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RUSSIA: Trans-Siberian road

From Moscow, Cameron Sawyer reports: "Ha, believe it or not, no one can drive from St. Pete to Vladivostok. The road peters out beyond Irkutsk and the Transiberian Railway, or air, are the only ways to go. However, I love car trips in general and in Russia in particular, and have had many interesting car journeys through Central Russia. Unfortunately, it is not quite safe to travel by car alone in Poland or Ukraine those countries are still a bit wild, with highway robbers and police protection rackets. So to travel to Europe by car from Moscow, you have to drive north via Vyborg over the border to Finland, and from Helsinki by ship to Stockholm, and from there via Denmark down into Germany. Or, you can take a lovely ship all the way to Travemuende, two nights and a day on the Baltic. My wife and I love this trip; it is one of our favorite vacations.

But car travel within Russia is a perfect pleasure, albeit somewhat slow since the highways are not very modern. The provincial traffic police are unfailingly friendly and polite, and if you commit a minor violation such as speeding, a tip of 100 rubles or so (about $3.50) generally solves the problem in a trice. I highly recommend to all WAISers to make the circuit of the Golden Ring cities, one more fascinating than the next, by car. Starting from Moscow, about a week is enough".

The Russian equivalent of the DMV is no worse or better than the same bureaucracy anywhere else, except that the Russians at least know how to use their computers. That was not the case a couple of weeks ago when I renewed my Tennessee driver s license in Nashville, where for four days in a row I waited in hours-long lines, only to fail to achieve my purpose because the computers were down and the staff couldn t get them back up, or couldn t operate them, and were surly to boot. In Russia you face the same hours-long lines, but you do achieve your purpose on the same day.

RH: Would Cameron kindly list the Golden Ring cities? Does Russia have plans to continue the Transiberian road beyond Irkutsk. Clearly my report on the California DMV will apply to other states.

Ronald Hilton - 3/18/03