In June & July 2014 the Berrow Fellows drove to Russia (and back!), here are the journey notes of their trip.
Tuesday June 24th 2014
Tom had interview with Capita.
England playing Costa Rica in world cup.
Set off for Harwich around 5:30, as we arrived Steve realised he'd left passports on photo copier.
This caused us to miss our night ferry as Jane met us at oxford at 12:30 with passports.
We changed the plan and arrived at Dover by 03:00am. Bought new ferry ticket.
In France by 07:00am.
Wednesday June 25th 2014
Off through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and then via another ferry to Denmark.
Drove on to Copenhagen.
The initial camp site Steve had planned was in fact for camper vans only and had a single toilet outside!
After almost agreeing to camp in a local park we found camping site and showered.
The man was extremely friendly and had a great sense of humour, a real introduction to Denmark!
We travelled by bus to Copenhagen city centre and into Mexican restaurant called Betty McGee.
Had a berretta and a couple of blonde local wheat beers.
On to an Irish bar. The barman had presented end of game awards at recent Liverpool football game.
Interesting Danish chap in bar.. Sorted out most of the world’s wrongs!
Back to camp site at 12:30, put up pop-up tent and then off to sleep.
Thursday June 26th 2014
Up a 07:00.
Tom got some very sweet cakes from camp office and fresh bread. Boiled kettle using new petrol stoves.
Packed gear and off by 08:30. Drove out of Copenhagen and over the bridge to Sweden.
Stopped at Ljungby in Sweden for coffee and breakfast no 2. Worst coffee ever ;-(
Bit of a rain storm.
Starting to get the feel of Sweden with forests on both sides of the motorway nearly all of the way on the route.
On to Granna and found a European co-op supermarket.
Bought lunch and ate it on a bench right by a big lake that had a car ferry terminal nearby.
15:00 drove past the SAAB aircraft factory.
Weather improved with blue sky. Roads have basically been well maintained motorways all the way with great scenery.
Arrived in Stockholm at about 18:00 and found the campsite.
There was the facility to swim in the nearby lake, but instead had a quick sauna and shower. After cooking noodles we caught the metro into the city centrum.
We found a bar and chatted to a blonde Swedish girl and her English boyfriend.
On to Akkurat bar which had loads of different beers from Sweden. We had one each which only cost about £10.
With about 5 minutes to spare we caught the last metro back to the Bredang at 01:00 am.
We quietly put up the fantastic 3 man pop up tent and then hit the sack.
Friday June 27th 2014
Up at 06:30, quick wash and pack the camping stuff away. On the road by 07:15 because we have to do 700 miles in an estimated 12 hours.
We reached Sundsvall where a high new bridge is being constructed to bypass the town.
We hear that the residents of Sundsvall are not happy because when the bridge building commenced they were promised free fares over the new bridge, but now it seems they will have to pay.
We progressed well up the Swedish coast of the Bothnia Sea. By mid-day we were relegated to normal main roads so the progress slowed.
The scenery is becoming more stunning with views of lakes and woods from the road.
We went over a long bridge which traversed a lake.
There was a hotel, Hoga Kusten, and a viewing point on the other edge. Spectacular view.
We popped into another supermarket and bought lunch.
This was devoured at an idyllic location next to a cove at Nordmaling.
We had rolls with cheese, salami, crisps filled by handpicked Swiss Roll and coffee.
For sweet of the day, Tom chose a Plopp bar, Steve chose Rocky Road but the assistant said they couldn't sell it to us as it has been recalled.
Richard chose snowballs (and another).
Rules state it must be for less than £3.
Entertainment was provided during lunch by dumper lorries unloading big rocks and boulders into the sea to make a port.
At 16:30 we were passing Umea where the Swedish girl we met last night comes from. Then we enjoyed an ice cream whilst refuelling.
Fuels stops are very regular at 9.04 Swedish krone per litre.
The road is now a main road instead of a dual track.
We have seen huge birds in the fields that may be storks.
After Skelleftea there were great views from the road going over different bridges.
Finland is not initially as vibrant as Sweden .. but it is 22:30 at night ;-)0 .. but it is very light, so we can drink lots...scrap that, we’ve gone back to Sweden #DontLikePoverty
Arrived at the border and went into Finland. The town of Tornio was very quiet.
We realized that the time zone was now BST+2 so it was 23:00.
Popped out from the campsite in Tornio to a restaurant to have a beer in Finland.
We realised now that the time zone was different and it was late, but we ordered a bratwurst meal each, they didn't have any so we ended up with probably a schnitzel on toast but it was still quite cold in the middle ... Probably needed longer in the micro wave.
It was 12:00 and still light.
We left and then drove back into Sweden and went into a bar, it was 11pm again.
Stayed until 02:30 it was still light.
In camp bed by 03:00am.
Saturday June 28th 2014
We are camping in Tournio, Finland
Arose at about 07:00am. Needed to cover ourselves well with mosquito repellent.
Left camp site at 07:30 after packing up.
Up the road in the Lapland area of Finland. We went to the Arktikum museum and artic science centre at Rovaniemi (www.arktikum.fi).
Rovaniemi is the town in Lapland where Santa Claus comes from.
Just above Rovaniemi is the Arctic Circle.
This is the line above which on at least 1 day in the year the sun doesn't rise, so there is 24 hours daylight.
The roads in Lapland seems to be a good quality "A" road with reindeer to be seen.
We stopped at a K Market supermarket.
Bread rolls for lunch were assembled with a filling of cheese and salami at a souvenir store next to a lake. (This is where Fi's key ring reindeer came from).
Arrived at Russian border at 17:30. We were though the 2 parts of the control in less than 1.5 hours.
We then had the pleasure of Richards driving for about 150 miles on very poor potholed roads.
Arrived at apartment at 23:00.
It looks very old, Russian and dilapidated.
Jill and John were on the step outside, it looked a bit scary.
We called the number mentioned by booking.com
A lady arrived within 10 min and we were being shown round the apartment.
Although surrounding seem out of our comfort zone, the actual apartment is very good.
It has kitchen, washing machine, TV, Wi-Fi
Then we went out to nearby shopping centre. It was still light but only the supermarket was open. So we bought a late tea and cooked it.
In bed at about 03:00 but it was still fully light and bright!!
Sunday June 29th 2014
After getting to bed at 03:00am we resolved to get up at 09:00. At 12:00 we finally awoke!!
We drove into Murmansk and saw some street shows.
Then we started walking in the direction of the estuary. We saw semi-wild dogs chase some cyclists which didn't inspire confidence so we went a different way.
We finally arrived at the nuclear ice breaker Lenin.
For Sunday lunch we managed a cinnamon cakes and strawberry ice milkshakes from a shop called Cinnabom.
In the late afternoon we went off exploring we were trying to get to the edge of the sea. We were shocked how good the roads had become, but were stopped by army guards who turned us round.
On another road, again an army checkpoint and we were turned round.
Looks like these posh roads we going to navy bases.
On way back to Murmansk we found a way down to the sea and dipped our hand in the cold water having a photo opportunity. Thomas picked up a stone from the beach for James.
There was a sunken ship still showing in one of the bays
In the evening we popped over to the shopping centre where we had a pizza then on to the supermarket for next day’s lunch... it was 22:00 and fully light.
The quarter finals of the World Cup from Brazil are on the TV in Russian.
Monday June 30th 2014
Second night in the Murmansk apartment, so after booking the hotel in Petrozavodsk for tonight and hostel for St Petersburg tomorrow night and train to Moscow on Wednesday night we went to bed at about 01:30am.
We were up at 7:45am getting ready to hand over the keys of a tidy apartment.
In the car and ready to set off at 08:40 for Petrozavodsk which is on way to St Petersburg.
Past a ski resort at about 11:00. This was a bit basic with only drag lifts.
Doing really well on new roads until 13:30 when we hit miles of road works.
Tom, who was driving for the first time ever in Russia had to drive at about 15-20 mph.
We can’t really work out why the Russians build the roads in the way they do, it seems very disorganised.
We started getting low on fuel.
The first petrol station only had 92 octane.
The next one had better quality 95 octane.
It was about 17:30 when we managed to find an idyllic spot next to a lake to have lunch.
Perfection at mealtime with Berrow fellows yet again.
Still driving down the main road at 19:00.
150 miles to the night’s hotel at Petrozavodsk which we understand is a Russian seaside resort.
Arrived at the Petr Hotel at about 21:30.
It has been a long drive with rain at the end of the journey, arranging a small beer then bed.
Actually that didn't work!
Had a beer in the hotel, then set off to find an evening meal at 23:00.
Arrived at Burger king around 23:30, but it closed at 23:00, everything else also seemed closed. Headed back to hotel where 50m away was a Russian restaurant and bar.
Tom did a couple of drawings to confirm that they didn't have any burgers or pizza left, but they did have pork schnitzel with potato slices and salad.
This was very acceptable, then off to bed.
Tuesday July 1st 2014
Arose at 09:00 to the sound of Richard knocking on the door.
Down to a free included breakfast of eggs, rye bread and pancakes and sour creme
Headed off to view Petrozavodsk city
Centre. Had a walk round a found a terrible coffee shop that served Nescafe with no milk. We left most of this and progressed to the Kafee Haus where we enjoyed a special aromatic offering. Thomas also has freshly squeezed apple juice which tasted great.
Left Petrozavodsk on the road to St Petersburg. This was a normal "A" road. This was ok with the obligatory potholes and road works to catch out the tired or unaware driver.
Arrived in St Petersburg at 19:15 after 1 hour queuing in the St Petersburg rush hour traffic jams.
Favourite was a driver of Chinese clone of a Ford transit van which was so rusty the side panel was flapping around.
The driver had a coffee cup in the cab, was on the phone and smoking a cigarette.
Arrived at the Chao Mama hostel. We are really slumming it with posh (but creaking) bunk beds. The room has a lock on it and is just for us.
Directly opposite was a WC, shower and table football table.
Actually, it’s a beautifully decorated hostel, indeed it is a great find by Richard.
We walked a few hundred meters into the city. Argentina were playing Switzerland in Brazil on TV.
At Molly O’Brian’s we had a quick stop over and Richard found our new drunk Russian best friend. Amazing how tedious he became.
Thomas again managed to get the directions to a Pizza restaurant called Mama Romna using sign language.
On the way back to the hotel we magnificently chose a bottle of water with gas rather than still water yet again
In bed by about 1:30 (that's only 10:30 in England)
Wednesday July 2nd 2014
In Chao Mama, arose at 10:30, but didn't leave until we had to because we are on a train to Moscow tonight.
Walked around St Petersburg looking at the canals and sights.
Ended up in Paradise alley (made up name), which was a row of coffee shops.
Had a coffee at the first one "Coffee House" from Vienna.
In the afternoon we continued sightseeing.
At 18:00 we headed back to the hostel to have a shower and get rucksack with clothes for Moscow.
We walked to check where the departing railway station is and then had a meal.
Boarded the train for an overnight journey at 23:00.
Hilariously, we were waiting at platform 5 as advertised for the train to arrive.
It 10:50, Steve magnificently asked the security guards if the train on Platform 4 was our train!!
It was!! Good old Steve.
The train started as expected at 23:00.
We all have platzcart seats in the isle.
But, the train seems very quiet and smooth... we may even get some sleep.
We put out the bed sheets and everyone started to go to sleep by mid-night.
Managed to get some sleep but then a fat balding man started snoring, even Richard commented how bad it was.
Thursday July 3rd 2014
Train arrived in Moscow at 06:30am.
We found somewhere for a coffee and to start charging mobile phones.
We bought a day metro ticket and headed into Moscow city centre.
We walked around the Kremlin and other sights. Found a Costa coffee and had to make use of it.
In the afternoon we got a ticket for the City Sightseeing open top bus.
It was a good tour but I did fall asleep during part of it.
At 17:00 we went to the Hudson bar and met James Brown who does English programmes for RT (Russian Television).
Back to a different station for departure at 20:20.
The train isn't as new or good as last night.
We have isle seats again, but we are by the toilet this time.
Setup the bed at about 22:30, the lights went out so couldn't continue to read Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.
Friday July 4th 2014
Slept pretty well until 04:30 and arrived in St Petersburg at 05:30.
Managed to creep into a cafe near the station and continued the Berrow Fellow's passion for partaking in a mobile charging culture.
We managed to pass over an hour here.
We progressed to our old favourite the Coffee House from Vienna attached to the Wi-Fi and we were away.
To finish the morning, at 12:00 we had a pizza and progressed to the Chao Mama hotel.
The room was ready at 14:00, so we were able to have a welcome shower, game of table football and a wonderful nap for a few hours.
Trying to book a hotel or hotel in Tallinn is proving quite difficult, guess it’s because it’s Saturday night.
Needed to be suited and booted by 20:00 ready for next World Cup matches.
We found a Russian/Turkish style restaurant. Tom really liked it here.
Went to AXY3 coffee shop on way back to the hostel.
Saturday July 5th 2014
Up at 10:00, getting the car loaded and on to the Estonian border.
Only a 5 hour journey today.
Arrived at the Russian border with Estonia at Narvey. Through border checks in a couple of hours. The clocks have gone back by 1 hour.
On the way to Tallinn where we are camping. Had cup of coffee, but the supermarket we went into was a bit like homebase.
Arrived in Tallinn, but it’s the same time that 42k are in a choir competition every 5 years.
Looking for Tallinn City Camping
Eventually we found camp site, but it was barricaded off for the choir festival.
Walked into town, looked round and had a meal. Got a taxi back to camp site.
Moved car and setup tent. Choirs and music still playing and loud a few hundred yards away. It was also live on Estonian TV.
Sunday July 6th 2014
Richard was up early... Was it demob happiness?
We arose at about 09:00. The choir either started practicing on was happening again.
Drove the car back down to Tallinn town.
Walked around town, saw the sights including a sword flight and we chill-axed.
Headed towards airport stopping at a supermarket.
We got a few items and Richard bought some sweets etc. to take home.
Dropped Richard at the Tallinn airport at 18:30. He caught flight to Stanstead at about 23:00 and with the time difference the plane landed somewhere around 23:00 and Simon Deakin drove him home by 02:00 am
The remaining Bellow Fellows, Steve and Tom headed for Parnu. This is a seaside town 80 miles south of Tallinn.
We had booked a one bedroom apartment, which was part of a 1950s brick house, recently modernized.
After settling in, we popped into Parnu and found an Irish bar called Sweet Rose's. After tea, we went down to a beautiful white beach and watched some local lads play beach volleyball.
Back at apartment we watched From James Bond in From Russia with Love with Estonian subtitles
Monday July 7th 2014
Packed up the car, went down the road and had front and rear tyres swapped, still a bit worried about wear on tyres.
Drove over border into Latvia, heading to Riga, best beach ever seen was spotted by side of road.
In Riga we went to workshop to have tracking aligned. They wanted to do more work on the car but we said no.
We found the hotel, Avatar, parked the car and got the tram bus on route 3 to town. It was very hot, up to 31 degrees, so had a gentle day in old town of walking, shopping, drinking and reading.
Back to the hotel for a shower and walked into town for a TexMex fajita and sat outside at the Klondaika restaurant.
Back to hotel for early night, ready for a long drive tomorrow.
Tuesday July 8th 2014
Up early by 06:00am, left hotel and Riga, missing free breakfast, heading for Poland.
Took us a while to get out of the city, headed south, went over the border into Lithuania where we stopped for a coffee at an animal park.
The journey was uneventful with A roads populated with lots and lots of Lorries.
Continued south, over border into Poland around 12:30, stopped at petrol station in first main city and had a heated chicken roll on the road.
Progressed towards Warsaw but didn't have time to visit, took pictures from ring road. From Warsaw it was a straight toll to Poznan which saved about an hour, costing 10GBP. Arrived in Poznan at 17:30 having put an hour back. Took a while to find the hostel due to one way and pedestrian cobbled roads.
Checked into Tey Hostel, recommended by Piotr Novak, quickly changed and went to market square for drinks. The match, Germany v Brazil started at 22:00. Just as heavy rain and thunder started. Great game and great atmosphere. Had a soup in a roll for tea.
This was the game that Germany beat Brazil by 7 goals to 1.
Wednesday July 9th 2014
Got up, left hostel by 10:00 and walked to the shopping centre for a coffee and natural lemonade. Went shopping for some retail therapy.
Grabbed luggage and left for Germany. Road again was toll and empty. Headed into Berlin, very hot day, phones overheated so couldn't use as satnav.
Thomas did a great job remembering 5 major direction points on the route to get us to HOLI hostel.
Walked down to Lichtenberg station and took U-bahn towards the Berlin centre. Found a beer garden for a drink in heavy thunder again.
When the rain stopped we headed to another restaurant to watch Holland vs Argentina game at 10pm. We ate a chicken schnitzel which kept Tom up most the night.
Took U-bahn back to the Holi hostel.
Thursday July 10th 2014
Relaxing morning with hostel "continental breakfast". Left to Berlin centre via U-bahn but saw a man getting heart CPR.
Changed to S-bahn as the train was stopped. Arrived at Hauptbahnhof, walking to Brandenburg gate where the football fan ground was up for the Germany games.
Went to around Berlin and entered the Microsoft digital eatery, unique in the world (cafe/show room).
Tom played FIFA Xbox One vs a German lad. And won. Steve looked at products before a Caesar salad lunch, following this we visited check point Charlie, which had changed a lot over the last 20 years.
We visited the cold war display, but too busy to enter museum. Caught the U-bahn to Alexanderplatz and looked at the fernsehen town, but this had queues of 2hours, so had a Starbucks.
Popped into newly open Primark (1 week), very very busy. Tom got a new pair of shoes following Steve’s "removal" of smelly pair.
Back to hostel room. Don't cry over spilt milk, unless that milk is in your hostel and smells of decaying bodies.
We walked into Lichtenburg to a Mexican restaurant "Salsa" for tea and a couple of beers. Headed back to the hostel for sleep.
Friday July 11th 2014
Up for breakfast at 07:30, making some lunch from the breakfast bread before loading the car and heading to camp site (with pool) in Antwerp.
Got out of Berlin by 09:30, heading on autobahn to Hannover, very hot day, car keeps overheating.
Seems to be a car on fire in front... We waited for 30 minutes for a van on fire to be put out and be allowed to pass. During this time Tom managed to get a quick sunbath on the motorway.
We drove over the border and stopped in Eindhoven to see PSV Eindhoven Stadium and town centre (it’s the Redditch of Holland), finally continued on our way and arrived at 1900 to the Antwerp camp site.
Tried to go swimming but didn't have correct swimming trunks. Went for a walk to a pub instead. Had a lovely meal and went back to the camp site.
Attempted to get an early night but a drum band and whistle played, fantastic 40 versions of the same song, after this there was some commotion with the camper next to us but we finally got to sleep, to the fantastic drone of the chemical plant over the river.
Saturday July 12th 2014
Woke up to a damp morning around 07:30, quick shower and left campsite heading for Calais with a breakfast stop in mind.
Spotted the services we stopped at with Richard 2.5 weeks earlier.
We were in Calais a few hours early so popped over the Cite D'Europe shopping centre. Bought some Croissants, Pain de Cholcolat etc. from Carrefour.
Caught the Ferry at 12:30 and arrived in England on time.
It was a quick drive up the motorway where Tom received a text from Phil Rimmell regarding a possible interview at Reuters the following week.
Couple of hours later and we are back home in Inkberrow, quickly followed by a games of football and barbeque at Andrew & Julia’s. Elijah was there as part of the Pershore Ndola exchange programme. He is good at football!
Great trip what can we do next?