The border between Russia and Estonia would be our last “real” one. All countries that we will travel through the upcoming weeks, are part of the European Union and the Schengen area (I am especially happy to not have to do any more borders – I really dislike border processes).
Luckily, I kept a paper from the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (see this post), when we entered the Russian customs union the first time. I just kept it, because it was pretty much a translation of our car documents into Russian. That helped a few times. I don’t know, what we’d have done without this paper… After a few phone calls to the border where we received the paper and 20 minutes of waiting, we got the desired stamps and left to the Estonian border. It only took about 5 minutes to pass this (super modern and professional) border. And there we were, back in Europe!
Back to Europe
Having the Tesla back to Europe, meant for us not only, that it is properly insured again, but also, that we did an epic journey without having to bribe anything, getting anything stolen or having any problems with the car. We are really proud of ourselves. It feels special to look back to all the places we have been, the roads we went on and the people we met.
Spending some time at the Baltic sea and charging there
We spoilt ourselves with a nice 4-star hotel right at the beach in Narva-Joesuu. Relaxing there felt good. The hotel allowed us to use a Schuko-Outlet to charge our car. We charged 50 kWh, which was great. Unfortunately, we got surprised during checkout that we should pay 15€ for this charge. For a nice hotel like that using thousands of kWh with keeping their large wellness facilities warm, we think it’s not the best attitude to try to rip-off customers with a price for a charge at least double as high as it should be.
We left Kazan with 97% of the battery charged. For some unknown reason, we couldn’t charge until 100%. Kazan and our next destination, Nizhny Novgorod, were more than 380 km apart. We did distances like that before. But this time, we knew from the weather forecast that we’ll have strong headwinds. Wind majorly affects how much energy the Tesla needs.
We were relaxed anyways. Unlike during other long distances that we did before (see for example Ashgabat to Mary or Almaty to Balkhash), we knew this time that there is at least one city and a few villages along the 380 km. In the case of an emergency, we could have recharged there. Our technique was however to drive slowly (around 70 km/h) and behind large trucks (wind shadow zone). It worked out and we reached Nizhny Novgorod after 5 tiring hours of driving with about 18% in our battery left.
Schuko charging at hotel
I contacted hotels in Nizhny Novgorod before we arrived there. I received two answers. One of them told us, it would be too dangerous to let us charge. By accident we walked past this hotel and saw a large, modern CEE-32 in front of their entrance door. It isn’t dangerous at all to charge there. Sometimes it is really frustrating how uneducated people are about EVs. I always tell them precisely that we can make everything possible, that we can charge anywhere where they can charge their phone (in case we have enough time for Schuko-charging) and that this already worked out the past 18.000 km. Still, we get answers like “ohhh, we don’t have many EVs here – I don’t think you can charge in our city”. Oh, well…
The second hotel offered us a Schuko right in front of their entrance door. Since we wanted to stay in Nizhny Novgorod for 2 nights anyways, a slow charge via Schuko wasn’t a problem at all. Thanks to them for their offer!
We enjoyed an entire tourist day in the beautiful city of Nizhny Novogrod.
Some Russian city names are super easy (like Ufa), some are extremely hard to pronounce (and remember) – like Naberezhnye Chelny. Even though we always received puzzled faces, if we tried to tell a Russian what our next stop is, we found our way to the city. The car needed to charge and so did we.
Naberezhnye Chelny is situated in the (almost) independent republic of Tartastan. A big road sign indicated our entry into the Tartastan. I guess, we really noticed that we crossed a republic border in the Russian federation, when the time on our cellphones was minus two hours. Tartastan already has Moscow times (UTC +3) and are only one hour ahead of the German time.
Easy charging at a hotel
I wrote a few emails to hotels in before we got there. One of them was so friendly to answer and after a few emails forth and back trying to explain what we need, they gave us green light. Two janitors helped Benedikt to set up our charging at the transformer of the hotel. Like always, we connected the three phases and the neutral connection to the according fuses. The connection was very stable, but we charged with only 10 amperes (on all three phases), since the car could charge the whole night long (and should be as little time as possible fully charged).
With a nicely charged car we left in the morning to continue our drive to Kazan. The capital of the Tartastan republic.
Usually we are always the first electric vehicle approaching a hotel or workshop with the unusual question if the place has three-phase electricity for us and if we can charge our car with it. It is very enjoyable to sometimes not be the first one. That’s why we followed the charging advice (in a hotel) of our friends from NoMiEV, who also went through Ufa on their 80 days around the world (80-E-days).
Charging in the hotel kitchen
A well-maintained hotel in Ufa could offer us a three-phase fuse-box based in their hotel kitchen. The first fuses, we tried to put our open-adapter on, had too much other stuff running on them. They blew immediately. The second ones we tried, worked out. We charged the car with 16 amperes on three phases.
I need to mention at this point that the most valuable equipment that we have with us is our NRGKick. It let’s us charge without a ground connector (very common not to find one anywhere outside Europe). It lets us exactly adapt the current (ampere) that we want to charge with (sometimes due to bad wires very necessary). Lastly everything is controllable via our smartphone, since the NRGKick can connect to bluetooth. We love that thing and our journey wouldn’t work without it!
When we returned later the evening to our Tesla, the car was already charged at 100%. Since it is not good for the battery to stay fully-charged overnight, Benedikt cruised through the city for about one hour and enjoyed the Russian “night live”.
Our drive from Kurgan continued west and ended in Chelyabinsk. Chelyabinsk is a city with about 1 million inhabitants. It seemed that it doesn’t have a lot more to offer than a pedestrian zone and some neat parks. It is written nowhere how hospitable and friendly people we would meet in Chelyabinsk, though. A hotel wrote us before arrival that they could offer us three-phase electricity. A charming receptionist that spoke great English helped with translation and the janitor helped Benedikt to connect our adapter to the fuse box in the basement.
The hotel wasn’t fancy. But the hospitality of its employees was exceptional. When we left the next morning (with a fully charged car) and received a matryoshka as a gift to remember the hotel, it really felt as if we have been guests for much longer or as we would say good-bye to new friends.
Petropavl is the most northern city of Kazakhstan. It is only 60 km to the Russian border from here. After having been spoiled with Kazakh hospitality throughout the country, we had to find in Petropavl a hotel by ourselves again. We had a hotel suggestion from the NoMiEV people, who passed through Petropavl themselves one year ago. Their suggested hotel was one of the more expensive ones (60€/night). Therefore, we tried at 3 other hotels to get a room to sleep and three phase electricity to charge. One had no parking spot, another had a huge wedding party at their hotel and the third had a mean receptionist that didn’t wanted to help us solve a problem (of course did this large hotel also have three phase electricity – most often it just depends on how much a receptionist wants to help their (future) guests to find it).
… and finding it!
We ended up staying at the same hotel as the 80 E-days people used to stay. The staff was very helpful at the hotel. Only a little after we arrived, an electrician helped Benedikt to setup charging at a fuse box in the server-room of the hotel. The connection was very strong. I wish, hotels would always be that helpful…
In the north of Kazakhstan, the national park Burabay can be found. It’s only a 3 hour drive from Astana. We stayed in a hotel at lake Shchuchye. The nature reminded us of Scandinavian countries, since birch trees, soft hills and lakes shape the beautiful national park.
Charging Benedikt and the car
Benedikt got a cold at the Expo. He needed to rest and recover. That’s what we did during 2 days in the Kazakh nature.
Also, the car needed to charge. It took us quite a while to make us understandable what we need and what we were looking for. Eventually the technician of the hotel showed Benedikt a fuse box and we started charging with all three phases.
The resort hotel Alma Tau is not far from Shymkent. The city is described as Southern Kazakhstan’s most vibrant city. Good for us, since we needed to do some “business” there. In an extremely efficient manor, we first bought a Kazakh SIM-card and later a car insurance. We were absolutely impressed on how little time (and money) we spend on organizing both of it. Something that is not to imagine in many countries we passed. In the late afternoon, we continued our drive to Taraz.
Finding a hotel and three-phase electricity in Taraz
Situated on the route from Shymkent to Bishkek, Taraz is one of Kazakhstan oldest cities. In the 11th and 12th century it was a wealthy silk road stop. It got destroyed by Genghis Khan and only had a Russian rebirth in the 19th century. The current appearance has still a soviet charm that we did not further inspect.
It took us a while to find a hotel that also allowed us to charge on three-phase electricity (this was necessary to have a fully charged car for the way from Taraz to Bishkek, about 320 km). We ended up staying at a modern hotel that offered us a room for 12 hours (for a reduced price – something that seems to be common in Kazakhstan). The set up for the charging took Benedikt quite long, since about 8 people thought they knew better what to do. In the end, our open adapter was connected to a fuse-box. We left in the morning before nine to drive to the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Border Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan
The border close to Chaldovar was probably one of the easiest of the last weeks. They quickly checked the car on the Kazakh side. Afterwards I drove to the Kyrgyz side, did a little small-talk, got the new stamp and left with the car. I think the whole border process only took us 30 minutes. Incomparable to some other borders we had before… (see this post).
Like Bukhara, Samarkand used to be an important city for traders between Europe and China. Different rulers build remarkable buildings during different centuries in Samarkand. Thanks to a continues renovation since the Russians came to Uzbekistan, tourists in Samarkand can now marvel at impressive buildings.
Did our charging cause a electricity outlet?
We stayed at a small, family owned hotel, a bit outside of the main attraction area. The car was parked in their garage and at first, we tried charging on a Schuko. The electricity fluctuation was, again, too large, so charging stopped shortly after it started. After this happened the second time, Benedikt found the fuse box of the house. Of course, they had three-phase electricity ;-). He connected the cables of our “open adapter” and we started to charge with 16 amperes. After setting everything up, he returned to me in the hotel-room and then it made “click” and there was a power outage. Uuuuups, was it us?!? We were already expecting to have a major discussion to explain that we can also charge with less amperes and so on. But, the blackout wasn’t our fault. The whole city was out of power. Since the generator was turned on only few minutes after the outage started, this seems to happen quite frequently in Samarkand. We continued charging the following day (only with 10 amperes, to be on the safe side), when power was back.
Just being tourists
Our current rhythm of stopping at a city for 2 days, feels good to us. That way, we also had in Samarkand a whole day to wonder from sight to sight. We hated the terrible price discrimination in Iran for touristic sights (tourists pay about 8-times more than Iranians), but in Samarkand it was even higher. As a tourist, you are supposed to pay 13-times the prices an Uzbek is paying. At least, that price is still almost half of the entry fees one needed to pay in Iran (Iran: 5 USD for every sight – Uzbekistan: 3 USD for largest sight in town). The sight we payed it for (Registan) was absolutely stunning and definitely worth that money.
Last thing to mention is that we were one more time extremely lucky with finding an excellent restaurant in Samarkand. We were guests at a beautiful and delicious restaurant in Bukhara. At both restaurants, we didn’t pay much more than 10€ (for a three-course dinner). Going to restaurants in Uzbekistan has been a blast so far 😉.
Tashkent itself seems to be a modern/soviet city. From its past as a Silk Road city, not much is left. We didn’t even bother going into the city center, but drove right east, towards the mountains. We spend a whole afternoon looking for a hotel. The concept of summer vacation in the mountains seems to play a strange (or no?) role in Uzbek culture. The road up the mountains is busy, probably of people swimming in the lake. But as soon as we started looking for hotels, it got difficult. Some hotels were closed, prices for others were outrageously high (almost twice as expensive as Bukhara), the rest was to disgusting or strange to stay at. After several attempts, we finally found a nice-looking hotel. The price of 60 USD was still too high for an average country hotel with small rooms (we stayed for less in both Samarkand and Bukhara). Considering these circumstances, we only stayed for one night, did a beautiful early morning hike and left in the late morning for the border to Kazakhstan.
Charging connection on hotel fuse box
We were lucky that the hotel was very cooperative to let us charge. They had 3 fuse boxes and only the last, where the key was lost, had “normal” fuses. They found the key after an hour and Benedikt set up a connection with open wires on this fuse box. Since he couldn’t clearly see what was going on in the fuse, it took him quite a while until both wires, the one from the fuse and the other one from our adapter connected in the fuse. In the end it worked out and we charged the car to 95%.