Feb 16-18 Svetogorsk – Imatra – Svetogorsk Report

Cycling Mania,Finland — Антон Марчуков @ 21.02.07 9:53

Ashamed of writting this post since instead of bike trip we were basically drinking beer in pub, but since I have been told that failure is also a result I’ll make a short report.

Last weekend Feb 16-18 we made a bike trip to Imatra from Svetogorsk, our plan was to bike to Lappeenranta and then leave Finnish territory via Nuijamaa border and follow the road to Vyborg, but on the way we have changed our mind and returned to Imatra.

On Friday morning we departured to Saint-Petersburg by the train, had to buy luggage tickets for our bikes since without them the railway staff refused to board. Deeper investigation of the problem see later in this report. There, in Saint-Petersburg we visited Finnish consulate to get our multi visas and went straight to the railway station known as «Финляндский вокзал».

Commuter trains to Vyborg are crap cause they are not heathen, there are also express trains going, but we have missed those and so went by commuter train that reaches Vyborg in three hours. From Vyborog there are five co-ordinated commuter trains to Svetogorsk that runs another two hours. No problems with bikes on commuter trains, you will need to buy a luggage ticket and place bike at the special free area that some coaches of the train have.

In Svetogorsk we have aroused an interest of the frontier area guard that probably did not see a lot of bikers in the winter. Our passports with Finnish visas was ok for him and we left the station. The border crossing point is just behind the town and almost near the railway station. Road there is not quite bikable in winter, it has a mix of ice and melting snow so requires a lot of attention while driving a bike. Nice that this road is only several hundreds meters before crossing point.

Russian border. Сustoms officer was kind, no custom check at all and we insisted on filling in the custom declaration ourselves. The frontier guards were rather confused to see bikers in winter and checked validity of our passports several times and asked us a lot of dumb questions like when was the last time I have passed the border at this crossing point (oh God, how do I remember all those). Finally, they gave up and stamped our passports. Finnish border was not surprising, as usual only passport control takes place. No special questions and no interest about our mean of transport was shown. Finns are basically do not make a lot of problems for fair travelers.

The road from Imatra border to Imatra town is either well-rolled snow or asphalt covered with a little ice layer (not affecting driving at all), bike roads are well-rolled snow and we met no problems with biking there, at least for the routes we took. Called Anna Kern hotel for driving instructions and found it without problems. We have stayed there a night and the price was about €35 per person. Bikes were left outside fasten to a small wooden fence (not secure at all).

Saturday morning we checked out from the hotel and biked to the Imatrankoski (that’s the town’s central area) where we ate some kebabs (I really do like Turkish food) and tried not to buy anything at the shops (we have bought only candies with licorice, being licorice-addicted and coke, yes, I am also coke-addicted).

All the day and the evening we spent in the aqua park Taikametsä, a part of Imatran Kylpylä SPA. Finnish sauna, pool, outdoor pool (when it’s -15°C outside, outdoor pools are nice, believe me, you should try this, once, I have tried outdoor pool when air temperature was -30°C, but -15°C is not too bad also), Turkish sauna, pool, steam sauna, pool, hot pool, cold pool, hydro-massage, Finnish sauna … et encore une fois, what a heaven!

Evening. One more kebab was eaten and we are on the bicycle track to Lappeenranta, after 10 km the bicycle track is over and the guide suggests to bike by the secondary roads. Tried to find the correct one, but after a lot of forks with ambiguous pointers we turned back and decided to move by the road number 6. That road is good, the surface is an asphalt with a little ice, the traffic tonight was not large and did not bother us at all. But, after several kilometers we decided to turn back. The wind was blowing straight into our faces and the tires was not very well when rising slopes and required a lot of human power to pull, so we became unsure on the time it will take to reach Nuijamaa, since the relief there is much more harder. We had to return home by Monday, so it was clever to turn back to Imatra. And when one of my two rear brake pads suddenly broke it was definitely good to stay around that region ;-)

We returned to Imatrankoski around midnight, Vuoksenvahti pub was open till two o’clock and we spent that two hours there drinking beer. Through habit I have ordered Lapin Kulta, but drunk Karhu.

When the pub closed we slowly biked back to Svetogorsk and than to Saint-Petersburg on two commuter trains via Vyborg. On the train to Novgorod we again met problems when transferring bike inside. We have bought luggage tickets for 14kg per bike, but railroad staff was claiming that for bikes we need to pay 30kg luggage per one. Small bribe solved the problem, thought. But for future use I had contacted railway office regarding the rules for transferring bikes in the Russian long-distance trains. Bikes can be transfered free of charge as a part of the hold luggage when they are packed inside the bag not excessing 180cm by the sum of three dimensions. There are such bags exists designed specially for bikes where it can be fit with a front wheel detached. On long-distance trains transferring of bikes in the hold luggage is only possible in such a bag or its equivalent. Opposite, on commuter trains there are other rules and you can transfer the bike unpacked having bought a luggage ticket for it.

Ok, that seems to be all, total distance on bike is not big and was around 50km.

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