26 August 2012

Ukraine: Kharkiv, Kiev, Odessa

Today makes day 3 in Odessa and day 6 in the Ukraine.  Tomorrow I will head out of the Ukraine and into Moldova.  Ukraine is a beautiful country with rolling hills, vast plains of sunflowers and wheat, cheap beer, very pretty women (who are excellent picture posers), and a national identity problem.
Welcome to Ukraine

I managed to plan my travel to Ukraine around their Independence day.  When I arrived into Ukraine, I was told by the Russian border guard that the roads were horrible.  When I hear a subjective comment about the roads, I take them with a grain of salt.  Horrible compared to what?  If I were to compare with Kazakhstan roads, these are great.  I am only speaking of the main roads, by the way (I did Kharkiv, Kiev and Odessa so the roads are main highway roads).  Luckily, his comparison was to Russian roads which were also pretty good.
A couple Ural riders from Russia saw me and stopped to say a quick hello (Kharkiv)
The underground metro system in former Soviet states are amazing.  Very on par with the Tashkent Metro system in terms of station design
When I was leaving Kharkiv, the hostel (La Bamba) was a bit stressed because the street was supposed to be closed due to the President's visit later that day.  I managed to get out of town before it happened, luckily.  On the road I came across another GS rider, Stefano from Italy.  We rode about 200km to Kiev.  It was a nice feeling to ride with someone again even for a little bit.
Stefano, the Italian GS rider...thanks for the ride!
Upon arrival into Kiev, I noticed that my bike was not running as efficient as normal.  I took out the air filter and checked the spark plugs.  The spark plugs were recently changed in Almaty (4000+km ago) and still looked good.  The air filter was recently changed in Aktobe but with the crash, I figured it would be a good time to clean it.  It was pretty dirty.  The cleaning helped and the gas mileage increased again to a satisfactory average.I was lucky enough to see some friends in Kiev: Nastya and Alex.  They were nice enough to take me around the city and a disco boat cruise around the river!
Ukranian Tele Tubbies peeing in the park
The disco boat ride in Kiev
We even had time to speak about average monthly salaries for former Soviet states and the difficulty that Ukraine faces with having to import mostly everything - it is on the bottom end.  Unfortunately when it came time to watch the SuperCopa (Barcelona v Real Madrid) I was falling asleep and ended up heading back to the hostel (The Hub).  I stayed at The Hub hostel.  I met a couple Peace Corps volunteers there (Connie and Rachel) who enlightened me about all things Ukrainian.  There are a lot of issues like environmental concerns for an old Potassium Salt mine (Kalush), a challenged educational system, and a population looking backwards to the heyday of the past.
Nastya, Alex and me, enjoying the disco boat ride
The drive to Odessa was straight forward, south.  The arrival into Odessa was surprising.  It was not like other former Soviet cities.  Odessa has a lot more style - it reminds me of other European cities with the elaborate facades.  The main difference is in the upkeep.  A lot of these buildings are deteriorating and not being maintained.  The city is small enough to walk around the center and circle back to sit and people watch in front of the Opera house.
Odessa by night
Females from age 2 to 90 know how to pose for a picture - favorite places are trees and water fountains
Potomkin's Stairs - we were swindled by gypsies holding falcons on these stairs - cost me  7 USD in total
In short, Ukraine is a very nice country with a lot of untapped potential.  This is very similar to that of other former Soviet states.  I hope for the sake of the people Ukraine will find itself quickly and work towards developing a State that will bring Ukraine forward.  It deserves it and has the potential for it.
Next stop...Purcari Winery, Moldova
Crew North America: Connie, Scott and Ruben - Dinner in Odessa


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  2. Very very nice, Scotty!
    We say "Hi" from Odessa.
    Christina and Tanya:)