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Ural: The beginning

Ural: The beginning

“When winter is cold, it must be cold. This is the eternal law of nature.”


We were looking for an interesting way to spend family Christmas. After several years of experimentation we found a very pleasant hut in Masuria (fully equipped kitchen, no GSM coverage, fireplace and a brazen lynx that bit a hole in an unattended cheesecake). 

The place is perfect. Masuria was supposed to provide snow, cold and seclusion.

Our hut outside
Our hut outside
Our hut inside
Our hut inside

But we can’t sit in one place, so we successively visited the area, starting from the Wolf’s Lair, through castles, monasteries, palaces and fortresses, to the borderlands of the Kaliningrad region. Finally, we ran out of interesting positions at a reasonable distance from the hut.

So we wanted to think about something else. We had many ideas, from: “let’s go to warm countries” and “let’s go to Casablanca for New Year’s Eve.”

We were limited by two parameters altogether: 

– a time (we want to make the most of the Christmas break and New Year’s Eve) 
– a budget (which is not endless).

The calculations have shown that we could go to Nordkapp. It sounded like a huge challenge and a journey of life.

It turned out to be possible – the emotions are – but it is not a feat like marching on stilts through a pole. 

Sometimes when we read the stories and accounts of those who were already on Nordkapp in winter, we had the impression that such an expedition was a fight against frost and adversity, specialized clothes and car equipment, alpine sleeping bags, frost-resistant salt fingers, flares and satellite phone, titanium chains on wheels, harpoons to keep away from polar bears and penguins. And most importantly, the conclusion is that if you get there, you’ll get everywhere.

Snow and cold
Nordkapp from the air
Nordkapp from the air

Life after Nordkapp

Nordkapp is done, the membership of The Royal North Cape Club is done – and what now? Somehow you have to live on. 

We checked that we are able to go for 3 weeks, live in quite Spartan conditions (you know, for example, a wooden house with a sauna, self-made breakfasts – herrings and Norwegian bread, no 24-hour reception) and now the vision of a normal trip was out of the question… not interesting. We had to come up with other unusual directions.

Norwegian cottage
A typical Norwegian example of accommodation in Spartan conditions.

In planning the trip for the winter 2018/2019 the inspiration was a signpost, which we saw on our way back from Nordkapp – Murmansk 300 km to the left.

We assumed that it might be more difficult to get there, which turned out to be even more nonsense. For the purpose of this trip, motivated by the ease of service and availability of parts, we bought  Lada Niva.  

An additional attraction was the language barrier, but after a week we gained the ability to get along with our sister Russian nation.

In practice, the greatest challenge was to master the formalities related to obtaining a visa, insurance (especially electronics), and importing (for the duration of stay) our own car into the Russian Federation.

Going through the procedures is like an adventure game with collecting stamps and signatures in the right order. 

Our trip to Murmansk
Our trip

After Murmansk… and how do we really plan our trips?


After Christmas in recent years it has become natural for us to go somewhere.

Our assumption is 3-4 hours of driving on average per day. Depending on the arrangement of days off on holidays, this means different possible distances, but without madness, we are between 6 and 8 thousand kilometers.

3-4 hours means 2, 3 parts that can be separated by visiting the city, open-air museum, museum or whatever interesting you find there.

Of course, we also get days typically in transit after about 6 hours of driving. Then we have time to read the guide, complete the knowledge, discuss what we saw and what we will see. This is also the time to talk more deeply with our daughters about the history of the places they saw. As you can see, there is no room for boredom here. 

In return, we have, for example, 2 stationary days. This is the time to visit museums, technology parks and castles, take walks and see what the area attracts. 

From the housewife’s point of view, approximately once a week, this is a good time to wash and dry your clothes.

And what else? Why north and east?

It’s winter, so it must be cold – we follow this trail when choosing our destination.

In Finland, it worked. In Norway too. We just hit record frosts, and we have a documented -37 degrees. In Murmansk, we almost succeeded – the lowest temperature we hunted was -26.

Hence, the idea of going east now in search of the cold. Chelyabinsk was in our range, and even a little further. We knew little about the area itself. Before we started to prepare ourselves seriously, we had such associations:

  • Chelyabinsk – meteorite and large industrial city
  • Yekaterinburg – the end of Romanovs
  • Kazan – colorful temples and Tatars
  • Tolyatti – they’re making Niva there

We knew this would be our first contact with Asia. We didn’t expect that after crossing the mythical border in the Urals, we would be surrounded by rice from everywhere, and that since this is Siberia, we would be welcomed by a wall of snow. But winter should be here!

SaabVoyage 2019 Winter Ural Expedition

It is interesting to note that a branch of the Warsaw Cyclists’ Society, founded by Julian Kossowski in 1910, once operated in Chelyabinsk. 

It is not far from here to Baikonur, which can be an inspiration for another trip.

This note is an introduction to a series of entries devoted to our winter expedition beyond the Urals from 19th December 2019 to 7th January 2020.

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