Bicycle trip across Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Åland and Sweden
4,117 km bicycle travelling started in Kiev to northern Ukraine, via Minsk across Belarus, to Lithuania at the Baltic Sea, along the coast to Latvia and Estonia, hopping to Estonia´s islands, heading for Saint Petersburg in Russia, across Finland´s Lakelands and via Helsinki along the coast westwards to the Åland Islands and to Sweden´s capital Stockholm.
23 July - 1 September 2013 / 40 days
14,539 metres in altitude
Highest cycled point: < 300 m
Unfortunately no travel report in English available yet. Below the German report translated by Google Translate. Sorry for the partly weird and bizarre English! Proper translation is coming within the year 2018!
(22 - 25 July 2013, 3 days, 222 km) I landed at 10:20 pm in Kiev and as I did not feel like assembling my bike at the airport and cycling through the capital in the dark, I took a shuttle to booked hostel.
The next day I strolled through the capital, first to Majdan Nezalezhnosti, in short the Majdan, the central square in Kiev, on which only a few months later the protests against the turning away of Europe should take their course! I strolled over the main boulevard of the city, Khreshchatyk, and walked to the cave monasteries Pechersk Lavra, looked at some of the churches there, and passed Mariinsky Park by the Marienpalace.
The next morning after 25 km I was finally out of Kiev. I cycled north with a moderate, but permanently blowing headwind. I was driving near the area most severely contaminated by the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986, which was still a restricted zone. After a night in Chernihiv, it went 50 km further north then across the border to Belarus, Belarus.
(25 - 31 July 2013, 6 days, 623 km) Actually, something like that did not happen to me anymore, but I had lost myself in the search for the current course before and so it was easy for me to play with me on the border and hit me successful at money exchange.
Via Gomel I drove to the northwest, towards the capital Minsk. I tormented myself by a nearly 100 km long construction site with also a lot of traffic. It was already too late to choose a side street. From Zlobin I therefore evaded then on beautiful Nebenstrecken. Partly on gravel roads I drove zig-zag first south, then north of the main road. I stayed in Minsk for two nights. I ran to the KGB headquarters and wandered the huge boulevards. I met Alex, Serge and Tim and together we went to eat in the canteen of Draniki University, traditional Belarussian potato pancakes. In the evening, the vodka went around and I was late in bed.
According to slightly hungover I made a little late the next morning after several coffee on the way. Fortunately, I had a tailwind all day and therefore made good speed, always heading northwest of the border with Lithuania. After all 180 km I opened my tent just before the border in the forest next to the road.
(31 July - 4 August 2013, 4 days, 486 km) I cycled the remaining 6 km to the border and after all the exit and entry procedures I was finally in Lithuania and thus back in the EU. The greeted me with continuous rain and so I was glad to break 33 km later in the capital Vilnius. Only alone, then with Olof from Sweden I explored the nice old town. We went to eat some more and drank a few beers.
The next morning I started with strong headwinds to the northwest. It was with sometimes only possible 14 km / h a hard day, which ended with the fact that I after 170 km and almost 10 hours of pure driving my tent quite done off the road in the forest hit.
After Siauliai I drove to the impressive mountain of crosses, a pilgrimage site in the form of a hill, on which unimaginably many crosses were set up for years and on which new ones were added every day. I wandered for a long time through the labyrinth of crosses of all sizes, most of them hung with smaller crosses.
The weather was getting better and a day later I drove under cloud-free sky in the sunny Klaipeda on the Baltic coast. I moved into my accommodation and took a ferry to the Kuhrische Spit, a nearly 100 km long peninsula with lots of nature and endless beaches. I wandered along that long before I took the ferry back to Klaipeda in the evening. The next day I cycled a few miles north to the border, then I was in Latvia.
(4 - 8 August 2013, 5 days, 563 km) Along the Baltic Sea coast I cycled further north. Unfortunately, the sea was almost never seen. I had a tailwind until the end of the day, so it was not until 207 km that I hit my tent 20 km off Ventspils off the road.
In Ventspils I refilled my supplies and drove north, over a branching gravel road to Cape Ovis with its lighthouse and a very beautiful beach, back to the main road and on through dense pine forests to the north. A huge telescope formerly used by the Soviets peeked through the forest a few miles off the road, so I drove there. I turned again to Mikeltornis and also to Mazirbe to the beach. Then I was at the extreme tip of Latvia's headland, Cape Kolkas. With a slight tailwind, they headed southeast towards the capital Riga. I camped in pristine nature with sea views under pine trees right on the beach, before I rolled up in Riga the next day.
In Riga I walked through the beautiful old town and met the next day with Serge, whom I had met in Minsk. He came from Riga and lived here and so he was predestined to show me the local nightlife! We started in a rooftop bar with a great view over the city, drank warm with Latvian herbal liquor and continued with clubbing. Only at dawn did I stagger back to my hostel.
In best weather and 31 degrees I cycled a bit more hangover then still in the morning going on. I drove north along the coast and lay down again in the dunes in Vitrupe. It was not far to the border and so I was then quickly in Estonia.
(8 - 14 August 2013, 6 days, 644 km.) I always stayed along the coast and cycled past lighthouses and over small streets to the ferry to the island of Saaremaa. For less than 4 euros, I drove over to the island in the evening, while I had a portion of salmon and chips in the on-board restaurant. On the island, I cycled only a few miles and opened my tent a bit off the road.
I drove on the beautiful island to the west, past the windmills at Angla, to the next ferry. One hour crossing and a portion of burger with fries later I was on the island of Hiiumaa. There I cycled on a straight stretch with tailwind to the next ferry, which brought me back to the mainland in one and a half hours and a great portion of salmon with chips.
I left the coast and drove northeast to Tallinn, where I met the Baltic Sea again. In Tallinn I walked through the beautiful old town and met Mehmet and Hasret from Turkey. So we went through the streets and went for some food and some beer.
The next morning I drove out of the city on the beach and on the highway to the east. After a few kilometers I turned off into the beautiful Lahemaa National Park and cycled along the coast towards the Russian border. In the evening I built my tent on the steep coast with a great view over the Baltic Sea and the sunset. Then there were thunderstorms.
The next morning, blue sky was visible again and I cycled the last kilometers to the border.
(14 - 19 August 2013, 5 days, 425 km) At the border I had to nervously force my bike through several pedestrian locks before I was finally allowed into the country. This greeted me with more and more frequent rain showers. On side roads I drove northeast towards Saint Petersburg and pitched my tent near the shore in the forest.
The next morning, rain and a huge tick on my body prevented me from getting on my way. Later, after removing the tick with a luckily carried tick tweezers, this only prevented the rain. When he still did not want to stop at 10.30am, I dismantled everything and packed everything soaking wet and cycled in the constant rain, which sometimes turned into a downpour, over half-flooded roads along the coast to the east. It was really cold and shivering in front of Költe and with frozen fingers I rolled into St Petersburg. When I finally reached the booked hostel, the rain stopped.
I dried myself and my things in a room that I shared with Nastia and Marina from Belarus. With the two I went in the evening to the then over the Neva River opening and beautifully lit drawbridges and we strolled a bit through the city. The next day, St. Petersburg greeted me with a steel blue sky and bright sun! Since my roommates had left today, I walked alone through the city and made due sightseeing. The next day I took the metro and then a marshrutka to Pushkin to the Katharinenpalast with its famous Amber Room. After an eternal queuing I finally came in!
Back in Saint Petersburg I went to the barber, washed my clothes in the laundry and relaxed for the rest of the day.
The next morning I drove out of the city along the coast to the northwest, unfortunately with unexpectedly much traffic, but always with tailwind. Since I wanted to cycle through the Finnish Lakeland in Finland, I did not turn west to Vyborg in the direction of Helsinki, but drove further north and pitched my tent in the forest a few kilometers before the Finnish border.
(19 - 27 August 2013, 8 days, 830 km) I crossed the border in the sunshine, later rain and sun alternated. I cycled past countless lakes through the Lakeland, the Finnish Lake District. Unexpectedly, it was still going up and down. In the evening, I built my tent on a small island over which the road led, idyllic right on the water. The next day I drove on to Kerimaki, supposedly the world's largest wooden church, and continued on Savonlinna in a curve back westward. It was not so easy to find a secluded campsite in the evening, as you might imagine. Only late did I turn onto a forest road, where I built my tent in the woods. The next morning I cycled late, much uphill and downhill, but due to pain in my left calf, I stopped early at a campsite south of Voikoski, where I set up my camp and first went for 10 euros in the cozy sauna, in the hope that my calf would also have improved by tomorrow.
The next morning I cycled carefully, the calf still felt, but it went well, so that I even drove through the 180 km to Helsinki. Shortly before the capital, I built my tent for an expensive 19 euros at a campsite in Vuosaari. The next morning I slept off, then packed my things and cycled into the city and a little bit in the harbor area in the center. Since I wanted to be with Udo, a very good friend since school, and his family, who lived south of Espoo near Helsinki until the evening, I took my time before I along the coast on a rather annoying bike path to him drove. I was warmly welcomed in her beautiful colorful wooden house! We grilled and sat together a bit, before I drove the next day with Udo on the island of Suomenlinna for some sightseeing and long storytelling. With Gunnel, Udo's mother-in-law, and Udo I went to mushroom picking in the forest. In the evening we tried the porcini mushrooms, there was more family to visit and eleven there was a terrific crayfish dinner with lots of singing and countless shots!
The next morning my great time with Udo and his family was over. I said goodbye to everyone and around noon we started back to the road in good weather heading west. Just south of Turku, I opened my tent. The next day in Turku it turned out that there were only morning and evening ferries to Sweden and so I met in the village of Sam from England, who was also cycling and with whom I got tickets for the evening ferry. I cycled alone to Naantali, a nice harbor town, drove back to Turku and met me later with Sam again. We set up our tent 300 meters away from the ferry check-in, between a few trees in the harbor and drank a few more beers.
At 6.00 clock we got up and at 8.15 clock we finally laid off.
(27 - 28 August 2013, 2 days, 117 km) After five and a half hours, the ferry arrived in Mariehamn, the small capital of the Åland Islands, and we left the ship. We cycled across the ramified archipelago north and east to Finby, before turning west and heading west through Godby again and setting up our tent in the evening with a view of the sunset on the Finström Peninsula.
The next morning we cycled to Hammarland, where we went swimming in the sea in Bovik, before we cycled further west and took the ferry to Sweden in Berghamn.
(28 August - 1 September 2013, 4 days, 207 km) After two hours of crossing with many tourists, most of whom seemed to have been on the ship only due to the tax-free and duty-free alcohol purchase and consumption and who then also had this alcohol we would soon be hauling off the ship, we started in Grisslehamn. We rolled over the huge loading ramp and cycled together to the south. Shortly after Norrtälje we pitched our camp on a boulder with a slightly hidden view of the city and drank some completely overpriced semi-alcohol beers.
The next morning we continued south along the coast. In Ljustero we went by ferry to Voxholm and from there with an old, beautifully restored steamboat further south. Back on land we cycled east past Stockholm to the Tyresta National Park, where we pitched our tents at the eastern end of the park right on the water.
In a small arc southwest we cycled to Stockholm to the booked hostel. We spent two days and evenings to walk through the beautiful old town and the harbor, in the evening in various pubs far too expensive beer to drink and just let us go well.
After two nights in Stockholm Sam drove on to his homeland England, I went again to a lookout path with great views of the city and the harbor and at noon I went with a shuttle on the way to the airport.
It was a great time with great encounters, not always so great weather, but great countries. Countries where you could and should have spent much more time. So maybe I would come back to one country or another!