Our very dark days in Russia
All bad what happened on our trip until now – happened during our one week in Russia. Why one week if we had 4-days transit visa? Police, closed border, police, car workshop, again police: they know the answer…
We were tired from the beginning, from the border. Crossing by ferry from Ukraine to the Russian town Kavkaz means a night without sleep: To get the ferry from Kertch (Ukraine) at 1:30h at night, you should be there round midnight. The controls on both sides take ages. So you will leave the Russian border station not before six in the morning and totally destroyed by mosquitoes.
We had four days to cross Russia from the Port Kavkaz to the Georgian border. The Russian embassy in Odessa gave us a transit visa with two possible ways: (first, officially, to make way longer and get more hours of visa) through Chechnya and Dagestan to Azerbaijan and (second, really to be taken) through Caucasus, to Georgia. We have choosen this way, because in March western media reported about the about the “first open for foreigners border crossing between Russia and Georgia”. Finally a way to get to Georgia without a ferry.
Four days, especially with a baby and willing to still see something, is not much. But let’s go! After long fights about Russian visa we will be happy about anything.
First (not problem) challenge: while taking a hitch-hiker just after crossing the border we lost Tom’s shoe (it fell down when opening doors). Unfortunately we noticed that a bit later. So we had to drive additional 150 km for getting the shoe back.
Second (already) problem: during this additional kilometers we were stopped by the police, for the first time. Long discussions, embarrassing paying not to give away Tom’s driving license.
Third (we will manage) problem: our car is getting too hot and we spend half of the day in car workshop.
Forth, fifth, fifteenth…: police, police, police.
NEVER go to Russia with a car which has foreign car plates, that’s the biggest lesson we learn in those days. Next blog post will be only about it. Stress, stress and hurry. No time for finding proper place for night, Tom was driving as long as he was not falling asleep.
But in sweet perspective: soon Georgia and everything will be different. Closer to border – more beautiful (nature and people), northern Caucasus Republics: Kabardino-Balkar and North Ossetia. Just the police still the same and the same. But we are close…
We arrived at the border station in Lars (near Vladikavkaz) after 7pm, at the day when our visa is expiring. The policeman happily announced that nobody will let us cross this border. Sure, another one which wants money – we think. But the border officers confirmed the sad truth: No EU citizen will cross this border. – Yes, it’s true that border is open for foreigners since March, but only for people from the ex-Soviet Union, and only with cars registered in those countries – they explain us. – “Your internet is wrong. And why did you believe Russian embassy in Odessa??” – we also don’t know.
Smiling, being sad, discussing, Hanna – really nothing can help to change the mind of the border officer. Very very tired, we have two choices. First is driving another maybe 700km to Dagestan-Azerbaijan border and not being so much late with visa (so maybe paying less..?) or driving almost 1000km back to Sochi and taking there a ferry to Turkey.
First option: very dangerous + one border guys confirms that of course nobody will let us cross this border either (!!), second option: we are three days too late with visa (which border guys count us around 300 euros fine each) plus we have to buy an expensive ferry ticket to Turkey.
Not an easy choice, but the decision is clear: we take the ferry in Sochi. How many policemen will still stop us? (average, each day on the roads there were 27 hunting cops). How many times we will be afraid? What will happen in Sochi, being in Russia without having a valid visa?
“But why the hell didn’t you take a ferry from Ukraine to Georgia??” – the guy at the border asked. – “Because we wanted very much to see Russia…” – we answered. – Haha, so you see…