Voyages > Europe > Russia > Ural: The expedition. Part One
Ural: The expedition. Part One

Ural: The expedition. Part One

We want to show the very essence of the trip to Chelyabinsk, in the winter of December 2019. That’s what we thought was most interesting. And not necessarily according to the guidebooks, and why we think so. You will find here our dilemmas and final solutions, as well as tips on what to look for.

There are readers who like day-to-day travel stories. This entry is for you.

SaabVoyage 2019 Winter Ural Expedition

The beginning

The first part: from Warsaw to Tolyatti.

As usual and as planned for this day, we left Warsaw in the afternoon. The car was already packed earlier. It was all we had to do was come back from work/school, get in and go.
Direction: Szypliszki, the cheapest reasonable place before the Lithuanian border.

The next day is a quick transfer through Lithuania into Latvia to the border with Russia.

Of course, before we arrived in Latvia, we hit the bar with cepelinai on the Lithuanian-Latvian border – this bar is our catch from last year.


When planning the trip, we were thinking about where to cross the border with Russia. We concluded that we do not want to go through Belarus, because we are not ready to experiment.
We knew more or less what to expect on the Latvian-Russian border (or at least we thought so). Additionally, we also knew that in Russia there are good quality roads from Latvia.
These assumptions determined the choice of place to stay – in the oldest city of Latvia – Ludza. By the way, we saw the castle of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword ruined in the Swedish deluge. The abandoned, neglected walls on the hill looked sad and depressing.

Part One

The border

The main question we were asking ourselves when planning this part of the journey was where to cross the border?

Last year we drove north and chose the Ubylinka crossing. There we waited for 4 hours. Now we were going more eastwards, so we chose a small crossing Terehovo/Burachki. According to the service of the Latvian Customs, the average waiting time is about 2 hours, so we hoped it will go better than a year ago. We spent… 7 hours on the border. The border crossing went very smoothly, there was just an unexpectedly long queue of cars and trucks.


Our first Russian overnight stay was in the tiny town of Sereda.
The night was in a place which is an annex to the gym, which is an annex to the pizzeria. It was climatic, in the room we had our own stove, in which we had to light the wood for the night.

The road further east led straight through Moscow, so it would be a sin not to come there.

Moscow for the first time

There was a big Christmas fair on Red Square with:

  • souvenir stalls,
  • drink booths,
  • the ice rink,
  • carousels
  • and performances of girls singing national songs.
Photo 360 degrees

We visited the picturesque the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed. Unfortunately, we did not meet Lenin because he does not welcome guests on Sunday (only on Mondays and Thursdays).

We also have passed a shopping centre, including the Marks&Spencer store, which recently has moved out of Poland – we miss you. What is interesting, we saw a lot of familiar brands and a lot of completely foreign ones.

At the end of the day, we arrived to Sasovo.


Cheap accommodation in a mini guesthouse (common space – living room and kitchen + rooms with bathrooms) above the liquor store.
Cleanliness in the common area is maintained thanks to the foil protectors worn on shoes. The owner/administrator gave everyone his set with an unobjectionable gesture.

Here on the main street, we were proudly welcomed by a locomotive – a steam engine.

Another day, a transfer from Sasovo to Syzran.
First, the Republic of Mordovia.

The Republic of Mordovia


On the way, we visited the city of Penza (eager for real Russian food), and we were caught by another time zone change.

A charming city with a beautifully lit promenade to the horizon and the Samobranka restaurant, where we ate delicious Russian food.

What is interesting is that the Russian Ural computer was invented in this town.


First night in a real Russian condominium. What touched us was the gas pipe gate. They have a specific approach to urban infrastructure here.
There was an interesting monument in the Kremlin, honouring soldiers from Afghanistan and heroes from Chernobyl (which we mention in our Surprises). Closer to the river there’s another… monumental monument to the other soldiers.

We also saw the Volga River and the Volga Car by the Volga River.

The old town is a few streets with tenement houses and wooden houses (including a very decorative house of a rich merchant – photo below), surrounded by ordinary grey blocks of flats.

We found an ordinary bar serving the pelmeni. For the crazy price of 1.5 EUR you can buy a plate of pelmeni in broth, served with sour cream. We took 2 extra pieces, that was good. 🙂

Photo 360 degrees

From Syzran on the way to Tolyatti we went to see the longest railway bridge in Europe – over the Volga, of course.

A moment later, we had our first-ever crash of our Niva with Renault Duster. We went through the whole procedure with the police. Using this event as an example we will prepare a note on how to proceed in case of a collision abroad.

For the evening, happily, we arrived to Tolyatti.

To be continued…

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