Hitchhike to India leg 30: Chisinau to Bucharest

Friday 20 June

Hello once again dear readers.  It has been a while.  For one reason or another I have disinclined to continue writing, choosing instead to procrastinate with horses.  And other such shady characters.  As a result, I am somewhat behind in regaling my adventures, so for the next few entries, we shall wind the clocks back.  Come with me on a journey through time and space, to explore stuff.  And things.  We start way back around June 20th, when I attempted the hitch from Moldova back to Romania.  Here we begin our tale…

 

Chisinau was doing nothing for me. Days on end spent endlessly drunk and alone, buying bottles of vodka from the supermarket, and downing them in the pouring rain. Strange looks from locals as I walked soaking through the streets as if oblivious to the deluge. It never rains it pours.

So one morning I decide enough is enough, and if I’m going to continue in this vein then I at least need to be around friends, or make new ones. I set off with the intent to reach Bucharest.

I manage to make it unscathed to city limits, where pretty much all the traffic is heading south and at least towards the border. within minutes, I’m picked up in a pick-up, by two large Moldovans, who through broken English insist they can take me to the border. Now there’s two routes from here, both of which could go either way. These boys can drop me at the crossing via Hîncești. I decide it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other and jump in.

Ten minutes later I’m regretting it. For some reason they don’t quite appreciate that I need to get to Bucharest by tonight, and they’re stopping at every damn chance they get. They practically buy a weeks shopping as I wait in the van, then run errands, then meet a friend. Hours pass. Not only that, but when they finally manage to drop me roughly where I need to be, I’m still about 3km from the border which I can just about see in the distance. Thanks very much guys.

Still I’m in high spirits as I march towards the checkpoints. Nobody picks me up, in spite of everyone going across. Naturally they’re all still waiting as I arrive sometime after, and I take great pleasure in beaming at them as I march over with ease on foot. I get the usual third degree, as of course they’re not used to seeing such a sight, but I’m soon back in Romania with little trouble.  Then it gets tricky.

I’m rueing not taking the other route. The border is dead, nobody going my way. I hike for what seems like hours in the vain hope of meeting some kind of busy crossroads, but all I find are more curious glances from locals.  I’m pretty sure they’ve never seen anything like this; a sweating, pasty wee white guy with massive back packs and a sign for Bucharest, marching through tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss them villages. I long to stop and take photographs, but advertising such hardware in these parts would be asking for trouble. I power on.

A few hundred yards ahead of me and a white cruiser has pulled in. Salvation! Joy turns to dismay as two Police officers exit, donning caps in that smooth, authoritarian “we’re the establishment” kind of way. They heckle me over. I approach beaming and friendly, my outer demeanour masking inner despair.

They’re scrutinising my passport and making various calls. My heart sinks. I’m either going to be escorted back to the border, or I’ll need to make some kind of ‘contribution’. After some sign language and charades, they motion for me to get into the vehicle. The passenger continues to hold my passport. It doesn’t look good.

Then I realise they’re actually giving me a ride! They’re taking me to the next town, and dropping me on the road to Bucharest! Well I never! A hitch with the cops! The only reason he still holds my passport is because he’s fascinated in all the places I’ve been. “Ahhh Chile!” He exclaims. “Da!” I respond. “Bina vino e chicas”. To much laughter. My Span-romanian was getting me by like a dream.

As good as their word, they deposit me on the outskirts of Husi, but I’ve still a long way to go. I once again hike out of the city, miles and miles uphill. I’m dripping buckets, and not a sinner is interested. When I feel all hope is lost, a young Italian guy and his smoking hot girlfriend swing in. They drop me at the next junction on the direct road to the capital. Progress is being slowly made.

So I find myself standing just after a roundabout in the middle of nowhere. Gypsies clip past in horse and cart. Bus loads of dodgy types circle around again for a better view of me and my gear. The afternoon wears on. The sun moves across the sky. Dogs bark. Crickets chirp. I draw on a cigarette.

A smart car drifts in. A suit. A smile. Very good English. And going all the way to Bucharest for a meeting! unbelievable. After an entertaining and hospitable 300 Km, my saviour has dropped me only a few minutes from my hostel. I cannot quite believe my luck as I hug friends, repulsed by the days stench still on me. I feel like I’ve returned to one of my homes from home. And with it, comes many memories. Some I’d like to let go of more than others. Nonetheless, I’m back in Bucharest. God help me.

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A poem for my father and for yours too

Sunday 15 June

Shortly after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I penned the following words as a gift for my dads birthday.  It seems fitting to share it with you today.  Mum thought it would be too much to read it at his funeral, but we printed a copy out, and slipped it into the breast pocket of his last suit.  I’m happy I got to speak it too him before he passed.  Happy fathers day to all those special men called dads.  Lord knows I need mine now.

Many words have been penned about fathers and sons
Various opinions and views from
Deeper thinkers and more literary greats than I.
Well, myself, a sister and a mum,
Mysterious half brothers now beginning to be known
And credited true colours shown.
Those aforementioned aficionados of verse and song
Have got it right more times than wrong,
But none have experienced a muse as grand
A life well lived and distance ran,
Wise words spoken from ne’er a greater man,
Touching hearts that once were sad,
Oh none of them had met my dad.

If anyone can achieve such unsung heroism
That rocks of ages have striven for, missed
And driven mad such futile ambition,
There was only ever one such dad.
To leave the chasing pack,
Clean heels still
Even on his back.

To become half a man
Would be to make the loaves and fishes
Into five thousand a la carte dishes
Against stacked odds, making those flown the nest come home.
Achievements numerous, a quiet whirlwind of success,
Steady ships to slip under the radar of acknowledgement.
Yet nearest and dearest know,
Had he been present, the whale would not have had Jonah for dinner,
Perhaps Gascoigne would have been a winner
And many tears never leave their dewy ducts,
With words and deed
And heartfelt thoughtfulness that pales kingly acts.

Yet it is the simple stuff that matters most.
Genuine hugs, strong hands and that all important extra tenner.
As the world comes down around broken hearts,
Crashed cars and many a whimsical fad,
The pieces perfectly picked up
By one such dad.

The only such dad.
The only one.
Never to be replaced, always there when
Close lives undone with this or that,
Trivialities,
Or a more life threatening passport problem.
It mattered not.
Steadfast guidance to stand the test of time,
How I pity those who don’t have a dad like mine.

No. Not like him. The only one.
With such a bond ‘tween father and son,
Daughter and mother, sister and brother,
Given each, more than half a chance to reach the stars,
Oh what you would give,
For a dad
Like ours.

I love you old man. Xxx

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Hitchhike to India; leg 29: Lviv to wherever.

Tuesday 10 June

As beautiful and as welcoming as Lviv was, events were taking a turn for the drunk.  It was time to move on.  Otherwise I’d get stuck in a wonderful dive bar called Bukowski’s.  Those who know me fully understand how that man is my hero, so it was a dangerous place for me to be living in.  A friend I met at the Pink Palace last year told me about it, and I’ve been meeting up with him there to drink heavily until dawn, learn about Ukrainian freedom heros, or break/start fights.  Charles would have loved the place.  As you might expect I did too.  A little too much.  The road was calling.

So I haul myself out of bed late in the morning.  I’m hung over, and I contemplate another night.  But I know what that would mean, so with the flesh weak but the soul willing, I make my way to the city limits in a mini bus.  These things fascinate me.  All modern life is here.  Rammed in like sardines, people pass their fare money from the back up to the driver, and then they pass the change back.  You couldn’t get that in Glasgow.  Some bus wanker would pocket your fiver.

Hitching South to Moldova from Lviv isn’t an option, so I have to hitch East then down.  I’ve made a sign for Vinnytsia, which is some 368 km away.  Depending on how things go, I intend to either make a dash for the border from there, or stay the night and try again in the morning.  As luck would have it, I’m picked up fairly quickly by a friendly guy who phones his English-speaking friend to help me out.  He’s going to run some errands first, then drop me just outside Ternopil on the Vinnytsia road.  I’m on my way.

I’m buying a bottle of water in a petrol station a few hours later, when I’m detained against my will what appears to be an old drunk.  In Russian he asks if I’m a separatist as he shakes my hand with a vice like grip.  “Schotlandia!” I exclaim to him, whereupon he gabbles on, pulls me back into the station store, and starts pointing at crap, sorry-excuse-for-malt Scotch whiskey.  It appears he wants me to buy him one.  The station attendant is grinning as he pulls down a selection, obviously keen to force a sale.  I manage to wriggle myself free before it gets aggressive, and I put some distance between myself and trouble.

It’s not long before I get my second ride.  A huge, hulking, tanned man called Vassily, crammed into a naff box on wheels.  Every time he speaks Russian to me he sounds angry, but he’s beaming away, revealing a string of gold teeth.  He drives well, which is a significant advantage on these roads; because there basically aren’t any.  300 odd kilometres of gravel tracks and pot-holed tarmac, loaded with people who can’t drive.  No wonder there are so many deaths on Ukrainian roads.  Often overlooked, arguably the most dangerous thing about hitch-hiking is the ability of the driver.  Vassily drops me exactly where I need to be, all in one piece.  Then I need to make a decision.

My head and heart are not really in the right place.  My thoughts are still with a distant girl, so distraction is required.  That and negotiating my way into the city centre, paying for a hotel, then trying to get back out tomorrow would be a pain in the ass.  So the only way is to plough on.  There’s just a slight problem.  My only other sign says Moldova, it’s some 250 km away, and it’s 6pm.  Where I’m sleeping tonight is a mystery, as is my actual destination.  Nonetheless, I hike about 5 km out of the city, away from staring eyes and dodgy bus stop dwellers.  I’m in the middle of nowhere, with no water and no food, not actually having eaten anything and lugging my 20 kilo packs by the side of a super-fast highway.  I’m sweating buckets, and nobody gives a damn.  Of all the stupid ideas I’ve had, this is up there with one of them.

A couple of hundred feet in front of me is parked a mini-bus.  Gathered outside are five, dark-skinned older men, smoking and staring at me.  The younger, skin-headed driver sports a wife-beater.  A kid roams around.  A woman sits shotgun.  As I approach, one beckons me over.  This could be trouble.

After some consultation, with no understanding whatsoever, lots of pointing at my printed google map; and we’ve come to some conclusion that they can’t take me down the road.  Just how far remains to be seen.  I bite the bullet and jump in.  Another woman is in the back seat, and I’m rammed in the middle.  As soon as my bags are in, I begin to regret the decision.  The whole family look like those sex-trafficking types from the film Taken.  Things could be about to go horribly wrong.  I begin to feel sorry for putting myself into these situations.  My thoughts turn to loved ones, family and friends.  I mutter apologies to all.  We roll on.

I’m always thrilled when pick-ups just keep going, and somewhat disappointed when they slow to a crawl to drop me off.  Where are they going to take me?  I’ve no idea, but as kilometre after kilometre fly by, I begin to feel hope.  Then a wonderfully uplifting thing happens.  The pot-bellied hair-fest to my left takes out a passport.  And it’s a Moldovan one.  They’re actually going to Moldova!  A few hours later and we’ve crossed the border.  Words cannot express.

I’m still slightly concerned as to where they’re going to drop me, especially as the shady border town smacks of South America. Tanned kids peer into the van, wrinkly old blind women beg for scraps.  Lots of folk are trying to flog mobile phones, which for some reason my companions are interested in, and they spend some minutes negotiating prices.  A small boy will not leave me be, desperately trying to sell this one handset, begging me to take it.  I show him I’ve got one, but he’s relentless, accosting all of us with his one product.  Eventually they have to push him out and slam the door.  I’m thankful that we’re making tracks before nightfall.

Which comes quickly.  It’s pitch black and we’re rolling through countryside on worse roads than Ukraine.  Every few miles we stop for a smoke break.  There’s constant, animated chatter in the van, along with ear-bleeding, Moldovan turbo-folk.  With nobody to converse with, and nothing to see out the windows, I’m left to lose myself in my thoughts.  Which is a bad idea.  They run ragged.

I’ve been struggling to come to terms with recent events.  Fretting over if she’s found someone new.  Worried I’ll never see her again.  Upset that we’re not talking anymore, when once there was never a silent or dull moment.  Her smell.  Her kiss.  Y’know…other stuff.  Utter perfection on so many levels.  But how did something so wonderful come to this?  How am I this unlucky?  I’m totally and utterly helpless, and as the night gets blacker and the wheels turn on, I sit and invent conversations I’d have with her if we could talk again.  It’s an empty, cold and pointless exercise.  Time passes.

The fan belt blows.  I’ve been needing to have a number 2 since Vinnytsia, so I risk leaving my bags to the mercy of the van occupants, and make a dash for the local garage while they fix it up.  Locals cast confused glances my way, but one of them was a total babe, so it bodes well.  Alas though there’s no way I was dropping my kegs in the toilet; which was basically just a stinking hole in the ground piled high with shit.  If I’m going to India I’d better get used to it.

Underway again and we’re dropping people off here there and everywhere.  The driver picks up another hitcher, and I decide they’re actually a friendly bunch of folk and I’m safe.  I start to change my mind when, after the women and kid leave, we spin down a dirt track for some distance.  In pitch darkness we stop in a small gathering of houses, and all disembark.  I keep my back to the van, and reluctantly follow when beckoned into a nearby yard.  This is it.

A glass is thrust into my hand, with some kind of coloured beverage in it.  In my other appears what looks like a spinach bake.  We take turns to drain the glass of what turns out to be wine.  And not just any wine.  As my eyes adjust to the dark, The house sits in a vineyard.  This guy makes the stuff.  It’s a tasty potion too, and we shake hands when we’re ready to depart.  I’m thankful for the food as well, not having eaten a thing today for one reason or another.   Then I discover we’re going all the way to the capital; Chisinau.  I cannot believe my luck.  If only I could actually appriciate it more.

It’s approaching 5 am as they drop me on the outskirts, but they leave me close to a parked taxi.  I’m utterly exhausted by this point, emotionally and physically, but grind on, getting the cab to the centre.  He drops me at a hotel.  I’m in no mind to pay these prices, but of course not realising where I would end up tonight, of course I’ve not taken an address of a hostel.  The security guard is of no help, doesn’t know the wifi password, and doesn’t have a map.  A hotel without a map.  I curse his uselessness and walk back up the long main street in the dark.

5 o’clock in the morning and I’m stumbling around the capital of Moldova with all my gear.  I was a walking target.  Might as well have an arrow over my head saying “rob me.”  Luckily, trusty McDonald’s is still open, and after warily negotiating my way past a group of unwashed bin-dippers, I get access to the internet and locate a hostel.  Which isn’t there.

I’m screaming obscenities at the blank wall where the hostel should be.  The street is right, the address is right, the number on the wall laughs at me.  Two girls approach and lead me round the block.  Here we go, survived a potential gang of slavers and get caught in the honey trap.  But amazingly, they know where the hostel is.  It’s round the back of the building.  I throw myself at them hugging them close to my sweating carcass, and profess undying love.  They must have thought I was raving mad.

My head is on a welcome pillow just after the hour.  Yet tired as I am, I can’t sleep.  Once again the kindness of strangers has shone through in an almost impossible hitch – and one that appears has not been done before according to my sources.  Lviv to Chisenau.  Over 8oo km taking 18 hours.  Nobody to talk to but myself.  In spite of such astonishing luck; I’m still broken-hearted.  I can’t help it.  I love her.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hitchhike to India leg 28: Kiev to Lviv and The Tunnel of Love

Thursday 05 June

Oh lordy where do I begin.  At the beginning I suppose.  It was time to move on.  Russian separatists, Canadian alcoholics and depression were getting the better of me.  I don’t know what was making me lower; my recent romantic loss, or the last Game of Thrones episode.  I dragged my carcass to the roadside at 8am.  The seemingly impossible mission; to hitchhike to Lviv via Klevan; a small town in the sticks famous for one thing: The Tunnel of Love.

Now I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures of this leafy architecture.  It’s always on those sites listing the top 39 places to see before you die or something.  Why it’s always 39 I don’t know.  Anyway I thought since I’m here it would be rude not to attempt a visit, but with such a long distance to cover, some 570 km, time was of the essence and it was a big risk.  I’m lucky the weather was holding.

Except it isn’t.  Nearly three hours and I’m only about 7 km out of Kiev, and the clouds begin to loom.  Two girls pass me by carrying a sign for Rivne.  Exactly the same as mine.  Two girls.  The best hitch combination possible!  Damn them!  I’ve got no chance.

A few minutes later I’ve turned away from yet another unsuccessful stream of traffic, to find ‘Johnny building-site-wanker’ standing near my bags.  He mouches away as I approach, but returns with the reinforcement of his friend.  They speak in Ukrainian, and I attempt a smile and response with “SCHOTLANDIA!”  “AAAHHH, SCHOTLANDIA!” They exclaim, before the bigger one has moved to toe touching my valuables bag.  By this time I’m sitting on the curb side.  I can see what they’re trying to do.  Just as it’s about to turn ugly, and ironically without making any attempt to attract a ride, a driver swings in and nearly takes my face off.  Usually I negotiate a destination, but I grab my stuff  like lightning and haul myself into the cab.  “GO, GO, GO!”

He’s a lifesaver, but after I’m in sitting next to this grizzled, tanned and wrinkled Ukrainian, he’s on the phone and I convinced he’s saying stuff like; “we’ve got another one…”  Trying to talk with him is about as much use as speaking to a post, but as the rain really starts to lash down, I’m happy I’m on my way.  Another concern however, was that he chose me over the two girls.  Perhaps he saw what was about to happen and decided to intervene?  Maybe he’s into boys?  Regardless, they’re still hitching as I speed past.  In your face females!  You’re up against a pro!

He’s driving like a maniac in monsoon weather, tailgating big rigs and overtaking at speed.  If they brake, we’re aquaplaning into the afterlife.  As the skies clear though, he’s dropped me on the outskirts of Rivne; 22k from Klevan and the tunnel.  After some friendly negotiating with bystanders, he’s managed to find a woman who will take me by bus to where I can get a ride to my destination.  What a hero.  Bit by bit I change hands between friendly curious locals, with passengers gawking at the sweating Westerner with the huge back pack.  The sun is well and truly out as I make it to the village.  With luck I spy a sign saying “Love Tunnel.”  Something of a different interpretation – lost in translation – but there you go.  It’s a 2.6k walk round trip.

It’s simply beautiful.  I’m lucky to get there as a train is emerging and a smiling driver waves an acknowledgement.  I rue the fact I don’t have time to walk the full 3k of the tracks, but even the starting point is a breathtaking work of natures architecture.  Couples wander hand-in-hand, an old guy doesn’t miss a trick playing romantic tunes on an accordion.  They say if you make a wish here is comes true.  I know what mine was…

It was for these fucking massive mosquitos to stop eating me alive!  The size of wasps they were, and as I’m lost further down the tunnel, I’m attempting a lonely selfie.  One jabs my arm and I catch him out, splattering blood down to my wrist.  These things take no prisoners.  As I emerge, I can feel golf-ball welts flaring up on my upper lip and forehead.  Romance maybe, but bring insect repellant.  I suppose if you’re already in that loving relationship it doesn’t matter, but it’s hard getting a girls number when you look like the Elephant man.

The sun is high and hot as I walk another lengthy distance back to the main road.  Now here it gets tricky.  I could go two ways; back to Rivne on the bus, or plow on for Lutsk and then South to Lviv.  I chose the latter, and hastily form a sign.  In a now cloudless sky and in open fields with no shelter, I was done for.  Fried to a crisp.  With nothing biting but insects, a young guy approaches.

Within seconds we’re speeding back towards town and he’s dropping me at a better spot to strike for Lviv.  Three students speaking decent English, intrigued as to my adventures.  The beautiful girl on the back seat with me smelled divine.  Certainly more agreeable than a slobbering dog; it was one of my more pleasant hitch experiences.

It’s getting late as they leave me on the outskirts, and traffic is thinning.  Unperturbed, I’m happy I can now ditch two signs and hold my final destination up.  But time is not my friend, and neither is this shady guy who has appeared at the bus stop.  He’s just hiding behind the wall, chewing sunflower seeds, but edging closer to my bags.  It’s just him and me.  If he rushes me, I’m done for.  Unless…unless I go in for a pre-emptive strike.  My mind flirts with martial arts movies.  I’m weighing up the options when someone pulls in and again saves my bacon.  He can take me half way.  As I launch in, from out of nowhere another dude turns up and jumps in the back of the van, sitting on my stuff.  He wants a ride too it seems, but the more the merrier I suppose.

After about half an hour we’ve pulled into a gas station.  I’m alone in the motor, when the driver calls me over.  He’s found me a ride all the way to Lviv!  Deep joy!  Deep joys turn to the depths of despair when I realise it’s with twelve drunk, smelly guys in the back of a mini-van.  Not a word of English, and stinking like farts in a brewery.  200 km of booze, B.O and bums.

My luck is turning though as one makes a call to an English-speaking friend.  She comes on the line and trills in perfect chat, asking where I need to be.  I arrange a drop off in the old town of Lviv, within touching distance of my hostel.  The sun has set, and I’m nearly home.  How wrong I was.

Cruising in for nightfall and we turn off the main drag.  We’ve repeatedly stopped for smoking and beer breaks, and I’m trying hard to stay awake and attentive.  I’ve not eaten since breakfast, and I’m fading fast.  26 km to go, and we make that turn.  I fear the worst.

No Lviv signs.  No lights.  The guys in the van are all passing out.  All my senses on full alert as best I can muster.  Where are we?  Is that the glow of the sunset or the glow of the city?  Why did we turn off the road?  Have 26 km gone by?  Who just dropped that horrible fart?

The van swerves to the curb side.  “LVIV, LVIV” the driver yells.  “YOU OUT!”  I think it would have been friendlier if he spoke English.  I’m deposited by a turn off and told Lviv is 2 km in that direction.  He jabs a finger out the window into the dark.  “That direction” happening to be down a pitch-black road through fields.  A suspicious black car turns it’s lights off in what looks like a dogging car park.  A shopping centre is a hefty distance off, the phosphorescent glow fuzzy like when you don’t wear your glasses.  They speed away, and I curse every man Jack of them.  It’s 22.30.

My legs are going out from under me as I march through the night, with no idea where I am or what direction I’m going.  Then it all comes out.  The tears flow.  The problems.  The crying to the heavens.  The asking mum and dad for help.  The issues with a lost love.  Numerous lost loves.  All I want is someone to love me as much as I love them.  And a dog.  I don’t want this anymore.  I just want to be loved.  Why am I putting myself though this?  Why am I in a field in Ukraine approaching midnight with no sight of sanctuary?  I collapse in the middle of the road, heaving.

But I realise this isn’t a good place to go Bridget Jones, so I haul myself to street lamps.  I’m right on the outskirts of Lviv, with the kind of large bank-note bus drivers would be frightened of.  I stagger into town, walking kilometer after kilometer without end in sight, holding my sign out in the vain hope someone will drive me to the centre.  I contemplate throwing a fall to perhaps de-fib some empathy at such injustice to your fellow man; but give up eventually when I see welcome cabbie lights gliding my way.  I throw myself in and hand him the address.

Which of course he doesn’t know!  Same old same old.  Out come the glasses, out comes the little street index finder, out come the excuses.  After the metre has clocked up a fair figure, I start getting techy.  He doesn’t speak English but he knows he needs to move now.  It’s still a fair distance into the old town.

He rips me off, but I don’t care.  I’m at the end of my tether.  I’m also realising I’m not nearly at the end of this story I need to sort it out for fear of boring you all to tears!  So, to continue.  I arrive at an empty shell of a building, stinking of piss.  Not me; the building.  This isn’t my hostel, and if it is, it’s certainly going to get marked down on Trip-advisor.

I wander the streets for ages.  Nobody knows where it is, people send me all over the place.  Of course everything is in cyrillic, so street signs (when there are some) are impossible for me to read.  Words like Вул. Дорошенка and Вул. Мечнікова adorn the walls.  Helpful folk with iPhones still give me the wrong addresses.  A cafe of beautiful girls direct me to my destination, but it’s not the right one.  In dire straights, I speak to a woman holding a baby at another wrong hostel.  She puts the kid down on my hitch sign, and she starts to jump all over it, before turning her attention to my colourful GPS SOS device.  I spin to discover her jabbing at buttons, and leap across in bullet time to pull it to safety.  However bad it’s been today, I don’t need a team of specialists converging on my location just because I can’t find my hostel and I’m being harassed by a two-year old.

We bumbled on for an age and eventually establish not only has the hostel changed address, but it’s also changed its name.  What I thought I was booking turns out to be something of a shit-hole, and one I still can’t find after numerous directions.  Nobody can give directions abroad!  Nobody!  Not in South America!  Not in Europe!  Not anywhere!  “Follow this road until you get here, then turn left;” is actually a dead-end and a right turn.  Eventually I mange to find an English speaker who helps my cause. I’m seething by the time I’m let in.

It’s 2am when I’m finally through the door.   So what do I do?  I go for a pint. I’m tired, I’ve not eaten since 8am, a girl is on my mind, so I need a beer.  I end up finding an underground all-night Ukrainian bar after wandering around for an eon.  Again nobody could give directions to a late bar.  Nobody knows anything.  But at around 4am, I’m hammered on local ale, eating Pig ears, and fending off the advances of a male bar staff member who wants me for sex.  What a way to finish the day.

Phew.  I got there in the end.  But let me ease any troubled minds.  No matter how bad it gets, no matter how upset I am, no matter how crazy things seem to be;  when the chips are down, and my back is to the wall, that is when I’ll fight the hardest.  With anything.  The night is darkest before dawn, and I will always come out stronger.  The hostel I left in Kiev had a nice little idea.  On the wall it said “take what you need”; then below, written out like those numbers you tear off from adverts, were words like; love, forgiveness, hope, friendship, faith, etc.  What would you think I took?

I took courage. Courage to get through days like today.  Courage to get through and battle with demons I’ve been harbouring a long time.  Courage to beat this depression and conquer my heartbreak.  Love will come.  It will come when I’m ready for it.  But right now I’m lying in a warm bed utterly amazed at how I got here.  Apologies for the length of the post, but it can’t really do any justice to days like this.  It’s your life.   You just have to feel it.  You have to experience it.  I’m living for it.  So should you.

 

 

 

 

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Kiev today

Tuesday 03 June

“Oooooh don’t go to Ukraine!”  Said everyone.  “It’s dangerous!”  Well so is your kitchen.  After spending a couple of days aclimatising to the local vodka, I’ve ventured into the centre of this beautiful city, and I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Now I’m not a political genius, or profess myself to have any actual knowledge of such matters at all.  As far as I can glean, Ukraine’s former president Yanukovych was pro-Russian, while the majority of the people were pro Ukraine/the West.  Clashes between protestors and police happened back in February, which after some bloodshed resulted in the overthrow of the powers that be.  Yanukovych fled to Russia, allegedly taking billions of dollars with him.  The new factions asserted control, and arranged diplomatic elections to be held in May.

Meanwhile in the South, Putin decided it would be a good idea to invade Crimea.  Pro Russian separatists sprung up in Donetsk and other Eastern cities, and violent clashes have still been taking place there.  A journalist and translator were recently killed in a mortar attack, tensions are high, and hitchhiking out there is probably a really stupid idea.  I wisely decide to keep West.

So I arrived in the city on the eve of the elections, and after a very hospitable stay with my last hitch pick-up, I find myself in a hostel filled with a mix of journalists, humanitarian workers, and pro-Russian separatists.  The latter being massive wankers.  I take a stroll through the city’s Independence Square, or “The Maidan”.

Thankfully the protests have calmed down to a whisper, and peace has graced the city.  Although I was told last night that I would have to be “killed if I didn’t like Putin.”  Regardless, with the elections all but passing with barely a whimper of protest, the popular new man in charge (a chocolate factory owning diabetic) , has called for the barricades to come down.  They have served their purpose.  Where once the country rallied to the cause, now stands tumbledown tents and tyre walls, devoid of all but homeless and drunks.  They’re not going to give it up easily, although the first have started to be removed.  Hopefully in the East, common sense will prevail, and the clashes will settle down sooner rather than later.  But that is like saying the troubles in Ireland are over.  It’s a rocky road ahead.

But do visit Kiev!  Ukrainians are a friendly bunch.  So long as you don’t say the wrong thing to the wrong one.  Check to see if they have Russian sympathies first.  Or just give them a shit-load of Vodka.

 

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