Sunday, 8 July 2007

Day 46 - Lviv

I came here as it is a nice easy place name to remember!

Well the night at the stadium was pretty uneventful apart from the very loud noises from the other rooms that made it clear that they excell in more than just the one physical dicipline.

Friday was about as different from any day in Hungary as an apple is to a my big toe. After I have got used to temperatures being in the 30s it comes as a bit of a shock when it suddenly plummets to just 13. You at home will also be please to know that there was wind and rain thrown in that made it feel even colder. Still, the sandals stayed on as there was no point getting wet sock as well. It was back into the hills as well, and a complete change to culture.

The route started with a bit of a main road bash for 20k or so, then I picked a nice looking road on the map the went through the mountains. It was a great road too, to start with anyway. The road climbed gently and it was nice to be amongst the hills and a bit of scenery. There was always a river nearby and I could have camped wild just about anywhere, only it was about 100k to soon. The villages werent exactly picturesque, but the individual dwellings were wonderful, so long as I never have to live in one that is. There were all wooden and pretty tiny and the wood piles outside reminded me just how tough it must be in the winter. Most houses had livestock, all be it just a single cow of a few geese. There was little traffic and the further I went it got even quieter and the tarmac deteriated from lumpy to a patchwork of years of repairs, but with so little traffic I could weave my way around them. I was always very aware that the people stopped and looked at me, but I guess I was a pretty rare sight. There were one or two lovely little wooden churches in the villages. Soon the road turned to gravel, only temporarily, or so I tought. I was wrong, it went on for about 25k and was rough and with the rain, mucky. The track was now climbing sharply, getting narrower and totally devoid of any traffic and I was never totally convinced that it wouldnt lead to a dead end, but my now number one luxury item, the compass, gave me the confidence to continue as I knew I was going in the right direction. Things got worse, I was already feeling unwell and feeling pretty sorry for myself (that a polite way of saying pissed off) when my dynamo switch decided to finally give up the ghost and kept switching itself on. Repairs in the wet isnt what was needed, but it was really hacking me off, so I stopped and took it off. At last I made it to the top off the pass and the descent started, but what a waste heading downhill slowing with the brakes on and in the wet wearing the brakes blocks in no time. One particular bend saw me at the days low point as the road was awash in mud the whole way across and I had to wheel the bike through it, wonderful! At last I reached the village and junction with a tarmac road and I couldnt be bothered to turn the map over but pretty sure I needed to go right. Joy of joys another long climb, but so much easier even on rough tarmac. A couple of motorcycle tourists passed the other way and gave a toot and a wave, a little gesture that can lift the spirits a bit. Next up was a road checkpoint with gates across, a couple a cars were let straight through, but I got the passport treatment and a few questions, at least I assume they were questions as I didnt understand a word so I just babbled away in English and confused them too. The road rolled along nicely now and I was enjoying myself again despite the rain but I was glad to reach Tupka, me destintion. Well I was until I started entering town, then emphasis was on the Tip! There was nothing nice about the place at all and people there all looked a little menacing, let alone the dogs which chased me. I somehow felt I wouldnt find a hotel here and I was right, and somewhat pleased about it too. As I passed a bus stop I could feel a dozen pair of eyes boring into me, but they were probably only thinking "what is a tourist doing in this dump" or more likely "if there werent so many people about I would mug him". I stopped at a shop and bought some food for a night camping and they told me of a hotel 10k further on, anything was better than staying here. Another checkpoint was negotiated and then I reached the hotel, brand new and very posh and too much at 15 pounds a night but after today I couldnt be bothered to carry on. A 2 course meal with 0.5l of beer and a coffee came to 2.50. The waitress helped me with the menu as I didnt understand a word of it, but I was none the wiser as she just read it out in Ukranian. I could tell the beers as there was one there called 1715 and the bottles of wine were the only thing over a pound.

Saturday started off badly but at least the sun was shining. At 8:30 the place was dead and my bike and passport were both locked up. At 9 a cleaner turned up and told me the were all asleep and seemed surprised that I wanted them woken and wouldnt do it. I discovered which rooms they were in and did it myself. At last I was off, but into a headish wind. People in the villages were either out walking there cows on a lead, giving them a weekend treat of munching on the verges, or they were in the Saturday best and heading for the churches. After about 40k I was out of the hills and on a flat, dead straight road with the wind behind me and I was off like a rocket, well relatively speaking that is as I was still going slower than if I was on an Audax ride. I made it to Lviv in good time but had no map of the place. 30 minutes cycling around still failed to show even a sign for a hotel, so I stopped and asked and soon found one. And what a cracking hotel it is too, I just love it. Its a massive old Soviet type concrete built structure and everything is shabby, inside and out. The entrance hall is massive with nothing in it and there are booth for reception. Staff are clearing trained at not smiling or being helpful and are brilliant at it. It is also still run in the old Soviet style and there is a "matron" on each floor. There are also staff by the stairs and lifts, armed guards in the evening, and you have to show a pass before they will let you through. Its a working museum and at 7:50 a night cheaper than I was camping in Western Europe. Returning in the evening I used the lift to get to my 4th floor room and got stuck in it. I could just force the door enough to call the guards and between us we forced the doors open. I was only in there 5 minutes or so, but my mind was already getting ready to spend the night there.

Today has been a rest day and I have been wandering around the city. At breakfast there was a brochure about the hotel with a bit written in English. The picture of the outside is this place but they describe posh rooms and happy helpful staff. Where are they then? Anyway, Lviv is a nice little city with a long main street lined with trees and a pedestrian area up the middle that it a real social area where groups of people just walking, talking or are playing chess and kids driving little electric cars. Some of the churches are pretty good too, but being Sunday there are services and they are packed, some with people listening to speakers outside.

Now that things are so cheap there is not much point in camping. A night in a reasonable hotel and eating out is still costing me far less than camping in Switzerland and Austria, besides some of the places have such charachter they are worth a look in there own right.

This is the 2nd internet place I have used in Ukraine and neither of them can handle digital cameras, so you might not see any photos for a while, besides it give me a bit more time to waffle on a bit doesnt it!

From here on in I am going to head east a bit, but dont no how far or where too, your guess is as good as mine. This isnt exactly on route to Australia anyway, but who cares!


aoiffe said...

There you go again tantalising us...'the night in the stadium', what stadium, where? For me it conjours up pictures of rounded up dissidents and mass executions!

I am glad though that you realize that you are not on a direct route to Australia, I didn't want to have to be the one to break the news that you seem to be heading north at the moment.

And when the hotel brouchure talks of splendid rooms and happy welcoming staff maybe they are genuine and there is worse to come so make the most of it.

Though I am sorry that you have hit some of the unpleasant weather that has beset us all summer I am glad to say that here at least the sun has broken through and the first stage of the tour de france (London-Canterbury) has been in gentle sunshine.

Caff said...

Wow that was a mammoth blog entry, glad to hear Ukraine is giving you plenty to write about especially as you are not able to show us the photos. Have you taken any of the rather fierce people? I look forward to seeing them!
I met my friend in town on Saturday and she is currently playing host to a Ukrainian teacher for a month. Every year Brackley hosts a group of children from Chernobyl to a months holiday. My friend usually hosts a couple of children but following a recent family bereavement rather than withdraw she decided to host the teacher instead. I met them all in town - they were at the photographers for a photo session. The teacher didn't look like the Ukrainians you met, she wasn't chunky and not fierce looking!!!

dad said...

One thing thatI am glad about - you haven't een ab;e to post any more photos yet. I haven't ;ooked at the last couple of thousand! I have to go to the locAL library for that as my computer is too slow.

dad said...

I am getting as bad as you John, your spelling could do with a brush up but my editing is deplorable. At least you write a few hundred words, with a few spelling errors, whereas I write very few words, liberally sprinkled with odd symbols, upper case letters and anything else that I can throw in. I will try harder!