A 2CV Raid to Murmansk? Ruut van Schie and his rally buddy Raymond van der Meij think it is an uncanning idea. They didn’t need any more encouraging to enlist.
Around Christmas 2016 I stumble upon a Facebook message stating: ‘In January 2018 we plan to drive to Murmansk. Who wants to come?’ An old fantasy pops up. Defying winter, snow and ice, looking for the Northern Light. And all of that behind the wheel of a Citroën 2CV, it doesn’t get any better. Together with Raymond and a yellow 2CV we call Rosie (although she never responds when we call her), we create Team Rosie. In the last few months Rosie has been (p)repaired for her task. Engine revision, insulation of doors, roof and floor, heating blowers, fog- and reverse light, two new batteries, oil temp gauge, oil pan protection plate and an extra protection skid plate fitted. Carburetor adjusted, new engine and gearbox mounts and an overhauled starter motor. The interior was fitted with boudoir red upholstery, a 27MC installation and a battery lock. We are going on a winter holiday!
January 18, 2018, Spaarndam – Lübeck. The adventure has commenced. We are right on schedule. The cars insulation is super. Without covering the grille, we are driving wearing but a T-shirt with the windows opened to prevent sweating. Rosie is ready for the harshest cold. In Lübeck we embark on the ferry to Helsinki and drink a well earned Limoncello and the odd beer. In the end we enter our tiny cabin to compete in our very own ‘loudest snoring’ competition. It’s a draw.
January 19, 2018, Lübeck – Helsinki. Having enjoyed a good night sleep, we are awakened by the message breakfast is served. In Finnish that is. And Russian… and English… and of course French. I think we got the message. The waters are calm and I spend the day with some last minute work things. Raymond manages to confuse a few of his colleagues by sending some random emails. The rest of the day we enjoy the sun deck, play some table football and drink the inevitable beer with a piece of cheese. We enjoy the rest, tomorrow it will be for real.
January 20, 2018, Helsinki – Saint Petersburg. Dawn is rising on Helsinki. In the harbor we see ice floes on the water and the grounds are covered in a decent coat of snow. Today we ride to Saint Petersburg. The roads are slippery, but decent to drive on, we are making good progress. Just before the border we find a nice joint to have a coffee. Alas, they only open in June, July and August. On to the border it is. We have no idea what to expect. The border control is a doddle. Out of the car, into a small building and passed customs as if we are at Schiphol Airport. The moment I mention we have arrived in the yellow car, I even suspect a smile on the official’s face. We can go. That wasn’t to bad. Oh, wait, another barrier. Again we show our passports. Move along please. Is this what we were so worried about? In front of us another building dawns. Another checkpoint. First we wait, than we get in line for the first window, fill in a form, looking the official deep in his eyes, on to the next window. Another line, another form to fill, another line, another window. The car needs to be declared as import. Fill in the form twice. Get in line with colleague, all wrong, but luckily they alter the form for me. Open the vehicle. get stamp from border control and yes, one hour and three quarters later we are through. We are in Russia. No big deal.
The Russians drive like the French. Overtaking with a minimum of clearance, going left where they’re not supposed to, Rosie feels right at home. We choose a defensive driving style. In Saint Petersburg we eat at a Georgian restaurant, where after round one the beer appears to be all out. Swiftly we switch to Vodka. Following a short walk to the frozen river, we end the night in a typical Russian pub.
January 21, 2018, Saint Petersburg. We can’t park in front of The Hermitage to take a decent picture, so we move on to the ‘church with the onions’. We navigatie through town in a manner some would call ‘getting lost’. We do find a spot to take the desired photographs of Rosie and The Hermitage though. And in the end, we even find the church. What splendor. Very beautiful and impressive mosaics. After some shopping and a coffee with sweets, we return to the hotel. Rosie is in need of a little tinkering and we prefer to do so by daylight. The voltage regulator needs adjusting and the car is re-packed. Time for a well deserved beer in a typical Russian bar. It is starting to get dark and the buildings along the river are very nicely illuminated.
We end up in Molly’s Sister, an Irish pub. oh well. We ask for a typical Russian beer, they offer us Heineken. We order something different. We agreed to meet one of the other teams at the Stroganov restaurant for dinner. We think we know kind of where to find it. We don’t. We ask a group of young Russian soldiers for directions. We are on a two feet high curbstone above the Russians and look as impressive as they look small. We ask them if they are sailors on a submarine, they are not. They’re ever so kind to give us directions on their phone though. This can’t go wrong. 300 meters, turn right, cross the bridge and you are there. This time we really got lost. After exploring every possible direction for another hour, we decide to enter the first restaurant we run into. It is called… Stroganov. We enjoy a lovely meal and a nice walk back to the hotel. With minus twenty it is starting to feel cold. Early days tomorrow.
January 22, 2018, Saint Petersburg – Helsinki. Morning traffic is dense, but doable. It is not a good advice to hurry. Our trip back to the border is a prosperous one. The beautiful blue sky is replaced by heavy clouds and near the border it is starting to snow. Within half an hour we manage to cross the border into Finland. We’re regulars now. The snow makes the local roads slippery, but the motorway is quite ok. On the road snow kicked up by the cars in front of us mean we don’t see very much really. Luckily the weather changes once we reach Helsinki. Outside temperatures rise from minus 17.3 in Saint Petersburg to around freezing point in Helsinki. The inside temperature from comfy to sauna.
Tonight we reside at a luxury hotel with swimming pool, fireplace and bar. The road there is winding and a great drive. This is where all fourteen teams of the 2CV Murmansk Raid gather. That’s good, since Rosie still has some issues loading her batteries. Problem solved. Slowly everyone arrives and at 09:30 we have our first Murmeeting. Drinking a Jägermeister and receiving the log and the Raid plaque. After two relatively short nights in Saint Petersburg we head to bed early. Well, after one last Limoncello, maybe one and a half.
tekst Ruut van Schie
foto’s Raymond van der Meij