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Published: September 15th 2008
We thought Chisinau wasn't quite as good as people made it out to be. It was a nice town but the nightlife didn't live up to its rave reviews. To be fair though, I was still glad we stopped there. We took a liking to this place called Andy's Pizza, which is by far the best pizza I've had outside of the NY/NJ/Philly area or Italy. And it was like $4 for enough pizza to fill you up. We went out with a Finnish girl from the hostel and unknowingly ordered a bunch of $7 warm beers. We made up for it though by hitting up the supermarket and cooking our own dinner. Also worth noting was that Steve and I agreed Moldova has the best looking women out of any country either of us have been to.
After two nights in Chisinau, we got on the worst looking bus I've ever seen bound for Odessa, Ukraine. It had to have been no younger than maybe a 1990. Full sections of the windows were missing, it was completely filthy both inside and outside, and there were random buckets of liquid in the back. It was a blessing in disguise, however, because the broken windows meant we didn't have to deal with the unbearable heat of the last bus.
The infamous Transnistria border crossing didn't end up giving us any crazy experiences. We just had to wait for about an hour but it was nothing more than that.
Right from the start, Ukraine was tough to deal with. It seemed anything that could possibly go wrong did. First of all, it is undoubtedly the least English speaking place I've ever been to. On top of that, I would say the majority of Ukrainians -- young and old -- flat out dispise monolingual anglophones.
The directions we got for the hostel were horrendous. We were to take bus 232 from the bus station and transfer to another bus. We spent about two hours searching and drawing pictures of buses for people. We finally found a really helpful lady who told us that there was no bus 232 at that bus station. She ended up being Bulgarian.
The new plan was to take a tram to some annonymous part of the city. We waited about 45 minutes or so and then went to go get some food -- which ended up being a really good wrap of some sort -- and we missed the tram while paying. We were completely fed up with trying to figure everything out so we bit the bullet and got a taxi to the hostel.
The hostel was probably the worst hostel experience ever. The "24 hour english speaking staff" is there about 6 hours per day and the alleged great location amongst bars and nightclubs was a half truth at best.
We spent the next day, our only full day in Odessa, in the pouring rain getting yelled at all day for speaking English. We went to an Irish Pub called Murphy's for lunch and some guy came out of the parking lot yelling at us telling us it was closed. But the door was open, the lights were on, people were eating and drinking. I'm telling you, this place had it out for us. We ended up at another nearby Irish Pub and we heard some crazy story about Murphy's involving a patron pulling out a handgun on a bunch of western travelers and they ended up climbing out a back window at the suggestion of a waitress. Maybe it's best we got denied entry.
We never really took a liking to Odessa and vowed to get out of there more quickly than originally planned. So we booked a night train to Kiev. We were told that everything except first class was fully booked so we
dropped over 500 UAH (over $100 USD) on the ticket. By the way, we can't pronounce the Ukrainian currency for the life of us, so we just refer to it as G's.
No more than an hour before our train departed I got sick. I'm sure it didn't help that, in the span of five days, we went from a 95 degree Bucharest to a 45 degree Odessa. It wasn't close to as bad as when I got the flu in South Africa, but it was bad. And the 8 hour night train all of the sudden wasn't something I was looking forward to. However, it was a perfect time to have paid for first class because it was a lot more comfortable not being squished into a cabin with three other people. I didn't sleep at all and it was a LONG eight hours.
We arrived in Kiev the next morning and I was feeling better, but not good enough to want to deal with the subway and to walk around the city trying to find our hostel. It was worse than I expected too. I've been in subways in a lot of cities and Kiev's subway system is by far the most crowded I've ever seen. It was like ant colonies of people in every corridor in every direction. Luckily, subways are much easier to navigate than buses so the whole thing wasn't as bad as I feared when I saw the crowds of people. We got to the hostel early but they let us sleep anyway.
I met a bunch of Swedish dudes there that were going to pick up tickets for the Arsenal/Dynamo Kiev match on Wednesday. They said that they accidentally ordered one too many tickets so I scored a ticket without even leaving the hostel. Now I have to stay in Kiev for three nights so I hope it will treat me better than Odessa. So far, the best thing about this country is the borsche, a Ukrainian soup like dish. So good.
The soccer game is on the 17th so I booked a 28 hour train on the 18th from here down to Bucharest. Then I'm going down to Istanbul from there to complete probably about 50 hours of traveling for the Fenerbahce match. Then I'm going to travel around Turkey for a bit and end up back in Istanbul for another Fenerbahce match before flying to Munich to meet up with my friend Doc from back home. Steve goes to Poland tomorrow so I'll probably tag along with people from the hostel the next few days.
Since I'm recovering from being sick last night, I intended on spending some time uploading a bunch of pictures from Africa, but the USB connection here is ridiculously slow. I'll try to do it soon though.
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