The Silk Road
The start of the TransAsia classic will take place in the renowned village of Bant. The starting stage will be on the town square ‘Het Midden’. From thereon all contestants will follow the border passing of Emmen to Germany. The route follows south through the Ruhr area and passes by Sauerland to Bamberg. We continue through the Bayerischer Wald to the border of Austria. At the beautiful city of Passau the river Inn transports the water of the Swiss alps into the river Danube.
The route follows east through the watershed of the Danube. A relative short stage in which we pass by the historical town of Melk. You can take the opportunity to visit Vienna or continue by the border passing of Hungary and follow the shores of lake Balaton to Budapest, the impressive twin city made up of Buda and Pest, 2 cities on opposite shores of the Danube.
This is a rather long stage straight through the Balkans, mostly Serbia. Again we pass by the Danube at the capital of Belgrade after which we follow the valley of the Morava. At days end we reach the border of Bulgaria and later in the evening the finish in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia will appear in our sights.
Today we follow the highway to the east in the direction of the Black Sea. The route follows the border of Greece and when we arrive in Edirne we are in the European part of Turkey. Istanbul appears on the horizon, here awaits our first acquaintance with the orient: the ancient city of Constantinople which for centuries has been the center of power between Islam and Christianity.
After 4 days of continues driving this is our first day of rest. Time for maintenance and tinkering on the cars and of course a visit to the fascinating sights in Istanbul. Make sure to see the Hagia Sofia and a boat trip on the Bosporus is a must. The Bosporus is the link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea as well as the border between Europa and Asia. It is here in Istanbul, which covers both shores of the Bosporus, where the Silk Road starts.
The start of the Silk Road takes us over the enormous suspension bridge over the Bosporus. We leave Europe and enter Asia. We follow the freeway to the city of Ankara. From the city ring we take the route to Kirikkale through the breathtaking landscape of Anatolia to the historical city of Nevşehirr. The national park of Göreme is situated in the ancient Karts mountains and surely is worth a visit.
When in Beijing one must experience the great wall. The most beautiful part is situated at Badaling, north of Beijing. A small stretch of this immense defensive line against the Mongols can be done by foot. Only then you can notice how high and irregular the steps are. One must wonder who designed this some 2000 years ago, when the Chinese people were much smaller than they are now?
Of course we will visit the summer palace where the Chinese emperors of days past enjoyed their summer.
Opportunity to explore the immense city of Beijing that boasts over 20 million inhabitants on your own account. You could also join the excursion programme to the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the famous Tiananmen square, where the mausoleum of Mao is located.
In the evening a visit to the well-known restaurant ‘Beijing duck’, guess what’s on the menu?
A must on the eve of the start of the second part of the TransAsia classic; the route that leads through Mongolia and Siberia and takes us to the finish in Berlin.
After the start the route takes us eastbound through mountainous areas. The road is a many curved two way track. After a spectacular stage the ‘hanging monastery’ appears. A monastery built against steep cliffs, devoted to Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Datong is a large industrial city with over 2 million inhabitants. Famous are the ‘Yungang Grottoes’ that contain over 5000 Buddha statues.
The highway is the shortest connection to the border of Mongolia. However, we take the route through a beautiful region with many sights to Hohhot, an old city situated on the banks of the yellow river. From there we continue north over the rural route. As we progress vegetation diminishes and we slowly enter the Gobi desert. On our way to the border town Erenhot or Zamyn-Üüd in Mongolia, we pass many remnants of dinosaurs that are displayed alongside the road. We will try to arrange the border formalities at forehand as much as we can, so that on the next day we are fresh at the start of a challenging stage through the Gobi desert.
400 kilometres through the Gobi desert. A road is being built for years, but prepare yourselves for unpaved paths and interchanging tracks through this immense sandbox. Try to follow the course of the trucks, not the telephone line! Be sharp on which route to follow after passing the desert town of Sainshand. After this we can follow a paved road to the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar Tonight we will camp in traditional Ger tents.
On this resting day you can join an excursion in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of the bygone days of the great Mongolian empire of Genghis Khan. Ulaanbaatar is the coldest capital of the world with an average temperature of 1,5C below zero.
Nearby is the national park of Khustain, where wild Prezwalski Horses still graze.
Along the way the barren environment changes to beautiful green plains. We leave the Gobi desert and enter the landscape of south Siberia. Everywhere in this impressive landscape you can spot the ger tents of the hospitable Mongol inhabitants. One is always welcome for a cup of Yak milk, an experience that we heartily recommend.
The border of Russia is at the town of Soechebator. Although barely 16000 people live here, this is the third largest city in Mongolia. After this we follow our route through unhospitable landscape to Ulan Ude, the capital of the autonomous region Buryatia.
There is only one road from Ulan Ude to Irkutsk and this takes us through the rugged terrain underneath the south of lake Baikal, the largest fresh water reservoir on the planet. Make a stop here, have of swim or try to catch some fish. That is one of those typical ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences that you will be telling stories about for the rest of your life.
Irkutsk is known by the Russians as the ‘Paris of Siberia’. A truly beautiful city at the banks of the Angara river that flows into lake Baikal.
Famous sights in Irkutsk are the Vladimir monastery and the Kazan cathedral.
Today we face the longest stage of the TransAsia Classic. This will be a true challenge. We leave at first daylight, fingers crossed that no one suffers a mechanical breakdown today. The route takes us through desolate hillside areas and forests. For the largest part the road is paved and easy to drive, but the Siberian winter can destroy the road.
Attention for maintenance on the road is low for transport is mainly done by train of by airplane. There is little traffic in this remote and desolate area. We encounter some smaller cities like Kansk, that lend themselves for an overnight stay in case of emergency. North of Nizhneudinsk is an area that suffered an enormous explosion that levelled all trees in 2000 km radius, a UFO crash or a comet? Nobody knows…
Late in the evening we arrive at Krasnoyarsk, which literally translates to ‘red abyss’ so make sure to hit the brakes on time!
Krasnoyarsk is situated at the Jenisej, the largest river in Siberia, and it is the third largest city in Siberia, with more than 1 million inhabitants. Mainly because of its isolated position deep into Russia it has become the centre of nuclear science. Krasnoyarsk-26 and Krasnoyarsk-45 are two well-known villages in the surrounding area.
It will require some searching for the right bridge over the river and the correct road that takes us to the west into the unmeasurable tundra. The landscape flattens and the birch forest appears that forms such a typical sight for Siberia. Passing by Mariinsk we reach the route to Tomsk.
Tomsk is an old trade outpost along the river Tom. Another affluent of the river Ob that flows into the Polar sea and is frozen shut for the best part of the year. Tomsk is situated away from the main routes in Siberia because it is not connected to the Trans-Siberian railroad. Mainly because of this it has kept its traditional character.
From Toms it is not far to Novosibirsk. A relaxing drive today through the valley of the river Ob and plenty of opportunity to enjoy the Siberian nature that flourishes in the short but warm summer.
Novosibirsk, or ‘new Siberia’ is the capital of Siberia and houses over 1,4 million people. It is the third largest city of Russia and is an important industrial centre.
A must see is the railroad museum near the city centre, and the Akademgorodok. This is the silicon valley of Russia. Founded in 1958 with many research centres and beautiful buildings in the Siberian forests south of the city.
A long connection road that follows the Trans-Siberian railroad. Along the route we encounter many big ‘kolkhozes’; enormous agricultural community centres that are remnants of the Soviet era. It is a unique experience to drive up to one and see it in detail, maybe grab some lunch. A view of communist Russia the way it was 50 years ago.
At the end of the day we reach Omsk. It will be a challenge to find our way to the hotel in the city centre without the help of modern GPS navigation. There is little help in directions and don’t forget that the road signs are in Cyrillic script.
As hard as it can be to enter a city, finding your way out is just as challenging. We will follow the M51, but from the hotel there are no directions to this road. Luckily locals and police are very helpful.
We face a long stage through vast territory. The shorter route would have taken us through Kazakhstan, but this would have burdened us with two border passings. Therefore we will instead drive the northern route that passes by the city of Tyumen to the Ural.
Yekaterinburg is situated on the eastern flank of the Ural mountains, 50 kilometres from the border of Europe and Asia. This historical city was known by the name of Sverdlovsk from 1926 to 1991. It is a city with many large cathedrals, the most well-known is undoubtedly the Ipatie cathedral, where the Russian tsar family of Nicolas II was murdered which ended the Romanov dynasty. Yekaterinburg is also the city of Boris Jeltsin and Rasputin.
Perm is situated in the utmost east of European Russia. The route to it follows through vast forests and is a relaxing drive. We will pass several villages or encampments that are known from the book ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Perm is built on the banks of the river Kama and houses the largest collection of icons from the Stroganov collection.
We follow the E20 and later the M7 roads through beautiful hillsides.
We pass several larger cities like Bozhninks and Izhevsk and, after a rather fierce drive, enter the city of Kazan. This is a large city with over 1 million inhabitants and is situated near the river Volga. This is the capital of the Tartar people, and well-known for its impressive Kremlin (fortress) build on a mountain peak.
From Kazan we head northbound through rich forest lands following the E20 road to Nizhny Novgorod. Another large city with 1,2 million inhabitants. In the Soviet era the city was known by the name of Gorki, and is located where the river Oka flows into the Volga. High on a mountain peak you can find the impressive “Strelka’ that offers a panoramic view of the two mighty rivers.
We are nearing the capital of Russia. Traffic noticeably picks up on our route. It will be a puzzle to find the right entry into the city from the more than 100 kilometres ring road surrounding Moscow. Maybe modern means like GPS will be working here, otherwise the route book will be your friend.
In Moscow, one of the most influential cities in the world, we will visit the enormous red square and of course the Kremlin. Visiting the GUM department and the Basilius cathedral are surely obligatory when one is in the capital of Russia. We will end our day with an authentic meal in an original Russian restaurant and of course wash it down with Vodka.
Don’t overdo the vodka though, for tomorrow we leave for Sint Petersburg, which will be quite a drive!
The road from Moskou to Saint Petersburg, the M10, is the busiest in all of Russia. Plagued by cargo traffic and speed control checks! Watch your speed closely for the fine needs to be paid in cash on the spot.
Saint Petersburg is founded by Peter the Great in the year 1703 and is situated at the estuary of the river Neva in the gulf of Finland. This city counts over 5 million inhabitants. Along the shores of the Neva, which intersects the city, numerous impressive buildings and palaces are built. The most famous of them is without a doubt the Hermitage. The Nevski Prospect is the famous shopping street of Saint Petersburg, much like 5th Avenue in New York. The excursion programme offers a tour through the city and stops at the Church of the Epiphany of Our Lord and the Marinski theatre.
On our way to Riga, we pass the border of Latvia, one of the Baltic states, near Pskov. Here we will need to export our cars from Russia and import back into Europe again. Riga is situated at the east sea and offers a cosy historical city centre.
The route to Warsaw leads trough Lithuania and into the dark forests of Poland. Passing through a region rich in lakes we arrive at the capital of Poland.
From Warsaw we will follow the modern freeway to Berlin.
In Berlin the finish line of the TransAsia Classic is drawn on the Potsdammerplatz. A suiting location will mark the end of this unparalleled event.
After the finish festivities in Berlin and a good long rest in a soft hotel bed the final stage to Holland commences. It has been a unique experience to travel 25.000 kilometres straight through Asia. A trunk load of experiences richer that offers stories that will be told the rest of our lives…
Once in a lifetime, The Transasia 2018!