08.08.2015 Gran Canyon du Verdon, France

Well, what a day!

Last day did not bring anything interesting. All autostradas in Italy are tollroads, so screw them – such thoughts were expressed indignation in my mind after I paid almost 40 euros for the way from Milan to Rome. So I happened to stray on SSG1, but it’s a sin to complain about that – road goes along the coast, sometimes revealing stunning views. I was hoping that the fresh breeze facilitate my movement and weaken the envy of local bikers, racing in shorts and T-shirts. But in vain – no breeze. And again +37 in the shade. On the morning priority goal is to get up, pack up and leave early to pass at least part of the road without hellheat. And of course that goal usually unsuccessful. So it happens again. I decided to take a dip in the Mediterranean in the morning – I took instructions about way to the sea at the reception and eventually wandered for two hours, storming the fences and getting into private area (campsite is 2 kilometers from the sea, but cheap!) while right path to the sea takes only 20 minutes. Mediterranean – cold and boring … hmm. But I put a tick! Checked. In the end I left very late.

Most of the way I just went through the Italian Riviera watching the little and not-so resort towns. Here as usual is dancing and fun but it was a bit strange not to feel myself as a part of companies having fun. Watching the dolce vita I slid farther hoping to get to Turin. But in vain – the darkness overtook me for Genova. I tried to look for camping – without success. The Italians seemed ashamed of this kind of vacation, each time to find the camping GPS points is a quest. No signs, no pointers. I hardly fight temptation to take a picture of my middle finger and the tablet with GPS points and an empty field on the background.

As a result, I found the service road under exit from highway and once again put the bolt on the prohibition of vagrancy. Pitched tent near someone’s vineyards, in the grass. Again, I slept like a log! I think I starting to like it!

The next morning foreshadowed finally move to France. Uwe, that German friend from Sweden gave me a couple of must see points on my route, I put them into Navi and Mamma Mia!!!! I do not know how to describe it. I was thinking all day about it, but in my head did not come any ideas how to describe it in the text. It is simply impossible! How to describe the most beautiful things created by nature that I’ve ever seen? Mountain lakes, mountain almost dry rivers, waterfalls, overhanging cliffs, tunnels, mountains, clouds … Photos did not help – I reviewed them all. Of course, I will publish them with a stable Internet, but it’s not that … It’s not that. Not at all. Many times I have heard a lot about the Alps – but how to describe the feeling when you’re sitting on the edge of the Gran Canyon du Verdon, your legs dangling into the abyss, and you feel dizzy from the altitude, despite the fact that you are never afraid of it? That feeling of microscopic yourself compared with the creations of nature … Stelvio Pass – cold and eternal, while Verdon – is alive, it breathes. Huge, huge and alive … No word, though. I sat and smoked, legs dangling over the cliff and all I wanted to – no cars passing by in next minutes. Peace and unity with overwhelming. I thought I’ll smoke a cigarette and go, but could not budge for good 20 minutes and would have stayed for many more minutes but here comes twilight and subsequent attempts to find a campsite in the dark.

… The only thing I missing – human communication. Somehow lately there is problems with that. There is no interest in the communication from people, and anyway most of them do not speak English… It’s kinda sad.

P.S. Slightly improved karma dragged maxiscooter (with a torn belt) on the tow for 5km, near Turin. It was fun.

07.08.2015 Genova, still Italy

Every time I’m going to write a new report – something happens. Internet breaks down, electricity is over, someone will comes for internet chat… Lucky me, today is more or less turned out well. Electricity still unavailable (only tricorn outlet for camper vans, discrimination again), but I managed more or less to charge the tablet from the motorcycle. This is, by the way, is also not an easy task. Try charging the device in direct sunlight when in shadow it is +37 … All overheats instantly. And me too.

I rode not far from Rome, only 250km – because I started very late, messing with GPS suddenly decided to droop in the heat, that vaunted Garmin. Dance with a tambourine and stuff, you know.

Once again I drove past the highway, trying to stay close to the Mediterranean Sea. Beautiful views but raising heat and prices 1.70 euro per liter of petrol. It’s normal or local, probably. Not for me. And again mess with campsites. For my tent and motorcycle I was charged as a night at the hotel. Fortunately, for the fifth time I managed to find a plus or minus an acceptable place with the ability to wash my boots in this very Mediterranean sea. A total of 27 euros, uh huh. Just to put up a tent.

But beside all of that grumbling… I sit with tasty Birra Moretti about the scene with a man singing and watch the Italians. How they remind me of our Russian South! The same sloppiness to the rules, the same open-wide-fun, the same strong families. They know how to relax, able to have fun. It infects, and now you are silently tapped the heel to the beat watching dancing people of all ages. I want to stay in it longer, but at 11 pm as though someone pulls the switch of fun – and after ten minutes I see a desert place, and a folding mini-bar. No, it still cannot be compared to our South. Maybe it’s better for me now because tomorrow comes new page, and it’s time to crawl into my lovely tent. Cheers!

05.08.2015 Rome, Italy

A1 motorway to Rome – continuous expanse. Constant turns, tunnels, views. Most of the them though I missed as driving in the dark. The south – the earlier the darkness, so that a little less than half way I did in the dark. However driving in the darkness don’t bothers me so I got to the intended Camping Tiber quite cheerful. Unpacked the camp and sat down to dinner bought at a gas station.

My neighbors was a small pack of guys, according to the license plate numbers on their car – from the Netherlands. I took (presented by Katya also) a bottle of vodka and went to meet friends. Meeting was a success! Later, we sat around the campfire, somewhere in the forest deep inside, hidden from possible opponents of open fire (as open fire is restricted), discussed the difference between Denmark and the Netherlands (Dutch is very painful when the Dutch word used not for them, and, by mistake, the Danes, such a paradox), Russian tradition of drinking, drinking vodka from the bottle first, then drinking “Gummy Bear”, laughed and carefully avoided talking about politics. I crawled into the tent around 4 am, quiet and happy.

And at 9 am I forced to escape from the world of unbearable sauna that was formed in the tent. Gathering myself together I crawled to the pool and got stuck there for long. Last day I deccided I to take a day off. I will not get out anywhere, just blissful doing nothing with my mind turned off. It was naive, of course. First I smoke last cigarette (Dutch guys thoughtfully put me a cigarette on a motorcycle seat, hehe), and, as already mentioned – it is not so easy to find a place to sell tobacco sticks. Camping was 2.5 kilometers from the nearest small village where I stomped on foot under the merciless sun in search of cherished tent with Tabachio sign.

Secondly I was unpleasantly confused by sms from the bank about the status of my account. I tried to understand it and found an unpleasant circumstance. It turns filling by the «self-service» gas stations (as in Italy a lot of them because who wants to roast in this weather) when card machine meet foreign cards it puts on Hold exactly 101 euros. Apparently checking your ability to pay. After that you fill up a tank, fuel cost got charged.. . And 101 euro remains hanging in Hold. Based on Google – will hang the standard of 30 banking days. How many times I refueled this way – I do not undertake to say, but the account balance has led me into a wild grief.

To the pile of madness goes fact that electricity in camping there were only via special adapter, which of course “is all sorted out.” And the internet is turned off at night (sic!). In short, except the blessed stuck in the pool – I was wildly disappointed about the rest of camping facilities. The site proudly says “we know what do people need in the camp, so we took care of everything and that included in the price.” Yeah. There is no electricity, there is almost no wifi (only during the day and frankly worthless), shuttle-bus to the town is payed, despite the claims that is free in the advertising booklet.

Generally situation with internet in Europe it is not just the trouble, dare I say it, it is big fucking problem. In our “backward and underdeveloped countries of Eastern barbarians” unlimited Internet of 100 megabits for 10 euros per month – this is the norm, even a little expensive, you can find it cheaper. In developed countries of burjois – 5 Mbps on the optics. Fiberchannel with 5 mbps, Carl! And rejoice and praise of all who can, it’s not ADSL. And yes, for the price of plenty money, 25 euros or something. Disaster.

On the next day I went to Rome. Take a look at Colosseo and other places of interest. Honestly – impressions were twofold. On the one hand – the eternal city, with its articles and features. Era in Era. It fascinates and amazes. On the other hand – half the things on the reconstruction (the famous Trevi Fountain – fail, even Colosseum – half in the reconstruction nets), and the crowds of tourists are enormous. I saw fountains and lines of people with empty bottles to fill behind it. It looks very caricature. I was pleased with the strange inflatable tent with the French flag – inside two good guys handing out bottles of water to everyone free of charge, one bottle into one hands. Thank them. Overall – Rome is beatyful. Visited, check. Subway though is horrible, everything in graffiti without conditioning (in such a heat!), rarely arriving trains, dirty, all-squeak noise-crunching … Remembering my grumbling about Moscow metro – indeed, everything goes in comparison.

But the main treasure of the day was a meeting with the two Italians, workers of the Italian division of Positive Technologies. Massimiliano and Paolo, thanks to these wonderful people. Though we had a chance to talk quite a bit – but it was a heck of a nice chat, these guys are true Italians, bright and open. That’s what I missed the previous days (not counting the guys from the Netherlands) – a simple human communication. After Rome filled with tourists – it was like a breath of fresh air.

Hope that in the morning I could quickly come on the road. Verdon and Bardou, I can not wait.

03.08.2015 Milano, Italy

I woke up early enough. Camping promised internet, but it was paid (3 euros per hour, no end for people’s greed). So I leave posting to later days. Inside me there was pulsing desire to “go-go-go” and I did not resist it. Austria loomed on the horizon, the famous Stelvio Pass and in the end – Milano.

Tent-camp packing business gradually improved, so I hastily taking a shower and pack my stuff quickly enough. Katya had assembled sandwiches for my breakfast (thanks!) so I ate and moved to the south. I had not much time, considering the total mileage and mountain pass – so the path laid down on the highways. Cloudy weather is slowly changing to clear skyes, and through the haze on the horizon began to draw a majestic peaks. This has already happened in previous travels, but it is impossible to get used to this feeling – you just went through the plains of the horizon and suddenly take seeing of huge creations of nature. They approached slowly, and the highway increasingly began to dive into the tunnels. On the outskirts of one of these tunnels I was suddenly in Austria. Petrol immediately fell by 10 cents, so I did not fail to seize the opportunity, to fill under the neck – and stomach has been tucked in also.

Austria, however, lasted not very long – soon after the next tunnel, I saw a sign, that I’m in Italy. Lines of views around – Mama Do not Cry! I wanted to turn on camera mounted on a helmet at every corner of the road, and I am constantly pull myself like: “Wait a minute, because the most delicious yet to come!”. On the road there was many motorcyclists from different countries – it was clear that the mountain road bends attract them very much. Stopping at the azure lake to rest and make a couple of photos I have noted that there are so much of them that they simply did not fit on the parking. But people nevertheless remained straight to themselves – each with its own small company, completely ignoring the rest. I saw the owner of the bike the same as mine and came to talk to. However, his interest quite quickly dried up, friends are already parked and waited until he finished. After a few photos I drove away.

Some time later, I reached the Stelvio and understood why the navigator stubbornly did not want to lead me on it. That’s serpentines – Oh.. When you climb up each turn like a lottery – what’s around the corner? Will you be able to fit into the rotation at the right path? Towards comes descending flying cars and motorcycles, often quite dangerous sides, disagreeing by me. I watched daredevils who clearly is not the first time here, and try to hone their skills go across that passes. I climbed higher and higher but the highest point of the pass did not even think to appear on the eyes. Very often I stopped to take a photo, video … Somewhere in the middle when I was again impressed by the grandeur of the surrounding nature behind the corner I decided to stop and just look. Do not take photos, losing the beauty of the species sticking to the viewfinder. Do not strive right camera focus on the view and setting the direction of the lens. And just to drown out the bike stand, look and listen. I turned to one of the “pockets” of serpentine and dismounted. Minutes passed, perhaps five, I was standing in silent amazement, somitemes reinforcing thoughts with a pair of strong words. Suddenly my contemplation interrupted by the sound of a motor scooter, which is drove into the same pocket. The driver of the scooter just came and stood beside me. So, already, together, we have a few minutes devoted to contemplation. Eventually I began to share my experiences and learned that the owner of the scooter lives in Italy and in Switzerland lives his family, and he is riding on the pass very often. Nevertheless he does not cease to marvel at the beauty of this boundless nature. He lit a cigarette, and I asked him a cigarette for me, though mine was ended. Smiling, the owner of a motor scooter gave me unopened pack cigarettes.

– “Take it, it will come in handy. In Italy it is not so easy to find where to buy cigarettes. ”

I was surprised, but gratefully accepted this unexpected gift, and then we smoked and spent a few minutes in the contemplation. After that I presented him with my traditional gift – a jubilee 10-ruble coin, added a business card, and we parted. Amazing meetings on the road. It’s not where you expect them. Even on the contrary – where you wait for it, there will not be. As I thinking about this – I saw last serpentine to pass. It was hard to breathe and I and the bike. But views about more than compensated for the inconvenience. At the top, I spent about 15 minutes, probably. Then began the descent and the navigator stubbornly wanted to have me in Switzerland. The boundaries within the Schengen area is absent but for me it is necessary to obtain a separate visa to go to Switzerland, which I, of course, didn’t had. I rode onto Switz territory, stomped there just to put a check of my presence and then sat on the bike and rode back to Italy. Approaching Milano I was in a very funny “another world”, consisting of Fiat and Alfa Romeo of different types and colors. Seriously, it is very entertaining to watch – everywhere prevalent Toyotas and VWs, but here is such a reservation.

Milano. Represented I imagine it quite differently. Absolutely. I never looked at pictures of Milan, but in my head for some reason, there was some kind of subtle skyscraper city. Something appeared from fairy tales by Gianni Rodari, something of commercials a la “the days of Milan’s fashion” and so on. In fact, it turned out to be quite an ordinary city. The only thing I remember very well – a city smells. Pleasant smells. Roaming on the streets can be perceived very diverse range of pleasurable sensations to nose. I arrived there at night, drove to the center and the happily caught outdoor WiFi. Through that commemorative I again saw that has seen near Frankfurt – there is no campsites around there. I found one camping in Monza, 20 km from the city, that was once built for those who come to the racing season (after all, the world’s fastest track in Formula 1!). Given the time of year I was there almost the only visitor. I barely persuaded the guard to let me in (and it was not even midnight!), solemnly promising that I am sure will come to the reception desk at the morning and pay.

The next morning, I packed up and moved to Milano to decide which way to go next. Or to Rome (where there should be a meeting with colleagues from Positive), or further south. As I rode through Milan in search of the Internet – I have lost a lot of body water. The heat was so hell (38 in the shade!) so I just swore at every red traffic light. Speaking of traffic lights and the movement as a whole – Italians largely worse than Russian neglect on the part of the traffic rules. Red light passing is normal. Speed limit exceed two times – everywhere. Lanes painting – no, not bothers :) A lot of motorcycles, scooters, cars – and the ubiquitous Italian temperament. Nevertheless, no accidents, I have not seen. Such a paradox. Generally atmosphere named red-white-green flag is felt very clearly.

Finally, waiting for a reply (the fool, of course, I was not warned in advance), I moved to Rome, very late, around 5 pm, going straight to autostrada. But more about that in the next post.

01.08.2015 Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt … Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Frankfurt. More precisely Aschaffenburg, near Frankfurt, but few people know about that. It was the place of my confinement last week and a half. But first things first. Arriving at Travemünde, I had to go to Amsterdam, but I am so tired of the cold weather and eternal rains, that I was irresistibly drawn to the south. Thoughts were short – I rushed to Frankfurt.

Damn boats always come early in the morning and went up on the highway I felt that banal fall asleep because of boredom. I selected option “avoid highways and autobahns” in my GPS and did not regret any minute. Wonderful pastoral views that opened up to me was so delicious that I was not irritated nor the speed limit (30-50 in settlements and beyond them is 70-80) nor lengthen the route. All these forests, fields, meadows, hills, accompanied by perfectly paved asphalt, and the ride was prettiest. During the ride I have not once stopped to take photos and just to gaze at local beauty. Villages like a fairy tale, colorful meadows Germany … good, what to say. At one point I caught WiFi at a gas station and got new mail. US Consulate asking my passport to Moscow. I strongly hurried to Frankfurt (more precisely in Aschaffenburg). Where good old friend Constantine and his wife Katya waited for me.

Frankfurt … Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Frankfurt. More precisely Aschaffenburg, near Frankfurt that, but about it, few people know. It was the place of my confinement last week and a half. But first things first. Arriving at Travemünde, I had to go to Amsterdam, but I am so tired of the cold weather and eternal, that I was irresistibly drawn to the south. Thoughts were short – I rushed to Frankfurt.

Damn boat ever come early in the morning and went up on the highway, I felt that banal fall asleep from boredom. Selected in Navigator option “avoid highways and highway” and did not regret. Wonderful pastoral views that opened up to me was so delicious that I was not irritated or the speed limit (30-50 in settlements beyond their 70-80) or lengthen the route. All these forests, fields, meadows, hills, accompanied by perfectly ulozheniju asphalt, and the ride was, as they say, “in a rush.” In the process I have not once stopped to take photos and just posozertsat local beauty. Villages like a fairy tale, colorful meadows Germany … good, what to say. At one point I caught vayfay at a gas station and saw a letter, put the blame on the mail. US Consulate Asking my passport to Moscow. Case headway! I still strongly hurried to Frankfurt, more precisely in Aschaffenburg. Where I waited for a good old friend Constantine and his wife Katya.

Arrived I settled a little… and here comes beer! You in fact in Bavaria, man (yes, Frankfurt is not Bayern, but Ashaffenyuurg – yet is already!)! The first two days were in the campaigns of the bars. Even in such a small town it here – there are bars for every tastes. But most of all I liked the one, very first we visited (I even joked about sidnrom of duckling, hehe) – on the summer terrace facing many long tables, and always a lot of people. Therefore, people simply sit down at the table to the others, resulting in a generally tied sorts of conversations – it’s great. So we met a lot of cool people this way. Old Irish man, the most that neither is a classic, as if from a movie – with him and his son, we had a night raid on the bars… Husband and wife, local riders stopped for lunch just after returning from travel (now on my jacket there is another icon :)… Couple from Hanover, which are two months a year spent in Aschaffenburg for working reasons – they have taught us German, and talked about the differences of hochdeutsch and Bavarian dialect … Many such meetings. This is perhaps the most vivid impressions – because the rest of my existence consisted of sitting in one place waiting for my passport back.

Passport. This whole saga. First, I learned that all the vaunted super-express ultra-fast delivery service … do not work on weekends. So much fun… I could not believe it. You pay a big pile of money for to deliver a letter the next day, and you answered – “Today is Friday, three o’clock, package sorting station stops it work, so the letter will go out on Monday, and will be delivered on Tuesday. Here’s a delivery, “the next day”. From Friday to Tuesday. Well, I could cope with that sending passport to Moscow. US Consulate processed my passport for two days and released it. And then the fun began – the weekend is close again, fuck you, wait for Monday. But Monday! I did not want to wait at all in any way. Even despite the fact that on Monday I was invited to visit one motorcycle adventurer at Frankfurt. Soul straining at the leash, so by wild combinations I was able to pick up passport on Saturday. But how it was! First, DHL announced that on Saturday they do not deliver. Through long negotiations with the technical support it became clear that they can deliver the package to Frankfurt Airport, the same Saturday. I spent Saturday morning at the airport, looking at the stunned eyes of employees of Deutsche Post (DHL use them as the front-end, which is very convenient to all but the customers), because in Germany there is no “on demand” packages for foreigners. Naturally, the airport did not worked. With Katya (spasibische!) managed to push the technical support DHL I could still with a large fortune and a ton of persuasion – to take away my beloved passport at one of the sorting items of DHL. So DHL – nevermore. To take great pile of euros not knowing what is going on (in Russia they told that the Saturday delivery is ok and took the money for it, in Germany they saying that there is no Saturday delivery), and make me run around Frankfurt … Horror.

In anticipation of the document and fact I stayed too long in one place I was literally drawn to go at least somewhere. But without passport everything make it difficult – even camping sites requires it, and it is restricted to pitch a tent anywhere outside camping. I decided to try couchsurfing and look for someone in Munich. I submitted about 15 queries, as it should be – not copy-paste sent, and individual approach to every request … all to no purpose. Until now, I can not understand why. However, I saw that the planned event in Munich, “a weekly gathering of members Couchsurfing Munich» and decided to go from the other side – to come to the meeting, and further acting on the situation. Bike is saddled and I flew to Munich. But there a failure waited for me. A huge number of young people, but … Contrary to the standard cliché “open-minded”, “easy-going” and all that crap – people are completely not interested in travel, journey tales and so on. They were interested in the opposite sex. Add meeting place was totally not suitable for communication (a bar with very loud disco) – that’s the whole picture. I feel there myself like some foreign body in someone else’s body, so I trampled a couple of glasses of non-alcoholic beer and retreated. The question about overnight arouse. I have some time to stray in the dark along country lanes, but could not find a good place, inaccessible to other people’s eyes (though there I also could be found by foresters). Then I went to nearest highway, drove to a nearby parking lot for truckers and insolently put a tent there, on a little piece of grass. My argument in case the attention of the authorities were like “driving, driving tired, want to sleep as much as hell, try to avoid road sleepy accidents, but because I have no car to sleep in, I had to put a tent”. Although it would have looked funny – some homeless dude in a tent, without passport, hehe. Fortunately for me – I’m was not interesting to anyone and slept well, even dreams was colored look. Early morning I returned to Aschaffenburg, and there got email news of the release of the passport, and started trying to smuggle him back, as mentioned above.

On Saturday once received passport I immediately moved on. Since half of the day was spent on rescuing the document – I was failed to drive far avay. Found camping site near the city of Ulm where I wrote these lines, sitting with a laptop near the campfire.

In the end I would like to say a huge thanks to Constantine, Kate, Fedor and Peter for helping me with all that weird passport story.