Archive of ‘Ukraine’ category

The 7 days of Arek. Part one.

On August 8th, we picked up Arek at the Chopin airport in Warsaw and welcomed our very first guest into our freshly scrubbed home (from top to bottom and everything in between) and started our adventure. That night we drove to Siedlce, a cute little town east of Warsaw where most of Arek’s family lives. The following day turned out to be crazy family day; breakfast, second breakfast and lunch at Arek’s super energetic aunt’s house, next coffee and snacks at his cousin’s house, then a few more cousins joined us for a long walk, followed by a big b.b.q. dinner at his aunt and uncle’s house. Have I mentioned that at each stop we were expected to drink shots of a locally made honey liquor (45% alcohol)? By the end of the night I was speaking Polish without any problems (or so I though).

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Next stop, Kiev. Waiting at the boarder was unbearable, the whole process took well over 2 hours. First, you wait in a traffic jam, crawling a foot forward every 20 mins. Then, an officer looks at your passports and your trunk to record how many people are crossing the border. Next, you go through passport control, another long untidy queue, flashing your face to the officer behind the one-sided mirror. After that, customs control, a place there you must show your passport and your car’s passport/insurance.  This one was a little more complicated for us as our car is insured under the previous owner’s name plus we had never heard of the “green card” we needed to proceed into the Ukraine. After many conversations with the lovely officer, she let us go through with a warning not to get into any trouble. Yikes! 

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With the exception of the major cities, Ukraine is like a blast from the past. From the highway you can see farmers using horse drawn carriages and any women over 55 wears a babushka, I kid you not.

The Ukraine is a place of contrasts; beautiful country sides and dirty farm towns. 40 year old Ladas and brand new Mercedes. Sad lives with happy people.  

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The 7 days of Arek. Part two.

Kiev, but maybe not tonight.

Arek, Matt and I intended to drive the 700km from Poland to Kiev, leaving first thing in the morning and arriving around dinner time. That certainly didn’t happen.

Within 2 minutes of Matt teaching Arek how to drive the van we got pulled over in a speed trap. Thankfully the officer was fantastic and let Arek off with a warning. 

An hour later, we encountered the dreaded boarder crossing. See part one for details.

Finally on Ukrainian soil, we drove into the night heading towards Kiev. It first happened at 11pm, Arek was driving, Matt was Facebooking and I has lying on the back bench enjoying my book. POW! And the car jerks to the left, then to the right, and everything came to a screeching halt. We all look at each other with bewildered eyes, “Are you ok?”, everyone was 100%. The left rear tire was not flat, it exploded, sheading the rear bumper with it!  As fast as a Formula One team, Matt and Arek changed the tire while I looked out for oncoming traffic, averaging speeds of 140 km/hour.  

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Mission accomplished, we jump back in the van and drove away. One kilometer later, POW! And the car jerks to the RIGHT, then to the LEFT, and everything came to another screeching halt. Back RIGHT tire blew up! Out of spare tires, we pulled off the road as much as we could and tried to rest until the morning. Not an easy thing to do in a country where the biggest cause of death is alcoholism.  

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The next day, Arek and I trekked down the highway in search of a savior. Our heroes were discovered at a tiny gas station a couple kilometers from our van. Between Polish, English and a lot of charades we managed to get the young men to drive us to the van, help us take off the second wheel, drive Arek to a mechanic, get new tires, drive him back and they even offered to help us put the tires back on! Sweetest guys in all of Ukraine!  

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The cat’s out the bag!

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Matt and I are moving to Europe for a wonderful adventure. We land in Frankfurt and continue on to Poland where we will get our affairs in order. We’re buying an old RV and traveling the continent, taking pictures, making wonderful meals with local food and drinking loads of cheap wine.

Anyone need a fluffy cat?