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Published: November 17th 2012
leaving KAzan on nice quite roads
a pleasure after all the trucks & roadworks getting into Kazan
From Kazan we're follow the Volga River south to Samara. Well it used to be the river now its the Kuybyshev Reservoir, the largest reservoir in Europe and 3rd
largest in the world by surface area. And it really is big, it takes us the whole day to ride its length, mind we did stop off at a few places on route. We're riding through green, rolling hills. The roads are great – good quality and hardly any traffic, certainly none of the queues of trucks we had entering Kazan. It is really enjoyable riding.
We call in at Ulyanovsk, originally called Simbirsk, in 1924 it was renamed in honour of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. He was born here in 1870 and is better known to the world as Lenin. Having visited the house where Stalin was born on our previous trip we decide its our duty to go and visit Lenin's birthplace as well. The two sites have a lot of similarities: a little wooden cottage in the centre of a square with an enormous modern museum built around them.
The square is a popular spot for wedding photos, several horses bedecked in flowers pulling pumpkin style coach
stand waiting for the occupants to return. Its a great location, high up with views down over the Volga River/Kuybyshev Reservoir and lots of perfectly placed shashlik restaurants. Before treating ourselves to lunch with a view we do our duty and go to visit Lenin's house. There's the tinycottage in which Lenin was born in 1870 to a wealthy middle class family and the larger house where they rented an apartment from 1871 to 1878. Inside are some wonderful family photos, Lenin is unrecognisable as a blond haired, very gentle, thoughtful looking child. The attendant who follows us round is very smiley & helpful and keeps moving the barriers aside so we can go inside the family's rooms and take photos.
Full of very tasty pork shashlik we continue south through more rolling hills heading for Tolyatti at the end of the reservoir. Its the home of the Lada and we intend to continue our Russian Car Manufacturers tour by visiting the factory. The roads are still traffic free and we're making good time until we reach the Zhiguli Hydroelectric Dam where it all goes horribly wrong and starts raining to boot. Suddenly the traffic is at a complete
they do a great line in roadsigns in Russia
the one with the globe on top says "Bread is King"
standstill. The lane for on-coming traffic is cordoned off across the dam and all the traffic is trying to use a single lane, there's not even enough room for a bike to filter past. After sizing up the situation for 5 minutes from a stationary position in the pouring rain we head for the cordoned off lane and tootle down it. Nobody seems to mind too much and we don't come across any actual road works just a few big pot holes. 5km further on the policemen at the other end of the bridge kindly move the cones so we can get out and re-join the traffic crush, they just shrug their shoulders at the chaos and wave us on. I thought that once we were over the bridge the traffic would be flowing but no we're now at a roundabout that's full of stationary cars at all sorts of strange angles to each other. Even the police car in front of us is at a standstill and the two traffic policemen have given up waving their batons around and are just stood at the roadside watching it all. Everyone seems to be in a remarkably good mood and the
Welcome to Ulyanovsk district & town
where Lenin was born hence his appearance on the signs
cars generously give Edwin some space as he pushes his way through.
Its now late and we're wet so we content ourselves with waving at the Lada factory rather than visiting it and head onto Samara. Its still pouring down but we soon pass a very encouraging sign “Samara 15km” and I start dreaming of a dry hotel room and warm shower. But its a lie! The Samara city limit may be 15km away but its a very long thin town and it takes well over an hour to get to our hotel in the centre.
Samara is an industrial town, its a big player in the space, defence & aviation industries. Hence the various Illutian ground attack aircraft on roundabouts and the Soyuz rocket hanging off the side of the Cosmic Museum. I'm very excited about standing underneath a full sized Soyuz rocket – this is where they built the Vostok Launch Vehicle that took Yuri Gagarin into orbit and where they still build the Soyuz rockets that go to the International Space Station – well exciting. Edwin is more excited by the Zhiguli beer factory – it was practically the only beer available in Soviet times
Lenin Memorial Centre, Ulyanovsk
its much livelier than it looks in the photo, it was quite a bustling happening place
and is still very tasty, Edwin has carried out extensive research to confirm this fact!!
There's only time for the quickest of rides round Samara before we keep going south to the Kazakh border 200km away. At least its nice and sunny today. We've left the Volga River behind and are heading cross country on the M32 a bouncy, potholed road – doesn’t feel at all like a road to an international border. We're back in the land of tree lined roads and giant wheat & potato fields. Then suddenly it all changes to gently undulating steppe-land populated by herds of cows and cowboys. A couple of rises later and we can see the big yellow border post in the valley below – we'll soon be leaving Europe behind and entering Asia.
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