Kiev to Lviv

After visiting the beautiful Crimea, I took the night train back to Kiev, where I spent a few more days writing and hanging out with very kind Ukraineans. My plan was to go hitchhiking to the Netherlands to celebrate Christmas with my family. Since I had good experiences fetching a ride up north, I thought it would be easy to get back west. But it was cold and rainy, and Bratislava, Vienna, and the other potential cities on my way wouldn’t be so attractive this time of the year, and neither would the Carpatian and Tatra mountains. So I checked the internet and found a cheap flight from Katowice to Eindhoven (40 km from my family), with Wizz air, Hungary’s cheap airline, and decided to go.

I had to take an overnight train to Lviv first, which left at 23:58 and arrived there at 10:30 in the morning. It cost me about 8 €. That night was the first time that I met no other people on the train, and just took the provided linen out of the plastic and laid my head down on the upper bunk bed, as always. Couldn’t sleep though, and was quite tired when I arrived in Lviv.

Lviv (Lvov in Russian) is an interesting city. It used to be Polish, but

I walked around; the center was near the classicist train station, and I had the impression that a Russian town was blended with and a Polish settlement. Some houses reminded me of Krakow and Gdansk, the parks and boulevards (the main Prospekt) were just like their counterparts in Russia’s metropoles. I didn’t have much time though, to explore this interesting city, because I had to take the Mashrutka to the avtoboksal (autobus station). Fellow travelers: it takes about 40 minutes and you might have to wait for a less crowded bus, so take your time. The bus to Katowice was late, and I had a conversation about the family of an older Ukrainean couple, that could have been taken right from my Russian coursebook. They went to visit their daughter who was a medic in Edinburgh. Yes we share the same world.

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Kiev to Lviv

After visiting the beautiful Crimea, I took the night train back to Kiev, where I spent a few more days writing and hanging out with very kind Ukraineans. My plan was to go hitchhiking to the Netherlands to celebrate Christmas with my family. Since I had good experiences fetching a ride up north, I thought it would be easy to get back west. But it was cold and rainy, and Bratislava, Vienna, and the other potential cities on my way wouldn’t be so attractive this time of the year, and neither would the Carpatian and Tatra mountains. So I checked the internet and found a cheap flight from Katowice to Eindhoven (40 km from my family), with Wizz air, Hungary’s cheap airline, and decided to go.

I had to take an overnight train to Lviv first, which left at 23:58 and arrived there at 10:30 in the morning. It cost me about 8 €. That night was the first time that I met no other people on the train, and just took the provided linen out of the plastic and laid my head down on the upper bunk bed, as always. Couldn’t sleep though, and was quite tired when I arrived in Lviv.

Lviv (Lvov in Russian) is an interesting city. It used to be Polish, but

I walked around; the center was near the classicist train station, and I had the impression that a Russian town was blended with and a Polish settlement. Some houses reminded me of Krakow and Gdansk, the parks and boulevards (the main Prospekt) were just like their counterparts in Russia’s metropoles. I didn’t have much time though, to explore this interesting city, because I had to take the Mashrutka to the avtoboksal (autobus station). Fellow travelers: it takes about 40 minutes and you might have to wait for a less crowded bus, so take your time. The bus to Katowice was late, and I had a conversation about the family of an older Ukrainean couple, that could have been taken right from my Russian coursebook. They went to visit their daughter who was a medic in Edinburgh. Yes we share the same world.

Kiev to Lviv

After visiting the beautiful Crimea, I took the night train back to Kiev, where I spent a few more days writing and hanging out with very kind Ukraineans. My plan was to go hitchhiking to the Netherlands to celebrate Christmas with my family. Since I had good experiences fetching a ride up north, I thought it would be easy to get back west. But it was cold and rainy, and Bratislava, Vienna, and the other potential cities on my way wouldn’t be so attractive this time of the year, and neither would the Carpatian and Tatra mountains. So I checked the internet and found a cheap flight from Katowice to Eindhoven (40 km from my family), with Wizz air, Hungary’s cheap airline, and decided to go.

I had to take an overnight train to Lviv first, which left at 23:58 and arrived there at 10:30 in the morning. It cost me about 8 €. That night was the first time that I met no other people on the train, and just took the provided linen out of the plastic and laid my head down on the upper bunk bed, as always. Couldn’t sleep though, and was quite tired when I arrived in Lviv.

Lviv (Lvov in Russian) is an interesting city. It used to be Polish, but

I walked around; the center was near the classicist train station, and I had the impression that a Russian town was blended with and a Polish settlement. Some houses reminded me of Krakow and Gdansk, the parks and boulevards (the main Prospekt) were just like their counterparts in Russia’s metropoles. I didn’t have much time though, to explore this interesting city, because I had to take the Mashrutka to the avtoboksal (autobus station). Fellow travelers: it takes about 40 minutes and you might have to wait for a less crowded bus, so take your time. The bus to Katowice was late, and I had a conversation about the family of an older Ukrainean couple, that could have been taken right from my Russian coursebook. They went to visit their daughter who was a medic in Edinburgh. Yes we share the same world.

Kiev #1. мистер снек.

The trainride was comfortable, and the other three guys on the bunk beds in my compartment were very friendly. They offered me some cold chicken for dinner. We spoke in some kind of RussianEnglish that I came to like as the train rushed to the Ukrainean border. We went to bed, only to sleep a few hours. The border crossing was not spectacular, but weary. Instead of being haressed and arrested by some Russian special forces, highly trained to recognize foreign travelers who don’t register their stay or have other irregularities on their paperwork, and take them in to squeeze some good money out of them. Didn’t happen. A friendly Russian lady just took my passport and gave it back after ten minutes, nodding that everything was fine. My fellow travelers congratulated me ‘officially’ and welcomed me to the Ukraine. After another hour however, the Ukrainean border control wanted to see my id, too. As I handed it to them, with a kind smile as always, one friendly uniformed man became suspicious, and looked to my photo and me, slowly nodding his head, then signaling me to come with him, to his colleague who was to give a second opinion. So it went through my head “what if they don’t recognize me? What if I turn out to be a different person than the guy in the passport? But he was me, wasn’t he? Yes, but he couldn’t proof it. And the passport guy looked much younger than I did, too. So they’d take me to a cold prison cell, connect me to strange equipment and make me very sad.”
…Fortunately, this colleague said yes, that’s him. To cut the story short: if you travel to the Ukraine with an old passport (without fingerprint id) make sure your picture looks like you. Shave yourselves, for example, because that was of course what I had forgotten to do, and my ridiculous tourist beard gave the highly trained border guard a hard time in comparing me to my photograph.

So, Kiev. The climate was cool upon my arrival at 5am. Fortunately, we found a cafe where we had some breakfast. Then we parted, and I walked around the station, ate an apple for 1 griven (about 10 eurocents; the griven dropped during my stay), and went to the cafe again to write. The waitress would not allow me to sit without drinking more coffee than I could endure, and wanted to send me out. I gave her a concise English lecture on moral code and general hospitability, the coffeehouse rules and a codex of courtesy principles every human being should obey, which of course was buried unattendedly in the cafe rumours. I thus let it be, and went outside.

The morning grew older, and I decided to take the metro to the center. There are only three lines, and the system is similar to Moscow, so I felt comfortable with it right away. I bought a blue chip to enter the system (price: 2 griven; a few weeks ago it was 1/2 griven. Anyone remember the last fourfold rise in public transportation fares in the Western World? Exactly). I got off near the Maydan, the central square, in the most expensive shopping district (all the fancy names were in the shopping windows). It had a touch of Paris, I felt. Anyway, my backpack began to feel heavy, and I stepped into мистер снек (mister snek) to have a sandwich and write.

Kiev #1. мистер снек.

The trainride was comfortable, and the other three guys on the bunk beds in my compartment were very friendly. They offered me some cold chicken for dinner. We spoke in some kind of RussianEnglish that I came to like as the train rushed to the Ukrainean border. We went to bed, only to sleep a few hours. The border crossing was not spectacular, but weary. Instead of being haressed and arrested by some Russian special forces, highly trained to recognize foreign travelers who don’t register their stay or have other irregularities on their paperwork, and take them in to squeeze some good money out of them. Didn’t happen. A friendly Russian lady just took my passport and gave it back after ten minutes, nodding that everything was fine. My fellow travelers congratulated me ‘officially’ and welcomed me to the Ukraine. After another hour however, the Ukrainean border control wanted to see my id, too. As I handed it to them, with a kind smile as always, one friendly uniformed man became suspicious, and looked to my photo and me, slowly nodding his head, then signaling me to come with him, to his colleague who was to give a second opinion. So it went through my head “what if they don’t recognize me? What if I turn out to be a different person than the guy in the passport? But he was me, wasn’t he? Yes, but he couldn’t proof it. And the passport guy looked much younger than I did, too. So they’d take me to a cold prison cell, connect me to strange equipment and make me very sad.”
…Fortunately, this colleague said yes, that’s him. To cut the story short: if you travel to the Ukraine with an old passport (without fingerprint id) make sure your picture looks like you. Shave yourselves, for example, because that was of course what I had forgotten to do, and my ridiculous tourist beard gave the highly trained border guard a hard time in comparing me to my photograph.

So, Kiev. The climate was cool upon my arrival at 5am. Fortunately, we found a cafe where we had some breakfast. Then we parted, and I walked around the station, ate an apple for 1 griven (about 10 eurocents; the griven dropped during my stay), and went to the cafe again to write. The waitress would not allow me to sit without drinking more coffee than I could endure, and wanted to send me out. I gave her a concise English lecture on moral code and general hospitability, the coffeehouse rules and a codex of courtesy principles every human being should obey, which of course was buried unattendedly in the cafe rumours. I thus let it be, and went outside.

The morning grew older, and I decided to take the metro to the center. There are only three lines, and the system is similar to Moscow, so I felt comfortable with it right away. I bought a blue chip to enter the system (price: 2 griven; a few weeks ago it was 1/2 griven. Anyone remember the last fourfold rise in public transportation fares in the Western World? Exactly). I got off near the Maydan, the central square, in the most expensive shopping district (all the fancy names were in the shopping windows). It had a touch of Paris, I felt. Anyway, my backpack began to feel heavy, and I stepped into мистер снек (mister snek) to have a sandwich and write.

Kiev #1. мистер снек.

The trainride was comfortable, and the other three guys on the bunk beds in my compartment were very friendly. They offered me some cold chicken for dinner. We spoke in some kind of RussianEnglish that I came to like as the train rushed to the Ukrainean border. We went to bed, only to sleep a few hours. The border crossing was not spectacular, but weary. Instead of being haressed and arrested by some Russian special forces, highly trained to recognize foreign travelers who don’t register their stay or have other irregularities on their paperwork, and take them in to squeeze some good money out of them. Didn’t happen. A friendly Russian lady just took my passport and gave it back after ten minutes, nodding that everything was fine. My fellow travelers congratulated me ‘officially’ and welcomed me to the Ukraine. After another hour however, the Ukrainean border control wanted to see my id, too. As I handed it to them, with a kind smile as always, one friendly uniformed man became suspicious, and looked to my photo and me, slowly nodding his head, then signaling me to come with him, to his colleague who was to give a second opinion. So it went through my head “what if they don’t recognize me? What if I turn out to be a different person than the guy in the passport? But he was me, wasn’t he? Yes, but he couldn’t proof it. And the passport guy looked much younger than I did, too. So they’d take me to a cold prison cell, connect me to strange equipment and make me very sad.”
…Fortunately, this colleague said yes, that’s him. To cut the story short: if you travel to the Ukraine with an old passport (without fingerprint id) make sure your picture looks like you. Shave yourselves, for example, because that was of course what I had forgotten to do, and my ridiculous tourist beard gave the highly trained border guard a hard time in comparing me to my photograph.

So, Kiev. The climate was cool upon my arrival at 5am. Fortunately, we found a cafe where we had some breakfast. Then we parted, and I walked around the station, ate an apple for 1 griven (about 10 eurocents; the griven dropped during my stay), and went to the cafe again to write. The waitress would not allow me to sit without drinking more coffee than I could endure, and wanted to send me out. I gave her a concise English lecture on moral code and general hospitability, the coffeehouse rules and a codex of courtesy principles every human being should obey, which of course was buried unattendedly in the cafe rumours. I thus let it be, and went outside.

The morning grew older, and I decided to take the metro to the center. There are only three lines, and the system is similar to Moscow, so I felt comfortable with it right away. I bought a blue chip to enter the system (price: 2 griven; a few weeks ago it was 1/2 griven. Anyone remember the last fourfold rise in public transportation fares in the Western World? Exactly). I got off near the Maydan, the central square, in the most expensive shopping district (all the fancy names were in the shopping windows). It had a touch of Paris, I felt. Anyway, my backpack began to feel heavy, and I stepped into мистер снек (mister snek) to have a sandwich and write.

A 27 Hour Trainride.

In the morning, Alyona brought me to the station with the tram, where a woman sold the tickets on board. The train was already there, but I had to wait to get in. My passport was doublechecked and I entered a clean new waggon (you might be less lucky if you try to take a train in Russia) where a comfortable bunk bed, linen, a pillow, a blanket and free hot water from a fascinating machine were available on the long long ride.

And long it was. Fortunately, I shared my compartment with two nice Russian women and Michael, a bald ship engineer with a nice moustache who had seen the world, or at least an array of harbours on all of its continents. It was interesting talking to him, although – his English was just slightly better than my Russian. But we had time! O yes, we had time. And using our meager shared vocubulary, hand and feet gesturing being of some help, we spoke about traveling, about Russian literature (admittedly, we only did some name-dropping), and then I asked him how he felt about Obama.
“Well, I very glad”, he said. “And do you know “Voyna i mir” (War and Peace)? Yes, yes. “Bush – voyna; Obama – mir. We were fond of that association and laughed, catching the attention of the woman sleeping below me on the bunk bed. “What are you talking about?” she asked in Russian. “Politics!” I think that is a funny situation: give two men a few words and they already start talking politics. Yes, it felt great, and I wrote a few pages while Michael read some Rasputin. When the bumping of the train got nasty, I stopped writing and went to bed.