Our Route: (click on map for details)
We bought a 12 year old Mercedes M Class on German export plates to drive across Russia.
First test for our old Mercedes: monumental Bisons in North-Eastern Poland near Bialystok
The beautiful lobby bar at the Grand Palace Hotel Riga (cigar smoking allowed !)
With Big Boys at the Bar of the Three Sisters Hotel in Tallinn's old town
Crossing the Estonian-Russian border at Narva Castle (Wikipedia)
The unpronouncable Pskov (the earlier name Pleskow sounded better)
Smolensk City Wall - start of the Serpent's Wall
Orel - where my German grandfather survived Operation Citadelle / the Battle of Kursk in 1943
The Eastern front 1942 - 1943 (Wikipedia)
One of the many, many WW 2 memorials along the Russian Western border, here between Belgorod and Voronezh
Between Taganrog and Rostov-on-Don
The intriguing antique city of Tanais on the Sea of Azov
Testimony to the early local Amazons (yes, the lady warriors come from that region) in the lobby of the Don Plaza Hotel in Rostov
The surprisingly good Intourist Hotel in Krasnodar with one of our favourite rooftop terraces
Somewhat different advertising in Russia - for a mobile phone provider, not Russian debt collection !
One of the "five mountains" giving name to Pyatigorsk, where the German Army's Caucasus HQ was located.
Generally good roads in the Caucasus today.
Brandnew Artis Plaza Hotel in Magas, Ingushetia (opening 2013)
Driving through Grozny. Now among Russia's safest and most modern cities (!). No need to be afraid of Chechnya anymore.
Entering Dagestan, currently one of the wilder places in Russia.
View on the Caspian Sea and Machackala, Dagestan.
Roads northward near Astrakhan were bad for Russian standards.
Grand Hotel Al Pash in Astrakhan
Russian Power - in the endless Stavropol farmlands north of the Caucasus
Elista, capital of Kalmykia, Europe's only Buddhist Republic. Unfortunately one of the most run-down areas of Russia. With an "unusual" former billionaire President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (Wikipedia).
My second arrival in Volgograd: remnants of the Battle of Stalingrad at Volgograd War Museum ...
and at the Mamayev Hill Memorial
Reminders of World War 2 are omni-present
Sunrise above the Volga, the river into Russia's soul.
The famous Song of the Volga Boatmen (Youtube)
Russia's "Mother" Volga is Europe's longest river at 3.700 km (Wikipedia)
We first crossed the Volga at Saratov Bridge, formerly the longest in Europe (Wikipedia)
The Holiday Inn's (best local hotel) view on the Volga in the bustling industry capital of Samara. Russia is on the way up, even in the provinces !
Crossing the Volga again, this time by ferry in the exotic corner of Mari-El, Tatarstan and Chuvashia
The impressive Kremlin in Kazan, the most charismatic and historic city on the Volga
( ... those were the first 9.000 km ... to be continued ...)