Posted: 10/15/2008
Title: DOWN THE DUSTY TOLSTOY HIGHWAY

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      I forgot to tell you the name of the L'viv underground theme restaurant that I mentioned in my last blog. It's called KRYJIVKA www.kryjivka.com.ua.  You have GOT TO take a look at the web site.

      Leaving Ukraine was quite an ordeal. I didn't want a repeat of entering, with delays of over 3 hours at the border while the train bogeys were changed. Katarina at City Hall offered to take me on a walk to the university where we boarded a battered old trolleybus for the 8 stop journey to the train station. It was full, we got on at the back and she sent about $1.00 in Ukrainian notes hand over hand via other passengers to the driver for the two, 8 cent tickets, and change was duly passed back. At the station I just jumped on a marshrutka (a small private bus) for the 1 hour 40 minute drive to the Polish border for just over $3.00.

      It was like a tale out of a Tolstoy novel, without the snow and the sleigh ride. The highway was called E 10 part of the European network but it was narrow, lots of holes and a bumpy ride. We stopped anywhere and everywhere with passengers and their bags on and off for a few cents. At one time the 24 seated passengers were equalled by those standing up. It was a tight squeeze. The lady next to me kept crossing herself every few kilometres, with lots of churches, both Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox, and crosses and shrines.

     There were small wooden houses with wooden fences, some rose bushes and small plots of land, with hand drawn water wells, piles of pumpkins, cows and geese and chickens with a death wish walking on the roadside. "Orange Revolution indeed!" What's it done for us animals, all they want is more eggs for less money.. May as well end it now. Maybe a truck, a car or a bus and we won't feel a thing!!"   I pass by one football field with the two 'lawnmowers'. Actually 2 goats are tethered to two different parts of the field for a good meal. I assume that they are moved around from time to time.

       At the Ukrainian/Polish border I meet up with Gregorz (Greg),and Pawel (Paul) two  Polish guys from Szczecin(Stettin) near the Baltic who have lived and worked in Brighton, UK, and who have just dropped off their car after visiting a few castles in Western Ukraine. It still takes 40 minutes to get out of Ukraine, despite being told to cut in front of the Ukrainian tourists by the border guards. They all stare at me as if I am from another planet. Most look as if they have spent the night in a barn with their animals, or climbed out of a sewer. I am in a light, off-white linen jacket and medium brown slacks-very elegant but comfortable for my travels, but rather unique in the middle of Eastern European nowhere-land. One guy strokes my jacket and is pulled away by a buddy. Others ask where I am from, and the old women keep crowding around me with unwashed scents, beween puffs on their cheap cigarettes

      This is smugglers country. It's about 200 metres down a path between 3 metre high fences in no man's land to Polish immigration. People are breaking open cartons of 20 packs of cigarettes and stuffing them down their pant legs from the waist and up from the ankles. I have never seen such a percentage of travellers in wheel chairs, all hoping for sympathy with their smuggling. My Polish buddies say this is common and they all hope to make a little off cigarettes and liquor bought on the cheap and taken into Poland.

    Are they crazy? Customs officers know all the tricks. Just ahead two men don't make it, are caught and just sent back over the border to Ukraine and misery. Polish customs whisk me and my friends on through and we jump on another marshrutka for the 10 minute ride to the railhead at Przemysl and then the three and a half hour express train to Krakow.

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