I am just about to leave northwards, to Moscow with my good old Lada… She has had a bad week we could call it. It started with the battery being completely empty when I came back from Sweden. In times like this, it’s good to live on a hill, and it’s good to have 3 strong German business partners who can give her a push down the hill for a fresh restart. It didn’t help for long though since she decided to refuse to start two days in a row (at the same street), and we had to tow her home with a taxi, breaking the towline no less than 3 times in 3 km… An old Lada needs care, that’s why we pushed her down to Stas and his crew yesterday morning. I decided to take the chance to spend some time to get my hands dirty in the workshop environment, learn a few things about Lada mechanics, sit down with the guys for some coffee, some small talk and listen radio Chanson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_chanson) – by all means an invaluable life experiences.
My Lada is now in her very best mood and spins like a cat… I will try to keep her happy all the way to Moscow.
Today I was a speaker at “rise and shine” for IT startups, where about 30 people interested in starting up IT business had gathered to share experiences and thoughts. I shared my entrepreneurial journey from the starting point of Flodström Racing in 2008 (financing my kart racing for two years), continuing with my founding of a Lithuanian IT startup in 2011, and the lessons taken from there as input into Beetroot. It was the first time I presented the Beetroot model for a larger group, and although there are some improvements to be made presentation wise, it was great to spread information of about what we are doing and receive a lot of interesting questions from the audience. Big thanks to Andrius Kaseta who was both organizer, speaker and the one who invited me to speak.
I have arrived to a rainy Warsaw, and hooked up my “office” on a small café. As usual, this night train added to the portfolio of interesting meetings. My cabin buddies this time where two sister babushkas (grandmothers) somewhere in their seventies who brought a great mood into the cabin. During the three hours of their trip we managed to drink some tea together and cover a big part of the life stories of both babushka Valya – who had lived and worked in Kazakhstan during the Soviet time, and nowadays commute back and forth to Czech Republic for work, and babushka Olga – who married a man from Azerbaijan 40 years ago and has lived in Baku ever since, claiming that Azerbaijan is probably the best country in the world, especially after the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku earlier this year. Baku seems to be a place to visit indeed. We also shared some knowledge and I increased my Azerbaijanian vocabulary from 0 to 4 words and got some new input of Ukrainian. I gave a little overview of the possibilities with the world of internet with some live demonstration from my computer and I believe I got them hooked. =)
The border was crossed with ease, I really like the train system were you never need to go out, but just keep your passport under the pillow and pull it out whenever some border guards wake you up.
Now off for a little city walk in Warsaw with a local Estiemer.
On Sunday I was reached by some very unfortunate news, the much beloved grandfather of my girlfriend, Boris, passed away at the age of 80 in Bobrujsk, Belarus. He was a great man who has been through a lot, and was appreciated for his positive attitude until the very end. I had gotten to know him well through my visits to Belarus as well as Boris own trip to Gothenburg earlier this year when he put himself on a train between Stockholm and Gothenburg without speaking a word in neither English or Swedish, just like that.
According to Russian traditions a funeral should be performed within three days which meant today. I put a lot of effort into finding a way to get into Belarus, but for a Swedish citizen, it would take at least 4 days to get a Visa done. Earlier you could even get the visa at the airport in Minsk, but this option is closed nowadays. Maybe because of Swedes throwing teddy bears from airplanes, what do I know? 400 km or 9 hours by train is too far away if there is too much of a boarder in between. Let’s hope that the future will make it possible to travel without visa in the centre of Europe. From another perspective, this is how travelling is in general for the people of Belarus, Ukraine or Russia to mention a few.
I found one of the really helpful Russians, in fact they are everywhere and this time it was a man called “Juriy” who was my roommate on the boat. About 60 years old and with a great willingness for a chit chat. I asked him where he is from, which is a question that often yields interesting stories from people of the former Soviet Union since the answer might be that parents and grandparents have many different origins because of the big mobility of people in the old times. It therefore also gives a good chance to learn something new about some place that you haven’t heard too much about before.
It also helps that Russians often love to tell the story of their life even on the very first meeting. Another thing to appreciate is that Russians are often very helpful to strangers (or let’s say, helpful to people they feel that they know, which can be a really quick process). Juriy was originally from a small city near the Ukrainian border on the way between Moscow and Kiev. When I told him about our planned road trip with an old Lada from St Petersburg to Moscow, he offered to call his cousin still living there, and ask him if we could stay in his place over night if need would be. From my previous experience of Russia, this is not a surprising or strange offering in any way, and I am also quite comfortable in thinking that his cousin would probably be happy to put aside whatever plans he had in order to show some hospitality.