Many time we made some “detours” on our tour through Central Asia to reach Germany. But what means detour? When I arrived in the capital of Kyrgyzstan I could also take the direct road back home. But instead we went further east then a little bit towards south and again towards east. Eventually we were even more far away from home than we’ve been before. Taking the direct road wasn’t the purpose of this trip. My trip. At any time.Until now.
Detours and extra ways came up more frequently the further away I was from home. Because I knew one thing: I would probably not come back to this place so easy within the next time. 500 Kilometers extra driving means nothing when you are 10.000 away from Germany. 10.000 KM direct road to Germany. We just crossed the border to Russia and the steppe of Kazakhstan was already far behind us. It was the 22nd of May and I planned to be back in less than four weeks. There were still about 7.000 KM in front of me. Many detours weren’t possible by now.
But there wasn’t space for being sad of the skipped detours because the weather became worse. It started with heavy rain and the temperature dropped to 7 degrees. In the morning the temperature almost dropped below zero. So we took the direct way, had day trips of more than 600 KM and were happy about any minute when the sun found a gap in the dark grey clouds.
The part of the world which we just crossed was really exciting. Where were we now? It was the longitude of Samarkand (Uzbekistan) and the longitude of Riga (Latvia). Geographically this region was already part of Siberia. And we could feel that! The nature was somehow familiar. Birch forest and pine forest were along the road and sometimes also some lakes. This could easily also be the north east of Germany but something was different but we didn’t know what. After driving the whole day we knew it: The dimension and the largeness of the landscape! Sure, there are birch forests at home as well but not such forest which are hundreds of miles besides the roads and no village in sight. And that was the thing which fascinated us. You have to experience it because it is almost impossible to describe it neither with words nor with pictures. Everyone who traveled through Russia (by car or by the Trans-Siberian) probably knows what I mean.
Meanwhile we arrived at the feet of the Ural Mountains. The mountain range is a geographically the border between Asia and Europe. And more and more people were living here. Small villages became big cities. And this region south of Yekaterinburg is also a rehabilitation area of the Russians. In the villages most of the houses were build of wood and some of them already collapsed by the snow of the heavy winters. But in the cities it was hard to spot wooden houses, concrete was everywhere and soviet buildings formed the style of the cities. We were more attached to the nature so we went deep into the forest for a hike, where we ended at a nice camping spot in a birch forest next to a beautiful lake. At the end the bad weather also had something good: Less mosquitoes. But then even more ticks. After I came from the forest toilet I’ve found already three nasty blood suckers on my body…
We left the endless forest behind us when arriving in Yekaterinburg – the fourth biggest city in Russia with history. In 1918 Tsar Nicolas II and his family was murdered by the Bolsheviks. Nowadays people see him as a saint and worship to the “Cathedral of the blood” which basement is full of pictures and paintings. With the October revolution in 1917 the Bolsheviks get to power and sent “the enemies” of the new soviet system to prison or eliminated them – therefore also the Tsar. The Ural Mountains were protection wall and source for raw material. In the following years many factories were built and during the World War Second many weapon factories were moved to Yekaterinburg region to protect them for the Nazis. This last until the cold war were the intensity of weapon factories even increased and as a result the city was closed for foreigners until 1990. There was one man who became popular out of this isolation: Boris Yeltsin – the first president from the Russian Federation.
We liked the city with its interesting mix of post-soviet and modern architecture. A red line is going through the center and explains with numbers historical building and places. Without this line we probably would never find them.
But what we could spot was the Asian-European border that was close to Yekaterinburg on the 60th line of longitude. A sign said: Berlin 3020 Kilometer. Direct way.