Hot Sand And Burnign Hearts

August 13th

Let’s see how it feels to be back in reality. I’m really looking forward to our first screening of the footage.

Our first DVD I scheduled to be ready by mid-October.

The Works starts now.

Posted 26 Aug 2010 by Andi

August 5th 7th

We have been riding through some kind of unrealistic, fog-like smog. It smells burnt. We do know of the forrest fires and I think:”This has to be over soon.” 150km out of Nischni Novgorod thick smoke is wafting across the street. I can stare into the mid-day’s sun with bare eyes and I recognize its corona through the smoke, like a sooted pane of glass. In my rear mirror I see Alexander’s KTM coming out of wafts of mist and it looks like the smoke is pursuing and swallowing him . There are a few burnt remains of trees on the roadside. Yet no fire is to be seen anywhere.

The smoke gets thicker and thicker and my eyes start to tear. Breathing gets harder, too. All the time we see fire trucks racing down the streets at top speed. For security reasons at some gas stations fire trucks with fire fighters have been stationed 4p.m. and I have the feeling the sun sets and it’s getting dark soon. We are looking for a camping ground next to some water and we find a little river. I afraid of getting caught off guard by the fire and I insist on a space near the main road. We are so exhausted, that we instantly fall asleep despite the noise of cars driving past. Next morning our bikes are covered by little flakes of ash, which also mesh with the morning dew on our tents. Close to Vladimir the smoke is the thickest. We decide to leave Russia quickly, even when it gets brighter around the Moscow area.

Posted 14 Aug 2010 by Andi

August 2th 4th

Riding a motorcycle in Russia is a metaphysical moment. With the vastness a certain relaxation sets in with me. After traveling for about a week one thing becomes clear to me: at best I only have my serenity to hold up against the mere dimensions of the country. A forest can stretch out for 200km, before I get to see anything different than trees alongside a straight road. A steppe landscape can measure up to 300km which generates the emotion of “infinity” in me. And sometimes we ride over a bumpy earth road for an hour through coniferous woodlands, suddenly the road changes direction shortly before the final destination sometimes ending on a clearing in the middle of the woods. Riding becomes some kind of meditation. And it’s addictive. We circumnavigate big cities and spend two nights near the river Wolga, which is so wide on one location, that I cannot see the other shoreline. We set up our tents near a bay with a small port and I feel like standing next to an ocean. It is sweltering hot. All day long the sun is hidden behind a veil of haze, which I can’t explain to myself. The sun simply does not want to go down. All mosquitos are suddenly gone.

Posted 14 Aug 2010 by Andi

August 1st, across the Ural mountains back to Perm

Heading back across the Ural, melancholic. I’d like to have more time. In addition we have this hazy weather and this burnt smell in the air. Yet we cannot see any of the forest fires. Again Russian hospitality is a surprise to me and it culminates in three invitations today, which we simply cannot reject. Anytime we leave the main road German/Russian encounters occur inevitably.
From the road we spot an old church featuring gleaming, golden cupolas on a hill. The driveway through a little village across a gravel path is very steep. The church is more or less deteriorated but seems to get reconstructed. We only want to take a quick break, take a few pictures. An old Moskwitsch stops and a nervous man and his wife jump out. We are asked to enter a wooden frame house next to the church, where we are shown pictures of the pope and the unrenovated, deteriorated church with the date 2005 inscribed. The man’s name is Iljitsch, he does not speak a single word of German, but he talks a lot. I tell him about our journey and of Humboldt, whose name he has never heard. Still we get along great. The atmosphere is full of joy from the encounter of complete strangers and very hearty.

We get a tour of the half-reconstructed church including an ascend of the belfry. Iljitsch is the church warden but also a carpenter. He has been working for six year to reconstruct the building with his own two hands. Meanwhile Iljitsch’s wife has prepared a meal for us. Tea, fresh berries, self-grown vegetables, bread, honey. Then we are asked to enter Iljitsch’s car with our cameras. He takes us through the village and we descend a steep way down to a small, emerald green lake. The water is deep yet so crystal clear that we can see the stone on the bottom just like watching through a lense. Iljitsch explains that the lake is being fed directly from five different wells which come out of the mountains on this location. This is the reason the church was built here 250 years ago. Iljitsch undresses, steps into the water, makes the sign of the cross and submerges three times. The water has healing powers, he says and we should do the same. I don’t really know how to correctly make the sign of the cross so I try to smooth over somehow. The water is ice cold. Before we travel on Iljitsch takes a cruise around his church with Alex on his KTM.
In the afternoon another encounter. We travel off-road for a while, through a village next to a river, across an improvised bridge. It is 38C and we want to take a swim ata quiet location. We have been enconter from far away though. Before we get off our bikes a little Fiat comes to a screaching halt. Techno bass line on full blast. We have to come with ! They already await us at the river. Questions and answers, Russian, German, somehow we communicate. Russian talk loudly. And they approach you closely when doing so. There is Vodka, bread, sausage and cheese. And we take a bath inbetween. The river has such a strong undertow I cannot hold up against the stream. You walk upstream for a couple of hunderd meteres and then you simply let yourself go, when you want to swim a bit.

Late in the afternoon we arrive in Perm. Julia has Russian tortillas and caviar for us.

And a shower. We leave Perm before nightfall and spend the night near a river. Three short thunderstorms during the night.

Posted 11 Aug 2010 by Andi

July 31st Ekaterinburg towards Nischni Tagil

The trip across the Ural is a little disappointing. At this point small hills slowly elevate upwards. I don’t have the feeling to ride through mountains. Suddenly we reach Ekaterinburg. I expected the entry to Asia to be more exciting.

It is late afternnoon, we make the necessary phone calls. We get a recomendation for a hotel, but we leave the city again. 20km off-road to the North and we sleep in the woods. We are looking for the magnet mountain, on which Humboldt made measurements, but I only have maps with pretty broad measures. Routes with small streets and earth roads always disorient us again and again. Either they head in the wrong direction after a while or they simply end in no-mans land. We approach a bridge which is not driveable. I try to cross the river through a passage and take a fall. Break and drying.

We have a meeting with the German consulate general scheduled for 4 p.m.. We spend a great afternoon and receive a special tour of Ekaterinburg. The monument for the fallen soldiers of the Afghanistan war is very impressive. Very different from the heroic monuments, which you can find everywhere in Russia, the larger-than-life sculpture of a beaten soldier is very touching. We have been promised a tour of an abandoned gold mine, which Humbold has visited in his time, but we have to decline heavy heartedly and leave Ekaterinburg late in the evening. We have to cover 4.500km on our way back having heard reports of forest fires. In the evening another great encounter with strangers. Three tattooed truckers, bare-chested with beers in their hands approach us in Russian. When they understand that we come from Germany the fatty says in best German: ” Freeze or we shoot!” He smiles. That is the only sentence of German he has ever learned. He was stationed in Plaue as a soldier of the Russian army.

Posted 10 Aug 2010 by Andi

July 30th, Perm

During our entire trip Russians are very interested in us. I give interviews to two Russian TV stations. We are covered in the evening news. Afterwards we film a conversation with the director of the PERM 36 museum.

Everybody wants to know how we get by in Russia, without speaking the language and if we aren’t afraid. We’re not afraid, I answer, Russia is good to us. I have the impression everybody here thinks we are a bit crazy. All this attention is pretty overwhelming and I long to be back in nature on my bike. Julija tells our story. When I want to pay for the work. The boss of the workshop answers, he woouldn’t take any money from me as we will certainly need it for something else. It would be his honor if we stopped by on our way back, in case there would be more repairs necessary. I’m deeply touched.

I would have loved to make an interview with Julija’s friend. He is a fighter pilot in the Russian air force. Julija says, he’s not allowed to give interviews and it’s even forbidden for him to talk to foreigners. Now I know, why he always smiles friendly when he sees us, but doesn’t speak to me. As a compensation we visit an air field in the Perm area in the evening and I’m shoved into an ancient double decker. The air craft was built in 1951 and many instruments in the cockpit are being helt together by duct tape. For more than one hour I fly over Perm together with twelve parachutists, who leave the plane at different heights. This pilot is also very friendly but he doesn’t speak a word to me.

We leave Perm and spend the night camping. There are sounds of gun fire on the other side of the river. It’s dark and we can’t see anything. Now I’m a bit uneasy.

Posted 05 Aug 2010 by Andi

July 29th, Perm

We are back in Perm by 2 p.m. Our friend Julija has taken care of us by organizing an interpreter. This day has a tight schedule and we film one interview after the other. We are looking for traces of Humboldt in the museum for industrial history.

I’m very interested in the art scene of Perm and so I meet a painter and sculptor, who is preparing art his exhibition. Very nice pieces of art. When he hears about the fact, that we came from Berlin by motorcycle, he immediately wants to see our bikes and straddles one of them. The guy is well over 60, smiles and probably thinks, we’re really out of our minds.

I tell him, I would like to have some original Russian food, still people want to offer something really special by inviting us to an Italian restaurant.

In the evening we give an interview to a local newspaper. We sleep in a hotel.

Posted 05 Aug 2010 by Andi