Alexey Moskvin

Baltic Exchange and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘motorbike

Nyköping to Kalmar

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And it is raining.

Marika’s gift is a bottle of tabasco. ‘I want to give it to you with a message’ she says. ‘Everything in life should be taken with a bit of spice’. I promise to pass it on.

I’ve got plenty of time in the morning. A petrol station offers full buffet breakfast for next to nothing and I’m happily stuffing myself. Getting seriously addicted to the tubed caviar – especially with boiled eggs. Or in sandwiches. Or with anything.

The weather is clearing up. What’s left are the puddles and wet grass in the shade. Looking for a place for lunch and picking smaller roads next to the sea I end up on some rocky camping grounds. Smoothness of red and brown rocks, interwoven only with patches of grass and roots of pine trees, go right into the sea. People are swimming, the sun is at its full blast and I’m happy to shed my biking gear. The water is bracing but so clear and pleasant – it’s my first swim since Luleå.

A guy with a couple of kids play ball and he strikes up a conversation first about the water. Then about football. I probably wasn’t nodding in the right places as he quickly realised it wasn’t the best subject. ‘Where are you coming from?’ ‘London, but the long way around the sea, through St Petersburg’ ‘Are you driving?’ ‘No, by bike’ He whistles. ‘How many miles do you do a day?’ ‘About 150-200, give or take’ He is looking amused.

I jump from the diving board a couple of times and go back to my stuff on the rocks. ‘Hey Englishman!’ I turn around. There’s the guy and his whole family under a tree, he points at my biking gear ‘You are on a motorbike! I thought you were cycling, now I’m not that impressed any more. Do you want some coffee?’ They stopped for picknick before going to Oxelösund to see a huge nuclear safe bunker that was built to defend Sweden against Soviet invasion.
‘I shouldn’t talk bad about russia then.’ Of course you should. ‘You’ve got so much forest, so much space – huge potential. But never used.’ I nod.

Because I left so early I got to Kalmar much earlier and have about 2 hours to spare until Maria comes back from work. Kalmar itself is well looked after, the streets of cobblestone. I stop for a coffee and a delicious coconutty cake in a typical coffee shop, crowded, I squeeze through to the far end with all my gear. Debating with myself about whether I have time for Öland or not and Öland wins – it feels like even a peek would be worth the trip. I’ve been looking forward to it.

The bridge is long and windy. The island looks tamed near the bridge but the feeling dissolves quickly as you go further along the coast and towards the south point of the needle like shape. Dying to pee and although I’m in the middle of fields there is nowhere to hide – I’m always in view of the road or windows. The rain spits every now and again, the landscape changes every minute, barren, fields, bushes, stone, colours merge one into another, bunches of old windmills and wind farms on the horizon are spinning like crazy.

Charming and quiet Maria talks to her cat and all animals. Her house in Orrefors, near the crystal factory, used to be a school. The school was closed because it’s a bit too near and a possibility of contamination. Fine for adults though and Maria’s flat is in the attic.
‘You’ve got a few copies of the same book’ ‘I liked the covers so I bought them’.

After dinner we set off to her friend Anna’s to look after her house. It’s getting dark but the forest road is gorgeous. We spot a cow on the road and Maria stops for us to try and figure out whose it is – it shouldn’t be walking about. After trying a couple of houses the owners are found and the whole family sets off to catch the beast.

Anna’s house is in the woods, guarded by a grey wolfhound – massive, kind and deceptively quiet. ‘But when he smells a deer and you see him go, you really don’t want to be on the deer’s side.’ We open up the house, it smells of wood and a bit of mould and homely, like a country house would. Anna rents it and lives there with her kids, there are family pictures on the wall.

They have three horses, chickens and all kind of stuff growing in the garden. I walk around the house as the evening descends before we settle in for a nightcap and a chat.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

24 May 2012 at 20:19

Gävle to Nyköping

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Olle’s gift is a pyramid. It was left to him by his ex wife and we tread carefully on relationships. Olle has ‘widowed’ as his relationship status on Facebook. But giving it away, it feels like’s getting rid of something for him, just as I felt giving away the first wooden statue that started the project. The pyramid is made out of stone. I put it next to the sleeping bag, in the bag on the saddle, praying it will be ok. If I left it in one of the inner bags, aided by vibrations, it would’ve poked the hell out of everything in there.

I challenge the satnav and take smaller roads towards the coast, eventually I end up in a resort town of sorts. Getting a pizza for lunch plus a couple of coffee refills.

A disheveled guy approaches me at the car park and tries to make a conversation. I had a Harley, he says, very heavy. Is yours heavy? He reaches out and tries to lift it up by a handle, I grab his hand. You better not, mate, you’ll drop it. I ask to take a photograph of him. He smells of wine.

Puffing, I roll out the bike backwards, two older guys on the bench are watching. I smile and nod and set off, trying to look natural.

There is something I marked on the map and I can’t remember what it is. It’s taking me a bit out of the way and onto a forest path. There is some archeological site or something of that sort and I’m driving slowly, trying not to miss it. And I missed it – I can’t see anything there that’s worth looking at. Nevertheless, I drive all the way until it ends at somebody’s house. The fields are marked with electrocution signs, must be to keep horses in? Or out.

Meeting Marika. We walk around town, moving towards the harbour. The castle on the way. We talk about the town and Marika tells me the story about the key that was thrown into the river. It was the key from a cell in which a king’s locked his two brothers. He starved them to death. That’s what Nyköping is famous for.

It’s a quiet town. Amusing demolition works, the silo with bits sticking out. I am mesmerised.

We are dining in one of the places on the promenade. There was something happening earlier but we were a bit too late for that, we arrive just as everyone leaves. I tell Marika about that music event in Gävle. She is quiet and laughs easily, we don’t talk about anything in particular, we just talk about life.
It’s starting to rain and we are catching a cab back.

Oh, hello Tony. The toilet brush looks like Tony Blair. I’m not sure if that was the maker’s intention.

Marika has to leave early next morning, ‘I’d feel bad to kick you out if it was raining’.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

4 March 2012 at 01:34

Gällivare to Luleå

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Not much else to do in Gallivare in the morning and after a walk I do end up in the same hotel for breakfast, amongst other slightly bored tourists. Regular breakfast, I’m getting quite used to those – ham, cheeses, pastries, fruit. Lots of coffee. And an extra apple to take with me. It became a routine – collect things scattered around the room, replenish the thermos and the squished bottle with water from a tap, stick everything in the boxes (thank heavens, Ioannis and BMW for the inner bags), strap the sleeping bag onto the bike, attach and adjust the video camera, check the route on the sat nav – all the waypoints are where they are supposed to be. Switch the ignition on and warm the bike a little. Ear plugs… check. Helmet and strap… check. Gloves on. Off we go… Oh, bollocks, forgot the glasses. Stop. Gloves off, glasses on, gloves on again. Now we can go.

The sleepy mining town of Malmberget. Stormy clouds are hanging over the Dundret threatening to turn the sunny morning into a very wet one indeed. But I can’t stay any longer to wait for it to pass, so just have to bite it and go.

The ore mining (research) destroyed the insides of the mountain and a gaping hole appeared in the middle of the town, growing each year and making more and more of the town uninhabitable. It looks scary on the map. In real it’s just confusing. Even my recently updated map shows roads that no longer exist – to go around the fenced area I have to go much wider than expected. I try east, west and south looking for a spot to have a view of the whole thing. Unlucky. I can see a glimpse of the pit but it’s hard to imagine the scale of things.

The clouds are here, starting a drizzle just as I go into a what used to be a mining community, now it doesn’t look much more than a tourist attraction. Still very charming. I buy a bag of sweet pasties from a lady for lunch. From now on, I’m moving towards home, my route is going south.

Sweden is spectacular. I’m waiting to get sick and tired of cliffs and pine forests but it never happens. For lunch I stop by the road and walk into the forest, towards the stream, waaaay below. It’s just rock and wood, with splashes of moss here and there. The landscape is filled with earthy colours, the surface of rock is polished with a recent rain, glistening and hyping up the contrasts. Water is running down everywhere.

Sweet pasties (I wish I remembered what they are called) and water. With an apple, heart of which I throw away, hoping that it might grow, diluting the evergreen forest with something more user friendly.

I’m in the suburbs of Luleå and very glad to meet Jakob. I haven’t had a proper conversation for a couple of days. I park in front of their house and we are discussing what to do – I’m happy to do what he wants, he’s the same. Very soon we dismiss dirt riding (thanks Jakob) – I’m definitely not feeling adventurous, and we settle on some easy riding. Which, in turn, would rule out Håkan but I have to accept the sacrifice. And shortly after we agree that a swim and beer might be the most appropriate for the evening.

Jakob introduces me to his girlfriend Cecilia, they live together in the first floor apartment. Cecilia is as quiet as Jakob talkative, they make a great couple. There is a massive dragon skeleton Cecilia made out of felt in their living room, she’s talking about her shop and other bits she makes.

I quickly cover their office floor with my bags. It’s still hot, after shower I change to shorts and we having palt with bacon and onions and lingonberry jam. Awesome.

Jakob makes his own beer. I’m jealous. Apparently, it is a smelly process, so there is no way we could do it in our flat, beer making needs some space too. The cupboard in their office is full of beer making stuff.

We set off for the local beach, with the bottles clinking in the backpack. Meeting Anna and for a drink, swim and fire.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

5 November 2011 at 01:19

Gdansk to Kaliningrad

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The weather is rubbish today and it’s the first rainy day since I left. It really doesn’t appeal much to walk around town in this, so some things have to be cut out of the plan. Although, to see Falowiec – that massive council block, just seemed like a very appropriate idea. And there it is, a monster of the communist dream, over 800 meters long and is a home to about 6000 people. Quite nice flats, they say, and not particularly cheap.

Fighting through the traffic I smell a bakery and make an emergency stop. Bakeries have become a perfect source of one’s lunch – local, freshly made and usually delicious stuff (pirozhki! Appeared on this side of the border), for both savoury and desserts. Add a tomato and an apple from a shop nearby and you have a decent meal.

To counterbalance Falowiec would be the Malbork Teutonic castle. It’s a bit out of the way but is worth going to. A massive red brick structure, I walk around it but decide not to go in. It’s very flat and windy on the way.

But before Malbork there’s still the pannier to sort out… The sat nav shows that there’s a dealership in Gdansk, how very convenient. I pay BMW Zdunek a visit and despite the funny name they are a great and super helpful bunch. Luckily for me, instead of having to wait for a few days for an order, they do have one there and then. I leave with a new pannier and £300 lighter but while they were fixing me I have a nice chat with Pawel, get drier, less worried, fed and coffeed.

I get to see the sea again. Also stopped to take a photo of the cross – I noticed those are scattered all over Poland and reminded me of Spain.

I set off for the Russian border. The insurance is sorted for both Russian entries in a tent just before the border crossing. A woman with a mix of Polish and Russian is filling out papers and is worried that the whole tent will fly away – the wind is so strong.

It’s easier than I thought. Not much hassle at all. Everyone’s very friendly and excited I came all that way. So, very shortly, I’m through and the wonderful feeling of familiarity feels me up, so I do figures of S on the road to the amusement of the bunch of locals waiting for something at the border. Or, most likely, they just thought ‘what a wanker’, but I don’t care – it’s my first ride in Russia.

Kaliningrad greets me with stone paved road, the one that feels like an ocean on a particularly bad weather. With tram tracks in the middle. I bounce along until it gets quite scary inside the Brandenburg Gate where I have to slow down to about 10 mph, just to keep the wheels attached. Much to the annoyance of the local traffic who are never mindedly whizzing along at normal speeds with ringing suspensions.

I find Tanya’s block and Vadim hangs out of the 8th floor window to say hello when I call. The next challenge is to hide the bike. ‘No good to leave it here’, they say, ‘people can just carry the bike away’. ‘They’d need at least three heavy weight lifters’ I say but surely agree that it’s better to park it somewhere safe. There is a design agency just opposite, so we go to ask whether we can leave the bike on their grounds for safety. Artur, the guard, agrees, so we squeeze the bike in between a lorry and the wall, so it can’t be seen from the street. Just to make sure, we cover it with a couple of sheets of linoleum to keep it away from rain and the eyes of the director – the guards are not supposed to be helping us out.

We should really come up with a name for this… It’s just like tequila boom but massive and with sambuca instead of tequila. Lots of fun, as with large glasses it’s almost impossible to hold the precious liquid inside when it explodes at the impact. Everything around becomes sticky very quickly, so if you want to repeat the trick, keep a lot of paper towels at hand. Awesome. And no hangover in the morning.
For most of the next day I walk about Kaliningrad.

For the Eurovision night there is a bunch of friends around. Tanya cooks great stuff and Sambuca Spray is replaced by more traditional wine and vodka with juice.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

21 May 2011 at 20:21

Tour of the Realm – Day 1: Look Mum No Hands!

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So here comes our first adventure together as a part of something bigger… a group. Well, surely, we all met before and most of us rode together but for me it is the first proper group event.

Half of us (those who skipped work on this glorious sunny day) set off early afternoon enjoying the scenic roads and the rest… well, the working lot had to enjoy the motorway to be able to get to Cardiff for dinner.
Hare and the tortoise. Right, Olivier. I was way too slow for Olivier and Jon – they are the rugged and experienced lot – weaving in and out of traffic, never mind the London stuffiness and not-so-speedy motorway at the start.

Whereas… I do have my wardrobe stuck on the sides (and it is the first time I ride with those) which makes the bike slightly fatter and didn’t feel like filtering much at all… [edit: Stephen says that, actually, the panniers don’t make the bike fatter, it’s just a matter of perception. I trust you, Stephen, looking forward to my first squeeze between cars] Which meant I could only watch they backs disappearing in the haze and traffic of the evening road. And, yes, we did catch up at some point (well, they stopped) but then they were gone again.

For those minutes while I was still trying to keep up I was trying to learn why. Fudge the 70 mile limit and the uncertainties of taking over on the left. The road is the playground – one uses it to ones advantage. See the gap – move into it. Watch out for opportunities: traffic morphs into different shapes, some of which allow you to progress, some are just false alarms but then, hey, there’s so much that only depends on one’s confidence.

And guess what. And I don’t mean to gloat, guys, but I did arrive earlier than you and I have to document that for posterity. Hare and tortoise. The pee and a ciggy break changed the dynamics and no one knows how but I did manage to get to Chris and Martin’s first.

The rest is history. The evening is spent in great company, with Welsh beer and meatballs.
Good start. Bring on the Day 2.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

29 April 2011 at 00:19

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Bude is not just a funny word.

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I am a savage. I turn up at some strange places, ask locals weird questions, hair is like a mop after the helmet, glasses splattered with flies. I’m a savage, not even a stranger. For every lovely and picturesque stop my needs are ultimately reduced to finding food, petrol, a place to pee, taking a photo, ransacking the nearest coffee shop, stealing a wife… Well, maybe not the wife thing.

But, I mean, it is an ultimate anti Homo sapiens experience. Forget herding. Forget bonds. Scrap the roots. Everyone is for themselves. It is life speeded up: constantly on the move, the new connections are discarded almost as quickly as found, no relation to anything and anyone and there isn’t even a need in one. Exchange smiles with someone at the petrol station and hurriedly forget their face. Places are flashing by and mixing and merging into one indefinite mass.

Only photos can pin stuff down, arrange, point at, locate. And no, there was no need to discolour the landscape, like those icky examples one sees in any amateur portfolios. It’s funny how it turned out – bleached out and darkened down, only the bit of rust on those conical roofs and odd people appearing with their kayaks… It’s funny that I have to apologise for a landscape.

Bude. I don’t really have much to say about Bude. I went there to touch the Atlantic ocean. I did. The purpose of Bude has been served, it can be discarded until next time and replaced with thoughts, that are twisting and turning in ones head, constantly interrupted by scraps of music, remembered and forgotten.

On Saturday I sort of messed up my dinner… I guess I need to think about it better next time or stop on the way. Who knew that in every pub here they’d stop serving food at 9pm? So, it’s a pack of crisps, a pint and an orange for you tonight mister. But I’m outside the pub on a canal and listening to a live jazz. Totally worth missing a dinner, if it comes down to that.

Well, not too hungry anyway. My lunch consisted of a cold pasty, which was delicious but I was wondering if it actually needed cooking, a coffee and an awesome slab of dark chocolate with almonds and cherries. Perfect. But while Ilfracomb could provide a perfect slab of chocolate, I had to look hard for a town view that wouldn’t be obscured by inflatable theme parks, portable loos or other attractions (like mini golf) of a seaside resort town.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

12 April 2011 at 17:44