Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Motorways Ukraine style

22nd June 2010 by Helen

Friday 18th June

Another day of Ukrainian roads.  Ukrainian drivers are renowned for their kamikaze overtaking but rather than signs telling you how many deaths there have been over the last so many years, wrecked cars are mounted on poles high above the road as reminders of the consequences of dangerous driving.  Like the British signs these don’t appear to make much difference.  Perhaps it’s the strange mix of old soviet style lorries, coaches, and battered cars, mingling with modern TIR lorries, modern cars, and the occasional family going off to market with their horse and cart, that is at the root of this national pastime of kamikaze overtaking.  Ukraine has a good road network coverage.  By far the vast majority of roads are classified as ‘A’ roads, with a few stretches of dual carriageway and a few kilometres of motorway.  Although motorway is open to definition.  The one we drove on today had zebra crossings, bus stops, a tram line running down the ‘central reservation’, and locals selling their produce along the roadside.  That’s when there weren’t shops and cafes, where drivers could pull up outside to buy their wares.  It was as bumpy and rutted as any of the other ‘main’ roads.  The definition of dual carriageway is a normal bumpy road with a lane of grass growing down the middle.

We think we have worked out the rules for the traffic lights system.  Red means stop and green means go.  However amber, which can remain on permanently, show between red and green, be static or flash, seems to mean: do what you like but do it with a bit of caution because no one has right of way and everyone else will be doing what they like but probably with less caution than you might use.  Occasionally traffic lights are apparently turned off.  Roadworks require no bollards and we have seen only about a dozen in the whole country so far.  The sign for roadworks starts where the roadworks start.  Sometimes roadworks are being carried out without any signs or warnings and work vehicles mingle with the traffic going in both directions.

The distinct lack of both CCTV and so called safety cameras has been refreshing and something to marvel at ever since we left the UK.

Tonight we reached the border with Russia and opted for a kip in the cab (again) in the absence of anywhere really suitable (read that as pleasant) to camp.  But first we bought a rather dubious supper of some kind of ham (read ham/spam/fat/not sure what else), cheese (read tasteless rubber), dry sweet breakfast pastries, bananas, yoghurt and coke.

Introduction to Ukraine

22nd June 2010 by Helen

Wednesday 16th June

Early start (about 6.00 am) to get away from the border area and we made good progress through Ukraine. Driving through Ukraine today we have particularly noticed the change in scenery and road conditions.  The main roads (there are no more than about a dozen miles of motorway in the whole country) are simply twin track roads, sometimes three and occasionally four track with the odd surprising bit of dual carriageway.  The road surface is largely bumpy, although rather strangely the signs indicating uneven surfaces usually come where the tarmac is actually the least bumpy and rutted!!  They are punctuated with frequent zebra crossings, 2010 06 17 - scenery in Ukraine (7)bus stops and roadside shrines.  By the side of these main roads are hens and geese pecking at the dirt, along with cows and goats grazing the verges.  From time to time it is even possible to see mixed herds of cows, goats, hens, and geese!!  Where there are villages alongside the roads there are inevitably small stalls set outside the homes, where people sell their wares: a couple of pints of goat’s milk, a few eggs, a few jars of wild berries collected locally, some produce such as tomatoes and cucumbers grown on allotments.

Stopped for brunch in Ternopil before driving on to just outside a small village called Majdan where we camped at the edge of a forest, on common ground (just as a local was taking his small herd of cows home for  the night).  Surrounded by midges and mosquitoes we both looked a treat dressed head to toe in Buffs, hoodies, and mosquito repellent.  Unfortunately the smoked fish we had for our supper did not seem to put them off!!  Paul struggled to eat this rather strong smelling and tasting local delicacy we had bought earlier from a roadside stall, while Helen happily devoured hers and even posed for photos while doing so.

This afternoon Paul had his first KMFM (radio) interview since our journey began.

Border crossing into Ukraine

22nd June 2010 by Helen

Tuesday 15th June

After a day off from travelling yesterday, we headed once again towards Ukraine today.  Much to our surprise, when we arrived at about 6.30 pm we found the border still open and sailed through from Poland into no-man’s land.  All in all it then took us two hours and five different sets of checks of passports and car documents to get through passport control and into Ukraine.  Oh, and a $10 bribe for not having a green card (we didn’t need one).  The conversation went a little like this:

Official: Green card?

Paul: I don’t have one.  I didn’t know we needed one.  Here’s my insurance.

Official: Green card?

Paul: I don’t have one.  Do I need one to drive in Ukraine?

Official: shouts for Roberta

Roberta: after talking to official in Russian: It’s like this, you need a green card with Ukraine mentioned in to drive in Ukraine.  You don’t have one so you can’t drive in Ukraine.

Paul:  Where do I get one?

Official: (through Roberta): You have to go back to England and buy one there

Paul: That’s a two week drive.  Can I buy one here?

Roberta speaks to official then says: it’s like this, you have now to make an offer on how much you can pay.

Paul: you mean I can buy one here?

Roberta shrugs shoulders and says: You say how much.

Paul: Aahhhhhh.  I understand. How do we do the deal?

Roberta takes passport from official and says: You could slip it in here.

Paul thinks to himself he has between $10 and $100 dollar bills in his back pocket, reaching in he slid a note from the pack and slipped it into his passport.  To his relief he noticed it was a $10 bill!!

The official simply slipped it beneath the table, stamped Paul’s documents and bade us on our way.

Seemples, as the meerkat might say.

We drove off into Ukraine to be stopped by a police patrol car.  Pretending not to understand his request for money we were waived on again.

By now we are into early evening with no hope of finding a campsite so we drove as far as we could into Ukraine and with the light fading try and keep an eye out for somewhere to park up for the night.  Taking a short drive down a side turning we notice several rather colourful and attractive signs along the side of the road.  Thinking these rather pretty and noticing the Orthodox cross symbol on most of them we think they may relate to some religious festival or other.  Turning round and driving back again we notice that they actually have pictures of tanks on them and maybe they are markers for the boundary of some army tank training ground!  No parking here then!  After a couple more odd turns we pull in to a disused petrol forecourt and park in the opposite corner to another car we think is in the same situation (having noticed several other cars doing the same tour of the countryside seemingly looking for somewhere to kip for the night).  Dozing off in the cab we can hear giggles and such like in the distance and realise it’s coming from the other car.  Not wanting to investigate too closely we never did find out if it was a private party of some kind (drugs, alcohol, whatever) or a courting couple, but after about an hour they drove off anyway and we were left in peace.