This is it! The big hitter…

… tomorrow we enter Russia.

We spend three nights in St. Petersburg then on to Velicky Novogorod, Valdai National Park and eventually Moscow.

Today I am homesick I guess you could say (cue roll of the eyes from Richard); the weather is grey, the tent is cold and we are looking ahead to days of rain which means a soggy duvet! It also feels like this is the point of no turning back but don’t ask me why, we can get anywhere from anywhere in this day and age but it’s our last day in Europe and that seems just a wee bit scary.

Going back over the last 10 days or so however; life has been easy and generally fast paced. We flew through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with just one night in each country. We slept in Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn… all three places offering a totally different experience to the last. Vilnius we slept atop a pile of firewood in a campground that was actually just a small, steep car park outside a backpackers with a public bar that attracted around 600 people on an average night. It was lively and fun and really rather clever in the way they had squeezed an income out of every square inch of the premises! Sleep wasn’t really a thing there.

We arrived in Riga and ended up in the carpark of a convention or events centre, sounds bad right but actually it was jam packed full of travellers and campers and had a nice atmosphere… there was an important football match on and everyone gathered around a TV rigged up in the driveway. It was also the last night of Jāņi, a festival timed around the summer solstice and it was our first taste of the late sunsets to come.

Tallinn, Estonia; really not a lot to say about this… parked the truck in a marina carpark which moonlighted as a campground, Uber’d to the old town where we were immediately steered through the doors of the first beer hall in sight by good friends from Rotherhithe! Didn’t see anything of Tallinn but had a hell of a boozy catch up with a couple of the locals from the Salt Quay. Perfection.

After a horrid 4am start to grab a ferry to Helsinki, we stopped for 5 nights thinking we needed at least a week to arrange a couple of visas for China and Mongolia but as it happens you only need 3 days and 2 nights! Paperwork gets done very quickly in Helsinki with little queuing and similar costs to a snails pace visa in London. We utilised the extra time to arrange our forgotten International Driving Permits, got some help with finally fixing the fridge to the floor of the truck, did approximately 1000 loads of laundry and saw every inch of Helsinki in the process. Shops, cafes, food markets, entry by password cocktail bars, roof top cocktail bars, picnics on fortress islands and the worlds most expensive cheeseburger… and that’s what it boils down to really, everything is suuuper expensive in Helsinki! Yikes.

We have now had a peaceful few days in the lakes near Savonlinna and tonight we are in some sort of fishing camp type thing which is about 20 minutes from the border with Russia. Through all of this last week we have witnessed nights that don’t actually get dark, I swear! I know very well as I haven’t been able to get to sleep until around 4 or 5 in the morning sometimes… it’s like jet lag without the air travel. The sun sets, sits just below the horizon for a few hours of dusk and then comes back up again.

Right, enough of all that. I don’t know what our internet situation will be like from here on in… we’ll post when we can as always, pics:

The Baltic Blitz…

So… almost another thousand miles done and a few things seen and done, not really sure any of it will be of much interest but I will try!

Poland has delivered spectacularly, it was a country I was really looking forward to seeing and it hasn’t disappointed. Loved the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane, Krakow was relaxing and quaint, Warsaw was spacious and very beautiful (for the few hours we had to spare, naughty!) and lastly the Masurian Lake District that we have left behind today. All worthy of a visit but long drives in between with tricky roads and road works to contend with.

We visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, it’s a bit odd to say but I didn’t want to see it but more experience it (even though that isn’t really a thing). I wanted to be moved and appalled and shocked… it was all those things and more. To walk where those people walked and try to imagine the last months, hours or even minutes of their lives, well I don’t know what to say. Madness. Richard and I don’t believe it is a place for photos so you won’t see any from us, it just wasn’t that kind of day.

Within the Masurian Lake District you will find the Wolf’s Lair, a complex village of camouflaged concrete bunkers where Hitler and his Cabinet spent more than 800 days of the war… fascinating to say the least. This is also the location where he was one person away from dying in a suitcase bomb explosion but after the suitcase was moved out from under peoples feet he survived.

So! What next… the baltic blitz! Tonight we are in Vilnius, tomorrow night Riga and Sunday night Tallinn then on to Helsinki where we are stuck for up to a week arranging visas for China and Mongolia plus a follow up jab for tick-borne encephalitis?! That’s a thing apparently.

A few pics below but we have been forgetting to take photos of stuff to be honest!