Tuesday 31.7.2018 0km 13.01km Total:238.54km
Today I head out for a lengthy walk as the main destination is Lavra monestary.
Since I don't have anything else planned I take any detour on the way that just seems remotely interesting and thus end up by the Mariyinsky palace.
I pretty much go through every park along the way and choose my path with some care to get as much of it in the shade as possible because today is a real scorcher.
Since the obelisk in the park nearest Lavra (the park of eternal glory) I obviously go and discover it to be Kievs monument to the unknown soldier with the eternal flame burning at its foot.
There is a monument like this in almost every major European city but this was unusually tastefully done.
Adjacent to this there was a very strange but beautiful monument whose significance I was completely oblivious to until I noticed the stairs that lead under the monument with a museum for Holodomor.
A genocide undertook by the Soviet regime headed by Stalin while converting all farms to collectives.
If you just had the slightest bit of success as a farmer you where branded as a Kulak, a rich farmer and straight to the Gulag you went.
The Kulak denomination expanded as the unpopularity of the disastrous conversion of agriculture to state-run warms grew until 2 million (including Russia) dissidents had been branded this way and where deported.
During the famine of 1932-33 the grain stocks in Ukraine where plundered and transported to Russia.
Even though the grain obviously helped where it went the result for Ukraine was that 7 million of its citizens died of starvation, 1/4 of the total population and of those 1 million of them where children.
The fact that Sweden hasn't recognized this as a genocide is embarrassing and disgraceful.
I hadn't heard of this at all until I came here so it was a good history lesson, I could have used more English in the museum though as I learned more from reading the Wikipedia page on the museum wifi than I did by the exhibit.
On to Lavra where the ticket booth is a chaos of indecipherable information.
It's a full A3-sign with different entrance fees and addons.
At first it seems that I'm not even allowed to enter without a guide and if I where to get one for myself it would cost 1300UAH + fees (~€43+)
Before I get a complete stroke of cheapness a woman gives me the option of self-guiding at the far more reasonable rate of 70UAH + a fee of 200 for a photo permit (total about €9) so I got that.
I walk around on the grounds inside Lavra and it is insanely large, the total acreage of the monastery is 42ha divided into upper Lavra maintained by the state and lower Lavra with the caves maintained by the church.
I could get a personal guide through the nearest caves for the pretty reasonable sum of 380UAH so I got that.
The guide was very knowledgeable but not overly inspired which is to be expected from someone telling the same stories over and over several times a day so it was like someone reading a text in a monotone.
Even though her English wasn't bad it was a bit hard to follow at times.
The tour through the caves was still very cool in a macabre way just walking through the labyrinth of caves with nothing like a candle to show the way.
The corridors were filled with caskets of saints whos sanctitude I had explained to me for pretty much every single one but I can't remember any of them.
Perhaps the information couldn't thoroughly penetrate my shell of atheism.
What I do remember is that a great number of the monasteries monks chose to live in what is very appropriately named cells down in the caves.
These where so small I don't even think it would be possible to stretch out on in a bunk and is probably far from the standards set in the Geneva convention for convicts.
They then lived out their days praying to their gods with the only human interaction being the daily ration of bread and water.
I don't know what life you would have to have lived previously to feel you need to do that kind of penance.
When they died the cell was bricked up as their final resting place.
I was just a little bit freaked out by the whole thing as I can't get my head around it at all.
I spend the rest of the day wandering around the monastery grounds and get a bite to eat at a grill bar close to the monastery.
On my way back to the hotel I had my sights set on a building called House with Chimaeras, a strange building with numerous chimaeras, ghouls, demons and whatnot covering it.
These plans get a bit of a setback as the street has been cordoned off by the police.
I approach and talk to one of them and ask if there's a chance they'll let me just walk up to the building and back for a quick photo op.
After checking my ID and the contents of my back I get an extremely temporary permit to check out the building.
Along the street there are busloads full of soldiers which felt weird as we're smack in the middle of Kiev but I guess they might have a military presence in the adjacent government building.
I never got any wiser but the police I talked to was nice enough.
The house was amazing and I would definitely have liked to examine it more closely but at the time it didn't seem worth getting in trouble with the police and a two busloads of soldiers over.
The Motherland monument
The shield weirdly enough still has the Soviet coat of arms..
Wednesday 1.8.2018 0km 8.69km Total:247.09km
My stomach is in an unusually bad mood today so I spend all morning catching up on the blog and booking the hotel for Chișinău.
I eventually get restless and head off anyway.
I have decided that my life won't be complete without a Hard Rock Café Chernobyl T-Shirt and I remember seeing them in some of the souvenirs stands up by St. Andrews church.
I make a treck out of it by continuing down the Andriyivskyy Descent after bagging my prize.
The descent seems to be the Mekka of souvenirs and trinkets in Kiev.
On my way back up a hawkeyed seller spots my t-shirt through the bag and claims that the quality of the shirt I bought is just crap, his is waaaaay better.
Since the ones he was selling had a slightly different design (and quite obviously was nicer quality) it was his easiest sale of the day, I had pretty much decided to get one before he even opened his mouth.
I also got a tack så mycket (thank you very much) in perfect Swedish for not bothering to haggle (it was only €8).
I go by St. Michaels monastery and the park on my way back.
There sat a gentleman playing on the piano today as well and even though he was skilled he wasn't up to par with his colleague.
I drift around pretty aimlessly through malls and shops before I get supper at an open air restaurant for the last time in Kiev.
Even though there wasn't exactly an abundance of sights I really liked this town.
They struggle with the language but they do as best they can and as long as there is a will to understand it always works out.
Thursday 2.8.2018 625km Total:3679km #6 1h.20m Total:12h5m
If I was bitter about the ridiculous and time-consuming detour through Latvia because of the Russian/Belarusian customs union that detour was pretty reasonable (distance wise not time wise) compared to the ridiculous detour I have to take into Moldova as practically the entire border with Ukraine is towards the self-proclaimed republic of Transnistria.
It's pretty much a Russian banana republic that would never sustain itself without Russian support.
Oddly enough though not even Russia have recognized Transnistria as an independent country.
Crossing the border from Ukraine into Transnistria would potentially be seen as an illegal entry into Moldova as I would not get an entry stamp at the border.
So that means I need to head west on the M21 from Kiev towards a border crossing straight into Moldova.
The first half of the journey to the border has a road so good I can hardly believe it's true.
To add to the blissful riding it was a bit overcast and the temperature was just perfect at about 23ºC which actually was slightly chilly compared to the temperatures I'd had thus far.
The road standard would not continue to be that good though and on the second half it turns into the crap I'd pretty much expected from the outset.
It wasn't exactly littered with crater-like potholes although there where stretches like that too but most of the time it was just so unbelievably crappy asphalt that it was like riding on a washboard.
It was a brutal beating of both man an machine.
A maintained gravel road would no doubt have been a more comfortable ride than this.
Eventually the GPS bracket gives up the ghost and it's not hard to see why it happened.
It's just two tiny M3 screws holding the crossbar taking the full weight of the GPS and the holder, probably around half a kilo in weight.
When that lump starts oscillating to the point that you can't even read the display any more it's no great mystery that it won't take that abuse forever.
It's an idiotic blunder by Touratech and it doesn't get any better by the fact that by the third time I'm tightening the screw the head starts to give and I'm just rotating the hex key.
I didn't bring any thread locker so I had to improvise with krazy glue, it probably not a great long term solution but at the moment it seems to do the trick.
I get a slight panic attack when I eventually get to the border crossing and realize that the cue is so long I can't even see the actual checkpoint.
For some reason it never matters what kind of weather I've had throughout the day but as soon as I get to a border crossing the sun starts scorching and the temperature rises to well over 30ºC.
But I don't have to stand in the cue for long until I (think I) get called an idiot by a Moldovan for standing in the cue with the cars as motos obviously ride to the front.
I wasn't a point I was going to argue at all.
Inside the checkpoint I get waved to the front again by a uniform and for the first time this trip it isn't so they can bust my balls about some paperwork or gear check but just to put me out of my misery as quickly as possible.
The official checking my passport even asks me if it isn't very warm being geared up like I am in this heat and god knows it certainly was.
I get stopped one final time on the Ukrainian side (judging by the uniform he was military) but all he wanted was to ask if I was happy with the GPS and if it was better or worse than a TomTom.
Best treatment in a border crossing yet by a wide margin.
The entry into Moldova sets a new speed record.
The last official checking the gear (there are always multiple people doing the exact same thing) even checks the inside of my helmet and finishes off by asking no drugs? in such an utterly disappointed tone of voice it was like a child whose parents have forgotten it's Christmas.
It was absolutely hilarious.
The last 200kms to Chișinău continues much like the washboard on the Ukrainian side.
I hade some more or less educated prejudices about Moldova before I went and I definitely didn't expect the country to be overly developed.
That was pretty immediately confirmed in the first village I ride into where I see young men, practically just boys dressed in hats and clothes that seem to have been teleported from the 1800s.
Horse and carriage were pretty common in the Ukrainian outback too but everything put together it feels like I've suddenly ridden stright into Amish-country.
Despite the time capsule after the border I still hold naive hopes for a dual carriageway the closer I get to the capitol but it just never gets any better than that god damn washboard asphalt.
When I finally get to the hotel which was a really nice surprise in quality and standard I'm so sore it's just ridiculous.
There doesn't seem to be a single muscle in my body that isn't aching. Getting old sucks.
Since it's pretty late and the hotel has a very nice restaurant I can't come up with any reason to go anywhere else tonight.
I've noticed about myself that getting more and more comfortable when it comes to service and amenities as I'm getting older but paying €50 to get my socks and underwear washed was just not happening.
Out comes the clothesline and the detergent.
For those wondering I have through extensive research come to the conclusion that washing clothes doesn't get any less boring even when you're slightly drunk.