Goodbye Slovakia, Привет World!
The summer of 2018 was already coming to its end while our hitchhiking adventure began. The plan was to get to Ukraine and from there, hitchhike straight up to Tallinn, Estonia and return back home. The journey would be more than 3000km long and we had only 12 days for it, because the school was about to start.
I’ve packed my big, old and little torn up backpack. It weighed over 18kg, even tho I’ve packed only the necessities (two glasses of peanut butter, for example). I’ve slept through the whole train ride to Košice, the second biggest city in Slovakia. There I was supposed to meet the second member of our expedition – my girlfriend Viki. We had no time to lose, as our next train, which would take us to Michalovce, was leaving soon.
We arrived in Michalovce, our last stop before saying goodbye to Slovakia. The bus to Ukraine was leaving in one hour. We found the empty bus stop which had some true post apocalyptic vibes and could make a good asset in a game like Fallout 4. After one hour at this godsforsaken place, the bus still wasn’t coming. We called the bus company and found out that the Ukrainians decided that the bus isn’t coming today. Luckily, there was another one, but we needed to wait for it for one more hour. When you are waiting for a bus in a middle of nowhere, the time starts to go exponentially slower. Scientists all over the world agree that if you wait long enough, the speed of time gets to negative numbers and you basically get to travel in time backwards. Unfortunately, you travel only a few minutes back, which makes you wait for the bus for some additional time. Ancient egyptian legends say that there are people who went missing by getting stuck in an infinite time loop of waiting for their buses for eternity.
Crossing the border
Finally, the long awaited vehicle arrived, we got our tickets from an older lady who spoke Slovak with a strong russian accent and got on. The bus was totally full, but the driver agreed to take in some Czech guys at the next stop. They sat on the ground. We got our passports checked and stamped at the border and then we had some more time for the awesome activity we’d already practiced sooner that day – waiting. The procedures and administration at the ukrainian border and why it takes so goddamn long remains a huge mystery for me. I guess it involves stamping, checking the luggage, checking the visa if needed, drinking vodka, performing dark magic rituals, having a Lord of the Rings marathon (extended versions ofc.), organizing a chess tournament for the border officers, playing hide and seek with the smugglers, squatting, drinking some more vodka and then, somebody remembers the old bus that is still waiting to cross the border to Ukraine.
Uzhhorod – Ужгород – Ungvár
Main station in Uzhhorod was the final stop of our bus so we got out. As you may have noticed from the title above, Uzhhorod is a city with rich history and used to be a home to Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans, Rusyns and Czechs. Since 1991, it is one of the 24 regional capitals in Ukraine.
After getting off the bus, a nice ukrainian gentleman greeted us at the station. He offered us changing our westerners money for Ukrainian Hrivnas. The price was reasonable, so we both changed 30€ for about 950 Ukrainian Hrivnas and headed out to the city. We passed by a huge hotel from communist era, which was apparently still functional. It gave me strong flashbacks to my childhood, when I used to play S.T.A.L.K.E.R : Shadow of Chernobyl on my PC.
As we moved towards the center of the city, where our hostel was located, concrete and brutal soviet buildings disappeared and got replaced by pretty family houses, modern shopping centres and streets full of old, european architecture. We crossed the river Uzh (the name of this city can be translated as “The city on the river Uzh – Uzh – gorod”) and got into the city centre. It was very pretty, not too big but also not too boring. There was a nice promenade by the river with people walking, skating, cycling or just chillin’. There were all kind of coffee shops on every corner, ukrainian restaurants, italian restaurants, kebabs, small breweries and so on. It just looks like a typical europian city centre with a calm and welcoming atmosphere.
We left out backpacks at the hostel (which was in the very centre of the city and we paid only 3,50€/person for night!) and roamed around the streets. We stumbled upon a nice little restaurant, had some food and enjoyed some ukrainian IPA beers. Mine was called Kumpel Mango IPA and it was really awesome! After that, we found the fanciest bar in the centre, even the name “A priori” was saying, how fancy it is. There we chilled with a good quality fruity shisha (for like 5€… are those prices a joke?) on a terrace by the riverside.
After a long and refreshing sleep at the City Center Hostel we found through booking, we treated ourselves to a tasty (and again, crazy cheap!) breakfast in a small café called Eat Me, right next to our hostel. It included everything a good breakfast can include, from cheesy omelettes, through fresh veggies, crunchy toasts with butter to a big and filling raspberry milkshake.
We’d spent a few minutes studying the map and agreed that the best chance to get a ride is on the road heading to Mukachevo and from there, we will somehow get to Lviv. We took our heavy loaded backpacks and crossed the whole city on feet, until we reached the outer quarters. There we stopped, drew a pretty sign saying Мукачево and finally started with some serious hitchhiking bussiness. It didn’t take much time until somebody noticed us walking by the road, looking for a good spot for waving at the cars and offered us a ride.
I guess this is the best time to cut it off for now. But don’t worry, I’ll continue with the story very soon in the Part Two! 🙂 If you liked it so far or have any questions, let me know in the comments. If you hated the whole article, found it boring, fell asleep three times while reading it and spilled your coffee everywhere on your notebook and the new carpet, let me know too! (And don’t forget to tell about this awesome blog to your friends, or at least your mother, if you have no friends.) See you soon! 🙂