Sept. 25 (Wels)

We planned to stay in Linz today, but we gave up looking for a room after the first five hotels we visited all claimed to be booked full. We drove 30 km further to Wels. We’re in Gasthof Gösser.

We did look at the Dom in Linz though:

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Sept. 24 (Szigetszentmiklós)

We found ourselves in Tiszavasvari quite by accident .. while my brother posted a comment earlier that we should visit, I had no intention to make a detour in the rain, especially one with no value for Jerome. However, he misconfigured his GPS to avoid highways, so it took us right through there on the road toward Budapest. It was in this town where I spent quite a lot of my childhood at my grandparents place. While there, I took a quick tour of all the landmarks, and even went into the corner store where we used to buy our grocieries…

At lunch we stopped at a highway restaurant which had an excellent all you can eat smorgasbord of Hungarian delicacies. Even vine and beer would have been included for the lunch price of about fifteen dollars; unfortunately Hungary plays into their hands by having zero pro mille tolerance for drivers.

By about 5 PM we arrived at my Grandfather’s place who treated us to an excellent home cooked dinner. After dinner Laci and Agi dropped by to say hello as well. Thanks everyone for the great time!

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Sept. 23 (Nìregyháza)

We reached the Ukranian-Hungarian border by about noon, driving, unsurprisingly, in rain. There was some token searching of bags… The relatively friendly Hungarian border guard, on hearing that I worked in Switzerland asked how one could get a job out there, and failing that, at least a good car. I agreed with him that German and English skills were a good starting point but then hurried to abandon him as well as the increasingly uncomfortable conversation.

We made it to Nyiregyhaza after dark, concluding a whole day spent in freezing rain. I was wearing plastic bags on my feet to insulate against soaked boots and disposable rubber workshop gloves (Jerome’s innovative idea) inside drenched gloves inside plastic bags… I can now say with cerainty that expensive brand name products sold in the west as waterproof are in fact not. The only things that are really waterproof are rolls of inexpensive garbage bags.

We are in Hotel Pagony **** :) where we just enjoyed fish soup with catfish fillet and gray cattle ragout with gnocci. Plus Soproni and Unicum.

Sept. 21 (Kiev)

After a mediocre breakfast here at the Slavutych, we visited the Perchersk Lavra complex in drizzling rain. The miniature exhibition recommended by Gordon is also on this otherwise orthodox pilgrimage site, strangely enough. It was however closed, and a sign on the door indicated that the museum is “closed during precipitation”. How bizarre, maybe the roof is leaking?

We searched and found the cave complex instead. We descended a couple stories into a winding tunnel, with barely more cross-section than a single person’s size. We were injected into a seemingly infinite stream of pilgrims carrying candles, and filed through the caves along a per-determined path. The tunnel has few distinctive features other than shelves cut into the side walls every few meters, each with a glass coffin, and each glass coffin with a mummified saint or otherwise notable person. The pilgrims filing through touched or often kissed each coffin. It was too dark to take photos without flash in most places, and I did not want to disturb the solemn mood with flash photography, so I only took one picture artificially illuminated in such sacrilegious manner.

When we finally emerged from the tunnels after what seemed like an eternity due to the excruciatingly slow pace of the column, the rain has stopped. We went back to the Nikolay Siadristy miniature museum which has indeed opened by then. The tiny constructions of the crazy genius who made them were really amazing, unfortunately it was not explained (at least not in English) how he managed to create the artifacts.

Next it was time for lunch, which we foolishly took in a mediocre hotel restaurant, where we subsequently got stuck as the rain intensified to a torrential downpour. After a while we decided to break out, but we almost instantly got soaked. We took a bus to Kreschatyk street, a central promenade, which was closed to cars that day for an event promoting taking a bicycle to work. It did not seem to have been very popular as only one quite tired of life would be well advised to pedal around in the Kiev traffic, especially during rush hour. The rain subsided again which let me take a few representative photos, but we were forced into a cafe again for the remainder of the afternoon until my dentist appointment. One of the many errors in planning we committed for this trip was that we only brought open summer shoes besides our biker boots, so right now both pairs are soaking wet. Now that I think about it, I should actually try to dry my boots with the hair dryer for tomorrow, otherwise I will have another miserable day for certain.

The dental appointment went relatively well, even though the dentist announced that he shall not be using anesthetics, as the procedure that will take “fifty minutes” will “not hurt, only sting a little”. I was not super glad to hear this, but he only made me convulse in pain twice, so it was acceptable. He cleaned the tooth, filled the roots temporarily, reinforced a now very thin side wall from the inside with some cement, and closed the tooth. For an hour of work and two x-rays I paid him 2537 UAH in total. I will have to go to a dentist again in three weeks time to fill the roots permanently, and get a crown put on.

Tomorrow we plan to drive on to Lviv, getting there all or part way depending on the weather.

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Sept. 20 (Kiev) (Updated with Pictures)

Another really painful day with some highlights: The forecast for the whole northwestern part of the Ukraine has been “rain” for as long as they can hope to predict, so we were actually surprised that it was sunny in the morning in Kharkiv. We left the hotel around 9 AM, and rode on pretty decent roads until about 1 PM, by which time we were freezing, so we stopped for lunch at a roadside inn. It was a rustically decorated place with a grumpy barmaid who nonetheless produced some excellent schnitzel. In the parking lot I got to know some Russians hailing from Saratov who took some photos of our bikes, and a cute kitty who apparently was also freezing and decided to curl up on my still warm saddle. When we finished eating it was already starting to rain, and it continued to rain until around 6 PM when we arrived in Kiev, in the middle of rush hour. We got completely lost in the huge city, and the streets were so clogged up in the direction that we wanted to go in that we decided to stop at a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner, where I also changed into dry pants and shoes — my feet were soaked inside my boots. We stayed for about three hours, waiting for the traffic to clear up, and had some delicious Vietnamese food in the mean time. We also made a phone reservation at the Slavutych hotel, and decided to drive there. The plan was that Jerome will follow his GPS and I will follow him, but we got separated and I subsequently became quite lost, arriving at the hotel about 30 minutes after he did. Tomorrow we will try to do some sight seeing despite the bad weather.

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Sept. 19 (Kharkiv) (Updated with Pictures)

We’re in Hotel Victoria. Kharkiv is a surprisingly pretty place, with western standard hotels and gourmet restaurants, but at a third of the price. I will have to come back to this country on vacation sometime, ideally staying in one place to avoid the terrible roads and crazy traffic. We got here through a lot of rain and high winds… We were actually contemplating going to Kiev via a more scenic southern route that would have skipped Kharkiv, but the bad weather made this detour less attractive, and in the end i am glad we visited. I will post photos once we are in Kiev.

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