Into Россию

by

Kotka to Torfyanovka

We made an early start but still had a chance to greet Igor with dobroye utro before we left.

A neighbourhood supermarket provided us with breakfast necessities and a neatly manicured park between a smart athletics stadium and the river provided shade, a polished granite picnic table and perfect conditions for a simple breakfast.

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Track and field athletics is popular in Finland with many stadia and prime time TV coverage featuring lythe and muscular Nordic athletes.

We enjoyed a splendid cycleway almost all the way to Hamina on the Gulf of Finland. Soon after, we rejoined the King’s Road which provided perfect cycling through rolling farmlands and forest to Vaalimaa on the Russian border.

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We sang the hymn from Finlandia as a parting gesture to the Finns as we approached the border.

We sailed through Finnish and Russian passport control after remembering, in the nick of time, the correct answer to the trick question on the immigration card about visa sponsorship. The border guards waved us forward to the front of the vehicle queues. Bicycles rule!

We’d chanced upon a quiet time with only short queues heading east but the long, stationary line of trucks trying to head west made us think of those foolish Brexiteers and their self-destructive decision.

It is immediately obvious that we’re in a different country and not just because of internet access issues. There are no neatly manicured parks or polished granite picnic tables.

We’re staying in an AirBnB in a settlement adjacent to the border and life looks pretty tough. Nearby is a decrepit sandy and weedy soccer pitch where the local team was training as we arrived. I think the AirBnB tariff will represent handy income for our host.

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Food and beer at the 24-hour supermarket/restaurant was cheap and quite good enough.

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