Avoiding Border crossing issues is always good advice while traveling, Pine and I have been told numerous times that south of Kharkiv can be a problem with the current Ukraine/Russia conflict, best to just avoid it so there are no Border crossing issues.
That is pretty much what we done. Heading west from Ulyanovsk there are no trains to hitch, all trains runsouth or north to Moscow. The distance is approx. 16 days to the Ukraine border, which put us over our visa stay. Plus crossing at that position within Ukraine would make it difficult to hit Bucharest Romania, and make Pine’s flight home.Not a big thing, hop the overnite train to Moscow.
We spent 2 full days walking Moscow………this is a place JW did not want to actually go, but Pine really did. So, we went with Pines wishes. What a gorgeous city, I would take my wife back in a heartbeat. It is stunningly beautiful. I guess I was expecting grey cement Soviet architecture. But it was nothing like that, it was busy, it was high fashion, it was oppulent, it was clean, and the people we interacted with were very freindly. So, once again Pine made sure that I ate all my helping of CROW. Moscow was a definite high point thus far in the trip.
The Mongolian roads took there toll on several pieces of electronics. My overly babied Galaxy 2 cellphone quit before we got to western Mongolia. My camera began having lense retraction problems about half way across Mongolia, so I knew it was coming time for a replacement. No surprise then, as we are walking thru Red Square in Moscow, that the camera just quits. Now, we have to go camera shopping instead of being a tourist. I know have a new camera, but still no cell phone. Not a biggie for JW, i hate the things anyways.Our 2 days in Moscow let us see the main attractions and yet no extra time to linger and sit in the street cafes. Not a bad trade off really.
Borded a night train south to Kiev. Once again, our thinking is avoid those Border crossing issues. This would give us the safest route to cross the border. Loaded the gear up, hopped a train, went to sleep. No problem, we got into Kiev about 7am, rode up a few steep hills to our 2 star hotel. First thing was hanging the sleeping bags for some air…..they needed it badly, as do we when we roll in. Getting hard to stop the eyes from watering. We tried those sleeping bag liners, but we both felt like they should be called “CAMPER STRANGLERS” thats how we rated them. Washed a few cloths, then washed us and headed out to see Kiev.
We both really liked the city, very clean , many street cafes etc. But you could also tell the the national income just wasn,t there as in Moscow. Thats an issue that still needs to be resolved……as we were told many times……believe me. Pine had been avidly following the demonstrations and riots in Maidan Square, downtown Kiev. Pops, was oblivious……but, did you know theres no horse roping in “ookryaina” or “Youkrain”as we say it. The Square is full of the harred and battered remnants of the riots. Military type tents dot the Square, numerous barricades made of every old tire in the city. All the streets and side walks close to the Square have had the cobbles and pavers stripped to be used building fortifications and as missiles to throw. Yet just a half block in any direction from the Maidan Square and normal life goes on. There was an ominous presence that seemed to hang in the humid air of Kiev, and odor of “frustration”masked the fragrance of flowers and lawns. Kiev could be set of on the riot path by just one tiny spark is how it felt to both of us.
The Ukrainians……….without doubt love Americans. We had our dinners bought, our coffee, ice cream bars, you name it and they would buy it for you. All gestures of gratitude in the Ukraine begin with the offer of a beer, which I observedly declined out of respect for my loving wife, and a 23 year old promise I made to Christ.Tomorrow, we are back on the bikes, and headed west towards Moldova. We will post that next blog.