Day 44: Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod

Number of tie wraps: 29 (holding steady)

Countdown: 5971 miles down, 2614 to go

Quote of the day: “I’m shocked that there is a jam on a federal road between two cities.” Natalia, our guide, after we had been at a dead stop for 30 minutes in a construction zone during our drive today.

The roads today were good overall, but it took us 8 hours to drive 240 miles, mostly due to construction delays on the M7 road between Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod. We had some nice views of the Volga River (called the Nile of Russia) on our way out of town. The photo below is looking to the north, but looking to the south, I saw the skyline of Kazan and it reminded me of the view of Washington DC from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River.

The Volga River

The Volga River (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Kazan is in the Tatarstan region of Russia, so for dinner last night, I tired a traditional Tatar dish, a delicious appetizer that was similar to a potato pancake. We also viewed a gorgeous sunset from our dinner table.

Sunset last night in Kazan

Sunset last night in Kazan (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

This morning, we set out at 9 a.m. for a Kazan city tour. First, we headed to the Kazan Kremlin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we saw a mosque that was rebuilt in 2005 — the original mosque had been destroyed during the Soviet era.

Kul Sharif Mosque at Kazan Kremlin

Kul Sharif Mosque at Kazan Kremlin (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We also saw this leaning tower in the Kremlin — Syuyumbike Tower. it’s not as famous as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it leans almost as much.

Leaning Syuyumbike Tower of Kazan

Leaning Syuyumbike Tower of Kazan (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Since kremlin means fortress, you might expect that it would provide a nice view of the city, and it didn’t disappoint. I hope the panorama from my iPhone does it some justice.

Panoramic view of Kazan from the Kremlin

Panoramic view of Kazan from the Kremlin (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

At one time, Kazan was divided into a Tatar section and a Russian section, but these days Russians and Tatars mix freely. The house below is in the old Tatar section and is typical of Tatar architecture — notice that the whole house is painted, not just the shutters like many traditional Russian houses.

Traditional Tatar architecture

Traditional Tatar architecture (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

After driving the last two hours this evening through rain, we arrived at our hotel in Nizhny Novgorod about 9:15 p.m., where we were greeted by the hotel kitty cat.

Azimut Hotel kitty

Azimut Hotel kitty (Eileen Bjorkman photo)


The hotel is located at the top of a hill overlooking the city, and if the weather is good tomorrow morning, we should have some nice Nizhny views before we leave for Moscow, about a 418 km drive. One last thing — there won’t be any new Roadster shocks waiting for us when we arrive in Moscow tomorrow — the latest plan failed as well. With the better roads we have now, replacing the shocks isn’t as important as it was, but Luke still has some ideas, so stay tuned!

Days 42-43: Perm to Izhevsk to Kazan

Number of tie wraps: 29 (5 since last blog post)

Countdown: 5726 miles down, 2859 to go

Quote of the day: “Welcome to Russia!” (Izhevsk policeman to Luke and John yesterday)

In 1908, George Schuster and the Thomas Flyer had a much tougher time getting from Perm to Kazan than we did. The Flyer had stripped two gears just outside Omsk, quite a ways back, but a field repair kept them going until just outside of Perm, where the transmission gave up altogether as Schuster tried to extricate the Thomas from a gigantic pothole.

Schuster had ordered a spare transmission be shipped to Russia from the U.S. while he was in Harbin, China, because he was worried about the transmission even then. The transmission had arrived in Russia within two weeks, but no one seemed to know at which train station it had been off-loaded. Fortunately, just when the Thomas really needed the new transmission, it was located in Kazan, several hundred miles from the breakdown point, so Schuster took a wagon to retrieve it.

After repairing the Flyer, the U.S. team took a wrong turn and wound up in Viatka (modern day Kirov) several hundred kilometers out of their way before finally arriving in Kazan. Between the repair and getting lost, they were once again well behind the German Protos. The New York Times reported much confusion on the whereabouts and intentions of the U.S. team during their side trip to Viatka — click here for one article written during this period.

We had a little time in Perm yesterday morning while John and Natalia went to immigration one more time to try unsuccessfully to resolve John’s visa. Luke and I walked down a path that paralleled the Kama River and the Siberian Railway and we found a scary-looking but perfectly safe underpass that we took underneath the railway to a footpath right by the river.


Steps leading to tunnel under the Siberian Railway

Steps leading to tunnel under the Siberian Railway (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Later that day, we crossed the Kama River on the bridge below as we drove out of Perm. Schuster and the Flyer crossed the Kama by ferry, since there was no bridge available in 1908.


Bridge across the Kama River in Perm

Bridge across the Kama River in Perm (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Before we left Perm, Luke washed the headlights on the Roadster and removed a rather large deceased insect from the headlight grills (those of you who are Air Force fighter pilots will know why I used the term “deceased insect” — I don’t want any of you getting hurt from hurling your body to the floor).


Hitchhiker found on Roadster headlight

Hitchhiker found on Roadster headlight (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Roadster headlights before cleaning

Roadster headlights before cleaning (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Roadster headlights after cleaning

Roadster headlights after cleaning (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

On the drive to Izhevsk yesterday and to Kazan today, we saw many brightly painted roadside shelters for picnic tables, such as the one below. They seemed to come in all shapes and colors, and were located along the road every kilometer or so.


Colorful roadside shelter

Colorful roadside shelter (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

As we were heading to the hotel in Izhevsk, the police waved the Roadster over for a look. They were mostly just curious about the car and the paperwork, and one of them came over to the hotel later and signed the car.


Message from police in Izhevsk wishing us luck on our journey

Message from police in Izhevsk wishing us luck on our journey (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Today, we had great roads most of the way from Izhevsk to Kazan, so we made good time. During our final gas stop, the young man in the picture below admired the car and I couldn’t get the Bluetooth on my iPhone to send the picture to his phone, so I told him I’d post the picture on the website instead.


An admirer about 100km outside Kazan

An admirer about 100km outside Kazan (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

John also added another tie wrap to the turn signal flasher unit at the gas stop.


Yes, another tie wrap!

Yes, another tie wrap! (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

As we neared Kazan, many of the road signs became tri-lingual — Tatar, the native language here, as well as Russian and English.


Tri-lingual road sign -- Tatar, Russian and English

Tri-lingual road sign — Tatar, Russian and English (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Kazan is a beautiful city with a blend of modern structures and traditional architecture. We’ll be taking a tour of the city tomorrow morning, so I’ll post some pictures then.

After we arrived at the hotel, John decided to double-up the tie wraps on the radiator grill, so that added four more tie wraps to the total.


And even more tie wraps!

And even more tie wraps! (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow, after our city tour, we head to Nizhny Novgorod, 395 km. We’ll be arriving in Moscow on Sunday now so we have an extra day to sort out John’s visa.