Paris - Moskva
From July the 11th to the 20th
The itinerary we chose had yet been established three months before. It had been changed several times for diverse reasons. First of all, we have been the victims of our own gluttony since we were thinking about riding for 300 to 350 km a day. Some of us having taken part in « le Raid », a sportive event that consists in reaching the University of Belfort from the one of Compiegne, via the one of Troyes (about 400 km) either by riding a bicycle or running, they have convinced the rest of the team to shorten the stages to 200 - 250 km. Then, our itinerary was going through Byelorussia : the meeting with students having spent some time in this country made us rather lead the procession through Lithuania and Latvia, since it is much safer. Concerning the outfit, we have been lucky to find our partner Airodin that builds recumbent bicycles. This allowed us to discover new sensations when riding and especially to reduce stiffness and back-pain. We still had to find a van. An old J9 built in 82 was a good bargain... but we had then to expect a few surprises !
We have been looking for accommodations in the cities we would be going through since last September. We were actually happy to find a shelter in hearty atmosphere after a long day riding. As a matter of fact, we were waking up at 5:30 and arrived rarely before 20:00. We were used to resting for about one hour at lunchtime.
The dishes were fixed in the van while one of us was ending his relay : one driver, one co-driver, three cooks (or more often one cook whereas the two others were catching on sleep !). We had previously decided to swap riders every 20 km. Because the rain was going along with us since our departure from Troyes, we thought it was wiser to shorten it to 20 km, and thus to swap drivers more often. The rider could then warm up under some covers before getting cold (although it was raining into the van too !).
We have managed to respect this pace up to the border between Poland and Lithuania. Because we had delayed our departure for three days, we had to rush, that is too say to skip the last three stages of our itinerary and head towards Moscow. Moreover, a little mechanical problem made us stay for 4 hours with Latvian citizens who took some of their time to help us fix the brake problem we were coping with. And here you have got six young French, lost a few km away from Byelorussia and surrounded by a dozen of friendly « characters » with whom they cannot communicate but with hands...
We had the luck to meet wonderful people, ready to show us their culture and also curious about ours. Even without speaking the languages of the countries we went through, we have experienced great moments of communion with people, like this nice Lithuanian lady who offered us the fruits of her garden and with whom we shared a cup of coffee on the shore of a lake that looked like paradise. We won't forget those who welcomed us with wide open arms into their home.
Here are summed up the different actual stages of our trip from Troyes to Moscow,
|Troyes - Nancy
||Departure under the rain. 190 km stage. Cereal sticks at lunchtime ! Welcomed by inhabitants in Maron.
|Nancy - Karlsruhe
||Still under the rain... and, actually, until we reach Lithuania ! 203 km stage. We spend the night in a camp ground, under the tent for the girls, in the restroom for the guys !
|Karlsruhe - Nuremberg
||225 km stage. We settle down with our sleeping bags in the corridor of a residence for students.
||204 km stage. First border (since there is no checkpoint between France and Germany). We spend the night in a camp ground in a bungalow for 4 people, although we are 6 !
|Plzen - Prague
||Short stage of 100 km. We visit Prague, so different, so beautiful. We sleep in a residence for students (but in rooms with real beds this time).
|Prague - Klodzko
||195 km stage. We enter into Poland and spend the night in a wooden hotel.
|Klodzko - Wielun
||186 km stage. We spend the night in an inn occupied by Polish workers.
|Wielun - Varsovie
||220 km stage. Welcomed by an inhabitant. We are feeling so well there that we decide to stay one more day in order to visit Warsaw... and repair the car's flashing lights.
|Varsovie - Augustow
||241 km stage. We sleep in a wooden Motel.
|Augustow - Vilnius
||From this point on, we rush, and stop riding. We are driving through the famous « thousand lakes » area. We enter in Lithuania. We appreciate the colourful houses in a hilly landscape. We stop on the shore of a lake where we make a happy encounter.
|Vilnius - Daugavpils
||We enter in Latvia when the brakes break down. Some of us are unexpectedly welcomed by a really nice citizen, meanwhile the others sleep in the van.
||Visit in a garage (not the less original one). We enter into Russia after having waited for 4 hours at the checkpoint.
|Putoska - Moscou
||A long day driving with lunchtime spent in the fields as only stop !
|Arrivée à Moscou
||We arrive in Moscow. It has not been without difficulties, but we did it !
About body-shape, keeping the sleepiness due to our long days aside, we didn't suffer from stiffness. The training advised by the sport teachers of the University of Technology of Compiègne seems to have worked out very well ! But still now, we think the stages were too long : we hadn't thought about the time we would spend at the borders nor about the time turning around in the cities, looking for the right direction (hopefully we didn't have any flat tire on the bicycle, because this would have taken some time too). Also, we had been hoping we would have nice weather. But anyway, this first part of the trip gave us the colour of the whole expedition : meeting with friendly and generous people, discovering wonderful landscapes and improvisation due to changes that occurred at the last minute. The school of life !
From July the 24th to the 29th
Moscow is impressive because of its colourful cupolas. Everything is astonishingly huge ! Russians had anticipated an economic growth while it was being built, as shown by the 12-track roads. As soon as we arrive, we feel the heavy history of the country. None of us speak Russian, thus we quickly become experts in speaking with our hands. Unfortunately France and Russia use different signs that mean the same thing, and reverse ! So, we learn again how to count on our fingers... The purpose of our stay in the capital city is mainly cultural. We draw profit from our first night in town to get to the Red Square. It's midnight, the bells ring, we are drop-dead tired but we are charmed by this mystic place anyway. The cathedral "St Basile le Bienheureux" with its height bubble-like cupolas makes us dream a few minutes...
For our last day with Alice and Romain (they go back to France on the 26th in the morning) we visit the Kremlin. Each day, we are a little bit more impregnated with the Russian culture : we go to the Bolchoï (Moscow's big theatre), to Lenine's Mausoleum or also to the street of the artists, the famous Arbat street. We taste the Russian specialities and experience queuing (it's usual to wait 2 hours for a service). We are used to going around with local transports. We only wish we would speak Russian. But smile is international.