It must be that time of the year again when I visit what must now be my second home. Out on the road in Eastern Europe. Ukraine this time for three weeks, taking in the Carpathian mountains and then down to the Black sea coast to Odessa then the coast of Crimea from Sevastopol to Yalta. What a fantastic start. Budapest by air from Luton then 5 ½ hours, 42 stations and 7 pounds fifty later I arrive exactly on time at 17:48 at Zahoy on the Hungarian/Ukraine border. Far better than my first train from Bromsgrove which was cancelled.
The train journey to Zahony brought back so many happy memories from trips gone buy, the rolling sparsely wooded dark earthed plains of the steppe, with row upon row of sunflowers and corn ready for harvest, and the sleepy countryside, with only the odd horse and cart. I then hitched a lift with a bloke across the border, who helped me out with all the paper work before asking me where I wanted to go. Uzhgorod was the answer I gave but he wanted to know what hotel. I quickly named one from the guidebook and he led me straight to the check in desk before waving my goodbye. I have no idea who he was but that is the way you cross the border, I even had to queue up to hitch a lift.
What a warm welcome. After checking into the hotel it was out into town with everybody else, young and old, just wandering around and stopping aimlessly for a chat over beer or coffee with their friends. I indulged in a fantastic evening meal. Set in a vaulted ceiling cavern below the high street. Borsch, beers, chicken, chips, bread, yogurt, all for less than a fiver. I can see me enjoying the food a bit on this trip. Beer is thirty pence a bottle. It was fantastic to see everybody enjoying themselves.
Today I have indulged in a bit of culture and visited the castle in Uzhgorod, high up on a hill overlooking the gentle river flowing from the mountains, and the superb ethnographic wooden building museum next door. A glimpse of the past all in wood, Churches, wells, houses, barns etc. A quick minibus trip to Mukachevo, which is where I am now. An even better castle set on a huge volcanic lump overlooking yet another river. The place was filled with exhibits from the castle’s past as well as a gallery featuring a local 19th century artist.
The weather has been fabulous with clear blue sky and not a breath of wind, crisp mornings and sharp autumnal light making the photography even better. Ukraine may have a few rough edges and historic baggage to deal with but then what country doesn’t. I feel safe and happy at present, Just doing what I always do, enjoying the moment, just wandering around chatting to people where I can and taking everything in. Previous knowledge of local customs also eases the day.
Off to the Mountain village of Rakhiv tomorrow. More strong espresso, and relaxing in the clear blue sky beckons I think. Move over Palin, this is real live report from Eastern Europe.
Incase you did not realize the UK pound is a minority currency. Its Dollars, Euros or Rubles and nothing else
All the best
Mart. Live from my second home