It is cold and dark outside. It is 5 am and I’m right in front of the hotel. Two drunk men passing by are speaking to each other in a rough Russian accent. I have one of the men’s eyes, he stares at the bicycle and my face
He rises his thumb and walks away with his friend.
You might see drunk men or even women early in the morning on the streets as in this Sunday morning in St. Petersburg. Being under the influence of alcohol, they walk around either bare-chested or with tiny dresses no matter how cold the weather is. The city is so good illuminated which lets me pedal as if it is day time. This city has a fascinating beauty. After traveling around the world, St. Petersburg would be among the top cities I definitely would come back. It is a city worth returning with its artistic and cultural activities, museums, historical buildings and night life. I’m going to the Felinskaya Train Station to catch the St. Petersburg-Helsinki train. It is just 4 km away, but I need to be careful since the streets are spread all through with drunks.
Since the Baltic Sea is frozen all the ferries were cancelled. Therefore, I am leaving the country with train. Helsinki will be the first station. I will use Finland as a stepping stone. Of course, just for the time being since my friends are coming to Sweden. Then, I’ll return back and continue from where I have stopped. Furthermore, I would have the opportunity to work on my route. I already had shared my roughly outlined World Tour route on my web site which was open to alterations in the course of time. Pedaling in Russia after Ukraine on snow and ice made me experienced both on the road and also on camping. Now, I am ready to face towards the north.
I arrive at the train station but it is still closed. The train for Helsinki departs at 06:30 am but the station won’t get open till 05:45 am. Just next to the station are small canteens. Oohh !! One of them is open. It is difficult to find an open place early in the morning in Russia. The one’s open for 24 hours are only the flower stores. I got surprised when I first heard that. You might find a 24 hours open flower store at every corner in almost all big cities in Russia. You always find flowers to take when you are invited or for a date. And, also the prices of the flowers are very cheap. I enter the restaurant and realize a familiar melody on the television. Ahaaaa.. What the hell was the name of this woman? Even, I had used the song of her in my Tadzhikistan video. Look at this, who would have thought that I would mention Tadzhikistan in Russia… I turned to the boy sitting at the cash box and tried to ask him whose that song is. I understood right away what I meant: “Shebnem”
– Are you Tadzhik?
A big smile appeared on his face
– I went to Panjikent, Dushanbe, Khrog, Iskashim, Dangara, Walkhan, Murgap
– Velospet (bicycle)?
– Yeap, with velospet
I readily ordered some pastry. Then, I took my computer from the bicycle bag and called the boy next to me. As I was showing the photos to him, I got exited! It had been a long time since I last saw the pictures. I still carry all of them with me. I got short of breath Man! What I have had come through.I lose myself in my thoughts for a moment. Nadia? J I still remember your eyes while you were listening the songs from my music player holding in your little hands. And that pass? I’ll never ever forget the day I cycled down the pass. I screamed at the top of my voice towards the huge mountains… There are seconds in your life you won’t be able to describe. Actually, I was not able to share and to tell about many things that I came through there… It was really very difficult in Tadzhikistan pushing my limits… Really very very difficult…
I thought back on my road mates. I have been missing all of them… Thanks God, I’m going to see all of them once more. Above all are Benjamin and Nora J. I let the boy watch my videos mounted with the songs of Shebnem. He gets really surprised. We go out together to look at the bicycle. He is inspecting whether it has got a motor… Hahaha
While about to leaving Russia, all of a suddenly I found myself in Tadzhikistan. Anyhow, it is time to leave this wonderful city. I walk towards the station, a quite modern and nice building. The interior of the train is wide and comfortable. The officials want me to put all my bags on the X-ray before I board the train. I am astonished. I traveled in so many countries but had seen this only once in China. I say “Alright” and take off the bags. I let all my belongings pass through the X-ray. Then, I gather all of them back. Just as I am about to put my bicycle on the train, the trainmaster comes and tells me that I have to take off the bags and keep them separately. Humm.. There is plenty of place on the train, my bicycle won’t bother anyone. Okay, I’ll take off the bags. I took all the bags off and carried them one by one inside and placed in the huge empty place. Just as I tried to carry my bicycle in, he told me that I have to take the wheels off. No matter I told that I paid 137 $ inclusive the bicycle, I was told that there has been rules. Okay, I took the wheels off. I was about to carry my bicycle in:
– One minute, we cannot accept the bicycle like this, you have to put it inside a bike-bag.
– I don’t understand what you are trying to do? Don’t you want the bike be on the train? I paid for the bicycle separately, what bag?
– There are rules, we cannot accept bicycles without bike-bag. There are 10 minutes to leave, either you find a bike-bag or you have to get off the train.
I know that you want some tip but you are coping with the wrong man.
– Alright, I will place my bicycle into the bike-bag
That’s what I’m talking about… “I want to see your puzzled face, wait here I come.” I go inside and empty almost the whole bag, because the tiny bicycle bag was lying on the bottom of the bag. I needed it for my bicycle to carry on the airplane in Japan. So, I bought the smallest one which I intended to use also during the World tour. I remember I paid a lot since it was so small. Well, I could say that it was worth paying that much for such days. I returned back to the trainmaster:
– Japanese bag. If you would go there buy also one. It works.
After I packed my bicycle and the man (!), I washed my hands and face before returning to my seat. Afterwards, the same man came once more for ticket and passport control. I feel so relaxed and sitting as larger than life and they see little smile on my face… Nothing to do. Everything is regulatory. He had talked to the border police which came to me and inspected my passport. He checked with an electronic device whether the magnetic section of my passport is fake or not. He also checked in his computer for the permission days in my passport. I’m just leaving on date, they would certainly arrest me if I would had exceeded just a single day. He just looked the picture on my passport and wonders if it is me or not. I said that everything is in order. He stamped my passport. He awaits tip but no way !!! Get the hell out of my sight.
As the train arrived the border of Finland, first woman custom officers bordered and asked me whether I have some luggage. I told them that I have bicycle bags at the rear and even showed them which I could see from my seat. Meanwhile, a custom officer was trying to read the writings on my bike ducking in front of the bike. He was a bulky man. He came next to me and asked my passport. He took his small pocket computer out to read the passport information. He looked at me.
– Are you continuing to your Japan tour?
– Beg me pardon?
– Aren’t you Gurkan Genc who went to Japan with his bicycle?
Somebody had to take a shot of me right at this time. I was really surprised
– No, this is a new tour. Did you see me on news papers?
– No. I was used to follow your videos on you-tube. But, you haven’t put any from your World tour yet. I know you since 2010.
Wow! Don’t know what to say. That man is right, why didn’t I put my videos on you-tube?
– The cameras I used on my first tour were not HD but the ones I’m using in this tour are HD. I cannot mount the videos on my computer. But, I’ll put my videos in shortest time on you-tube. I’m planning to travel in your country for a long time.
– Okay. I will follow you. I wish you I good time in Finland.
It is difficult to explain my feelings right at this time.
I received a message before I started with the world tour: “Abi (elder brother), I am a student at Atılım University and I happened to know what you are doing. What you have done is amazing. I have also a similar project”. He shared his project with me and I answered him after thoroughly examining his project. The project he was planning to realize was very good but it needed some capital. He graduated last year from the university. And I told him that he needs to work and save some money to realize his project. Months passed and I started with my World tour. After I wrote that I’m going to go Finland on my web site I received a message from him.
– Abi, this is Cem. I’m in Finland now. Let me know, when you arrive Finland.
– Cem, what are you doing there?
– Yeap, you told me to save money for the project. That’s what I’m doing right now.
Well my dear friend. Apply to the one of the best software corporations in Finland, start to work there and then meet me here. By the way, Cem also participated one of my presentations.
I arrived Helsinki train station at 09:30 am. I was feeling really very tired, couldn’t sleep on the train. Also, I couldn’t sleep well in St. Petersburg since the train left at the crack of dawn. The reason I took this train was, wanting to get the cheapest ticket. The ticket from St. Petersburg to Helsinki inclusive my bicycle cost 130$. This was the cheapest one
Together with Cem, the officials from our Helsinki Embassy met me at the station at 09:30 am. After eating something we walked around the city. Afterwards, we left with Cem to chat a little. He told me what he was doing in Finland. Just two months have been passed after he arrived, he is still a newcomer. I was so tired that I didn’t feel to go for sightseeing with Cem. But, afterwards as I walked on the streets, something caught my attention. The city was silent, really very silent. Egad, there wasn’t any human being. There was a huge silence in this capital wrapped in white. While walking on the streets, I noticed that small pebbles were dispersed on sidewalks and asphalt and not salt. Humm.. Quite logical. Salt erodes both shoes and tires. A man carrying a large basket was dispersing small pebbles. I wondered how surroundings would appear in spring when the ice starts to melt.
I couldn’t stay long in Helsinki this time, because I left at 05:00 pm for Stockholm with ferry. Helsinki-Stockholm ferry ticket cost 39€ and of course, an extra fee of 10€ for my bicycle. I parked my bicycle between the cars under the deck. The ferry trip lasted about 9 hours.
Will continue to pedal from Finland…