As driving in Russia can be intense, we stayed a total of five nights in Suzdal! In all our years of travelling, we’d never actually done that – taking the time to stop and relax properly was really wonderful, and to get to know this little picturesque village properly.
As we were soon going to realise on our first evening back on the road, we had done the right thing. Not only were we struggling to find a nice spot off the main highway M7, but swathes of mosquitoes were out to bite every inch of our skin. Our first attempt in stopping for the night was too good to be true; at the back of a small village, on top of a hill, by the woods near the local cemetary, but swarms of mosquitoes enveloped Jamie as soon as he went out of the van to turn the gas on. They seemed hell-bent in making Jamie their dinner. Our dream of a quiet night in the countryside was shattered.
We should have known – at dusk, on a damp stormy day not far from a main river – it really was a recipe for flying biters. We ended up going back onto the main highway and stopping on a big parking space strewn with rubbish and two big poodles which again meant that we only stayed to cook as hundreds of flies were stuck onto our mosquito net. We drove on only a little further and stopped at one of the many petrol stations along Russian roads. Sibneft was our home for the night.
That night was one of the worst nights we have ever spent in Dave Mooney (the motorhome). Despite closing all doors and windows, we became infested with mossies. They were out to bite us. We only managed to sleep for three hours as the high-pitch buzz kept waking us up every time we’d shut our eyes.
On the bright side, we did spot our first car from Kazakhstan today! We haven’t spotted any foreign-plated vehicles, not even trucks so there was something exciting about it especially since we’re also reading In Search of Kazakhstan.
The next stop was Kazan, the capital of the republic of Tatarstan. We had been told that it was a lovely city so we decided to stop for a day. Staying longer than 24 hours would mean registering our visa which is a bit of a headache. We found a nice guarded parking, paid about £1 and set off exploring. The Kremlin (citadel) was fantastic, and is well worthy of its UNESCO status. Inside there is a wonderful mosque right next to a pretty impressive cathedral. East meets West. Not only its architecture, but its people, its shops and restaurants were a mix of European and Asian influences.
We only stayed for a couple of hours, but it felt we’d set foot into Central Asia.
Next stop - Find some water. We found this amazing spring and managed to fill our tank and drinking water bottles. The only downside was the insane amount of mossies. Sylvie had to wear her hood whilst I ran back and forth to the van.