Romania, Cluj-Napoca, 07 – 08 August 2019

Suceava to Cluj-Napoca – I was expecting this to be an enjoyable ride on winding roads through the mountains, not so. Good 2 lane road but for the most part crowded with slow moving traffic in both directions and a speed limit of 50 kph with many small villages, 315 km took 5:30 hours to get through.

Cluj-Napoca – Worth visiting and where I discovered one of the best beers in the World “Silva Pale Ale”.

 

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Romania, Suceava, 05 – 06 August 2019

Chisinau to Suceava in Romania another border crossing and an accident. Bumpy 2 lane road to this remote border crossing, not much traffic, easy 100 kph, 2 hour ride to the border. First I had to pay a Causeway Toll of MDL 20, so remember to keep that much money on you. Next through the gate to Moldova Immigration, handed in my Passport and Bike Registration, I was the only one there hahaha, the girl asked me to open my panniers and close them, 5 min later on my way. Rode across the causeway and then Romanian Immigration, once again I was the only one there, surly guy gave him my Passport and Bike Registration, he gave them back to me in 5 min and then I moved 5 meters to Customs who asked me to open one pannier and waved me on. Saw a sign about Road tax so rode to the booth next to the sign with a closed window and a woman opened the window and said no Vignette for motorcycles rode on at 1145, total time taken 25 minutes, rougher winding roads now and hilly got to Botosani a fairly big town at 1240. I was in the middle lane behind several cars at a standstill at traffic lights and I realised that I had to turn left at the lights and went to change into the left lane and a car in the left lane coming up from behind me did not stop or give way and scraped my bikes pannier and this pushed me into the car on the other side which received a scratch as well. No damage to myself or the bike. All this happened at a walking pace and probably would not have happened in a country where drivers are less aggressive. Having said that, I knew where I was and it was a lapse of concentration on my part. Police attended and did breathalyser tests on all 3 of us and we went to the station where we filled in the necessary forms and exchanged insurance details and 2 hours later I continued on my journey. The horse and cart is the pickup truck/utility vehicle of this region and they are commonplace.

Suceava – a stop on the way to somewhere else though it does have a 15th century fortress that has been restored and is worth visiting. I made the mistake of taking a short cut to the Fortress which is on a hill and you know how that turns out hahaha. I also bought a SIM card here from Vodafone for 7 euro. I discovered later that I did not need it as Romania is one of the countries included in my EE, UK SIM card plan and it does not cost any more to use my UK allowances here.

 

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Moldova, Chisinau, 01 – 04 August 2019

Odessa to Chisinau – A border crossing from Ukraine to Moldova. I planned my route via Palanca, Tudora and Stefan Voda to avoid Transnistria the breakaway region from Moldova. Passing through Tranistria adds another border crossing and possibly corrupt officials, also you don’t get an Entry stamp after you pass through and enter Moldova and have to go to an office in Chisinau to get an Entry stamp or you will not be able to leave the country. I did not want any of these complications so avoided the place altogether. The border is 60 km down a 2 lane road, first stop was a soldier in the middle of the road handing out a small slip of paper with the date and time on it, ride on a bit and arrive at a red light where I was held until it was my turn to continue on to Moldovan Immigration and Customs, there is no Ukraine border post so I never got an Exit stamp from Ukraine. I handed in my Passport, Ukraine visa, Bike registration and insurance and the slip of paper. While waiting another Immigration officer who spoke good English came and chatted to me about his and my travels, very friendly and polite, my papers came back and I was on my way in 30 minutes, a very pleasant border crossing. The road deteriorates a little after this but this makes it more interesting, maintained a comfortable if a little bumpy 100 kph hahaha. Arrived in Chisinau after 198 km and 3:36 hrs.

Chisinau – capital of Moldova, not a bad place to visit, clean, cheap with some good restaurants but definitely not a Tourist hot spot. I bought a Moldcell SIM card for about 5 euro with 10 GB data, 4G, etc, only needed it for 4 days, no ID required and it started working immediately. The Yandex taxi app works here and you can get to most places for under 3 euro.

 

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Ukraine, Odessa, 28 – 31 July 2019

The ride from Kiev to Odessa was in fine and warm weather, 4 lanes all the way, rough in parts but easy to maintain 110 kph. 487 km in 5:20 hrs with 2 fuel stops. This is the end of my outward journey. From Odessa I head back to Western Europe.

Odessa – This is a seaside resort in summer and is crowded with tourists from inland and the surrounding countries. It is also a major port and has an interesting mix of people from different ethnic backgrounds. A dark part of its history was the 1941 massacre of over a hundred thousand Jews by the Nazi’s.

 

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Ukraine, Kiev, 25 – 27 July 2019

Kiev is know for its Street Art / Murals, these are commissioned works by professional artists. This is the Walking Tour I followed.

 

St.Sophia’s Cathedral

The National Museum, St.Andrew’s, St.Michael’s, Friendship Arch, Kiev Pechersk Lavra

Kiev’s subway stations are supposed to be beautiful but while some of them are nice, they are not in the same class as the Stations in Moscow. The trains themselves are the same old bangers used in all the CIS countries. I followed this guide. The deepest subway station in the world is Arsenalna at 105.5 meters.

The Motherland Monument. HUGE

 

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Ukraine, Chernobyl, 24 July 2019

I went on a tour to Chernobyl, the site of the worst Nuclear disaster in history. Thousands finished up dying due to the radiation spread by the Reactor explosion. The scariest thing about radiation is that you don’t feel any pain when you are exposed to it, so there is no warning at all. The tour was with Chornobyl Tour and cost US$99 plus another $5 for lunch, you have to book at least a week in advance or it will cost you another $50. The place is still radioactive to varying degrees and the worst affected places will remain so for 20,000 years. There is a 30 kilometer exclusion zone and inside that a 10 kilometer zone with very tight security, controlled by the army due to the terrorist factor but the area is so big that people still manage to get through. The basic rule is cover up, only hands and head exposed and don’t touch anything. You have to wear a dosimeter the whole time and have to turn it in to the authorities at the end of the tour, I presume they will notify you if you have been exposed to a lethal dose hahaha. It is actually quite safe because tourists are only taken to the safe areas but dust does blow around hence the “Don’t touch anything” rule. There are also 3 radiation checks at various points before you are allowed to leave. Over 2000 people still work at the site on the cleanup which is expected to take another 70 years. The reactor was first covered by the Soviets but it was a temporary measure and was replaced in 2018 with a new Structure costing US$2.3 billion funded by the European bank. This was an accident caused by a design fault but not according to the movie “The Russian Woodpecker”.

We also visited the Duga over-the-horizon Radar Site which is inside the 10 km exclusion zone. Apparently it cost billions and never worked. It is absolutely huge, an amazing sight. The movie to watch is “The Man Who Saved the World” the little know true story of a Soviet Radar officer who broke protocol by not reporting multiple missile launches from the USA due to a computer glitch. If he had done so none of us would be here today WWIII.

The model town of Pripyat, population 50,000 was abandoned, people took only what they could carry onto the bus when they were evacuated. They were told they would be back in 3 days time, they never returned. Since then most of the things left behind have been pilfered illegally, Stalkers come to visit and some have painted murals on the walls.

 

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Ukraine, Kiev, 21 – 23 July 2019

Lviv to Kiev – the first 300 km the roads varied from 2 to 4 lane with some rough patches and the last 200 was a good 4 lane road, stopped for fuel twice, one black cloud decided to rain on me for 5 minutes, otherwise fine weather. 538 kms – 6:10 hrs.