In the Czech Republic, Friday the 13th is not the best day. Some people may believe in bad luck. I believe that you do not know straight away if you are lucky or not. Catching the bus you were late for might seem to be quite lucky situation, catching the bus you were late for and which is a part of the accident, does not seem so lucky anymore. Stepping on the ground of Ukraine for the first time on Friday the 13th and being in the 12 hours train (which I “luckily” caught) gives me enough time to think what exactly means to be lucky!
I am meeting Eva in Odessa, a friend of mine who I haven’t seen at least four years. She lived in Armenia and now she is waiting for a ferry from Batumi to Odessa. We will meet there and cycle together back home. We take the route over Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. I feel excited and little scared as well. We will camp in the nature and see so many places I wanted to visit for a long time! I read so many articles about Romanian bears, and got jingle bells and the bear batch from my boy, that I can not feel better prepared for a meeting with this animal. Still, if the situation comes I can not predict my reaction. Eva said that we’ll meet lots of bears for sure. She is more experienced traveler than me. Once, she also told me the Czech wisdom: “who is afraid should not go to the forest…but I like the forest!” This keeps me motivated wherever I go. I am lucky I know Eva, although I am fighting the fear sometimes, it is the part of a journey and I am lucky I can travel.
Coming from Rotterdam by bus, I stopped in Prague to pick up Eva’s old mountain bike. I did not want to go with Seagull because he is rather road bike. Eva’s bike already made some thousands of kilometers and was stored in the Psychiatric Hospital in Bohnice, in Prague, where Eva’s friend works. When I arrived there I thought it is quite funny place to start quite a mad trip, but the environment of the hospital was truly healing the soul. Here, I remembered another quote of Eva: “the mad people are joyfull”. And we are!
In Ostrava, I had to change some bike parts – tube and the tire of the front bike, brake pads and the front wheel as I was told a day before departing that it is not centered. I have also noticed that the rare wheel has broken spine but I have decided to deal with it on the way.. In the bike shop I was told that the bike will not be able to go too far. It is not that polished carbon ultra light bike which the mechanic is used to ride but if I would have to wait until getting the best bike or replacing every part with a new one I do not think I would ever start the trip! The most difficult thing so far was to arrange the travel with the bike to Odessa by train or the bus. At some lines it is not possible to carry the bike and so I can go Ostrava-Kosice without any problems but on the trains Kosice-Chop and Chop-Odessa I would not be allowed to take the bike unless I carry it like the baggage. The same situation is if I would like to travel over Poland on the line Przsemysl-Odessa. I have decided to book LeoExpress bus Ostrava Svinov-Lviv and pack the bike just on the station in 25 minutes. My dad helped me! The driver did not complain and so I headed off to Ukraine without having the solution how to get from Lviv to Odessa.
In the bus I encounter another situation of “being lucky” slash privileged. The border control stopped us in Poland and after waiting one hour they kicked out one Ukrainian guy from the bus. I felt very sorry for him. He was missing some stamp in the passport. There were some youngsters who were about to take the plane from Krakow airport to Scotland. They were thinking they are unlucky they will miss the plane because of the guy. All of them had a possibility to buy a new ticket and freely travel. The bad luck affected their purse but not the freedom. And that is what makes the LUCK to be the privileged condition which we should be grateful for!
Honestly, in some situations being a girl can also be quite lucky! I arrived to Lviv at 5 o’clock in the morning. I accidentally got off one stop earlier on the Bus station instead of Train station. Hmm. I was trying to de-code azbuka and trying to remember what I have learned from Russian language some years ago.
No ticket office was open so early and so I picked one passenger and asked him for advice. Eduard insisted to help me. He also needed to get to train station. And so he called taxi for both of us, calling and asking everywhere how can I get to Odessa. He insisted to not leave until he knows I am boarded. I would not mind staying in Lviv longer but it is true I needed some rest after the bus journey. I have never traveled in the sleeper train and wished it so much. I could not get the ticket online because they were sold out or expensive but soon I understood that to travel by train in Ukraine is like a game. Sometimes the reserved tickets are not paid and the seats are again available. If you are quick enough you can book the ticket online or on the Kassa (ticket office). I was not quick! Eduard was checking the buses and blablacar but finally he got idea to ask directly the train conductor. She agreed to take me on the train. Eduard told her my name and like the illegal good I was exchanged between them in the train. I was not sure if I like the idea but I knew if I will not board, Eduard will wait with me until the next day. With Eduard we had a conversation about the corruption in the government. But if we look into our conscience the fact is that it is present on all levels (not just in Ukraine). Unless we stop accepting or giving the money for the favors it will never disappear! I felt dreadful and trying to justify if my action was all right. When I went to toilet I saw a conductor sleeping on the chair, she gave me her cabin for that extra money to her pocket. Is it ok to be lucky? I always felt more lucky than clever but always wanted to be fair. The LUCK is not always fair, the LIFE is not neither.
After 12 hours journey in the train, I arrived to Odessa where my warmshower host, Aleks, has already waited for me. I truly had a warm shower and amazing vegetable soup and aubergine spread. Today, I met his friends and learned how to make a borscht soup…..
What I learn in Ukrainian language so far:
- Zhyvit – belly/pronounced simlarly like the Czech word život which states for the life
- Okurek – slang for cigarette butt/Czech word for cucumber
- Velosyped – bicycle
- Bahazh – luggage
- Slivki – cream
- Skamnejka – bench