Thursday 26th of January 2006
I went to the bus station around 11am and spoke to one of the drivers. He walked me to the bus heading to the Ukraine and asked me whether I needed a VISA. Never was I so happy to see a battered bus take me out of this town. I purchased my ticket north to the Ukraine for 200,000 lei. The comapny was TASA Suceava. Remember you can not buy tickets from the sation, only from the bus driver. I was in the bus at noon, as I was sick of the town. I purchased breakfast (soup, bread) at a restuarant and got a few things like water for the bus journey. I had about 20,000 lei which I gave to a cripled young in his 20’s. looked like he was in a crash or something. His skull had been smashed and looked like some surgeon did do a great job in putting him abck together. Lots of beggars in town but not pushy.
I was happy to wait in the bus for an hour reading. i did not want to miss the bus. i just wanted to leave the town and was delighted to get going. there were about four other passengers. One thing is, the driver takes your passport for 20 minutes for some reason. I hate leaving it go, but he was a jolly, friendly guy. i got it back in one piece. Anyway, the need to leave town was of greater importance than my passport.
There were a few passengers picked up along the way. The Romania guards were cool. In all and this is no joke, I did not have to leave the bus to cross over. No bags were checked. No questions asked. A guard came, took everyones passport and asked me “How are you?” in a big smile as if he had been practising this line for weeks. I said I was good and asked him how he was. He was “good” too. The bus driver had given us immigration entry forms fot the Ukraine and had asked me if I needed a VISA. From last summer, I know we dont but immigraion is immigration. We got back our passports after 5 minutes. I had been stamped out. The bus driver gave all our passports to a female passenger to hand out. She gave a great show of it. Mr. Belrussia, Mr. Romania, Mr. Ireland!!!!”
We went about 2km to the ukraine side. Again, no hassles, no crowds. Just one guard came in and took the passports. One of the passengers asked the guard “You speak good English, yes” to a bemused border guard. Again, five minutes later, the passports came back but instead of stamping the passport, they stamped the exit part of the immigration card I filled up. I though this unusual, was worried and hoped I would not lose it before my exit.So I had company from the Ukraine border to the bus station in Chernivtsi. A guy in late 20’s came up from back of the bus to sit with me. We talked about everything and anything from Irish folk music to the forthcoming elections in the Ukraine. He has a LORD OF THE DANCE DVD with him…. We arrived about 3.00pm so its a pretty short hop from Romania proper. It was a busy bus station and I wasnt going to leave him go until I got a little tourist advice, but no worries as he wanted to be my guide for the evening. i had planned to stay here a night but because I was stuck in that blasted Suceava for 2 nights, I had to get a train north to L’viv (lviv) tonight.
The tram was just .50 downdown (the 293 tram). We were packed like sardines. We left our bags aat the station and he helped me buy a sleeper (2nd class) to Lviv. I think it was 15 hy. Very cheap.
We spend the next three hours exploring the city from the theatre to the university. At the university we had buns, sald and coffee. He had a Cd of Ukraiian folk music so he went into a shop to get me a copy. He also paid for tea in a restuarant with 20 hot dovuts each. No matter how much I protested that I wanted to pay, he was more adament that he pay. He was about the same age as me. He was leaning English from a 1985 Ukrainian un9versity book. I could not help but laugh.. They had case studies about African Americans going into American hotels and been refused service or a room. There were then questions about the case studies. The book was full of sterotypes and ant-American bias. He was a welder by trade and was happy to show me family photos and tell stories.
But christ, he would not let me put my hand in my pocket to pay for anything. Crazy. He had no access to phone or email, so we swapped addresses.
It was now 8.00pm and my train was 8.50pm. We had a beer at the station and said our goodbyes. He really helped me out here and made my visit to Chernivtsi a memorable one.
There was a guard/attendant at each carriage entrance. She checked my ticket and it was easy to find my bunk bed. There were 2 girls there in this 6 bed compartment. Its open to the corridor. its best to get one on the ground as the bags can go underneath (like a drawer) which can only open if you lift up your bunk. That means no one can steal your stuff unless they move you off the bed.
The two girls (who were visiting their grandmother in Chernivtsi) were from Lviv and were good craic. They spoke a little English and one of them (the uglier of the two 🙂 ) kept smiling and staring. I though she was a bit touched in te head. Anyway, they kept offering me sweets, oranges and so on.
In the 6 beds next to us were five Ukrainians who were drunk as lords. They were playing cards but also ahd two bottles of vodka. One of them kept chatting the girls up. He was in his 60’s but whenever he got the chance slapped one of the girls on the arse and was making (I imagine) a few lewd statements. They took it in their stride. They kept asking – “Do you know what he just said?” in a bewildered look. I dont know what they expected me to do about it… defend their honour !!!!
The attendant came by and you rent fresh white sheets for you duvet, bed and pillow for 3 hy. I had a little drink of vodka and had a peaceful night in which I slept pretty soundly.