Finally get to Heathrow after a week in Ukraine. How happy am I to be finally heading home. I love this place (Heathrow). If ever you are in Heathrow LHR, splash out 30 quid for a 3 hour lounge ticket in the No.1 Traveller’s lounge. Money well spent. For 4 hours before my flight, includes free food & alcohol. Who do you think is going to win out of that deal? A great way to spend the time. Relax like a first class traveller, yes sir re Bob, that’s the way to travel. Slipped out and spent my last $118 quid on a pair of noise cancelling headphones for the flight home. Toni will be happy. No more horror movies to hear on our TV.
It has been an eventful trip, and one that I am glad I have made. If anyone is travelling to the U.K, I have a mobile phone and USB stick that you can have a lend of. There is a small amount of credit left on them, and will be useless to me after 9.15pm tonight.
I get to miss Tuesday 18th October 2011, due to the time difference. That’s a good alibi date for me. I just hope that my bags successfully transit to Brisbane like I have so far. I did check with British Airways and they assured me that they have arrived OK and will be on the plane with me. Fingers crossed. I only worried because the Ukrainian lady who checked my bag said, “no, don’t worry. It will be all O.K”. That’s what I’m worried about. Anyway we’ll see. Fortunately the whole trip has gone like clockwork and no major dramas, so I just have to have faith people! Yes, let’s celebrate fate. It’s a new me… or is it just the free booze talking. I’m half cut already. Gee this flight is going to be a pisser. Giddy up. Love to you all.
Took a walk through the city of Kiev today. Must have walked about 10 km, and had a good day. Cruised through some markets as well, and purchased some ex-soviet stuff (pretty cool). Time to pack for my flight home tomorrow, via London. So looking forward to getting on that plane and coming home. Wont be posting for a few days until I reach Sydney. Hope you have enjoyed the website and photo updates. See you on the other side.
I’LL HAVE CAVIAR WITH THAT COMRADE…
Catching the train to Zaporozhye has been a real experience on it’s own. All the trains over here are sleeping compartments, even during the day. So it’s nice and cosy and you get to meet your fellow passengers. Today I had the pleasure of sharing the ride with Alek, Lyudmilla and Victor. They were very friendly and amazed that I was from Australia, and at my name. OF course it rings a bell with them, they’re Ukrainian.
Sharing is the order of the day, and I politely declined the Vodka shots at 9am as well as the Gherkins being passed around. The brine made good drinking out of the bowl. O.K then… Then unexpectedly, a female seller came around selling 4 giant 10kg fish, which black Caviar is caught from. A real delicacy and went for $250.00 each. Here the video. Amazing what you see on the trains over here.
I get to Zaporozhye and the smart thing to do is buy your ticket out of there for the next day. I go to the window with a translation written down on what I want “to go to Kiev”. Nyet, Nyet was the reply. A kind passenger who knows English explained that all trains tomorrow to Kiev are fully booked out. Nothing left. WTF I say to myeslf. How the hell do I get out of here? Can I catch a bus? Yes the bus station is way over there and basically, good luck finding it. Oh shit… major problem. Luckily I read my lonely planet book and they mentioned that the hotel I was staying at had a travel agency on-site. I’ll risk that and hope that they can arrange a seat for tomorrow.
Exiting the station and the scam taxi sharks pounce. “Nyet Nyet, no taxi” I say. Soon I find a vehicle with the driver asleep. Taxi on his roof. I arrive at the post-Soviet looking hotel, and ask at reception, after catching a “taxi”. These are just ordinary guys who put a neon sign on their car, and rip off the tourists for a fare 4 times the cost of a normal taxi. You know how much I love taxi drivers people. Don’t know how they get away with it.
The hotel reception send me to the travel agency, and they tell me the same thing, the trains are full. Happens to be a day of festivities at Zaporozhye Sich. Good news for me, the Cossacks are putting on a show, but bad news for me, the 8 hour train is booked out. “Is there anything you can do” I say. All seats are taken, but you can fly to Kiev for 1000 UA (about $125). Here we go, the inflated prices to rip off the tourist. Oh, or you can take a first class seat on the train tomorrow. Really, how much? As she pauses 500 UA, which is about $61.00. About 5 times more than the ticket is worth. Apparently the scam artists buy all the tickets so there are none left then sell them for an inflated price. I know I’m getting scammed and play dumb. Look shocked, pause then say, O.K that will have to do. I’ll take it. Little does she know that to me that is cheap for a sleeper to Kiev, and apparently for only 2 passengers in first class. I reckon she just sold me a 2nd class ticket for the inflated price. The tourist won’t know, he’ll board the train anyway. Oh well. Chalk that one up to another experience.
Good news is that the Cossack celebrations on Khortisa Island will start at 8.30am and my train leaves at 8.30 that night. Plenty of time to see the festivities. I’ll post some photos soon as soon as I have some more time. My journey in Ukraine can’t end soon enough. I want to get back home to the family, who I miss very much, This adventure has been very difficult to say the least, even if I was 20 years younger.
Left the village life today, and it was great to see all my relatives who I have not seen before, including my brother Vasily. He’s a big old bear with a soft heart and a very nice person. So are all my relatives, cousin Nina, nieces and nephews. They all welcomed me with open arms, despite the language barriers. When you are family there is a special connection. They laid on a spread that my Dad would be proud. It was an experience that I’ll never forget, and I dare say neither will they. The day when this bloke from Australia, came to visit. Apparently I was the first English speaking tourist, ever to visit the village.
I’m now in Kharkov, resting for half the day. Bought myself a Ushanka, and it looks fantastic. Photos to follow soon. Tomorrow I take a trip by train, deep into Cossack country of Zaporozhye. That’s where it all began in 1100 AD. The Cossack King returns Comrade!
It’s raining and I packed my raincoat in the main bag (not carry on), silly me. See what happens when I don’t have Toni to look after me? Missing her and the kids terribly.
WOW what a spin out this place is. Talk about culture shock. Luckily I have my new best friend Sergei to help me. He has helped me a lot and would be lost without his help. He is an associate of my friend Ted who is an Aussie running an English school in Kiev. He also happens to live on the Sunshine Coast when he is back in Australia, but now calls Kiev his home. He’s living the dream with lots of gorgeous Ukrainian girls chasing him. We popped around to Ted’s place where he generously gave me a sample of home brew apple cider. “Is it alcoholic Ted?” (Stupid question)… “of course it is”. What a terrific drink that is. Anyway, half cut I had a great time.
Here I am with Sergei at the train station, hundreds of locals catching trains, and every sign is in Ukrainian. No English at all and I’m sure I was the only non-resident there. Where would you start to buy a ticket to a remote country village no-one has heard of.
Sergei has helped me very much, and he is picking me up at 6am tomorrow for the train, so I better get some sleep. The train trip tomorrow is going to be interesting to say the least. I don’t think that there will be Internet where I am going, so will be under the radar for about a week.
I’ve booked another night at the IBIS on my return so I can see a bit more of Kiev, and sample some more of that apple cider. I will be getting into the hotel next Saturday 15t hand checking out the 17th for the flight home via London.