Friday, August 19, 2011

Out of Chisinau and into the Ukraine

Somehow I found my way to the Gar Auto Nord bus station to purchase a ticket to the Ukraine, being careful to book the route that bypasses Transdienstre where huge visa fees have been known to levied on unsuspecting travelers. The following morning I caught a taxi to the bus station and located the mini-van that would be my transport to Odessa. Once the van was packed with passengers, the 3 1/2 hour journey began. Roadsigns became more Russian ... and everything felt more remote. At one of the passport check points, a kind female passenger showed me the ropes for accessing a very smelly toilet including handing me a wad of her personal stash of toilet paper. Sooner than I'd imagined, we arrived at Odessa and I was immediately accosted by taxi drivers. They all looked slimey and I felt bewildered. Eventually I gave one of them the phone number for Andre who was my AirBNB host. A call was placed and after a bit of back and forth on the phone, Andre determined that the guy was a rip off artist and proclaimed that he would come and get me himself.

The moment he arrived (I'd borrowed a local cell phone in that I couldn't figure out how to dial Ukrainian numbers on mine) to explain where I was standing, Steve and Kathy from Winnipeg, Canada appeared. They were truly bewildered having spent the morning biking around Odessa looking for a place to stay. I suggested that Andre might have rooms for them as well and for the next 22 hours, we became a trio. Andre has a carwash that's about 10 minutes by car from the beach and has recently built a bit of a hotel on the top floor.

The rooms have modern furniture and AC and for a night it was fine. Cathy and Steve's bed collapsed in the middle of the night, but that's another story..which isn't mine:) We found our way down to the beach and the Black Sea. Things for sale included dried fish, Odessa tzchakis, and beer. Being super-hungry we ate -- pizza, chicken kabobs, and salad. And then I tried taking a dip in the Black Sea. It was cold...the kind of cold where one needs to take a very quick plunge in -- otherwise it's just too cold! Being a photographer, Steve readily sorted out my camera and documented my experience...

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