Category Archives: ukraine

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!

Brest–Lviv (2013-11-01–2013-11-04)

Doubra told me that some border checkpoints don’t allow pedestrians to cross the border, you need to ask a car driver to pick you up. I searched on the internet, but didn’t find any related information. However I’ve discovered that the initially chosen border checkpoint is interstate one (only for citizens of Belarus and Ukraine). I chose another one (Tomashovka–Pulemets), international one.

It was deserted on the Belarusian border, no cars at all. Even border guards left their booths. Finally I was spotted. The border guard was curious about my tour, so I told him some stories. He shook my hand and wished good luck.

I expected to see Ukrainian checkpoint just in a few meters after that. In fact I rode for 4 km on a narrow road going through a forest. Perhaps Belarus and Ukraine can’t decide who takes the resposibility for this inter-border road, so it was in quite bad condition.

Ukrainian guards were also interesting about my person. They scared me, that it’s already snowing in Kyiv.

Since the only reason to go by the following road is to cross the border, I thought it’d be quite safe to put the tent up near the border. It’s unlikely that someone would decide to pick mushrooms in a forest just before crossing a border.

There was a lake close to that place. Geese yelled for long time, but a few hunters’ shots had ended those screams. Actually I already heard shots in some previous days. I’m not afraid to be killed by a hunter. But I can’t say I like such sounds. In addition hunters often go with dogs, it means I have to listen to barking even when I’m far from villages.

On the next day I had a chance to feel completely the soul of Ukrainian roads and drivers. Simply, the roads and the drivers are crazy. I don’t know whether such crazy roads make drivers crazy or the opposite. I can’t even say those roads are bad. The quality of the same road on whole length varies significantly every few kilometers. Corroded and distended on the road edges asphalt, patch-work quilt on the center of a road, sometimes a narrow white line appears on the edge and you understand, that there was asphalted roadside some day. And then suddenly a few kilometers of nice paved road, just as a short surprise. Feel safer in this case, but, anyway, some drivers going by oncoming lane force you to go on the unpaved part of a road.

There is more trash on Ukrainian roads. Even more than in Russia. Many shops don’t have trash bins in front of them. Though, sometimes I stopped at some nice shops with garden and pavilions.
The scenery is various than in Belarus, but it’s hard to say it takes my breath away, it just changes more often.

On that day I went in Shatsky National Natural Park, there are many lakes around. They don’t look picturesque, but probably it’s nice to swim there in the summertime. Rental ads are everywhere.

I’d left the park, and after that there were no forests. It was getting darker, still no forest, and large enough city Volodymyr-Volynskyi was not so far. Ukrainian forests are marked badly in my navigator, oppositely on a paper map too many places are marked as forests. Luckily I’d bought SIM-card on that day. I checked satellite pictures on Google Maps and went to the opposite direction. Indeed, there was a forest.

At that moment I still didn’t know where to stop in Lviv. Almost all my requests on CouchSurfing were ignored. The mood was not very elated. Fortunately, I’d written about it on Facebook, and Irene from Kyiv helped me in short time. Thank you, Irene!

On the third day I rode through miner’s cities. I was surprised that Ukrainian roads can be even worse. I keep in memory the exit from Chervonohrad. Rain, dust, enormous traffic jam, cars were swarming in dirt. Funny.

Using my previous experience I checked Google Maps much earlier. But it didn’t help me, I had to go quite far to the nearest forest. In the morning I was discovered by an old lady who picked mushrooms.

On the last day I met two shepherds. I was fed and we drank horilka. Even though I drank just a bit, I’d lost a glove in the field. Time to buy a new pair.

Before Lviv I visited Zhovkva. Small and beatiful city.

There are almost no asphalted roads in Lviv center, only cobbles. In addition they started restoring many of them. So I got down from the bicycle and slowly went on foot a few kilometers in wonderful and amazing Lviv. Had some problems with a narrow door of house entrance, but finally dragged the bicycle inside.