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Sunday, June 12, 2016

TRUDGING THROUGH THE CARPATHIANS

UKRAINE TO ROMANIA

Though Lviv is very close to Poland, I'd gotten a very attractive offer from a friend of mine named Diana who lives in Romania to stay at one of her properties free for a month.  After that, she would help me to find a different place to stay (we both assumed I'd be bored there after one month) that I could rent for a reasonable (to Logan) price.

Worth crossing Ukraine for.

Unfortunately, many of the places in Ukraine that have web pages may make you think you've slipped back into the 1990's.  Go 'MySpace'.  Also, a lot of the information you get will be found to be inaccurate.   Sometimes wildly so.  I'm sure that if you spoke Russian (or Ukrainian - very similar for those who care) and knew the web pages to go to that you could probably get what you want.  I have seen people do it - and had flashbacks of 'dial-up' for those who are old enough to know what that is.  Or a dial tone, for that matter.  If you are too young, put it under 'things pre-internet that are best forgotten'.

So, I'd researched a bunch (while sober, even) and the internet told me to cross the border at the town of Tyachiv.

This was what we in the border crossing business call 'a lie'.

You can't cross the border there.  You can cross it about an hour east at a town called Solotvino.

This picture has nothing to do with what is being talked about.  Please ignore it.

For those who want one of those '90's style web pages with information on where the actual border crossings are for Ukraine, I direct you to this.

Even if I have to get a taxi it won't be a bad cost considering going from Lviv to Tyachiv - crossing the  entire Ukraine north to south is under 4 USD (100 UAH).

Yeah, buddy.

Thinking moving around in Romania will cost more.

My research into how to get from Tyachiv to Solotvino is not going well.  It may be one of those 'jump and figure it out when I get there'.  [Edit:  It was.]  Because I suspect there may be a few of these moments, I'm leaving earlier than necessarily needed.  And it is long past time to get out of the steadily worsening situation at the house.

To clarify my position on living with other people:  If you go to live with some friend or friends for a week, that is often a magical situation.  Wonderful.  You get to hang out and do stuff.  Once you have hit the one month mark - even if you are paying rent - shit often starts to slide downhill after that.

It may just be me.  In some respects I am a pain in the ass to live with.  I do enjoy living alone.

But visiting with people for a week - so cool.  Even if as during LHI or the European tour I stayed with several different households for a week - still cool.

But for just living?  No - fuck that - alone for me is best.

Again, nothing to do with the blog but I did listen to Stewart's autobiography recently and thought I would distract you with this image for no good reason.  And make you read shit.  Which you fell for.


LEAVING LVIV

I nearly out waited my train.   Found out the advertised track number was incorrect.

Despite asking for 'just a seat, I don't want a bed', they naturally gave me a bed.  On the top bunk.

Really.

Just looking at it, I could tell there was even less stuff to get up there with than normal.  Fortunately, the girl who had the bottom was happy to switch with me.  Note that the various conductors and such will not help you with this sort of problem.  Their view seems to be 'if you didn't want the top, why did you book it' and 'if you don't like it, you can always book another train...eventually...'.  So it is best to just find someone yourself.

She immediately identified herself as a 'Jehovah's Witness'.

I was super happy for the language barrier.

Like this weird happy Batman is happy.

Especially when I had automatically responded "I'm sorry."  Looking at devout religion as a form of mental illness does not help one to get the bottom bunk!

The train bed itself - fairly torturous.  I thought that I didn't get the extra pad everyone else did.  Discovered at the end of the journey that they were stored above the top bunk.  Doh.

I do this a lot while traveling.


ONE TRAIN STATION TO ANOTHER

Talking to various people who had some English (about where my Spanish is I'm guessing) told me that the border was within walking distance.

Later, I discovered that talking to young, fit, healthy and relatively unencumbered people gives a different definition of 'walking distance'.

It was a couple clicks.

The only taxis?  At the train station.  And actually snapped up by the other train passengers.

So it was a walk.

Had I been going the other way (Romania to Ukraine) there would have been a big assed hill.

As it was, I was actually getting a bit dizzy and stuff as I was walking.  No where to sit down and often no side walks, I walked along looking for softer places to fall down.  My plan was to twist as I fell if I didn't just lose complete control of my body in order to spare the computer.  I may heal - the computer won't.

I just kept plodding along, one foot then the other and concentrated on breathing.

Yes.  Technically I was hiking through the Carpathian Mountains with literally everything I own.

Managed to not pass out (a couple times it was very close) or fall down all the way to the border.

Yea!

(Applause)

Pretty shagged out.  Were there any taxis?

Hell.

A box and a manually operated level crossing.  That's about it for this international border.

Sure, there were unmanned booths for little things like currency conversion and such, with the key word being 'unmanned'.

This is not a great place to cross for amenities.

One of the young guys asked me if I had any tobacco or alcohol.  I joked with him that I'd sure like it if he was offering those to me and began asking questions about where the train station was so I could get a ticket.  Played up the selfish tourist angle while being funny.

Didn't want him to look into my backpack.  Nothing serious - just personal use cigarettes and a whole bunch of pills.  My medicine.

But, anyone who has been reading this blog long enough knows my attitude toward authority figures.


I immediately set off toward the two (?) klicks away train station.  Hanging around - never a smart idea.

Eventually, I drug my ass into the train station.



SIDE RANT

One of the best things about 'not Ukraine' is we are back to the Latin alphabet.  A bit over a third of the people of the world use the Latin alphabet as opposed to four percent that use the Cyrillic one.  [Source]


This, in my mind, gives using the Cyrillic alphabet is about as smart as not being on the metric system.

The Latin letters make things so much easier.  Heck, both parties can even use the same phone with google translate!

There is a reason Logan has said "I don't care about learning the Cyrillic alphabet".  Yes, I have gone completely metric.  I'm about 1.8 meters tall and weigh under one metric ton.  But not enough under.  Good times.



THE TRAIN STATION

Scott: "Yeah... um, listen. We're trying to get to Berlin, Germany. Do you know if there's a train coming anytime soon?"
Tibor: "Oh yes! Very soon! They are building it now!"
     - Eurotrip

Felt this quote when I walked into the partial train station.  It was under construction.

Every experienced (and some inexperienced) travelers know that it is possible to buy a ticket on the train much of the time.  Knowing which train is yours is the problem.  They don't label them as clearly as I'd like.  Why that is, I do not know.  Later, it will lead to more butthurt.


At first, the lady was zero help.  No, she couldn't hold on to my bags so that I could do another two kilometer hike into town to get cash out of the ATM.  No, she could not make my cards work on her card scanner.  Did you know that whether you swipe the card along the side or stick it in the end, there are four different possible positions?  Only two of these eight total positions are incorrect.  I watched her try six different positions before putting the card reader aside and announcing it would no longer be used today.

Thinking she didn't get a lot of training on it.

Times like this require a lot of patience.  I've seen a lot (lot, lot) of tourists break down and start yelling, demanding to see managers and so on.  While this may work in some first world countries it means you are 'done' in most countries.  The item or service is no longer for sale and they don't care who you rant to.  You won't meet with the boss and there is no better business guide for people to complain to and the majority of people to ignore.

Honestly - it takes a special kind of person to read through their reviews and such on a regular basis and these people are rare.  If you are one of them and want to object and say you are not rare, you can reterm it as 'special'.  You have now moved into the 'special' category.

Right.

So - arguing doesn't work.  Unless you are Russell Crow.


Assuming you are not 'fighting round the world' (I try not to) just keep looking for new ways to go after the problem.

I got a taxi and paid him to take me into town to hit a bank, get a new sim card, some food (my last for about thirty hours as it turned out) and return me to the train station to wait for six or eight hours.  On food sellers - I'm thinking there must be a reason or law against people selling food near the train station or even on the trains the way they do in Asia.  It seems like there would be quite a market as a lot of these trains (even ones crossing countries) don't bother with the dining car.  But there isn't.

Lots of waiting.

After all of the walking and nearly passing out, even had I a place to store my luggage for a couple hours, touring the village wasn't a priority.  Possibly due to the hard rain which started after I got back and situated with a ticket.  It did look nice and picturesque.  This reinforces my opinion that - if one had the money and time - doing a summer time tour of Romania and staying in various nifty places would be fun.  Given the horrible time tables for the trains, probably a private motor car (I'm feeling British) would be the way to go.



WAITING IN DEDA

The last town before I finally got to my goal is a tiny (4000 people) town of Deda.  Easily memorable name, long four hour lay over.

Obviously, I was totally out of it by the time I'd reached here - between close to twenty hours of travel as well as hauling all my earthly possessions through the Carpathians.

And it got cold.

Like really cold.

I put on my sweater but unfortunately nodded off, thus lowering my body temperature even more.

Just sat there in the totally empty railway station having a good shake for a long, long time until my body warmed itself back up.  Not the coldest I've ever been (Korea, 1986 or so) but damned cold.


After boarding and crawling around the wrong train, I managed to find someone who got me onto the correct one.

Nearly got off at the wrong train station as well.  For some reason, just one Targu Mures train station is not enough.  They also have a 'Nord' (north) one.  The only interesting thing there was some old guy who was unloading bunches of meter long sharpened wooden stakes.  I remarked "All these crazy new fangled vampire hunting techniques these days!"  Some lady passing began to laugh hysterically.

I got back on the train and was met by my buddy Sorin.

As we partook of McDonald's (hey - not a lot of breakfast choices at 7AM on a Sunday in Eastern Europe), I remarked that it is rare for me to be able to hang out with people you've known for five or more years.

Simply because many of them are not motivated enough to travel.   Sad face.  But as Shadow said in "The Fifth Element", "I will be among you...soon."

For people in the USA - LHI2, The Second Coming.

Not as funny as Russells' Second Coming show but should be fun.

(If you missed LHI1 and would like more information about how to get involved, contact me on Facebook - Logan Horsford.  If you are not already a friend of mine, please mention you read the blog as I get a lot of spam friend requests and routinely block those bitches.)



SUMMARY

If you have your own vehicle, the Ukrainian to Romanian border crossing of Solotvino to Sihetu Marmatsiei is nice and quite.   Probably relaxing.  If you are on foot, avoid it if possible or allow for the fact you will probably be walking six kilometers, possibly up a decent (very long) hill.

This was not a happy forty eight hours for me in any way.  At all.  Even after being installed in the new place by kindly Sorin (no relation to the dark lord Sauron) I kept falling asleep - even after two (yes, two) different naps.

Avoid if possible.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

The platform they say the train will arrive on may be a lie.  Find some station attendants and double check - especially in the 'not first world' countries.  Sometimes, there will be multiple trains on the same track and at the same platform going wildly different places.

Going on a long train journey?  Don't plan on the station, anywhere near the station or the dining car (which will not exist) to feed you.  Pack a picnic.  An extensive one.


How often should you clean your backpack?  Never.  The more disgusting and ratty it appears, the better chance that would be thieves will look elsewhere for their 'phat l00t'.  If you like snazzy looking equipment, I recommend travel insurance!

Adjusting windows and such on transport.  I've watched this for years and honestly, it rarely goes well.  Want a little extra air and the window is up?  Once you lower it, it will magically say 'fuck you' and be broken forever in the down position.  Arctic winds will assail you.  Or the window will simply break off in your hand.  Or refuse to budge.  Or the glass will fall out.  Or have not been there for years.  Pretty much, trying to make any of the little comfort adjustments - really bad idea that often seems to make it worse.    Hell, even moving around the train with your over large backpack through doors that get stuck half way open, are inexplicably locked or only one door moves lead to a nightmarish feeling that only intensifies if you have to take a sudden, violent shit.  Instead, make the adjustments on yourself rather than the environment.  I carry coats and such in case it gets too cold, seat padding, etc.




COSTS

Taxi for a couple clicks and some waiting, 20 LEI

Sim card with a bunch of wifi, 25 LEI

Cigarettes, a bit over $3 per pack - about 3x Ukraine.  Welcome to the EU taxes, bitches!  Oh - wait - I have to pay it.  Shit.

Train from the border train station to Targu Mures (place I will be for a month), 66 LEI


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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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