What is the conspiracy behind the Karakoram Highway

On the new silk road

Experience 2300 years of cultural history up close - as a ZEIT cultural ambassador on an expedition in a bus from Hamburg to Shanghai

Our unique cultural expedition started on May 16, 2019 at the Hamburger Pressehaus. The travel destination after more than 14,300 kilometers, 53 days and 37 stages is Shanghai, China's world metropolis, with which Hamburg has had a lively city partnership for over 30 years. The travelers cross Poland, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Krigistan and China on their way to Shanghai, where they are expected on July 5th.

In the heyday of the Silk Road over a thousand years ago, silk, porcelain and spices were traded globally. After centuries of oblivion, the Silk Road is being revived by China and is once again the focus of global attention. Where camel caravans used to undertake years of arduous journeys between Europe and Asia, today new highways, pipelines and railway networks are being built for the most modern high-speed trains in the world. You will also witness this development. The participants stay overnight in selected 4- to 5-star hotels and are accompanied along the entire route by a tour guide from ZEIT and our partner organizer China Tours. Long-standing ZEIT correspondents and editors as well as other experts impart their knowledge of history and current developments in lectures and discussions on important sections of the route. In many places, our cultural expedition is given top-class receptions by our hosts along the way.

Arrival in Hamburg

The countdown is running!

The big adventure begins again this year with the journey to Hamburg to the Hotel Atlantic on the Outer Alster. In 2019 we will again be traveling with two buses: 23 ZEIT travelers from the Hamburg team and 26 from the Shanghai team, who will take turns writing the blog.

At 6.30 p.m. the long time of waiting is over, finally it starts, the anticipation is written on everyone's face: And so are our two tour guides Wolfgang Pohl (Team Hamburg) and Rainer Schelp (Team Shanghai) are already scratching their feet to finally be able to welcome your participants to the introductory round, for which we will meet in the Alster Salon of the hotel: Shanghai, the red team on the left side of the salon, Hamburg, the blue team on the right side .

It quickly becomes clear what the motive for booking this trip was for most of the participants: The travel dream of crossing two continents and exciting cultural areas, the slow approach to the travel destination Shanghai, the myth of the Silk Road and, last but not least, the sensual travel description in our eight-page brochure that we enclosed with ZEIT at the end of July last year. Some of them wanted to take part last year and have moved up from the waiting list. That's why all the places were quickly taken this time as well.

Many participants have seen a lot of the world, but have so far almost exclusively traveled individually with their partners, for some it will be the first group trip and for most the very first bus trip! Most of them have left their working lives behind them and are full of anticipation for the next 53 days until the buses arrive in Shanghai. "This trip", as one fellow traveler said on behalf of many others, "is so unique and only feasible in this form with TIME that we didn't think twice about it and register immediately."
At the farewell dinner, our Kiel bus operator Christian Peschke introduces his team of bus drivers, who are supposed to chauffeur us to Shanghai intact for the next seven and a half weeks: Jens and Daniel are old hands and were already there last year. Mateusz is new at the start. The three of them will take turns at the wheel of our two black and brown Neoplan Cityliners for the next seven and a half weeks.

And before our fourth departure to Shanghai, it is now tradition: At the end of the evening, our anthem will be heard for the first time, which will accompany us and our buses to Shanghai and will sound every morning after departure: »It goes on beyond the horizon ... «, The beautiful ballad by Udo Lindenberg. The title of the song should also be the motto for our long journey, which I personally accompany to Warsaw and which I will take over the writing of the blog for the first few days.

~ Bernd Loppow, founder and program manager ZEIT REISEN

From Hamburg to Berlin

In Hamburg they say goodbye

Preparations ran at full speed all morning: the buffet for the reception in the canteen was stocked, the drinks chilled. With sparkling wine and canapés, the travel guests listen to the welcoming words of greeting. Also this year, Dr. Theo Sommer, editor-in-chief of ZEIT for 20 years and then, together with Countess Dönhoff and Helmut Schmidt, editor of our newspaper, did not want to take leave of the group on their way to Shanghai. This time for a special occasion: His new book "China First - The World on the Way into the Chinese Century" was published a few months ago and is already on the market in its third edition, a bestseller. He particularly points out the "rapid pace" with which China has catapulted itself from the Stone Age of economic development to a modern superpower since 1975, when he first visited China with the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, a historically unique development! " . This is followed by greetings from Ms. Wang, the deputy Chinese consul in Hamburg, Mr. Cheng, the head of the Chinese tourist office in Frankfurt, and Andi Janz, the managing director of our travel partner China Tours.

After the obligatory final photo on the meadow in front of the Helmut-Schmidt-Haus, the time has come: at 12 noon sharp, Theo Sommer clears the way with a wave of the Hamburg flag. It starts, the journey is the goal. Seldom has a cliché been so true! The ZEIT travelers have almost 14,000 kilometers, 37 stages in 52 days, eight time zones and lots of new experiences and encounters ahead of them. And for the first time it sounds from the on-board loudspeakers: "It goes on beyond the horizon ...!"
We quickly get used to our new living room for the next seven and a half weeks. Because: We can't travel more comfortably than in our two ZEIT buses: Our bus operator Christian Peschke has installed a comfort module in every second row of seats, which consists of a wonderfully comfortable leather seat and a cabinet / table combination on which you can even watch the ZEIT can spread in full width. In this way, the current issue of ZEIT on every table quickly finds its readers. Seat comfort almost like in business class on long-distance flights. The first stage to Berlin passes with sun and clouds: at a quarter to five we roll up in front of the Mövenpick Hotel in West Berlin, the hostel for our first night on the road. Before dinner we greet Alexander Sambuk, our first ZEIT expert, who will accompany us through Poland and Belarus to the Russian border. And tomorrow we will cross the first border. Poland, we are coming!

~ Bernd Loppow, founder and program manager ZEIT REISEN

From Berlin to Poznan

Welcome to Poland!

After a hearty breakfast in the Mövenpick Hotel, we start the 2nd stage at 9 a.m. Of course not without our morning departure ritual: "We'll continue beyond the horizon, together we are strong ...". Today the choir has grown again by a few voices. Today it is 277 kilometers to Poznan, where we are expected at noon. During the last refueling stop in Germany, 360 liters of diesel flow into the belly of our bus.

After Frankfurt an der Oder we cross the first border, the last in the Schengen area, so one last time without stopping and passport control. We will often long for this blessing of the European confederation later on.
In Poland, too, we are accompanied to the right and left of the guardrails by a landscape as we know it from Brandenburg: bright yellow rapeseed fields, lush green meadows, small trees of birch and pine. And we would like to expressly state it here: A cloudless sky has arched above us since the morning's departure in Berlin, the rays of sun warm the spring air, during the first rest most of the fellow travelers wear their short-sleeved blue expedition polos with the name on their chest and Expedition route on the back. The motorway is new and well developed. Here we can already see how Poland is benefiting significantly from the EU. On the way to Poznan we also pass around a dozen EU-funded game bridges, more than I've ever seen in Germany.
On board I will report on the genesis of ZEIT REISEN and our big expedition by bus to China. This is followed by an excursus on the economic situation and development of ZEIT in the age of digitization. And I'm announcing the next big long-haul project after Neue Seidenstrasse. Another travel dream for which several fellow travelers are spontaneously fire and flame: The Panamericana from Anchchorage to Alaska. Duration: 150 days, start: mid-August 2020. On offer at the beginning of June.

At the same time, Alexander “Sascha” Sambuk provides the fellow travelers from the Shanghai team in the red bus with initial information about Poland and answers the questions. The Russian / Belarusian journalist from Moscow is the first ZEIT expert on board and will keep us informed about the history and current situation in Eastern Europe on a daily basis between the buses to Voronezh. He has worked with all ZEIT correspondents since the ZEIT office in Moscow was founded in 1976 and his wife Lena has been working as the correspondent's assistant since then, currently for Alice Bota.
When we arrive in Poznan at 1 p.m., our local guide Barbara Mandelke is already waiting for us for a city tour. First, however, we have a hearty lunch in an old town restaurant: sauerkraut, potatoes and a schnitzel that extends beyond the edge of the plate. Of course, a cold Polish beer shouldn't be missing. “If you have a beer in Poznan,” Barbara explains to us with a wink, “it has to be a Lech, based on an old Polish first name. Like Lech Walesa. Because Lech has to change! " Barbara knows how to present her hometown to us with humor and charm. And what we see is impressive: The market square is particularly noteworthy: after the splendid Baroque and Renaissance architecture was largely destroyed in World War II, restorers and architects have painstakingly restored the district over many years according to the original construction plans. And made it a magnet for old and young Poznan people again - with numerous cafes, bars and restaurants, boutiques and the inevitable souvenir stalls. In the center of the market square is the old town hall, one of the most magnificent Renaissance monuments in Central Europe.

And we see young people everywhere. Poznan has 145,000 students with a population of around 500,000. Young Germans are also increasingly drawn to Poznan, says Barbara: "There are also interesting English-language Bachelor and Master courses with comparatively low tuition fees."

Before dinner in the hotel, Sascha Sambuk reports on the development of Poland and answers questions about the current political situation. After the final dinner, some night owls take a trip to the market square and are in the middle of it all as crowds of students and other young people celebrate the beginning of the weekend. Poznan, a city where it is good to live and where we would have liked to have spent another day!

~ Bernd Loppow, founder and program manager ZEIT REISEN

From Poznan to Warsaw

Cloud-free sky and sunshine early in the morning. Two hours later, we are just about to stow our luggage in the bus, a heavy downpour and dark clouds. The forecast of the weather report was correct. We don't let that affect us negatively. On the contrary, we are looking forward to the trip to Warsaw. Our motto song by Udo Lindenberg, "Beyond the horizon, goes on", is sung by us and literally pushes us forward to the east. It sounds a bit cautious and not so sure of the text, but we still have 49 days to perfect it. However, the refrain is already convincing. The question only arises for a short time whether this is the right song for this place, because we are just passing through Łódź. And here, as is well known, “Theo” is in charge. During the first rest with coffee break, then a first for us! We can finally inaugurate our ZEIT cups with the route and the name of the guest.

Some follow the course of the route based on the lettering on our bus, i.e. what we have covered so far. It can be clearly seen: we are still just behind the third axis of our 14 m long luxury bus in the direction of travel. The destination Shanghai, however, is in front of the first axis.

Only 90 minutes later the high-rise silhouette of Warsaw appears on our horizon. We pass Frédéric Chopin International Airport, which bears the name of the city's famous son. The Polish composer and pianist was born near Warsaw and lived in Poland for the first 20 years. He was buried in Paris in the Père Lachaise cemetery. The last dysentery of his heart, however, is in the Holy Cross Church on Königsweg in Warsaw. Today's stage destination is finally reached in the early afternoon. Our hotel is very centrally located, right next to the monstrous Palace of Culture, a building in the Stalinist confectioner style. The rain clouds were meanwhile more and more replaced by larger patches of blue sky with sunshine. Together with our local city guide Joanna we drive towards the historic old town for lunch and walk a bit through the castle gardens to a picturesque restaurant called ’U Barssa‘ at the market. Well strengthened, a 2-hour tour of the castle awaits us afterwards.

Completely destroyed in World War II, the royal palace was completely rebuilt by 1989 in the Renaissance and early Baroque styles based on the designs of the Venetian court painter Bernardo Bellotto. The tour through the magnificent rooms allows a comprehensive insight into the time of King Zygmunt III. and his successors who resided here. Although the entire furniture is more recent, it was reconstructed in the proper style or was brought together from other houses. However, this in no way diminishes the special attention to detail. The sculpture of Chronos, like the ancient Greek atlas and referring to the Polish astronomer NikolausKopernikus, has a globe on its back.

The classicist statue holds a golden scythe in its right hand, with the scythe blade acting as a clock hand and its tip pointing precisely to the hours and minutes of the world clock at the time when the castle was destroyed by bombing in 1944. The floors in many rooms and halls are particularly impressive. Elaborate inlay work depicts foliage, sun-like patterns and three-dimensional cubes. The 23 paintings in the Canaletto Hall show views of Warsaw before the destruction of the war. They later served the architects and town planners as a template for the authentic reconstruction of the old town. If you step out of the castle again and look at the ensemble of houses on the castle square and the market square, this becomes obvious.

Only the small everyday figures integrated in a few paintings by Bellotto, such as the chimney sweep on the roof, were not taken over in kind. Back at the hotel, everyone was free to stretch their legs a little after dinner. The obvious destination is of course the Kulturpalast, which is illuminated in changing, bright colors at night.

~ Wolfgang Pohl, ZEIT tour guide


Sleep in...

Sleep in! That is the watchword for the morning of day 5 - the bus will not be ready for departure in front of the hotel in the center of Warsaw until 10 a.m. And there is also sunshine, although rain was announced.
In my opinion, the sunshine does not match what we are going to experience. The visit to the former Warsaw ghetto puts us in a sad, shameful and sad mood.

The incredible is happening here, as it is in so many other places. The word that runs through the city tour for the next few hours is: Destruction, destruction, destruction. So much suffering, so many dead, so much guilt.
A walk through the bath park alleviates these feelings a little. The green, the sight of the beautiful trees, the fresh air, the exercise are good.

In the conversations during the day, it is always about what has been seen. How can people be like that, where does the hatred come from. While visiting the memorial, I keep thinking about the current reports on anti-Semitic and xenophobic attacks. It is incredible that something like this should happen again today. Perhaps, some say, it helps to take trips like this to become more open to the world and to appreciate and understand other cultures. Almost everything we see in Warsaw's old town today has been rebuilt. It turned out very beautiful: painted house fronts, wide squares, the city wall, the cathedral.

I see a special architectural contrast between old and new very close to the hotel: the old Palace of Culture from the Soviet era with the towers and battlements, which stands next to modern, glazed high-rise towers.

In the evening we get an insight into Polish folklore. A group in colorful costumes plays music and performs dances. We sing and dance with the best we can. And within the framework of a competition, one of us receives a very special title: Honorable Wielkopolski blast.
Tired and moved and impressed by the different experiences of the day, we return to the hotel. Tomorrow the caravan will move on to Belarus.

~ Anik Ruhle, ZEIT traveler

From Warsaw to Brest

On the 6th day of our trip, we have to get up again happy. 8.00 a.m. departure for a comparatively short journey of only 205 kilometers from Warsaw to Brest, Belarus.
Shortly before our destination on the Belarusian border, we should soon find out that this is a short stretch of road.

First of all, the journey goes through Warsaw with light cloud cover and pleasant temperatures and leads out of the center through various suburbs into an endless periphery that does not seem to end. After driving fast on the freeway two days ago from the west into Warsaw, today I had actually expected the freeway to the east soon: far from it. We drive forever along a busy, single-lane expressway, framed by small houses and businesses.

Our Belarusian travel companion, Alexander Sambuk, called Sascha, passes the time with further explanations on the situation in Poland in the EU (107 billion dollars in transfer payments annually, which Poland receives from EU funds alone) and then reports on the situation in Belarus under the dictator Lukashenko who has ruled as president since 1994. Despite the rudiments of a western orientation, Belarus is in strong economic dependence on its large neighbor Russia, without whose oil and gas supplies the economy could not exist.

Around 12.30 p.m. we reach the Polish-Belarusian border and are almost happy when, after only an hour, we have passed the third passport control and only a Belarusian customs barrier is preventing our advance. We then stand there for another 4 hours, because allegedly in the last passage of our bus in 2018 the 50 Euro road toll was not properly paid. Even lengthy phone calls with Hamburg and the attempt to present the relevant documents do not provide a solution. Customs demand a fine of 1,000 euros per bus and the usual 50 euros fee to let us pass. In the end, payment is made when it is finally clear to which account - namely only possible as a transfer. The hope of reimbursement remains when more papers are found in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

When the official white horse is finally fed, the barrier is raised and after a short drive we reach today's destination, Brest.

~ Rainer Rossipaul, ZEIT traveler

From Brest to Homel

Today we're on the road for 1 week, amazing, it doesn't feel like that.
Today's departure time 8:45 is comfortable. It won't stay that way.
After a very good night in the hotel, you can visit the Brest Fortress,
The scene of brutal battles, especially at the beginning of World War II, now a bombastically laid out memorial and heroes' memorial. The German past catches up with us again. The madness, the catastrophe, the atrocities of the world wars manifested themselves to us, especially in the drastic descriptions of details of the events, which Alexander, the local guide, rightly did not spare us. Thoughtful faces and a lot of embarrassed silence on our side.

After a short drive through the city of Brest: Off to the road to Homel:… drive 531 km to close to the Russian border. Today we are crossing Belarus from west to east. The road is mostly as if drawn with a ruler. There are wide views of this flat landscape ... Grain fields and again and again forests, through which our (quite good) road draws a straight swath. Lush green everywhere, the sky is decorated with clouds. Occasionally lakes, rivers and also drained swamps slide past the eye. The colors green, blue and white accompany us in the afternoon.

Small town with lots of simple wooden houses. The road takes us to the small town of Pinsk for lunch. Here too, the special German past sends its regards: There was a Jewish ghetto here, set up by the Nazis, whose 17,000 residents were all shot. The woodworking industry is flourishing here ... after a catastrophic major fire (a few years ago) with total loss and 10 deaths, Germany also participated in the reconstruction ... financially ... and with technical experts.
And on to the east through green landscapes.

During the mandatory break for Jens, our current driver ... and an early sundowner for us, an old man comes out of a wooden house. Victor, who is looking for trustworthy contact and is visibly happy about the encounter.

The sun bathes everything in a golden light with its evening headlights, considerate from behind so as not to dazzle our driver Jens.
Soon we will reach Homel, a city with a few hundred thousand inhabitants, because of the late hour we're going to have dinner right away ... and then off to the bunk. Tomorrow we can expect an even longer day with an early start (7:45 am) and two time-consuming border crossings: Ukraine and Russia. Serenity will be required.

~ Volkhart Brethfeld, ZEIT traveler

Excursus border crossings

A song of praise to the EU

After endless border controls on our drive from Hamburg to Shanghai, we know about the advantages of the EU and its domestic regulations and vow never to rant again about Brussels bureaucracy.
What we experienced at the border crossings from Poland to Belarus, from Belarus to Ukraine and from Ukraine to Russia defies description. A total of 12.5 hours of border controls, which we Europeans cannot understand. How interesting these countries are is beyond question. The people also meet us in a friendly and helpful manner. It's a shame that we don't speak the language and are dependent on interpreters. These countries beyond the former Iron Curtain are worthwhile travel destinations. Memories of earlier times are awakened when we too stood at the border crossings for a long time. Praise be to the EU, which has ended this situation. Certainly there is room for improvement here too with regard to border protection. But unregulated entry, drug imports or smuggling do not take place overland, but en masse via airports and seaports.
Let us celebrate the freedom to travel within the EU, as well as the common currency. Despite all justified criticism, we in Europe have created something for people: FREEDOM!

~ Birgit Klewer and Johann-Peter Krefting, ZEIT travelers

From Oryol to Voronezh

The equality of day / night experience defines our experience upon arrival in Russia. Or: Why today remains inexplicable without yesterday.
But from the beginning.

The fact that a driving day of around 600 km plus crossing two borders (Belarus / Ukraine, Ukraine / Russia) would tend to have a demanding character was not only to be expected, but after three previous experiences it had become more or less secure. The fact that it had to hit our Shanghai team in this way almost provides food for conspiracy theories. Yesterday we were invited to an intellectually inferior dialogue right after the border. The civil servant race management found a marginal error in the vehicle documents that could hardly be described and confronted us with the rather bold idea that the payment of 1500 euros was the punishment for a few forgotten letters, as defined in the tight Russian road traffic regulations. If our driver Jens, who was always in a good mood, had been told that his house had gone up in flames and that his wife had drunk his last beer at home beforehand, his face would probably hardly have gone pale. Hustle and bustle was not advisable now, but a conversation at non-eye level was urgently required. Ivan and Vladimir use the rhetoric they are familiar with when dealing with state power, paired with their Caucasian physique, and they withdrew for advice. I'll cut it short: 1500 euros turned into three bottles of beer. Our Russian support team had once again proven its qualities. As a rough estimate, we calculated the new arrival time and hoped for midnight. If not ... exactly: two sleepy police officers claimed to have seen our bus while crossing a solid line for a short time. The new discussion took place according to the usual scheme.
Except the beer wasn't doing it anymore. And we had already increased to an inflationary four bottles.

We reached the hotel at 2 in the morning (that's roughly the average of our four trips so far). And again, the hotel had no problems serving us a full buffet. So our dinner flowed almost smoothly into breakfast. And a big compliment to my team: serenity dominated the tables and, in the absence of any violent fantasies, they preferred to see whether there might still be a blini with blueberries somewhere on the buffet.

For today's trip to Voronesh about 350 km, Natalja came to us. She will be by our side as a tour guide until we leave for Kazakhstan and had already made herself popular as a city guide in Volgograd on previous trips. In the run-up to the trip, I asked my guests to bring suitable music for longer driving stages. And Anne really had something special with her: a motet in the style of Bach with the title "The satisfied bus". It couldn't be more fitting! And again an entertaining day of travel passed.


~ Rainer Schelp, ZEIT Tour Guide Team Shanghai


From Voronezh to Volgograd

The long way to Volgograd

Bus trips can be interesting but also exhausting. The uniformity of the landscape has a meditative effect at some point. Complete relaxation occurs.

At the beginning of the route we saw fertile black earth. Soil numbers over 100 make Central European farmers envious. Almost everything grows here, and in abundance. Then follows endless steppe: the typical silver grass flutters, false mugwort and mugwort, here and there Flugsandried join them. Small, widely scattered settlements and remote, luminous cemeteries with their light blue wooden crosses and colorful flowers interrupt the uniformity. Then the landscape changes. We are approaching Volgograd: industrial buildings, power lines in large numbers, supply pipes, individual residential buildings.

One special event will remain in collective memory: our lunch in a forest hut. The snack was the usual: Salad, soup and meat, this time with buckwheat - But then the natural toilet: The term outhouse is incorrect. There was no seating. There are times when I would like to be a man.

~ Birgit Klewer, ZEIT traveler


Mixed feelings

Tsaritsyn until 1925, Stalingrad 1925 - 1961, since then Volgograd. But still for several years again at appropriate memorial events in Stalingrad.
Since the 2nd World War, more precisely since the German-Soviet War (June 22, 1941 attack on the Soviet Union until May 9, 1945 day of liberation), the “Great Patriotic War” in Germany has been very well known in Russia. At least 24 to 40 million (maximum number) Soviet Russians fell in this war - certainly no “bird shit” in German history, but the greatest war of annihilation in modern times.
That is why “the Battle of Stalingrad” has a special meaning for Germany. Mainly a psychological meaning, because at this point in time, after the heavy defeat of Moscow and the entry of the United States into the war, the German defeat became apparent. Significance in particular because of the bitter conflict about Stalingrad; up to 1.1 million Soviet soldiers and 850,000 German soldiers were killed. Of the 510,000 inhabitants at the beginning, only 10-20,000 people lived in the city at the end of the battle.

Depressing feelings: after a non-aggression pact was concluded through the Rippentrop / Molotov Pact, Germany attacked the Soviet Union, pushed back it had to defend itself until the tide turned and the Soviet Union was finally the winner. One feels uncomfortable here, not least because the USSR paid the greatest blood toll for the liberation of Germany from the Nazi regime.
At the same time irritating: the Russian “culture of remembrance”, especially in the Panorama Museum on the Volga. In short, a patriotism promotion in this form that is primarily military in nature. On the other hand, the Grudinin Mill, which has remained standing next to it as a memorial, is different. The memorial hall on the Mamai hill with the mother home statue of Wutschetitsch (85 m high), which “corresponds” with the liberator monument in Treptower Park: in Volgograd raised the sword and waved to attack, in Treptow that was different sword lowered after victory with the rescued child in his arms. Even if, from an aesthetic point of view, the mother-home monument embodies “imperial architecture and art”.
I felt differently here than I had about a week earlier when I visited the Warsaw ghetto. In Warsaw I was depressed and full of shame as a German, affected here in Volgograd, but not as intensely as in Warsaw. Why? Was it the fact that around 2 million soldiers died here in the war and the war tends to excuse this?
In any case, there is hardly a memory here of the suffering of the mostly young men - whether Russians or Germans - who were rushed into this murderous battle by their “leaders” and, to put it clearly, perished.
It remains clear that these events had and will continue to have long after-effects. Perhaps the Old Testament sentence is correct that the sins of the fathers take revenge on the children up to the 3rd and 4th members - and the age of our travel group indicates that we are only the “first” member.
Thoughts and considerations that are particularly clear on this day: European elections, where Europe was formerly founded as a peace project, which is increasingly less in consciousness today.

Back at the hotel, a “solemn ceremony” was on the program for the evening. The little blacks that had been brought along, the jackets and ties could be used, although the announcement was hung higher than the reality. After a short presentation by Johannes Vosswinkel (by far the most informative contributions so far, as I had imagined at ZEIT-Reisen), the greeting from the couple Nelli and Wadim (married 55 years) from Sarepta, a settlement of the Moravian Brethren. Called by Catherine the Great in 1765 with the (redeemed) promise of land ownership, tax exemption and other privileges, they settled here in the steppe as neighbors of the Kalmyks - today 40 km from the city center of Volgograd.

During the night I slept restlessly and badly.

~ Johannes Münder, ZEIT traveler

From Volgograd to Astrakhan

Today it goes almost parallel to the course of the Volga from northwest to southeast to Astrakhan. The question arises: where are we now? A look at the bus reveals our location. Our location is exactly between the third and second ache of the bus. The route as an adhesive tape on the bus is really an "eye catcher".

We know where we want to go. For strangers who see the conspicuous bus, this triggers great astonishment. We have already covered 3,257 km from the start in Hamburg, and this is only a quarter of our total distance.
On board the bus, our ZEIT expert Johannes Voswinkel and our local Russian tour guide Irena Lebedewa report on everyday life in Russia.

We get very personal, exciting insights into everyday Russian life. Time flies very quickly. The landscape, on the other hand, changes only very slowly or hardly at all. Wide plains with shimmering silvery grass pass us by. Here and there the wide plains are interrupted by conspicuous erosion channels, so-called 'badlands'. We drive through the Kalmyk steppe.