Bordercrossing into the Ukraine.
You have to go for a few kilometers through Moldavia to enter Ukraine, at least on the way I took from Romania. All goes smooth, until I reach the checkpoint out of Moldavia. A long line of cars wait before the gate. Two bikers right in front of me, Germans, and we start to chat. The other drivers tell us not to wait but to ride to the front of the line. How polite! No problem, they confirm. Sometimes it is of fortune to ride the bike.
We get checked through quite easily. But the two bikers are a bit careful in terms of telling me where they want to go to on which route. I guess they feared that I want to join them, since I am alone. What a bullshit. For one there is nothing to worry about if someone joins, I anyway want to ride alone, and I rarely met German riders who are easy and fun enough to accompany. Even the Estonians are more clear, and there it is a real cultural peculiarity not to speak much, which is very meaningful in Estonia. I can deal much better with that then stereotyping meaninglessness amongst most German bikers. But ok, all are brothers what rides on two wheels.
Entering finally Ukraine, I think they tried to give me hassle. The first border guard takes all documents, comes out, goes in again, then to the other house and so forth and each time he tries to express to me that there is a problem.
The next one checks all again, sends me into the house, where noone wants to take notice of me, while doing the papers for everybody else, even the ones who were behind me. My bike is still blocking most of the road, I think that might play into my cards. Two more guards check my papers again and the last one finally gives me a stamp after the boss was down even and I only understood -BMW- from their conversations amongst each other and suddenly everything went quick. Maybe my strategy of yawning heped as well, which I apply sometimes when someone wants me to be stressed. With a handshake from my side I reply the: -Welcome in Ukraine!-
Ismajil is the City north of the Delta on the Ukrainian side.
Again, no map no nothing like information about a hostel, until someone gets interested in my bike and the German licence plate at a cafe I decided to stop. If he would know a hotel. One phonecall later I have a room. I dont know with who he talked, but the place is the "Green ..." which other guys in town refer to as well as the best place for me, since the bike can be put iin the yard. Cheap and friendly people, very recommendable.
Frederic is a Belgium photographer who traveled the region since many years. His assistance Elena is Russian from Volgograd. After they invite me for the barbeque, accompanied with some vodka and the toasts to friendship, I get an invitation to stay in Volgograd. It is on my tour and I hope that the timing works out.
Frederic and me talk about the pros and cons of digital and analoque techniques. I make my point of reciprocity in between a human being and another organic substance, since both are endless in their organic structure and function with the unknown, and on the other side the limitations of the reciprocity of a human being and a calculated information, which is limited in itself. He doesnt agree that it plays a role, though he understands my concerns.
All fine, but the next morning I get the wrong tip for a small road which should bring me closer to the coast direction Odessa. The road would be small but in good condition.
It turns out to be the worst one I took so far with the 1200. Once a while a pothole is fine, but the road completly desintegrades into one outstrech of a long and narrow challange to prepare me for Kazakhstan, where are partly no roads at all. Ok doable, but it takes almost all day and I fear the suspensions have to work too hard. Just the silence is great, when I stop over and over again to enjoy the countryside. In the villages are usually chicken and goose running around. Somehow I get through and out of this, orientating with the sun and the help of a driver who I just stopped and asked.
The remaining strech along the coast is overcrowded with vacationers, of cause, how naive of me to think it would be quiet there. So there is nothing else to do, but pushing to Odessa itself.
Boris, the Tire Seller or The Priviledge to stay in one Place: Odessa
Again without any information of a hotel or a map of the city, but still with my new tires mounted on the back of the bike which I got in Bulgaria at the Motocamp, I enter Odessa. A city at the Black Sea coast with a shiny name. It is huge and in the late afternoon it is high traffic time. Finding the center is even not as easy as expected. By now I can read some cyrillic but depend on just a few words and international meanings like "Opera" which I follow, but strangly cant identify a hotel.
After a few rounds in the city I stop at something which looks like a train station. Again I try my strategy just to wait. It is hot, I am in full gear still and nothing happens for a while, noone comes along who looks like speaking English. Of cause I always could ask a taxi driver and right before I intend to do so, a biker comes in my direction and I give him a sign to stop. Guess what happens, he speaks some German. Boris was in Stuttgart for three months in a Waldorf school, because his father is making business with all kinds of plants with Germany and the Netherlands and has the biggest company for this in Ukraine. Boris understands my situation immediatly and guides me to the perfect hotel gives me his business card with a number to call for anything I need, help or just to meet for a ride in the evening together.
The hotel is partly in renovation, therefor not overrun. The bike is ridden to a safe place through the buildingsite in the garage, a bit dusty, but it is happy I can tell.
The room is simple but ok for the price, there is even a TV again, which I enjoy just to have running, wether I look at it or not. When I leave the room it stays on on a normal volume, the light is on as well. I hope it might avoid theft, because they think someone is still in the room. Sometimes there are old black and white films of Sovjet times which I enjoy a lot. The characters are deep and intense. About the stories I dont care much, since I dont understand the texts anyway. Interstingly there are lots of films which have queer characters, like the double bass player who carries a bass case with a woman inside. Her voice comes out of the case, but it gets clear that the heavyness and the voice is only his imagination, the woman doesnt exist. A lake and water appears, then scenes in a locomotive, before was something which looked like the guy was sick in a prison. All is very bizarr and almost conceptual. The effect encreases because I am doing work in between and get only chunks of the film. As a child in my real home the TV was running from the late afternoon on until everybody got to bed. TV is making me feeling "home", no matter how bad the program is.
It takes one whole day to adjust in one place again, though I was only one day traveling. The safety the hotel provides is doing well to me. I decide to stay another day, and another day, and another day, while my mood is changing usually 3 times a day severely. It is better to stay on the road travelling and only stopping to eat and sleep.
There is lots of internet work to do which is impossible to do while riding. Almaty is reacting after I let them know that I dont expect a fee for my work, the work woukd be more important to do in any case, rather then letting it down. Back home in Germany are to be taken care of. Older footage needs to be put online and the many more.
The stay at the hotel is way over my budget, but still I need it and do it. After 24.00 the restaurant gets suddenly busy, where I ate again and sit down to write this right now. Mostly I am the only guest, or accompnied by someone else at another table, who seems lost. At least I have my computer to look busy with.
Strolling through the city I find a Japanese restaurant, Kobe, and I continue writing accompanied with real good Japanese Sencha. Maybe, to sit down there brings good luck for my plans in Japan and for all my Japanese friends and connections, I think. Selfspeaking the waitress beauty comes from the heart, like in many places here and my habit to speak from my heart on travels with most people I meet, gives the little click, which doesnt mean much, but it is true and probably much more pleasent then unhealthy adventures for the body and the mind with prostitudes you can see allover, for which the city seems to be well known and popular as well.
Otherwise the city seems to be a popular holiday place for people around 30 with too much money or pretenders of richness. Not really fitting in that scene, I spend an evening in one of the bars and make my observation. Meaninglessness is the athmosphere. Well they are on vaccation, it is their damn right to be stupid for a while, but the ostentatious presentation of wealth and stupidness doesnt inspire me for any present for them. Not even in a theoretical and conceptual way in the form of a pure idea.
I eat all of my expensive shrimps which were fresh and very tasty prepared and with all of it I mean the head and all shell. Even the remaining broth I try to fork out, since the bowl is not designed for drinking out of it. But ok, the waiter sees my failing attempt right in the moment I consider to ask for a spoon and brings one. - You see, I eat all of it, because it is good for the joints. - Since I am a guest he is polite, but his face shows somehow confused a lack of understanding and sympathy.
After changing my mood of loosing and finding myself again within two days, I finally call Boris if he knows a place to change the tires. I did it before by myself bit it is much easier to do with the proper machines. In three hours he would be ready to guide me to a place to have it done!
Its a chase through and out of the city, since he rides a 1200 sport Yamaha with his girlfriend Masha on the back all the time. She weighs not much more then my extra tires. I can follow, but for the return I ask him to do less speed, becuase of the new tires I say, but I mean it is too crazy. The two: -Even slower? That was very slow already.- Everybody rides on full risk here and on the way back I have to make a full stop at 80Kmh within city limits on new tires, because a pedestrian crosses unexpected. Here you go.
Outside the city is one of the two training places for bikes with the garage. Very professionally and for a good price the tires are changed, just I had to dismount the backwheel myself, since Victor, the owner, broke his tool on the overglued screws. Good that I carry always all my tools with me.
Menanwhile the new ones are fit on and balanced, Boris tells me that he works on developing his business to buy used tires in Germany and selling them in Odessa. Apperently there are difficulties with the process which I dont understand jet. In one or two years he wants to sell also new tires.
I offer him my old ones which are still good for the city he says. How much I would want for them. - Nothing, of cause, it is a present! He was helping me already twice a lot. When we brought them later to his garage I saw where he works and stores them.
Boris speaks German and some English, Victor not much else then his own language, but both are very helpful, real bikers, and both told me that I can give the contacts here. So if you are in any need on your next tour through Odessa they are happy to help you further.
You see, if I had a GPS, I would have ended up in a more expensive hotel, would not have met them, and my tires would have been changed probably in a branch of a big motorcycle company for more money as well.
I bet you can stop here many bikers like that and get the info where to find that garage or get any other help.
The other alrenative is you ride in the evening to their meeting place right in the center at Deribasivska and Havarna street if I remember right, where Boris and Masha brought me in the last evening. Here I am introduced to everybody by handshake since Boris knows each biker in town. Immediatly he gets asked if he has this or that specific tire in his garage. But I also meet Sasha, who builds up a 100% voluntary organisation to help bikers in Odessa. It would be a quiet day without any accident, he says. Yesterday they had three, one of them is a frind of Boris who crashed at temo 70 with a drunk driver. Now he is in hospital with several broken bones. But they are not doing first aid for accident victims, the help with any problems around bikes, whether bycicle, scooter, mofa or motorcycles. I get his card and, guess what, next to him sits Pavel, the one who runs a similar organization in Russia. If I need any help I should call them, but they hope I dont have to. They are fine with giving the contacts. So if you come through Odessa with any trouble, call Sasha: 084.7041551, http://www.sempo.od.ua/
In Russia call Pavel: 8(495)7447350, http://www.motocitizen.info/forum/index.php?app=ccs&module=pages§ion=pages&id=3
Now I am writing to tire-exporters in Germany, getting quotes for Boris. I hope I can help him with this little present for his business!
The garage: Victor:7940330, http://vzletka.od.ua , (page still in construction)
And finally Boris: 063.6163119, http://motoskat.sells.com.ua/
After one day of riding through agricultured land on more or less intact roads, I reach Melitopol. An old industrial town with 150.000 people. Researching a bit in the internet I get the explanation for all the military memorials. The whole region was severly embattled in WWII.. The Germans needed the industry, ports and the oil on their wayeastwards. In my readings I found out that first they had the startegy of destroying during the battles in the eastern front, but understood quickly that they need the resources intact for their further undertakings, since all didnt go as fast as they wished. The first sympathy for the new occupants seemed to change quickly after thousands of workers got send to Germany to fill the gaps in the industry under deadly conditions. But this is only one of the many aspects the population and soldiers of all sides had to suffer from.
Now the main place of town is crowded with students and other youngsters in the evening. Between the remains of Sovjet glory they stroll around and sit in cafes. All is very open and pieceful. The most beautiful girls walk around fearless and confident which I noticed them doing a lot in the east with great naturalness.
Though one theme is present in the news in Ukraine since about a week. In one district a young woman got raped by a rich lad and two policemen. She barely survived the brutal attack with many broken bones all over her body. People were storming the police department, teargas turned them off, demonstrations are still happening every day there. She gives interviews every day for the media, the officials hab to imprison them, but only on public pressure.
Police and rich people apperently can do whatever they want, they work hand in hand. Since the "election" of the current president it got worse, they say.
So far I had no encounter with the police on the road, as everybody was warning me about. Since policemen are underpaid, they try to get money from foreign bikers, whether they did a traffic offence or not. Doug, back in the Motocamp, was giving me tips which startegy to apply. His opinion is, that slowing down the process, once yopu are stopped, is the best, because they only can do one guy at a time. Also dont pull out any money. As soon you start to argue about the sum, they know you have money and you lost the game. When you did an offence, pay, but negotiate. And if nothing hels, pull out a pen and paper, ask them for their names, becuase you will write to your embassy and their president, he should pay better, that they dont have to plunder tourists.
On the roads I look ot for them and keep mostly the speed limit, which is not too difficult on these bad roads. Each time I cross a town, I ride in extremely slow and look at the guys with the speedometer. One even was nodding to me: Well done, nice and slow. - Well, it would be less of a problem to pay a penalty.
It feels like I am the only "tourist" in town, at least I dont see anyone else with a camera, laptop and jacket, everybody wears just the the absolute necessary in the heat. To melt in, I need to speak more Russian. People are nice to me all the time though. They need a bit longer to warm up, probably it is just the language problem. But to make a difference here is already much easier and of another size then more in west of Ukraine.
Tomorrow I should be in Russia, if all goes well.
Ferry over the river, still in Romania:
BUt here we are in another world again: