Odesa–Focșani (2013-12-09–2013-12-13)

After leaving Odesa I went by a road that goes along the sea. Initially I planned to go along the sea as long as possible and admire the views on the way. Unfortunately, the coastal area is full of buildings or there are fences, so you can’t see anything. I couldn’t see anything even when I was on the narrow stripe of ground where the sea is on one side and gulf on another. In rare good moments I saw sea edge and dirty icy crumbs there. A cold breeze was blowing hard.

I had to change my plan and left the coastal area in the evening. On one hill I’d overtaken a man who pushed his bicycle uphill hardly. Then I stopped to turn on the rear light. He came to me and started asking questions. It was the first time that a person was so negative and skeptical. He didn’t ask about good things happen with me during the trip. Mostly he told I’ll get sick, I’ll be robbed, and so on. He couldn’t get what moves me forth. Also he asked me where I usually sleep. I told him that a forest is the most popular place I choose. He’d hemmed, went further and turned to his house after fifty meters.

During the day I tested thermoses that I’d bought in Odesa. It’s cool (no, warm!) to drink hot tea when it’s -5°C or lower outside. Moreover is helps against dehydration: you don’t want to drink much in the wintertime, and for sure you don’t want to drink icy water. But you drink hot tea with pleasure. So, I drank even more liquid than in warm days.

In the morning on the next day I tried to start riding, but wind was so strong (45 km/h according to weather forecast), that I could do only a few kilometers and then hided behind a wall of a battery farm. Birds (not from the battery farm) desperately tried to fly against wind, but were frozen in one place, flapped their wings, then gave up and glided in the opposite direction for long time. When I tried to fill a cup by tea from a thermos, one third of the liquid flew away out of the cup. Drops on the thermos wall got frozen fast.

I stood behind the wall about one and half hour and come to conclusion that I have to choose one of two options: go to a nearest shop, then find a place for the tent and don’t go anywhere on that day, or go further in spite of everything. Anyway, it was pointless just to stand on one place.

I tried to throw out all the thoughts in my head and concentrate only on the road. Only one word buzzed in my mind: “road, road, road…” After a while even this word had disappeared. I, bicycle and road—we had become the whole. I went uphill without tiredness, went on a broken road, went against the wind. I stopped only once to put balaclava on. I went quite much on that day.

It was snowing slightly in the evening. It took more time to cook food due to the low temperature outside.

On the next day I stopped at a shop in Zhovtnevoe village close to the border with Moldova. Slightly drunk, friendly men were in front of the stop. Some hryvnias remained in my pocket, so I spent them to buy expensive sweets. In the evening it started snowing hard, I lost a chance to stay in Galați, and I ate almost all the candies to boost my mood.

I had to find a new host, it was hard to do from mobile phone, so I took my notebook and “spammed” many people. Alina from Focșani in Romania replied me back, I could sleep easy.

Snow didn’t stop for the whole night, everything was covered by 20 cm deep layer of snow in the morning. It was the first serious snow in that place, so it was ice-slick on the road. There were almost no cars on the road due to these conditions, a truck driver was hesitating to go downhill. Vibram sole didn’t work nice on ice.

I’m not sure that even studded tyres could manage that ice-slick. I went along roadside, there was crumbly snow. Rules of safe riding in the snow are simple: go slowly and straight. But you have to be ready to falls, even with proper tyres (which I didn’t have) falls are inevitable. I fell down three times: first time I just got used to cycling in the snow, second time a shoelace got stuck in a pedal, third time someone decided to “greet” me and honked in the back. I was frightened, pulled the handlebar and fell down.

Actually I don’t understand such people. I understand when a truck goes slowly on the opposite lane, driver makes a short honk and shows his palm. Or sometimes I meet moto-travellers. Usually they slow down, raise their hand up and respectfully nod. It looks like they admit me into their brotherhood. But I have no idea about thoughts of the drivers who honk me in the back. And I have no doubts that this is kind of “greeting”— I can’t impede anyone taking snowy roadside in one meter right from a paved road.

After 30 km snow started melting and turning into dirty slush, cycling became easier.

On the Moldovan-Romanian border everything happened very slowly, I got a bit chilly. Romanian border guards were very polite, but in the same time quite cheerful. One of them spoke Russian a bit, he wished me luck for a long time.

I went around Galați in hope to find a camping place. Nope, nothing suitable. Bought a pack of cigarettes. Quite expensive compare to previous countries—12 lei (3.6 $, one third of my usual daily budget). OK, Romania is a part of the European Union now, so it’s explicable. In other countries of the European Union it’s more expensive.

On the map there was a forest behind railway road, but the main part of it was behind a river that wasn’t marked on the map. So I put my tent up close to the railway road.

On the next day I had arrived in Focșani without problems. Roads are great in Romania, the very riding itself was a pleasure. Before coming to Romania I read outdated Lonely Planet and they wrote in details how terrible Romanian roads are. So, the times they are a-changin’.

Typical buildings of the communist past surrounded me near Alina’s place, she’d found me and we went home.

Odesa (2013-12-06–2013-12-08)

On the way to Odesa I didn’t imagine how big it is. But this is a good reason for travels, to get your own experience. If I’d know everything beforehand, it’d be pointless to go somewhere.

Two days I spent wandering in the city. Historical center, harbour, beaches, slum.

Most interesting place for me was slummish Devolanovskiy descent or “Kanava” (means “gutter“) as locals call it. I get attracted by such places, I like that anxious feeling I get when I’m in such places, my imagination draws strange pictures there. If I’d try to explain my admiration for aesthetics of ugliness, it’d take too much time. Fortunately, there are some more clever people, who can explain it. Good introduction into this theme is “On Ugliness” by Umberto Eco.

At least three people gave me advice to try falafel in a kiosk on the crossroad of Troitskaya and Preobrazhenskaya streets. Once I tried that falafel, I didn’t want any other food and ate in that kiosk only.
Warming up icy palms using falafel and plastic glass with hot tea, I had understood I can’t delay anymore and had bought two thermoses, 0.7 liter each, for the following winter days.

I’d overslept carelessly the morning when I had to leave Odesa. I felt guilty because of that, but I asked Tanya to host me for one more day. Tanya, forgive lazybones and thank you again for the hospitality!

Chișinău–Odesa (2013-12-04–2013-12-05)

Nothing really interesting happened on the way to Odesa.

Following the Jenya’s advice I went around Transnistria. Just didn’t want to have deals with customs. Though it’d be interesting to visit Bender or Tiraspol.

Initially I had a few options for stay in Odesa. But they disappeared later. I’d crossed the Moldovan-Ukrainian border and put Ukrainian SIM-card in. About five minutes later I’d got a message from Ann. She asked me if I’d found a host in Odesa. I don’t how it is possible! Is it a sensible woman’s heart? Or anything else? Just incredible! Ann rescued me again and gave contacts of her friend Tanya.

Tanya was busy in the evening, and I waited for her near the house. After some time I got cold and put more clothes on, still it was a bit chilly. A young man came to me and started talking with me. It turned out that previously he was seriously involved in sport, and currently he works as a bodyguard. He brought me to a gymnasium where his trainer worked and his friends trained. He left me there to get warmer. Those were very interesting guys.

And then Tanya came, so I continued to get warmer in the flat.

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: locals.md/2013/yuriy-zavarin-3000-km/.

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 Locals.md, 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.