Short Escape to Ukraine. Day 5/6: Crimea back to Kiev and Home

25.03.2014: Asleep by about 2am. Remembered to switch the headlights off by about 3am. Found the seat reclining lever by about 4am. Woke up at 6am to the realisation that I was in quite an active bus station. I looked at Mike Tyson’s face on the side of my Black Energy drink and swigged large. Turned Radio Crim on to find them playing Tetris, that europop version. I switch Radio Crim back off again, for the final time. This new dawn.

Just as an aside: Leisurewear. It’s still massively, massively in vogue out here. The two piece tracksuit seems to have held its appeal like no other garment. It speaks volumes about the wearer: I am street; I am a contender; I am ready to get athletic at any given second; my logo’d brethren and I belong to the same tribe and we care not for taste.

Well anyway, I had to return the car by lunchtime so unfortunately most of the day revolved around that and therefore having to hang around the railway station until my 17h10 overnighter. Just before I made the train, I wanted to load up on food and drink for what’s going to be the next 14 hours. First two machines weren’t taking my card then I noticed other people struggling to take money out also and there was a queue coming out of the bank over the road. Was this what they call a ‘run on the banks’? Never one to miss out on a decent queue I went over to join them where smugly, my money was offering itself out. So because no one else could get any cash, I somehow thought I should stock up on their behalf. I now have several hundred hrvina that I will need to change up when I get back to Gatwick. Tit.

26.03.2014: So I came to Crimea straight after it fell back into Russian hands and from where I’ve been standing, everybody down there seems pretty cool about the situation, in fact more than cool, I get the feeling that the vast majority of Crimeans are actually pleased about the annexation. It’s only Kiev (and the rest of the country?) that isn’t. When Cornwall goes, will I give a shit? Yes I think I would actually, but I like the idea of union not division (although that could be an argument for Putin), which is why I’m pro-Europe and anti- Scottish separatism. I refer you to my former comment: Why can’t we all just get along. Come on guys, let’s go down the pub.

Short Escape to Ukraine. Day 4: Yalta, Feodosiya and back to Simferopol

15h02, 24.03.2014. I come downstairs to the addition of a British flag alongside the other two. I feel honoured. They also have pictures on the walls of the famous names who have been here. Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Vladimir Klitschko (although to be fair he’s all over the shop around here) but more importantly: only Gloria Bloody Gaynor! Yes her, she who will survive.

So after a full belly load of breakfast, waiting for that to go down then a 50 minute in-room workout session, I came out for a stroll along the prom prom prom listening to my tunes, feeling supercharged, feeling happy as a pig in shit actually. I’m so pleased I made this trip. It’s a zero cloud, blue sky day. That sunshine feels good.

Meanwhile, “The Ukraine acting President has ordered all Ukraine troops to withdraw from Crimea due to threats to life.”, so that’s nice.

I kept on walking and found this lone guy, doing his flipping parkour on to the beach at the west end of the front. Cool as the cucumber. Was happy for me to take some shots, will upload when home. Heading back to the car with the intention of getting on my way, I came across a statue of Lenin, at the foot of which a large tent with various documents pinned on to it, lots of red, white and blue and supporters hanging about, chatting away about it all. Ironically, Lenin’s gaze was straight at this here McDonalds, so I grabbed a coffee and some WiFi under my comrade’s direction. Power to the people.

18h43 24.03.2014, I’ve been driving for some time along the wiggly mountain roads head east along the south coast towards Feodosiya. It’s dark but I’ve pulled up by the sea which I wanted to touch before I leave this part of the world. Repulsed by the quality of music on the radio, I’ve been playing whatever I’ve got on my phone, although we’re already doing the second round. ‘Careless Whisper’ has just come on and quite frankly I wish it was something a bit more relevant.

Feodosiya turns out to be a large, neat enough, port town, this place along with the rest of the country feels safe even at night. I take a long walk around the place, grab some substandard sushi and cherry juice before deciding that this morning’s events have been and gone. But still not ready for sleep, I decide the drive the remaining two hours back to Simferopol where I pull over, take my blankie out and try to get comfortable.

Short Escape to Ukraine. Day 3: Simferopol, Savastopol and Yalta

08h05, 23.03.2014. Slept better. The bald bloke with the ‘tache is really good at snoring. He’s also really good at attempting to fix the compartment door throughout the night. I awake just outside of the peninsula with less than 2 hours to go. Fairly non-descript scenery, fog, fields, the odd concrete bridge here, disused farm building there. The women next door have already started their gassing for the day. Like their lives depended on it. Women and talking, we’ll leave that one there for now.

Taxi over to the all but dead airport. As expected, Budget Hire Car (along with every other main brand) are shut as (despite my travel agency double confirming “no, no the car is definitely booked and ready for you.”). Just opposite the main International Departures building though I found a local one, nice bloke, good English, explained to me that the banks are now playing up as things change over to Russia and that the deposit that they block authorise from your card  – they currently can’t unblock it, and it could be like this for some time. Not a problem, let’s just get the car shall we. Russian state TV plays out in the background of his office.

Posters up all over the place reminding everybody of the March 16th vote. Most flags down here are Russian (95.5%?). On buildings, cars, shops, posters, wherever I go it all appears to be pro-Russian. I asked the cabbie whether we were in Ukraine or Russia. He gesticulated by covering his ears and shaking his head that he’d just heard too much about it already. Or that he hated my company and I should never ever question his politics again.

17h44, Savastopol, a pleasant cafe near the Black Sea. In fact I’ve been to about 4 of this chain now, couldn’t tell you what they’re called as it’s in Cyrillic but they’re all beiges and browns. All very professional and they don’t ask me what my name is. Very brief power cut. Drove around the city twice trying to locate something other than every day life, but somehow somewhat disappointingly, that’s all there is. People strolling along the promenade, lovers canoodling, a steady flow of traffic going about its business.

  • The Russian rouble is the official currency here as of today.
  • Bypassed the road to Balaklava. Fact: Balaklavas were a British invention, they were knitted by the soldiers’ old dears and sent out to keep them snug during the Crimean War.

Been listening mainly to Radio Crim and Shiyeet FM, both given carefully considered names. Lots of rhetoric about Ukraine, Russia, Villiam Hague, Americanski, Obama. And then a Ukrainian radio play which sounded good too. Same shit, different frequency. Art imitating life imitating…

01h39, 24.03.2012: Spent about 2 hours trying to work out the roads into and around Yalta. Nearly slept in the car until I found the Oreanda Hotel at about 00h30.  Yalta seems a nice quite upmarket seaside town. They (the Yaltese?) are however trying their best to naff it up with brightly coloured, badly placed children’s play areas and fairy lights. I’m flagging, best go to bed, will get some phys in tomorrow morning. On the front desk downstairs there are two miniature flags in a little stand, one Russian, one Ukrainian. Looks like someone’s hedging their bets. Choose a side. Or don’t. Whatever really. Night.