Ukraine is not only Easter eggs!
Today it is cool and cloudy, but not raining. We set off from K-moto about 11 for the 90 km to the Ukraine border.
The first step was to get in the long line of cars to exit Slovakia. Luckily after about 2 minutes the official came over and waved us around the line and up to the front. Here they wanted the passports and the bike documents. There was some serious checking of the VIN and papers to exit the EU. I think because once they leave if the are stolen vehicles they are gone gone gone once they enter Ukraine and so they are super careful. At first there was some issue and several of the officials consulted about our bike titles. They could not believe our bike papers were a single flimsy sheet from ICBC that looks fake. Now were have been to 58 countries so far and no one has questioned the authenticity of our papers. I admit they look pretty pathetic and there are no fancy stamps, embossing or other “important document” stuff. Finally they agreed to accept the titles. We were waved thru the gate to no mans land.
Here you drive up to a rusty non automated metal gate blocking the road at the X-ray machine and a guy with a machine gun. Here they hand you a small slip of paper on which they write your plate number. From experience when you get one of these at a border there are usually several hoops to jump thru and you get a number of stamps and signatures on this paper, which must be presented at a similar gate beyond the border area.
They let the vehicles thru in batches. Next you drive up to Ukraine border control and to the green “nothing to declare” lane. When we got to the front the first official asked for the passports. Another then wanted the bike documents. Here again there was an agonizing 30 minutes while they kept coming back and forth to us and the bikes and asking for the rest of the bike documents. They also could not believe these were the only papers we have for the bikes. No one of course spoke any English. They asked for our green card next, which we know are not valid for the Ukraine and we must buy insurance here and said that. We though for sure we were going to get denied entry. As this was taking so long we were asked to move the bikes ahead of the booths and off to the side. A good sign we thought. Finally after another 10 minutes of discussion an over 6 ft woman wearing 5 inch ( now 6 ft 5) black patton platform pumps and the shortest uniform skirt you can imagine was called over. She seems in Charge. She spoke English well and again asked us to give them the rest of the bike papers. Finally they decided to believe us and she process the papers for us.
After this we were waved thru to the last check where our small white slip now covered with stamps and signatures was collected. The nice guard there then said “welcome to Ukraine have nice trip”. We made it!!!
From the border we planned to stick to the more main roads since we had a late start, a long way to go and we did not know how long the border would take (our friends waited 4 hours on their last visit). The road surfaces were pretty good and the rain mostly held off. It is however a chilly 11 degrees.
The tradition here is no traffic in either direction passes a funeral procession. Even on the highway! This was a long slow up hill crawl!
Since we did not stop to get money yet we decided to try our luck with our VISA card at the Wog gas station. They have very nice cafes and we had “moo” burger with fries!
We did finally get to Stryi at 6 (it is 1 hour later here). When we pulled into the hotel and checked in there was a group of Ukrainian guys in the lobby having some drinks and snacks. One spoke English perfectly and came out to talk to us. He asked how we liked Ukraine and we said we did , but we had only been here a few hours. He noticed my pannier with the flags and wanted to know why I did not have Ukraine on yet. I said I just go here and his reply “ you have had 3 hours” ha ha. He wanted a photo of me putting the flag on. Next they invited us for a shot of whiskey.
We walked next door to the restaurant and with no English help we managed to get soup, salads, and a nice lemon cake for dessert. Next time I might try my “point it” book. We woke to a rainy day.
The plan today is to go 330 km to one of the oldest cities in Ukraine Kam’yanets-Podil’s’kyi.
We first stopped at the auto insurance shop in town to see if we can buy green cards. We had a hard enough time getting into this country we are worried that if we go to Moldova we might not be let back in. No luck however so strike 1. The side stand on the 800 seemed a bit loose and on inspection the lower bolt was sheared off. Strike 2. Step 2 get gas ….no power at the station stike 3. They did have a money exchange to get some cash though! This came in handy about 45 minutes later when we drove by a motorcycle repair shop.
These guys were great. They came right our and got to it! Dan has done his research on what usually fails on the 800 and of course he had the spare BMW bolt. We just had to drill out the old one and good as new. They refused payment, but we insisted. Things are looking up.
We stuck to the small roads, which much of the time were in very poor condition. At times they were a real mess. This plus the rain made for a pretty long day.
The last 100 km the drizzle finally stopped and the road surface improved.
We arrived to the city and the sun was now trying to come out. We did a bit of a walk around the old town and visited some of the many churches. There is a very nice fortress here too.
“Modern Kamianets-Podilskyi was first mentioned in 1062 as a town of the Kievan Rus’ state. In 1241, it was destroyed by the Mongolian invaders. In 1352, it was annexed by the Polish King Casimir III. In 1378 it became seat of a Roman Catholic Diocese. In 1432 King Sigismund I the Old granted Kamieniec Podolski city rights. In 1434 it became the capital of the Podolian Voivodship and the seat of local civil and military administration. The ancient castle was reconstructed and substantially expanded by the Polish kings to defend Poland from the southwest against Ottoman and Tatar invasions, thus it was called the gateway to Poland.”
The City hall.
The Polish Gate.
We wish we knew what the specials were?! We did manage to get some great Borscht and dumplings. This is the wait staff and several other patrons discussing in Ukrainian which is the best Ukrainian dessert Dan should order. Consensus was strudel.