Ivan's travels experiences...On to London

I thought I was in the market place there for the rest of my life then I passed the same stall several times trying to find my was out and finally I cheated and went thro a gate that put me back onto the street.

Wandering back thro the town again and chanced on a wedding, the bride was very pretty so I decided to take some photos, did not see a photographer there so asked if anyone spoke English, three had a go and between all of them I managed to get an address so I have just burnt a CD and will post it to them from Kiev., hope they can do something with them, one of the English speakers mentioned email so there should be no problems.

There seemed to be weddings every hour on the hour, one came out then this one went in after E mentioning religion was mainly for the old folk it was interesting to see all of the people attend the three weddings I say crossed themselves before and after entering the church grounds so I would say the Ukraine is now back to being a very religious country.

The bride that came out of the church had a photographer that seemed to be semi interested in taking the photos, he must have been the Pro with his camera etc. she was not as pretty as No 1 but much more than No 3, all I can say is that No 3 must have had a rich father.

While all of this was going on in one corner of the city square there was what seemed to be a talent quest with music & singing, one little girl gave a VERY professional performance singing with a cordless microphone, walking the stage like a real Pro.

There was also some children doing some very good chalk drawings on the concrete of the square

3.15 pm the car was fixed so drove thro to Zhitomir hotel 120.64 UAH ($22.89). Went to the internet Café cleared off the normal 94 spam letters, replied to the three messages, still a super slow connection, left E there doing his mails while I went to find a restaurant, passing a grocery shop I decided to do what I did at lunch time and take the cowards way out and bought some ham, cheese, bread & butter and coke and had a one man party in my room.

E told me of a American about to arrive to meet a lady he has been writing to, it seems that this is a lot of his business, to meet someone like me, that just wants to photograph people is a new experience for him. Anyhow this American wants to do everything first class the most expensive apartment was $70 a day he took that, but wanted something better, he does not ever comprehend that that amount of money often represents fifteen 12 hour days, work for the lady he is meeting, she will think he is a second Bill Gates if she knows who that is, and if she follows him home to the States she will probably find he is maxed out on his 15 credit cards.

This is the type of person that the Ukrainians have met, airheads with no concept of how other people live, who consider the country is civilized because it has Mc Donald's and Coke. E love these people, and I told him he should stick to them and avoid Nzers like the plague, gave him some advise on how to get more of this business, but of course it would not work in this area!!!!! ( this is the excuse I heard from Photographers for 40+ years for failing in business)

This country is almost impossible to get around without some of the Russian language and without being able to read the script, E many time has had to resort to asking the way of locals and of taxi drivers, to travel the country by yourself by car would be interesting to say the least.

Monday 12 May
Breakfast was interesting without E there to order for me, the formidable lady in charge treated me like the English do foreigners, used simple words spoken slowly in Russian, it did not work, she did not assume then like the British would that I was deaf and speak louder, but brought me what she thought I should have which was bread & cheese , three fried eggs and a cup of scalding hot tea, I understand now why E has to slurp the tea. As usual there were more staff than customers, the moment you are finished with a plate it is wisped away, finish the bread and more arrives.

So it was on to Kiev, to wait for Slav who drove the car to the apartment I was to occupy for what was I thought was two days, installed the luggage, go for a wander down town to reconfirm my aircraft seat, to find that when I changed from Rome to Munich somehow the date was changed. So the apartment was booked for a longer period, I paid off E, and set out to wait for the 5 days with nothing to do but to wander the shops, look at the ladies that looked like they had just stepped out of a Vogue magazine, not all qualified for this I might add but enough to keep you awake and looking, it is a tough life, but someone has to do it!

Question what is Russian for "you are very beautiful, do you have a older sister that is as beautiful" guess I would be told that her mother (who works on the road gang) could be interested in me once she had had a shave! Oh well, guess I will just have to restrict myself to looking!!!

Tuesday 13
Found an internet cafe on the way to town where I can clear off my 40 spam messages a day via the internet access to Xtra.

Wednesday 14
The shops are as modern as anywhere in the world with a wonderful choice of products, wonderful Italian high heel shoes, beautiful dresses no wonder some of the girls can look so good, of course they must exist on a cabbage leaf they are so slim, I wonder where all the short plump older ladies come from? Girls do not prick my bubble and tell me, let me wander unreality! Reality is not of my world!

Thursday 15
I started to get a fraction nervous in so much as (E always insisted on walking me to my door of my apartment & I figured that was for a reason) and I had this uneasy feeling that I have had three times before, on those times disaster was avoided by the writer taking action and getting out.

I felt very exposed in an apartment by my self in a strange city with no language and carrying a lot of money, computer and expensive camera.

I tried booking other hotels, no luck, so I flew out today five days early after having to stay an extra week.

E was going to charge me 160 UAH($30.36) to take me to the airport, I wandered down to the street stopped a cab said Airport, showed him the name, said how much, he wrote down 80 UAH, yes the song is "god bless America"

I have written a lot about Eugene Snezhkin and you may have the feeling I was unhappy with him, no I am unhappy (1) with the Soviet system that he grew up with and (2), the Americans that have been his exposure to the capitalism system that he has had to now work under, this has lead him to believe that the cost system that operates in America can be justifiably charged in the Ukraine. Every charge or cost there is related back to your country as a justification as to why it should cost the same in his country.

I do not blame him for charging the Americans what they expect to pay and sending them home happy that they think they have saved a few bucks, I only object when I get caught in the cross fire.

Would I use him again YES knowing what I know now I would not be swayed by his logic, you do need a guide to travel around the Ukraine by car.

I liked the Ukraine, its people and the cost of living there as a visitor once you manage to stop being treated like a American. I am disappointed in not seeing villages in the mountains how I visualized them in my mind, but that is my problem of having an active imagination!

So it was by plane to Frankfurt then to wait for the connection to Munich.
I lazed around Frankfurt business lounge then wandered to the gate, could not find any with my flight number turns out I had missed my flight, I forgot to set my watch to daylight saving didn't I, Oh well, they told me my luggage would have been taken off and sent on the next plane and she took the number of my luggage receipt. I was waitlisted, but got on OK.

Friday 16
Arrived in Munchen there was the luggage waiting for me, so much for not being able travel without your luggage!

B Cold here in Munchen, might as well be at home in the winter, bit of a shock after the heat and Humidly of the Ukraine.

So here I am in Munchen, with a rental car, wandering around by myself looking for a hotel, it is moments like that I wonder why I am doing all of this travel, finally found a hotel, expensive, 98Euro (E), but at 10pm at night beggars can not be choosers!

Drove all around the car dealers finally finding one that would speak English to find that I could not register a car in Germany, one car dealer salesman actually turned his back to me when he saw me approaching and started picking his nose.

While I was wandering looking for a car I entered this village on the outskirts of Munich and there was a Bavarian band leading a white carriage pulled by two white horses with the Bride & Groom and that was followed by another similar carriage with the rest of the wedding party and all the guests walking behind. No I did not have my camera out and I was too far away in any case, but it was a interesting European tradition that I keep on seeing, which I like.

So my verdict is that I am wasting my time here, looking for a car, so rang my friend Hank in Holland and he told me I would have the same problem in Holland.

So returned the rental car to the airport, booked into the airport hotel Yeips 150E, Europe is expensive, went to the Lufthansa ticket office and found a one way ticket to London was 550E so wandered around the airport found a "Bucket" airline shop that was selling 102E Lufthansa tickets to London, they were sold out as I wanted to fly the next day but he found me a BA ticket return for 201E

By the way, I HAVE noticed the ladies in Germany are as well dressed as those in the Ukraine, just shows how bad the fashion scene has got in NZ!

Saturday 17
Flew from Munchen to Heathrow at 1pm it was a 2hour flight that took 1.5hours
The plane was not full so I guess that and possibly a tail wind shortened the flight however first I sorted out some clothes to send back to NZ, I had too many and flying economy there was a baggage weight limit so I guess it was either that or pay excess luggage fees.

Landed at Heathrow to good English weather, yes it was raining, caught a bus out to Basingstoke, about a two hour drive, then a taxi around the B&B establishments to find them all full so here I am in the "Great Northern Hotel" built about the time the railways were established with bedrooms that would do a remote country pub well, no bathroom attached, but one bathroom for each floor, with the fantastic English plumbing, I am on the third floor, up a narrow staircase, now I remember my last experience at B&B in Ireland, made me go out & buy a caravan. Price for the two days of absolute luxury, only £73.00

In any case I will be looking at cars tomorrow, see what insurance will cost and make a decision as to if I will fly back to Munich on my return ticket and redraw my plans or get a car and try and get back on track. I have bought three other cars from this garage that specializes in LHD cars so that is why I am in Basingstoke, the girl at the airport on the Vodafone booth where I charged up my English card said she used to live there!

No internet connection, most of the time, wherever I am, I am having to use internet café's all of the time which is slow and difficult.

I am beginning to think that these massive tours that I have planned, that involve me buying some form of transport, are not practical and I may have to resort to going to one location for one or two weeks and use public transport them move onto the next location.

Sunday 18
I have just done a spreadsheet calculation and it would appear as if I can use my return ticket to Munich, go on ten package holidays for one week (that would take ten weeks) for the same price as putting the car on the road. Yep I am careful with my money…. Sometimes… I am the Scotchman they wrote about that always holds onto his business card because someone, once, did not give it back to me!

So the debate is going on in my mind….. who will win…. Watch for the next for the next exciting episode

Sunday 19
Well I have decided not to buy a car and abandon my massive trans circling of Europe and will instead return to Munich and shop at the "last minute tour" sales and see where luck takes me.

The reasoning behind this is that I guess a reasonable car will cost £1750, MOT £90, insurance say £1000, ferry to Europe say £300, total £3140, plus repairs and running costs plus accommodation this base figure if £3140 converts to about E4176. from Munich there was a last minute tour to Santorini for E335 with a weeks accommodation which means at least ten tours like that and I have 13 weeks before I am due in Poland so that will work out real good.

Today I took the train in to London 40 minutes, booked my self intro the Youth Hostel till Sunday, that will be a experience, and wandered around the city looking at the shops, I noticed the shoe shops, of course, and say almost as many high heels on sale as in the Ukraine, not as many pretty ones, the difference was hardly any one in the streets were wearing them, they were a drab lot quite uncolorful, then I thought OK it is a wet miserable day so they have dressed accordingly, then realized I wrote about it in the Ukraine,of similar weather and all the ladies were dressed up.

OK I have worked out it is a English THING, the woman at the hotel said if she gets dressed up everyone wants to know where she is going so in the UK you only put on your Sunday best if you are going somewhere special, a real working class thing. And of course in NZ we are, or have been 90% of people descendant from UK.

So if you are reading this and it applies to you, get out of the box you are in and ignore your working class neighbors & friends who think Sunday best is just for that, make every day you live your best day.

I remember the story of a man going thro his wife's things looking at all the things she was keeping for that special occasion, he guessed her burial was going to be the closest she would now come to that special occasion.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination. So work like you don't need money, love like you've never been hurt, and, dance like no one's watching. Make every day you live that special day, it may be your last.

Another problem solved, now I can just enjoy what I see, without worrying about why!!!!

Monday 20
Wet and overcast 16C, just another English day. Today I move into London to the youth hostel at £20 a night. I am glad I came to London to escape the NZ winter! I did walk around the city a little and can you believe I left my umbrella at the hotel, of course I was caught in some heavy downpours, all of a sudden the NZ winter looks pretty good.

I was the only one in the four bed dorm I was assigned, much better if you are a couple you get a twin room for you both. The bed was as good as any I had in the Ukraine, but do not take that as a recommendation. There is no towel supplied, but they sold me one for £3.20, not sure how you dry it every day!

Found an internet café that had a plug for plugging in a laptop, £1.50 for 10 minutes, not cheap, they had to first fix the alterations to the setup that had been done in the Ukraine, but they got it working.

Tuesday 21
Started out fine but I was not fooled, so I took my Brolly and rain jacket, just as well, it rained several times during the day, went to Convent Garden, they have turned it into a interesting lot of shops and cafe's. Later I met my Polish friend I met in Rajasthan 3 years ago and we had a good catch-up on our respective lives over the last 12 months.