27 August 2016

Moscow-Berlin II Aug 2016

AUGUST 12, 2016
I had one more bike to bring from Moscow to Berlin, my xChallenge...frankly I wasn't looking forward to this trip, because the xChallenge is not a highway bike, and the ride from Moscow to Berlin is not an exciting one...

Luckily though, Tony also had to go to the Latvian border to get back some money owed him by Russian customs, so we decided to go together, and to spend the night in the little town Sebezh, by the Latvian border.

What a treat!  From the moment we arrived in town, everyone--from the security guard and female customs officer at the customs office, to the people in the beer shop across from the hotel--was super-friendly and nice.  The only exception (just like last year) was the wench at the shashlik restaurant at the hotel, on the lake.

After unloading the bikes, Tony and I walked around town a bit--very nice town, right on a little lake.  Unbelievably, there was a craft beer shop across the street from our hotel, so we stocked up on cheap, good, Russian beer.  The same place had home-made beef jerky, which I think was the best I've ever had!  Altogether, a very pleasant evening.

Here are some pix:

After the beer and jerky, we had dinner at the shashlik place next to the hotel, on the lake.  As usual the service there was pretty surly, but the shashlik was not bad.

AUGUST 13, 2016
The next morning, we packed up and I headed out to the border, and Tony back to Moscow.  The border was pretty standard, and I started on the long, tedious ride through Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.  I wasn't sure how far I would get today, because the roads around here are really slow.  Also, I wanted check out a battlefield site for Tannenberg, the great German WWI victory over the Russians, which was more or less on the way to Berlin.

Anyway, the going was really slow; I hadn't loaded maps on my GPS for this area, and by 17:00 or 18:00 I had only gotten to the Masurian Lakes, and started looking for a place to stay.  I had never been in this area before but figured there must be a bunch of resorts given all of the lakes.  As usual, I was wrong...the area was pretty desolate, and the few hotels I found were full.  I found some humongous fancy hotel on  a lake in the middle of nowhere, but supposedly it was full--it probably had a couple of thousand rooms, so I think they just didn't want to accommodate the grimy biker.  So I kept going to another town, Mragowo or something...the first two hotels there were also full, but one of them referred me to a third hotel, a nice place on a lake where I got the last room.  Here is picture from my room:
Anyway, I had a pizza or something, a few beers, and went to bed!

AUGUST 14, 2016:
By now I was well into Poland and wouldn't have any problem making it into Berlin, so I wasn't in a huge rush to leave in the morning.  Here is a picture of my bike out in front of the hotel:
As I mentioned, I wanted to visit the battlefield of Tannenburg, or rather the monument to it which the Germans had built in what was then East Prussia after WWI.  It was not very far west of where I stayed, so I set off.  The place was actually pretty hard to find--a couple of signs, but not very helpful.  Luckily I had gotten the GPS coordinates from somewhere so eventually could vector in on those, but it involved ride through a forest on a not-very-well maintained dirt road.  Obviously not a big tourist attraction.

Just as I pulled up, a car pulled up with a family inside...a German guy with his Polish wife--he also wanted to check out the monument site, so we set off together up a path through the woods to find it.  Turns out that the Soviets had done a pretty good job demolishing the monument, so all that was left was a big, overgrown hole in the ground; on the right in the top picture is what it looked like before the Soviets got to it:
 Now, it's a bit less impressive--I've seen Roman ruins in 1000x better condition, but of course usually they've been preserved rather than intentionally demolished.
The German guy wanted a souvenir from the site to put in his garden back home, so we poked around and found him a rock to take home:
Here's me, with one of the few bits of remaining masonry on the left...
There wasn't much left to see, so after half an hour or so I got back on the bike and headed out.
A few hours later I was back in Berlin without incident.  Yippee.

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