From Russia with/in Love

After the final repairs in Olgii it was finally time to leave Mongolia (with a car reborn – and Mongolian car machenics who are probably really happy never seeing us again). The two things left on the ‘to do/to see’-list of Mongolia were ‘The Black Lake’ and ‘Tavan Bogd’ – the last one we didn’t make due to the broken stabilisation rod for which we had to turn back to Olgii before we made it to the snowy mountain.

The road from Olgii to Tsagaan Nuur, the last Mongolian town before the border with Russia, was tarmac :-)… That was a nice drive. A few more amazing pictures before leaving this wonderful, empty, unforgettable, beautiful country.

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At the border post of Mongolia everything went supersmooth and fast. An immigration officer was very serious and asked us not to talk so much… and then a quick inspection of the car (probably to see if we were not exporting goods that should not be exported). And off we went. It took us about 5 km to get to the official gate between the two countries. A kind Russian soldier wished us ‘welcome to Russia’, checking our passport and the car’s passport and allowed us to continue driving the next 20 km until the official Russian border post.

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There we arrived, sunshine, blue skies and another very friendly Russian soldier telling us we were just too late to make the border crossing before his lunch. No problem – we didn’t have breakfast that morning so we took our camp-chairs and made some coffee and a sandwich while filling out our immigration forms. At exactly 2 pm the soldier returned after his lunch break and asked us ‘if we were ready for it’ – yes, sir! And so we drove to the offices were everyone was very helpful (although it took a while to fill out another all-Russian form for the car). The car check guys were great – HA. Asking if we were bringing any hash, cocaine or heroin into Russia. No sir… and they complimented us on our cans of ‘Knakworsten’ – ‘good food, very good’!!

At 3.30 pm we were officially in Russia where we firstly filled up with diesel and didn’t know we were in for one of the most beautiful areas/surroundings we’ve ever seen. It was an absolutely stunning road!! Snow mountains on the background, green fields along the roads, picturesque villages, amazing mountain slopes, forests, wild waters…. it was breathtaking and we realised that (landscape wise) it was more divers than Mongolia – less empty though.

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We were aiming to sleep in Gorno-Altai (one of the first big cities on the route to Novosibirsk and almost halfway there), but we were so afraid the landscape would change and decided we’d enjoy it one evening and night. We found a camp site just off the road along the wild river. A wooden hut with a rocking chair, a picnic cabin and a place for a camp fire. We made a pasta with our Coleman stove (we love our Coleman stove) and enjoyed the surroundings changing color while the sun set. What a wonderful first impression of Russia. After dinner we lit the camp fire (with a little help of our first Russian friend – Nazar). Nazar kept us company until all wood was burned out. We learned a lot about Russia (history, literature, drinking habits, language, etc, etc). Completely in love with this country and its people (so far) we went to sleep.

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Because of our advanced stop-over, we needed to drive more than 700 km to Novosibirsk on Wednesday. All the way tarmac (yay), but unfortunately the landscape became more and more flat and less spectacular. But it was nice to see the facilities that the Russians established in this area for camping and outdoor activities (rafting, helicopter flights, swimming, etc). A real escape from the big city in summertime, we decided. We had some difficulties finding a place for lunch along the road so we stopped at a supermarket and bought some (good and tasty) bread and eggs and used our Coleman stove (we love our Coleman stove) again along the roadside to make a sandwich with a fried egg :-).

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Along the road we saw many billboards with Russian soldiers that died during World War II – also in every village we passed we found a monument in commemoration of the fallen soldiers during World War II. So many that we actually googled to find out more details about how Siberia suffered during the war.

We arrived in Novosibirsk around 10 pm that evening and checked in to the recently opened ‘Marriott Novosibirsk Hotel’. Now that was nice :-)! A great bed, clean bathroom and TV-channels – meaning we for sure will not miss the next football match of Oranje. The staff in the hotel is really friendly although we feel it is still a little a ‘wannabe’ Marriott with some things that are missing a little – like drinking water – but we are surely not complaining. We checked our email, went out for a bite to eat (in an Italian restaurant close to the hotel), watched some TV and fell asleep.

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Today, Thursday, we wondered around this great city. It has the biggest Opera and Ballet Theatre of Russia (and guess what is the view from our hotel room). A beautiful building. The city is big, modern, people are beautiful and fashionable. We spend the day walking around the city – firstly to find a book store to buy the Lonely Planet of Russia (in English), that took us half a day and that mission was not accomplished. So we bought the digital version for our iPad. We also bought a car insurance (which took us the other half of the day). Good thing is that we saw the whole city and since a week or so ‘being slightly unprepared travellers’ got extra charm. We are looking forward hanging around here until Sunday morning when we will start driving to the Kazakhstan border.

5 Responses to From Russia with/in Love

  1. Arnoud Heijnis

    Hi Miriam – it’s a small world.. I worked for almost two years on the opening of the Novosibirsk Marriott and visited OVB numerous times. It’s a nice place and the people are super friendly. There’s a restaurant called “Expedition” which is appropriately themed for what you are undertaking. They have real great Russian food, I can recommend the game platter… I will reach out to the GM to take good care of you guys… Stay safe and if you would need any assistance in Russia for whatever, just contact me. But I’m sure all will be great and smooth… Enjoy your journey..

  2. Novosibirsk Marriott Hotel

    Dear Miriam,
    Thank you for the feedback and kind words. Hope you will leave with only the best impressions of Russia and Novosibirsk in particular. We wish you a smooth and safe journey and hope to see your here again!
    Kind regards,
    the team of Novosibirsk Marriott Hotel

  3. Watson

    So…not another few days in Russia? remembered you plan to visit the discarded nuclear experiment site.

    • Bert van Dijk

      Hi Watson, no we’re off to Kazakhstan. That’s where the discarded nuclear experiment site is. It was the time when this part belonged to Russia.. But we’re not sure yet if we’re going to visit the site. We might just go directly to Almaty. We want to watch the semi final of the Dutch soccer team against Argentina ;-)

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