The Road to Odessa

29 Dec

A guest blog by Patrick

We awoke following Christmas #1 full of excitement: we were heading out on a road trip! Our original plan was to set off early to beat rush hour, but after discovering that our car was parked in by 14 (that’s not a joke!) other cars in the parking lot, we opted for a smoother exit after everyone had set off for work.

 

Our trusty steed: before and after.

We crossed a huge bridge overlooking Kiev and found the traffic surprisingly minimal – before we knew it we were on our way out of the city. Or were we? The city seemed to go on for miles, prompting the question “Are we out of Kiev yet?” to be repeated for at least an hour.

We had been informed that the drive could be anywhere from 4 to 12 hours long, so got busy settling into our new home. It took two hours to figure out how to get our phones hooked up to the stereo so we could listen to music, and only then did we discover that the only speaker in the car that works was in the front on the driver side. Given that Sammi was going to be doing most of the driving, this was obviously the perfect arrangement.

Sammi: “Can you turn the music down?” Patrick: “What, I can’t even hear it.”

Furthermore, there were a few intricacies to driving in Ukraine. Do you remember when Ira said she doesn’t drive in Ukraine because they have the worst roads in Europe? Well, she wasn’t kidding. We quickly realized that not only did the driver have to be on absolute alert for potholes the size of craters, mountain ranges in the middle of the lane, and darkly-clothed people on the side of the road, but the front seat passenger had to scout as well. The ‘shotgun’ seat quickly became the least desirable in the car.

A few hours in we pulled off the highway to explore. We were drawn to this particular town on the promise of a canyon to explore, but were soon informed by locals that it was definitely NOT worth visiting. Luckily, there was plenty else to keep us busy.

Our first mission was to find some breakfast. Luckily there was a small market set up in the middle of town, and Sammi quickly purchased some bananas and apples from a guy who had a bad English teacher. Of course he did, nothing is good in Ukraine.  We found the sausage shop and bought enough summer sausage to make us forget that Ukraine is a bad place to visit in the winter. Then we found a cafe but the waitress informed us that “Our coffee is bad!” so we followed her advice and went somewhere else. You’ve got to love Ukrainian positivity.  Errr, honesty.

“Hoe do you know that coffee is bad?” we asked Iryna.
“She told us it was bad.”  Iryna responded.
“Who told you it was bad?”, I pressed.
“The lady inside selling the coffee.”, Iryna explained.

 

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Sammi: “These apples are awful. Do you want one?”

On the way we had to dodge a car that threatened us with switchblades for wipers.

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Switchblade wipers. Just in case a Moscovitch tries something funny.

While we were getting our lattes at the convenience store she recommended, I spotted some beer with some interesting labels. The names of the beer ranged from “Why Calling Your Ex is a Bad Idea” to “Why is Psychiatrist Not Cheaper Than Shopping”. I was so excited that I had to buy a bottle, and only then did we discover that the beer was brewed in the little town we were in!

 

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“This is brewed here?!?!?!?”

The locals who dissuaded us from visiting the canyon unsuccessfully tried to convince to hang around all day for the nighttime pig market. It may be the best in Ukraine, but we had places to go and things to see, so we instead followed their directions and passed the brewery on the way to a famous horse breeding complex. We were informed we had to pay to see the horses, so instead we just took lots of photos of ourselves.

 

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Did you know that the Ukranian word for selfie is ‘selfie’?

 

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Those horses are so cool.

The rest of the trip went as ‘smoothly’ as one could expect given we were traveling on the worst roads in Europe. The low winter sun was gorgeous as we passed through rolling fields of farmland. Ukraine is known as the ‘bread basket of Europe’, and its rich black soil is so good that the Nazis harvested it and transported it to Germany during World War II.  We arrived in Odessa in the dark, and retired to our Airbnb following some Ukrainian ‘fast food’ for a good night’s rest.

One Response to “The Road to Odessa”

  1. livinginleuvenbelgiumeurope April 7, 2018 at 12:04 pm #

    Interesting trip!!

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