We made it through the night quite well, unmolested by neither bloodsucking pests nor rampant villagers, packed up camp and were looking forward to our day in St. Petersburg, the former capital of imperial Russia. And also the place where the October Revolution started and it’s effects are still visible all over the country and in the end made Russia to what it is today.
The day was sunny and warm and as we were getting closer the traffic got heavier. We crossed the river Neva and decided to drive along its banks towards the centre of the city where all the main attractions are as well as our hotel.
It was getting warmer and the traffic turned a bit to a stop-and-go the closer we got to the centre. Finding a spot to park the car proved a bit tricky but we’ve eventually found something not too far away from the hotel, where we wanted to check-in, hoping we could get in early and have a much-desired shower.
While we were unpacking Jörg saw some liquid flowing on the road coming from the front of the car. His first thought was that someone must have relieved himself right next to the car but then quickly realised it was the Fat One himself relieving himself of some liquid. Checking it made clear it must be coming from the cooling system. We opened the hood to check and saw that there was apparently a lot of pressure in the system indicating an overheating problem.
Quite concerned we left the car to get to the hotel, check in, drop of our luggage and most importantly organise help to get the car checked and hopefully fixed.
Our hopes of an early check-in were, not too surprisingly, crushed but as we had other pressing matters to deal with body odour was the least of our problems. We talked to the hotel’s concièrge and she was able to find an independent car repair shop on Vasilyevski Island, Voltage Remont. With a printed map and route we got back to the car and made our way to find them. Once we had arrived at the address we had to get through one backyard into another backyard, around another corner and behind a trafo station (thus the name of the shop we assume) we found an open door and a guy in an oily overall and tried then to explain the problem to this young mechanic. He immediately took the cooling system apart and started using Russia’s reply to Google: Yandex for translation purposes. He then also send Jörg into the office so that a proper order could be raised for the work. There was a young lady in there lazily guarded by a chihuahua-sized chinchilla named George. When Jörg tried to explain what we were doing in terms of rally the boss came in and said: “Finish: St. Petersburg!”
They weren’t quite sure what the problem was but said the cooling system itself was ok and wasn’t leaking. Obviously the various cooling fans wouldn’t start when the engine became too hot. They said it could be either the sensor or something different like a broken ventilator and that they couldn’t fix this as it wasn’t their area of expertise. They recommended to get to another repair shop, MaxBox, which was 2km away. In order not to have to explain how to get there they were so nice to get into their car and ride in front of us to the other shop’s location. Once there they explained the problem to the repair shop’s boss and when leaving wouldn’t want to take any money from us. Franz was able to at least hand them a pair colourful Burlington socks. We are still wondering who will wear them in the end as Russian men are not really known for their predisposition to wear flashy, fancy or stylish clothes…
Maxim, the owner of MaxBox was a very nice and helpful guy. He looked more like a teacher, musician or librarian than a mechanic. They plugged in the ODB and found out that obviously something was broken with the main fan, a bearing of some sort. They could order the part within 2-3 hours and fix the car. We then agreed to leave it over night, thus also fixing our parking problem, paid an advance and got a taxi back to the hotel where we finally could check-in, have a shower and put on fresh clothes, in this case shorts as it really had become quite warm.
We had a quick bite at the bar and then merged with the flood of tourists and drifted through St. Petersburg. St. Isaacs cathedral, Admirality, Eremitage, Marble Palace and so on. The impression we got was one of grandeur and former splendour, the pastel colours in the mid summer light creating a fantastic magic and awe.
As this is a car rally we thought that we had walked enough after a while and boarded one of the very many boats that were roaming the canals. The information during the trip was in Russian but we didn’t care, had a seat in the front, took pictures and enjoyed the scenery and the architecture of St. Petersburg.
After the tour we walked back to the hotel, changed, went out again and met with Torsten and Peter and their NDR sidekick Martin and had a very nice dinner on the side of the street with a good view on St.Isaacs. It was a very nice, calm and warm evening, with people strolling by enjoying themselves with good conversation and lots of laughs. A nightcap at our hotel’s bar concluded this rather eventful day.