23 May 2011

Border Run III

It was time for the annual run to the Russian border to renew my temporary import for my GS, so I had to decide where to go.  Long-time readers (if any) will recall that for the last two trips I've gone to Latvia. This year for a change of pace I decided to go to Ukraine, and visit a famous WWII battlefield along the way.  I wasn't really sure where I would stay, maybe Belgorod, or Kursk.

Anyway, here is the route:

The trip down was pretty uneventful, although I got a late start (almost 09:00), so didn't get to the border (near Sudzha) until about 17:00.  I got a bit lost near the border, so came in from the north instead of the northeast, and it was one of the nicest roads I've ever been on in Russia—beautiful, and absolutely no other vehicles!

At the border, there was no line, and the people were friendly, and told me that I would not have to go into Ukraine, just leave Russia, turn around, and come back in…great!  Until I got to the last stop before leaving Russia, where the jerk told me I would have to go into Ukraine.  I asked if I could leave my bike in Russia, to save on paperwork….NO.  A real jerk.  So off to Ukraine I go, where I park before the first booth and ask the guy if I can leave the bike outside of Ukraine and proceed on foot, to save on paperwork…NO…I have to bring the bike in.  I was already fuming, but kind of lost it when the guy demanded to see my Ukrainian insurance.  I told him I didn't have Ukrainian insurance and had no intention of buying any, since I would only be in Ukraine for about ten minutes, and would never leave the border post.  No Ukrainian insurance, no entry, he says.  So I asked to see his boss, who turned out to be extremely helpful, a normal human being….sure, I could leave my bike outside of Ukraine and simply go in/out on foot, he would help.  And he did, no fuss, no muss, no bribes, etc.  No problems coming back into Russia.

So all in all, less than two hours from the time I got to the Russian border to when I had passed back through it and was ready to leave…not bad at all, but now it was almost seven o'clock and I needed a place to stay.  I had passed what looked like a nice place near the border, but wanted something closer to the battlefield, so set off for Oboyan, a smallish town on the road between Kursk and Belgorod that I thought might have a couple of hotels.

I finally got there, found a couple of kind of crappy hotels after some searching but for one reason or another decided to push on to Belgorod.  On the way, I passed this memorial to the battle of Kursk:

Didn't dawdle much, as it was getting late.  I finally reached Belgorod after dark.  Belgorod was a very nice city, but I had a very hard time finding a hotel.  The GPS was no help whatsoever, sending me the wrong way down one way streets to locations that didn't have any hotels.  Oh well.  Finally, after what must have been an hour driving around, I ignored the GPS, "used the force" and made a right turn to find the nicest hotel in the city, on the main square.  Had a nice dinner and beer and went to bed, very tired. 

Next morning I got up as early as I could and was ready to roll by about 09:00 again.  Here is a shot of Belgorod's theater, across the square from my hotel:


Ok, so off to Prokhorovka; for those not in the know, Prokhorovka is the site of the largest tank battle in history*, so definitely a must see.  I had actually been there in 1987, but there was nothing there then, or at least nothing that we could find.  The Russians built a large memorial complex there in the nineties, maybe in time for the sixtieth anniversary of the battle.  Russians are into anniversaries….  The turn-off for Prokhorovka was about 30-40 kilometers from Belgorod.  Right at the turn off was this windmill, probably the first I've seen in Russia.

The main monument is another 20-30 kilometers down the road, through countryside like this:

The monument spire is hard to miss:


Now for the tanks!  Quite a few tanks on display at the memorial, but many of the same model, so not as impressive as you'd think at first glance.  And no German tanks at all.


Now some guns:

76mm ZIS-3 AT gun:

Next, it was on to the museum in the actual town of Prokhorovka.  Nice little museum, although kind of light on vehicles, the had a couple of tanks, a German staff car and AT gun.  Anyway, they had a nice monument out front:


Along with a list of all of the recipients of the "Hero of the Soviet Union" medal awarded after the battle:

Wow, that is quite a few heroes!

That was pretty much it for the battlefield tour, time to head back to Moscow.  I decided to take the "road less travelled" to avoid all of the traffic and trucks, here are some shots from the trip:


Charlie said...

Hi Tom,

Very cool blog. Congrats on the great travels. Have fun and be careful.

Charlie Boyce '83

Anonymous said...