I woke up early and went through my everyday routine of packing and repacking and checking that I have everything. Only today was different. Today I would ride 300 odd kms past Helsinki to the border of Finland and Russia. I won’t lie but I have had a few troubled thoughts about the crossing. I have read up on it and I am prepared but very rarely do the border crossings get to see a lucky Indian on a sweet Italian motorcycle riding to Moscow with a story like mine.
I gobble down my breakfast as I want to leave as early as possible so I have enough time in those long lines I have heard of. The 300 odd kms goes by in a blur and I can see the signs for the border in front of me. A quick stop at the cafe before the Finnish check post for a pee, change of forex and a bite to eat I was ready to take on the border crossing.
The Finnish Side
The lines were not long and I was the 3rd vehicle in que. The immigration officer made short work of the rest and soon I was at the booth. After an inspection of the passport and a quick check of where I had ridden it was time for the bike papers to be presented. Now the bike is obviously on Ducatis name and not mine so this posed a problem. The officer wanted to see a document stating that I had not stolen the bike basically. Fair enough his point was valid and none of the documents I had on me were up to mark. He called in another officer and both had a discussion on what to do. I said “sir how about you check the Ducati web site the whole trip is there” he looked at me and said “what’s the site?”.
He checked the site looked at me and said this time I am letting you through but next time carry a document. He was like “I don’t know what this document is or looks like but carry it! Have a good trip.” And he stamped me out of Europe.
“Not over yet” said the other officer please let me chef your bike and luggage. So I wheel the bike over and start opening the bags. “Sorry sir for what’s in the bags” he laughed and said “as long as you have enough clean underwear who cares about the rest right?”
Shook my hand and said “safe travels and go straight for a km and you will come to the Russian post.” One down one to go.
The Russian side
There was a line of 5-6 cars and I couldn’t see the post. I pull up and fall in at the back. A guard comes and waves me past and says “go”. So I follow the paths and come to 3 lines (as in the picture) with a few in each. I can see the posts now they just ahead packed with cars. Its going to be a while!
A Russian gentleman gets out of his car and comes to me and tells me in whatever English he knows. “No no park here go straight.” Not fully understanding it takes me a while to understand he is telling me to jump the que and go to the post. Odd but sure it’s worth a try. So back on the bike and gingerly towards the post. A Russian border control officer appears looks at me and points and says park and take papers to office.
Papers in hand I am in another line. Takes about 10 min to get my turn at the window. We go through the passport and papers check and then she ask me questions in Russian. Not being able to understand each other I hand her a letter I have from Ducati in Russian explaining my trip etc etc. She starts to read and her eyes widen and picks up the phone and makes a call. Suddenly there are two officers reading the letter and looking at m passport and talking. Another one shows up seems to be senior looks at the Passport and letter shakes his head says two words and leaves. The ladies continue talking and then close the window. And the one with my passport begins to cry!!! Oh F@&? I am in trouble. I look away kinda not wanting to be that guy who stared at his crying Russian immigration officer. Almost 5 min later the window opens she hands me a slip and says fill. It’s an immigration card. I fill it and she stamps my passport looks at me smiles and says welcome to Russia go to next counter.
What there is more !!! I can’t take it. To the next counter then. Another line. I get to the window there is a lady on her computer and without looking up I get growled at. FORM!!! What Form? IS IT YOUR FIRST TIME HERE? Yes. Oh! She looks up and says ok wait I have a form here (in perfect English). Looks can’t find one so she prints them out for me. Picks up a pen and fills them in for me. Says please fill personal details here then takes the form and passport and papers and gets to work. She makes copies of everything stamps a few pages makes copies of those smiles and says that’s all wait for the customs officer to check the vehicle. Wow thank you.
Another line and another pretty immigration officer walks up. Looks at the bike and goes Wow cool
bike. Open this bag please. Lucky it’s the one with the camera etc and not dirty clothes. She says “ok bye.” And waves me through.
I start riding and another check post appears and another lady officer shows up. Please take off your helmet and show my your passport. I oblige and she looks at me and says Indian? Wow go through. I ride past the post and there is a cafe and a few Russian bikers parked drinking a juice. I stop get off the bike and stand there looking around. I can’t believe it. Is it a dream. I am in Russia. I am actually in Russia.