Category Archives: countries

Chișinău (2013-12-01–2013-12-03)

Thanks to Jenya events happened endlessly during my stay in Chișinău

On the very first day Jenya, his friend Nikita and me cycled outside the city to visit rope-jumpers. There is an unfinished tall building on a hill, 60 meters or so, and people jump from that building. When we’d come there, someone was going to jump, but couldn’t get the courage. It was really scary to watch jumps from the ground.

We decided to take our bicycles on the top to be sure nothing will happen with them. Seems it was harder, than the following jump.

It’s interesting that girls were more brave than guys. I was afraid even to look down. But I didn’t hesitate when it was my turn, I also didn’t want to make anyone waiting for me. So I jumped. Jenya recorded video of the jump:

We were on a party of bearded men, visited Jenya’s friends, Jenya cooked mămăligă and plăcintăs, and so on. After the end of the third day I’d discovered I didn’t take even a single photo in Chișinău.

Jenya also noticed that the time had come to change the bicycle’s chain. Now I’ve got a new chain, and in the future I’ll change it in time.

I met up with Tanya one more time to continue interview. Actually we just talked each other, I answered her questions as I could do it, and Tanya recorded our talk on a phone. As a result she made really clear text from the scraps I fed her. I was amused by the result. I won’t become tired to repeat that Tanya is a super specialist.

So, the interview is in Russian, but you can use Google Translate to read it:

Chernivtsi–Chișinău (2013-11-26–2013-11-30)

Alex and Jenya, those people who met me initially in Chernivtsi, came to see me off. I felt sad, but after 20-30 km my mood raised a bit.

Every customs guard on Ukraine-Moldova border initially thought I’m a foreigner, and then they said with disappointment: “Aah, Russian…”

Close to the border in Lipcani I withdrew money and bought a SIM-card. A car driver started talking with me. I asked him for a cigarette, but he took an entire pack and gave it to me. He said that I need it.
A forest was close to the city, I stopped there for a night. Actually, forests are rarity in Moldova, so I was lucky.

Ann, who hosted me in Lviv, told me that she’ll help to find a host in Chișinău. A friend of her, Ion, called in the midnight. I didn’t get everything he told me that time as I was sleepy, but I understood that everything will be fine. And after that Tanya, who works in the popular Moldovan internet magazine, called me. She got to know that someone will pass Chișinău by bicycle in this time of year and decided to take an interview with me. For sure I agreed and got a sleep in a good mood.

After that I felt a bit responsible about my trip in Moldova. What would I tell in the interview if I’d get some serious problems in Moldova?

On the next day I could check the quality of Moldovan roads. In total, they have much better roads than in Ukraine. Even in some places where roads were completely patched, it was done well and didn’t annoy much. Though, I have to admit I mostly take big roads, as the traffic wasn’t high there.

Maybe in Lonely Planet guide I read that there are no mountains in Moldova, therefore cycling there is total joy. I’m sure the author didn’t try to cycle there. Indeed, there are no mountains, but there are hills and very steep ascents on them. In Ukrainian part of Carpathian Mountains I was tired less than on Moldovan hills.

So I was tired, couldn’t reach a forest and chose a place under a bridge. Ground freezed, I used a stone to hammer tent’s pegs in. Water in plastic bottles started freezing during the day as well, so I put it in the bottom part of sleeping bag.

In the last days I got used to have mobile internet, and I check e-mails and so on in the evenings. But there was no mobile connection under the bridge. I went out on a field, legs and hands were shaking due to cold, but I still checked something on the internet.

Some tea was left in the thermo mug, and in the morning I got a beautiful pattern inside. I didn’t repeat this mistake on the next days.

I cycled in Soroca’s direction, a Roma capital as Moldovans call it. According to Wikipedia only some 3% of Soroca’s population are gypsies, but probably it’s more than in other places of Moldova. Indeed, I met some gypsies on the way. In a few kilometers from the city I met a gypsy who strangely asked me what I’m carrying by bicycle. Seems he didn’t understand I’m just a tourist. He also asked me about my earrings and a person who put the earrings into my ears.

Two times in Soroca female gypsies noticed me and yelled: “America?”

As I understood from talks with Moldovans (and it’s really easy to start a talk with some unknown Moldovan), they don’t really like gypsies, but there is no open confrontation.

Soroca Fortress, the main sight of the city, was closed for renovation. OK, the Dniester River is there and it’s beautitiful.

It snowed a bit during the night. Fields and roadsides still were covered by snow, but the road was clean. The road to Chișinău was repaired in many places, and workers cried and bore me up.

In the next morning I only had to visit Old Orhei, and then I could go to Chișinău. It was very beautiful in Old Orhei, so I didn’t notice how I spent there a few hours. I rushed towards Chișinău before getting dark.

Tanya met me in Chișinău in a place where cyclists usually meet. Dasha took a few photos with me. The idea was to take photos exactly after my arrival to the city, when I’m dirty and unshaved. Tanya took a small interview and we decided we’ll continue after a few days.

Then Jenya, who was found because of Ann’s efforts, came and took me to the home.

Chernivtsi (2013-11-13–2013-11-25)

I’m quite lucky, and every person who hosted me is absolutely amazing. But stay in Chernivtsi is a special deal. I’ve spent there two weeks. More than in any other city. Though I had a formal reason for that (I got a Romanian visa), but even without any visas I’d like to spend those days one more time. Those days were very interesting and unusual.

For the first time in my life I lived in a squat. Huge abandoned building in the city center only for one person (me). Indeed, only one room is prepared for living, but the feeling of expanse and freedom didn’t leave me.

Usually nobody lives in this squat. Guys gather there in the evenings, sometimes people stay there for a night. I was the first who lived on a regular basis. My appearance gave a push to equip the place faster: guys brought stuff to make my habitation more comfortable: heater, teapot, electric stove, etc. The only unsolved problem in the squat is sewerage. But I’m sure they’ll manage it.

There is a film cliché when they show a den, someone at the entrance, and his eye looking through the eyhole and deciding whether a person is allowed to enter or not. It was something similar when I went downstairs, watched through the hole in the door and opened the door for someone.

We chatted, laughed, made sandwiches with marrow paste, played mandolin, did nothing. It was a great time.

When I went out I often followed the same route, and I became to feel I’m a local. Chernivtsi is a beatiful city, it’s a heritage from Austro-Hungarian Empire. The main sight is the university that was a seminary originally. Once I and Alex climbed to the dome of the church at the university. It was frightful to be on the dome, you can stick only to a small staircase or the cross. We did it during the day, some students and professors were below, but nobody spotted us. It seems they’ve got used so much to that dome that they don’t rise heads.

Once I sat on the main pedestrian street and drank coffee. Suddenly German had appeared. German whom I met in Lviv. He’d seen my back from a bus when he came back to his village, and he went out to walk a bit with me. Such an unexpected and nice meeting. We met up two more times after that.

On the third or fourth day I’d got a call from a friend of Archie. She works as a manager of a local TV channel. Archie told her about me and she decided to film me for their channel. It happened chaotically: I’d got a call in the late evening, and they decided to film on the next day. I didn’t even ask anything about the telecast, how I should behave, and so on. I forgot I had no clean clothes.

I thought they were going to explain me something before the shooting, but Tata just had said: “OK, we are ready, start shooting”. She gave me notice that her voice won’t be heard in the telecast, so I had to repeat somehow her questions before actual answers. Of course I forgot about that after a few minutes.
But I like the result. I’m not ashamed to show it to anyone. And I got a lesson for the future.

I’m sorry as the video in Russian, but you can watch how I’m cycling awkwardly in this video.

But still I should write about the visa. My first visit to the consulate ended up unsuccessfully. Booking of a random hotel in Romania wasn’t enough to make a long-term visa. An old man who checked documents said agressively I should bring an invitation letter from a Romanian citizen. But I just asked what documents I have to bring if I’m an ordinary tourist and know no one in Romania.

At first I tried to get an invitation with help of my friends. Many people were willing to help, but it happened too slowly. So after all I’d visited a company where they help to prepare documents and had bought an invitation for 50 $. Taking into account that half of the price is a notary tax, the price isn’t very high. I even met in person the man who “invites” me.

After that I had no problems in the consulate. They said I have to pay 100 $, not 50 $, as they do only urgent visas for citizens of third countries. On the next day I’d got the visa.

Everything had ended up well, I had to go further.
Alex, Jenya, Vlad, Archie, Lena, Maks, David, we’ll meet up again!

Lviv–Chernivtsi (2013-11-08–2013-11-12)

By tradition I’d left Lviv in the late afternoon. Very late. Too late. German helped me to hang panniers on the bicycle. In the last moment I told him my phone number, but forgot to take his. It was unclear whether we’ll meet up some day or not.

I went away not far from the city. The road became hilly, but I didn’t feel tired. It was interesting what I can see after the next hill.

I spent the night on the top of one hill which rose behind a fallow field.

There were almost no villages on the way to Rohatyn, my eye took a rest. Getting closer to Burshtyn I’d discovered quite a big lake on the map. That’s almost all I can say about that lake, nothing interesting. After that there was Burshtyn TES (coal-fired power plant) and dozens of power lines. Wires buzzed so hard, that my eye started twitching.

Several times on the way I saw posters calling to visit Old Halych. Ok, let’s watch what’s there. That’s what I thought at that time. But that area didn’t amaze me at all. Though, there was a beautiful forest. I’d stopped there early to explore Ivano-Frankivsk in the next morning without rush.

It was warm that day. I took out the mandolin outdoor for the first time, sat under a tree and played till twilights. Gradually the feeling of freedom rises inside me, the feeling that I aim to, I think. I myself establish rules and restrictions of my life. If I want to stop earlier just because I liked a forest—OK. Have remembered about the mandolin—why not.

In the early morning I’d come into Ivano-Frankivsk, rode a bit in the mostly pedestrian city center and had left the city. On the exit from the city I met ten of lycra cyclists (there is a popular word in Russian for this type of cyclists: “helmet-gay”; I don’t want to offend anyone, nor spandex cyclists, nor gays, it’s just a note). For some time I was able to follow them, but at some moment they hadn’t stopped at traffic light. I’d stopped and turned to a shop to express protest. The owner of the shop did a small discount when asked about my trip.

Finally I was in Carpathian Mountains. Shortly: I didn’t like that experience. But this is only my experience, it’d be stupid to generalize it.

I imagined how I’m pedalling, hills and mountains are spreading out around, flavour of a fir forest is tickling my nose, and no one is there. Unfortunately only villages spreaded along the road, village after village endlessly. Numerous hotels and guesthouses on the way. I think even if I’d choose less popular road, it’d be the same, the only difference is that it’d take more time. So, I’d come to the conclusion that it’d be better to travel there on foot, away from people.

Maybe I’m influenced by Nepalese mountains too much, it’s hard to surprise me.

Nonsense, but it was hard to find a place for wild camping in Carpathian Mountains. All the flat places were conquered by owners of houses and hotels. I found a place under an electric tower and worried a bit that my brain will be burnt after a night in such place, but there were no other options (except of guesthoses).

Strangely I’d done many kilometers on that day. I thought: “OK, just a bit more, just a little bit higher, and, perhaps, less houses will be there”. It’s funny to recall how I shifted on the lowest gear and climbed slowly on hills, and dogs ran side by side and barked without stop. So, in that evening I was on the highest point on my way in Carpathian Mountains.

After that I had to go only downhill, but I can’t say it was easier or faster than going uphill. First, you can’t carelessly roll down: with the quality of those roads you feel that you are doing slalom, just instead flags you’ve got potholes. Second, moveless hands on the brakes become cold fast.

When I was low enough I went by a road along a river. There were a few variants, but I liked how the road curled on the map following the bends of the river. Actually, there were two roads, on the both banks of the river. One was better, another worse. Still, they repaired the better one, so I needed to cross bridges sometimes and follow the bad one. Later in Chernivtsi Alex told me that a few days before my arrival there was a strike on the main bridge in that area. People wanted improvement of the road.

As in the previous night I’d got a problem with a sleeping place. I tried a field. In the darkness it seemed that there was a small forest behind the field. But that forest was placed on a steep hill. On the way back the bicycle had stuck in a deep muddy puddle. After a few seconds the bicycle had fallen down, the panniers were dirty, socks were wet, downpour strengthened. Despair was getting heavier, I tried to find a place on a cemetery, but the gates were closed. Corpses don’t wait for me yet.

There was an abandoned railway station and an open house, I could stay there for the night. But I watched shit and broken bottles in the corners and decided, that it isn’t a place I dreamt about. I’d put my tent up close to that house in the middle of three trees.

I planned to get a Romanian visa in Chernivtsi, so I needed to stay there longer than I usually do. People from CouchSurfing obviously didn’t want to host an unknown persons for long term. Liza, the girl I met in the last evening in Lviv, gave me a phone number of Alex. She told me, that I can stay in a squat he manages. Alex didn’t pick up the phone and didn’t reply SMS.

At this moment in the narrative I have to describe it very dramatically. In fact I didn’t feel depressed. I was laying in the tent, socks and feet were dried up, and tomorrow is another day. In the worst case I could always build a camp near Chernivtsi and visit the city only to have deals with the documents.

Luckily, nothing like this had happened in reality. Alex answered in the next morning, and I somehow managed to ride 70 kilometers just in 3 hours. Alex and Jane had brought me in the squat through the back entrance. It’d be suspicious if I’d go there with my bicycle through the main entrance. One room in that abandoned house is arranged for habitation, it’s very nice there. I’ll write much about the place later on, but some details will be omitted, as I don’t want to attract attention of inappropriate persons (even though those stories are quite interesting).

Liza, thanks again for your help!

Lviv (2013-11-05–2013-11-07)

Whenever I want to write about a city I’ve visited, I do it poorly. So, just believe me, that Lviv is wonderful. The city center is concerved and the whole area is like a big museum. It seems you can walk there endlessly. It doesn’t matter what direction you take, it’s interesting everywhere.

Almost all the streets in the center are stone pavings. Definitely it produces discomfort for car drivers (and cyclists), but it’s so nice to be a pedestrian there. Often people don’t pay attention to traffic lights, they know they’ll be passed. European architecture, narrow streets, numerous coffee houses, bars and small restaurants… It’s so fine to be there.

I was so happy that Ann offered me to stay for one more day. She wanted to introduce me her friend German from Romanian village in the South of Ukraine. I’m glad we met up, German is a very interesting person. In the last evening Ann and Yosh organized jam-session at home, it was quite funny. Thank you, Ann and Yosh, I’ll keep that evening in memory for a long time!