2 Countries, 2 Bribes, 2 Gappers

Trip Start May 11, 2005
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Friday, November 18, 2011

(Written by Eva....who is very long winded)

  Since Bo (a friend from when I lived in garmisch, germany) had mentioned coming to Ukraine to visit, he'd also mentioned wanting to see a couple other towns in the country, other than Kyiv…then, not too long after Bo said he wanted to visit, another gapper friend, Ben, said he wanted to visit…yippee!!! It’s always fun when ex gappers get together around the world 
 
 
Bo arrived in Kyiv on a Thursday evening (thanks to a strike by Italian air traffic controllers his flight was four hours late) and crashed at my flat while I went to work Friday…Friday evening he and I went to the other airport in Kyiv and flew down to Odessa, a city down on the black sea…the city was really really important to the soviets during the days of the USSR, and the area is still very pro Russia…russian is definitely the language of choice there…these days Odessa is still a huge port, but is also known for crazy partying on the beach, particularly during the summer…

Bo and I flew in late Friday, and took a taxi straight to a hotel…normally I hate doing that, but I also hate arriving somewhere in the dark and cold…our hotel was once grand and elegant, now it’s just faded…really high ceilings in every room, which was great, and we had a great view…but the paint was peeling, and the walls/doors had about an inch of paint on them…if anyone ever wanted to fix up the hotel they’d have to gut it…I’m not sure it would be possible to update it, but I’m sure there are fixer upper people out there who would see it differently…we enjoyed the feeling of elegance, even if it was completely outdated…
 

 It turned out ben arrived Friday night as well, by bus from Chisenau, Moldova…he arrived a few hours earlier than we did, but didn’t find a place to sleep until the same time we got to our hotel…not being able to read Ukrainian or Russian made it difficult to find anything…plus, ben had a few adventures with police demanding bribes…as we found out, there are laws prohibiting any sort of signage on the street for hostels in Odessa, and much of Kyiv…which means that trying to find a hostel in the dark is pretty much impossible, especially when nearly all the hostels listed are only seasonally open, but you don’t know that ahead of time…ben ended up finding a room at the train station that night, after hours of wandering around in the dark and cold…

The next morning, bo and I ate the breakfast included with our hotel, (not a great breakfast at all, but better than nothing) then went walking…we made it about 10 minutes, then ben called me…thank goodness for skype, that was the only  way of us contacting each other…we arranged to meet in front of an irish pub 30 minutes later…on the way to the pub, bo and I found the 12th chair in the city park…the 12th chair comes from a russian/Ukrainian story, which takes place all over the country…I don’t know if any of the other chairs from the story have been built in any other cities in the country…we took photos, which seems to be expected…according to lonely planet, in the summer you’ll see heaps of people taking photos around this chair…
 

 We found ben, and he told us his story…at this point he was completely annoyed with traveling, and it’s inconveniences…not being able to read or understand the local language is frustrating, to say the least…(especially when it results in being asked for two bribes in 2 countries less than 5 hours apart)…we went searching for a hostel, which ended up being a lot of walking, getting slightly lost, 2 missed hostels and then finally finding a hostel…(which turned out to be for sale, and ben is considering buying it)…

After dropping off ben’s stuff, our next project was food…bo and I had eaten breakfast, but he’s a chef, and can always eat…we ended up at a place mentioned in the guidebook, the food was decent…and they had pastries…woo hoo!! Ben doesn’t eat sweets much, but that changed a bit after a couple days with bo and I, who pretty much mainline sugar…ben’s first experience with Ukrainian food, bo’s second…lunch included split pea soup (which wasn’t the green stuff I grew up eating) and borsch and vareniky (think polish pierogis – sp? – or Korean mandu)…and pastries to go, of course…


Then the walking around town started…after all the walking to find ben a hostel, we knew a couple streets really well…those turned out to be streets we walked again and again getting to the places that sounded interesting…we saw the outside of the opera house, (which is apparently a common backdrop for wedding photos) and city hall, and the statue of Catherine the great…we also saw the Potemkin steps, which were once the gateway to the city from the port…ben can tell you about the optical illusions built into the stairs…I didn’t think they were all that…how interesting can stairs be? The stairs are featured prominently in the movie "battleship Potemkin"…
 

 It gets dark early now, night falls by 1630 or so…as the sun was going down, we started making our way to the train station, so ben and bo could get train tickets to lviv…on our way to the train station we got distracted by a march…at first we thought it was supporters of a football (soccer) team, but later on I figured it was actually a march in favour of the recently imprisoned former opposition leader, yulia tymoshenko (sp?)…lots of orange smoke everywhere…
 

 A nap, then dinner, which ended up being at a milk bar/cafeteria…it’s a great, cheap way to taste lots of different traditional Ukrainian food…ben being the social butterfly that he is convinced us to go out to a bar for a beer…bo was keen, I didn’t care one way or the other…I ended up with some fruity drink…it was a whiskey bar, plenty smoky…

The next day ben was late meeting up…he said he got distracted boiling eggs, I think he slept in…he also says he was talking to the hostel owner about buying the hostel…but we all know ben is more likely to continue exploring the world rather than make such a large monetary and time commitment…since Odessa is known for it’s beach scene during the summer, we decided to go visit…
 
Finding the tram to the beach turned out to be pretty easy…and cheap…who doesn’t love an 18cent tram ride? From the spot where you get off the tram all the way to the beach are little stalls selling stuff, or bars, or carnival type games…a few of them were going, but at this time of year most everything is closed…but there were still plenty of people there…as many people as are there now, I can’t imagine how crazy crowded it is in summer…walking along the beach we saw heaps of bars/discoes/clubs…it must be nonstop drinking, sunning, and playing during the summer…we got cold and somewhat bored after a little while, and hopped the tram back into town…
 

 At that point, it wasn’t much longer until the boys needed to get back to the hostel to pick up there stuff, and I had to make my way to the airport…on the way back to the hostel, we stopped at a café that served the most wonderful hot chocolate…very thick, it was almost the consistency of chocolate pudding…YUM…and the pastries were good tooJ…it was our second time in the café, we’d stopped there the evening before as well…

From there the trip ended pretty quickly…the boys got details of a hostel in lviv, the hostel owner called a taxi for me…I wished the boys good luck, and they started walking to the train station…my taxi took me to the airport, and I flew back to Kyiv…after two days of nonstop talking with great friends, it felt weird to be by myself again…


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