We hope that this account of our trip may be of interest and use to others considering the same thing or something similar. Because there is very little information on the net from previous motorhome trippers in eastern Europe we thought it would be a way of putting something back in return for all the snippets of information we have picked up from others’ experiences at different times and different places.
For general information and possible tips the first ten pages are best. The later day to day journal is more useful for the ‘flavour’ of the trip – and if you want an insight into our interests and views!
We hope you enjoy and perhaps learn something useful.
The idea of visiting Russia in our motorhome had been germinating in my (HP) mind for some time. I had last visited back in 1971 when I led a youth group to visit Riga, Leningrad and Moscow. My memories of that visit were dim and I knew, like everyone else, that big changes had happened since! I was curious to see how ‘new Russia’ was shaping.
Jill had nodded agreement to the idea when first mooted a couple of years ago but then in the autumn of 2008 she became quite enthusiastic and we agreed we would go for it in 2009.
That decision led to a huge amount of planning. There were the practical questions of the roadworthiness of the vehicle and how we would survive without any organised campsites. What would we do about water, waste disposal, night-time stopovers, etc.? How would the vehicle stand up to the notoriously bad roads? What arrangements could be possible for breakdowns and road traffic accidents? Finally, how would we deal with the bureaucracy and the police without having any Russian?
Research, inevitably nowadays, began with the internet and here a number of sources came into play: Motorhome Facts, a brilliant site with thousands of motorhome users always ready to help; Way To Russia and Real Russia, both of which provide access to all sorts of information and advice; and general searching about for oddments of information – this even included clips on YouTube, found by typing in ‘Russian Police’.
Finally, there was the question of language. The Cyrillic alphabet is the biggest obstacle but I had had some sort of preparation for this not only from an abortive attempt forty years ago but also from more recent attempts to pick up some Greek. The biggest stroke of luck was that an evening class in Russian was being put on in the local college at Enderby, in early 2009, led by a Russian woman, Irina Penter. This course attracted half a dozen of us with various reasons for wanting to learn a bit of Russian – two mad bikers doing a world tour, a charity organiser working with orphans in Ukraine, an executive who needed it for his work and a chap who wanted to be able to converse more easily with the family of his Ukrainian wife.
This was augmented with the purchase of a Beginner’s Russian course and a BBC phrase book which allowed the acquisition of a few essential phrases and the ability to read signs.
Attendance on this course ran parallel with all the other preparation that needed to be done and for many months, it seemed, there was little spare time as I squeezed all this in alongside various other commitments. Jill was preoccupied with her part-time job and voluntary commitments.
Although, in retrospect, it seems that we had covered most angles it has to be said that there were still one or two uncertainties when we finally set off on Thursday 13th August 2009.
First, though, more on the planning stage.