khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

TOP 3 best (omni) restaurants

1. Khevron, Odessa, Ukraine
2. Café Pushkin, Bakhchisaray, Ukraine
3. Rustic, Baia Sprie, Romania.

TOP 3 worst border crossings
1. Lithuania – Belarus
2. Belarus – Ukraine
2. Ukraine – Romania

TOP 3 most English spoken
1. Lviv, Ukraine
2. Vilnius, Lithuania
3. Sighișoara, Romania

TOP 3 accommodations
1. Casa Olarului, Baia Sprie, Romania
2. Hunting House, Kujbyshevo, Ukraine
3. Hotel Telecom Guest, Vilnius, Lithuania

TOP 3 most impressive cities

1. Minsk, Belarus
2. Odessa, Ukraine
3. Lviv, Ukraine

TOP mammals
1. Cow
2. Dog
3. Horse
4. Goat
5. Chicken
6. Cat
7. Sheep

Bonus mammal:
+ Donkey

TOP birds
1. Pigeon
2. White Stork
3. Sparrow
4. Western Jackdaw
5. Barn Swallow
6. Rook
7. Hawk

Bonus bird:
+ Peafowl

Achievements unlocked
⭐ Drove through the Carpathian Mountains during thunderstorm
⭐ Swam in the Black Sea
⭐ Sat in the chair of a missile base command centre
⭐ Saw the elusive city of Minsk
⭐ Bribed a police officer in Ukraine
⭐ Climbed the Potemkin Stairs in Odessa
⭐ Saw a white stork in a nest on the roof of a house
⭐ Saw a flock of bats flying over us on a dark forest road in Transylvania
⭐ Visited a crypt in Transylvania

Cases of blatant animal suffering witnessed
😡 a man striking a horse hard with the blunt side of a pitchfork (Bonțida, Romania)
😡 multiple cases of tying horses' legs together (to prevent them from wandering away, one assumes) in Ukraine, Moldova and Romania; saw two horses hopping down a road with legs tied in Romania
😡 dozens of strays everywhere, the majority of them ill and/or malnourished
😡 dog strongman contest; the animals were made to pull very heavy loads, and kept alone in small cages inside cars. Judging by the picture in the event poster, the dogs are pumped with steroids. (Gmina Wasilków, Poland)

Things the border guards inquire after or search for

- girls, tasers (Ukrainian; Belarus to Ukraine)
- petrol (Polish; Ukraine to Poland)
- gifts for guards/Finlandia vodka (Ukrainian; Ukraine to Romania)

Craziest drivers:
Kiev (Ukraine)

Best roads:
Belarus and Poland

Most white storks:
Romania

Most Hesburgers:
Lithuania

Easiest hotel to find:
Vila Chesa, Romania

Most difficult hotel to find:
Vilari Guest House, Ukraine

Most horse carts:
Romania

Most strays:
Ukraine

Coolest museum:
Strategic Missile Forces museum, Pervomais'k, Ukraine

Most insane memorial:
Dzyarzhynskaya Hara, Minsk, Belarus

Best cemetery:
The cemetery of the Church on the Hill, Sighișoara, Romania

Best overall service:
Ukraine

Best starry sky:
Crimea, Ukraine

Greatest bird density:
Belarus

Lushest lands:
Middle Ukraine

Most epic memorial:
Батьківщина-Мати (Mother Motherland), Kiev, Ukraine

Most impressive church:
The Church of the Saviour at Berestove, Kiev Pechersk Lavra, Kiev, Ukraine

Highest temp 30°C (Polish-Ukrainian border, day)
Lowest temp 13°C (Kujbyshevo, night)

khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

We went for a drink (and ended up doing some grocery shopping in a 24/7 market) after midnight in the very sleepy Chișinău. Monday is, unsurprisingly, not the busiest night of the week.

The hotel apartments were quite comfy, apart from the little maggot friend I found in our bed. Meh, as long as there's Wi-fi.

Moldova is very rural, most of it fields and cows and goats and tractors and hills and vineyards and fantastic landscapes wherever we go. (Other animals: ducks, dogs, chickens, horses drawing carts or grazing, various birds of the Corvus family, one family of turkeys, and very infrequently, sheep.) A friendly billy goat I'm trying to photograph nibbles at my hand with its flabby lips. TomTom is firmly of the opinion that there are no roads here. Radio plays energetic folk music and international hits.

Crossing borders is relatively easy, and roads improve immediately.

România is beautiful, what can I say. Plenty of houses look brand new and people look well off, if a touch surly. Mushrooms and other goods are sold by the roads. Horse carts aren't uncommon, and there are lots of wells in every village we drive through. Towns and cities look and feel very different, chaotic and grungy but interesting and occasionally also very impressive. Churches, shrines and monasteries are everywhere. Here and there they fly the EU flag together with the Românian flag.

There's a storm brewing as we reach the Carpathian Mountains, but so far only one ruin of a castle sighted. The lightning strikes inside a cloud a few times, rain pours down on and off, thick mist blankets the tall pine trees and nearly touches the ground, and I can't remember the last time I was so overwhelmed by the landscape. Words simply fail me. The moment I saw the mountains I knew I'd always wanted to see them. Transylvania, a (mild) storm, some bats—only the castle is missing.

This part of Transylvania is partly Magyar; most signs are in Romanian and Hungarian.

We stop by a large field to admire the rainless thunder light up the entire sky. (Yes, there are pictures.) Hope we'll still get inside the hotel at this time of night, with all these delays...

This hotel is the only one we've been to that advertises itself well ahead, so it's laughably easy to find (unlike a few others); just follow the huge sign and the flashing neon lights!

khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

A lazy morning, then to the Malibu Beach of Odessa! It's the beachiest beach I've ever been to, white sand and blue sea and everything. After bouncing up and down the big, crashing waves, we go and have lunch at a kosher restaurant called Chevron. Everything's awesomely delicious, and we practically roll out of the place. Little brother dearest bumps his head for the third time today.

We wander through the Prymorskyi Boulevard to the statue of Richelieu and the famous Potemkin Stairs, then wander back, and turn our cars towards the mysterious white spot on the map that is Moldova. Rather than driving through the separatist area of Transnistria, we take the slightly longer route and take Chișinău from the south. The shortcut way isn't available, at least not to us, but the slightly longer one is.

The fellows at the ukrainian side of the border are strangely intimidating in a laid-back sort of way. And, indeed, they "expect presents from Finland". Insert nervous laughter here. On the moldovan side, things are far more official but fairly smooth.

The roads to Chișinău are mostly pretty good, and, conveniently, there's a separate road for horse carts, so we don't have to compete. Gas station toilet is a hole in the ground.

We arrive at our destination after sundown.

Road Trip!

Jun. 2nd, 2013 12:57 am
khar_muur: (khar_muur07)
At approximately 6:00 AM, it begins. The little journey we've been planning. See new countries. Speak new languages. Navigate new routes. Eat new foods. Capture new images.

We'll be leaving on a ferry at nine o'clock today, and returning somewhere around midnight on the 17th. First across the pond, then driving through the Baltics and to Belarus, then, circling the Black Sea, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania; and returning via Poland and again through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. I'm just filling in an online form at matkustusilmoitus.fi so if we end up in a ditch somewhere, the Finnish foreign ministry will know which one to drench. I'm really excited, not very nervous, and slightly tired from all the organizing and tidying and shopping... mostly just excited.

Most hotels we've booked have free Wi-fi; if it's not a complete hoax, I'll be sure to send some signs of life when possible and/or convenient.

Yay!

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A Journey in the Dark

March 2016

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