world map

Russia

From Moscow to Vladivostok in four weeks

date of entry 23/08/2005
mileage 494,126

capital Moskau

area 17.075.400 km²

population 143.600.000

GDP 1.850 Bill. US-Dollar

official language Russia

The world’s biggest country is a challenge for any car. In 2012, Otto travelled more than 9,000 kilometres from Vladivostok to Moscow in less than four weeks. "The route through Siberia can be pretty tiring," Gunther says. "It’s just birch trees as far as the eye can see." But the Holtorfs enjoyed the remotest stretches the most, and kept meeting members of Otto’s fan club. Once, a family in another car signalled to Gunther to stop and told him they’d been following his journey closely online. Whenever anyone in the world posted a message about him, the entire campervan community heard about it.
  • Not all the places where the couple stayed were particularly attractive. Here, Otto stands beside some tyres in a yard while Elke Dreweck, who joined Gunther in Russia after his wife’s death, warms up with a morning cup of tea.
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  • All roads in Russia lead to Moscow, though sometimes it’s a long journey. The Holtorfs and Otto visited Moscow and the Kremlin several times.
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  • St Basil’s Cathedral stands in Red Square, outside the walls of the Kremlin, a splash of colour in an often grey city.
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  • Gunther also visited St Petersburg’s central square with Christine, who spoke fluent Russian
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  • The Summer Palace stands at the gates of the city, overlooking the Baltic. It has spectacular gardens.
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  • Much of suburban Russia looks like this: Endless apartment blocks
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  • Russians often have communal garages set in rows like houses on a street
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  • The Holtorf set off for the trackless wastes of Siberia, often on unsurfaced minor roads
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  • These often continued in straight lines for vast distances
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  • Here, they’re widening the road, perhaps for a highway
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  • Most of Siberia is flat, and there are very few mountains
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  • Wealthy Russians have elegant lakeside summer homes that they still refer to disparagingly as dachas
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  • Local people often sell seasonal produce beside the road: Mushrooms, blueberries, vegetables or, as in this case, fish. The Holtorfs like to shop here.
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  • The typical house design from Moscow to Vladivostok: made of wood, with three windows and a gable facing the street
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  • Selling handknitted socks
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  • The further east they went, the more ramshackle the wooden houses became. But they were just as cosy and durable.
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  • Modern technology has taken hold even in the taiga
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  • This old house is "sinking" as the path is raised
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  • People build small extensions to their homes if they can afford to do so.
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  • The electricity supply in villages along the route was not always reliable
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  • Everywhere they went, the Holtorfs found abandoned factories from the Soviet era...
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  • … and other relics of communism
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  • In 2006, Christine and Gunther drove along the Chinese border through Siberia. They couldn’t get in to China.
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  • Vladivostok’s central square was newly landscaped and redeveloped
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  • This city on the Pacific Ocean made for an impressive panorama
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  • Here, too, Russian Orthodox churches had been given a fresh coat of paint
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  • Vladivostok is the departure point for the trans-Siberian railway to Moscow. This steam locomotive is a relic of the past: The railway is fully electrified
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  • Fast trains take about a week to get to Moscow
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  • Travellers waiting on the platform for the train to depart Travelling by rail is much cheaper than flying.
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  • But most of the trains on the 9,000-kilometre line carry freight. They are often over a kilometre long and operate just minutes apart
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  • Japanese secondhand cars are unloaded in Vladivostok. Although Russians drive on the right, they import right-hand-drive cars from Japan. Ships from the Russian Pacific fleet are visible in the background.
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  • A Russian submarine memorial in Vladivostok. Together with...
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  • ...these columns, it commemorates victims of the "great patriotic war" – the second world war.
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  • Video: Russia: the world’s biggest, flattest country