when 2 Russian guys walked in carrying loads of food and a bottle of Vodka (it was meant to be a ‘dry’ hostel), and were rather loud. We were watching them a bit as they looked quite interesting, and it was then that they said to us “vodka?”, we replied, no but thank you. They went away and came back again about 10 mins later, by which time I had downloaded the Russian dictionary on Google Translate, and had managed to say to them “we are English and cannot hold our drink!”. That apparently was a rubbish excuse as after much noise and gesticulation, they fetched 2 more chairs, 2 more glasses of vodka and 2 more plates full of their food, and beckoned us over to the table to sit with them. Their names were Shamurad and Sergey (except Sergey was shortened from something far longer and more complicated that we couldn’t pronounce) and they were lovely. We spent the night chatting to them via google translate, with me drinking very small sips so that my glass didn’t get topped up too much (although I think they cottoned on to this) as I’m really not a fan of vodka. You can filter it 5 times, but it will still be vodka. After a while, the receptionist at the hostel came in to tell us we were being too loud (an Italian chappy had complained about us), and then realised that there was vodka. I think things got a bit more difficult after that (they were all conversing in Russian which we didn’t understand) as Shamurad was a little drunk (the bottle of vodka was empty by this point) and I think he was rude to the receptionist, and I got the impression Sergey was trying to get Shamurad to shut up! We were also joined by a lovely Russian lady by that point, who was translating a bit for us, so we were able to know what was being said, and we were also talking to her about our travels. We gave her our details and offered her somewhere to stay if she ends up where we are (wherever that is!) We also swapped details with Shamurad, who saved us on his phone as “Suzanne my English friend”. Afterwards Shamurad kept saying “this is Russia!” i.e don’t be daft and think that people won’t drink vodka! It was a fun night even so, and we went to bed soon after that.

We left the hostel the next day as we were catching the overnight boat back to Helsinki again, and after saying goodbye to everyone, we headed out to do some more exploring. I did really like St. Petersburg; it has some really fantastic buildings, but also some really run down ones, plus they are doing a lot of construction, so I’m sure it will be very different in a few years time. It was very busy (it has 5 million people in it) both in terms of people and cars, a little bit dirty, but well worth a visit as it was really interesting!

On Monday morning we got up early as I was worried about making it to the next ferry at 13:30 to Tallinn, if getting off the boat involved Chinese people again. Luckily after we had brekky, we found ourselves first in the queue to get through customs, which was a lot easier this time, and then we made our way through Helsinki to the campsite to pick up our bikes. It was so nice getting back to Helsinki after being in St. Petersburg, and really brought home how clean, ordered and functional the place is, plus how few people there are. We made it back to the campsite and loaded the bikes. Roger’s bike then had a problem starting and didn’t have any power. It turned out the battery was shot, but we didn’t know this until we had them serviced in Tallinn. After a while the battery seemed fine, so we got on our way. Me being neurotic about timing, wanted to get to the ferry port asap instead of popping to the supermarket en-route for food, as I was sure they’d have a canteen on board. We ended up getting to the ferry port 2 hours early, and starving, so my bad! We waited a long time to get on the ferry and then as soon as we got on we went to the all you can eat buffet for €27 each, which I paid for to say sorry to Rog for missing our lunch. This was a lovely buffet (salmon, prawns etc) and not at all crowded as it was so expensive. After this, we got the bikes ready in record time and arrived in Tallinn in the rain and horrible traffic. Not the best start! We found the garage which was recommended by people on ADVRider after about 20 mins of riding, and they agreed to interrupt their schedule for us (so thank you very much!) We left our bikes with them and found a nearby hostel and went to get food from the local supermarket for dinner (beer, bread, cheese and cheesy balls) and then went to sleep as we were exhausted!

Our marvellous dinner!