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).
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!
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.