A mild winter light illuminates the outskirts of Kursk, which seem to lie still and peacefully, asleep in the cold. Temperatures have dropped to -19°C again. We are following the highway eastwards towards Voronezh through wide and open lands.
The first kilometers on the studded tyres bring new experiences. Their sound is clearly audible, but not too disturbing. The steering on clear asphalt is slightly more indirect and the tyres tend to drift, which is not suprising as clear asphalt is not what they are made for. On the more snowy surfaces they’ll show more of their strengths later today.
Would you like to wait for a bus (-18°C)?
Dusk is falling early and the sun has set when we reach Voronezh.
Crossing the river Voronezh shortly before it enters the Don.
We refuel the car. Ekto-Diesel at LukOil Fuel Stations remains operational down to -37°C according to the fuel station’s personel. That should do (I hope). Peculiar detail: you are required to pay first, which means that you’ll have to indicate the amount of fuel you’ll want to purchase, which kind of hinders you to fully refuel, if you want to stay on the safe side in terms of not buying more than fits the fuel tank.
Eastwards of Voronezh lands are getting more lonely, and the climate rougher. While roads had been totally dry up to Voronezh and a hundred kilometers beyond, it slowly starts snowing and the wind freshens up. The long drives through dark winter woods make me think of music like Klaus Schulze’s Velvet Voyage ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XT6zVDwmzUg ) and some Norwegian Black Metal Albums.
Around 200 kilometers behind Voronezh we are clearly in a different kind of region than we used to be. Settlements are sparse, the road no longer ressembles a western country road, but a true russian highway, the storm blows snow across the tarmac and large trucks are thundering towards Wolga river, creating huge trails of snow swirling through the night.
Around midnight we finally reach Saratow, a Wolga town (and formerly home to the so-called “Wolgadeutschen”, which were later deported to Kazachstan, but have left their mark upon the town’s architecture). It is the last outpost before the road will finally disappear into the vast desert lands of the Russian-Kazachstan border.
We have booked in advance a nice hotel with a view on the famous, large, Wolgabridge – primarily, because it offers a garage. We will certainly need it, if we intend to start the car’s engine tomorrow morning….