We decided to go to Saratov instead, because we’d like to see Volgograd (Stalingrad) tomorrow. The nice thing about riding around the world with your own motorbike is that you can change your itinerary at a moment’s notice.
There was no hotel breakfast — the hotel Ural was utter crap, the ruins of a soviet era hotel, perhaps it once had some glory days — so in the morning we visited the bazaar behind the hotel. There we bought some water, tomatoes, bananas, and a melon. I wanted to try a Kazakh watermelon for some days now as they are being sold everywhere along the road. The man who sold it to us told me that he did his military service in Hungary, and knew a few words in Hungarian. The melon was very sweet despite being a tad overripe already. The toothache got a bit better since yesterday but it flares up every time I eat something. Good thing we hardly eat during the day.
After that we used my portable pump to inflate our tires … the bumpy roads have caused them to lose about a quarter of their pressure since Mongolia. Then we set off toward the Kazakh-Russian border which was surprisingly painless.
We drove through what seemed like endless sunflower fields to get to Saratov. If the Beetles had been from Saratov Raion, I bet they would have sung about ‘sunflower fields forever’. Everything is enormous here.
We crossed the Volga to get to Saratov. The Volga is …. huge! I am sorry for repeating myself. This city on the Volga shore is reminding both of us of Nice. We are staying in hotel Slovakia (very posh, the first hotel we stay in that has a western standard of quality) on the shore promenade, which really seems like a sea shore. There are massive ships on the river here…like ocean cargo ships.