The first ride
In Part One of our story, we managed to cross the border from Slovakia to Ukraine, get out of the Schengen area, explore the city of Uzhhorod, draw a sign and find the first stranger who was willing to take the two of us to Mukachevo.
So here we are now, getting into the car, trying to figure out which language would be the most suitable for speaking with the driver. We awkwardly start the conversation with some kind of an international mix like “Dobrý deň.. ehm… Hello..ehmmm… do you speak english? Nyet? Russkiy? Okay. Mukachevo? Ehmm.. okay, super!” Later we settled on a universal slavic mix of Russian, Slovak, Czech and maybe even some Polish. The driver, a skinny man with a strong dark tan, aged thirty and something, agreed on this means of communication and tried to use some Czech and Slovak words so we would understand eachother pretty well.
Viki takes the front seat and I get to sit in the back, next to the driver’s four years old son. Despite the loud music blasting from the car’s soundsytem, the boy is sleeping really tight. We learn that the driver (I couldn’t remember his name) works as a construction worker, usually in Slovakia or Czech republic. That explains his dark tan and knowledge of our language. However, we don’t get to chat for too long, as we’re already approaching Mukachevo. He stops, we get out of the car, smile and wave goodbye. We watch the car slowly disappear in the distance, leaving behind nothing but the swirling clouds of road dust.
It’s time to figure out our next plan. We’re standing by the road near Mukachevo, next to a petrol station. There are some trucks parked at the widened hard shoulder, heading our direction. Asking the truck drivers for a ride was of no use, none of them was heading towards Lviv. Anyways, it’s about 14:00 and our chances of getting there are still pretty good.We are full of hopes of how we’re gonna make to Lviv today.
I spread my sleeping pad on the ground and we sit in the shade of one of the parked trucks. I whip out the papers, markers and crayons. Brand new and even prettier hitchhiking sign, saying Львів (Lviv) is made in a matter of minutes. Viki makes the outlines, I take care of the coloring job. We figure out that this is not the best spot for hitchhiking, so we’re gonna walk a few kilometers north, to a bigger petrol station and crossroads of some main roads.
Ivan, the truckdriver
After a while, the same situation from Uzzhorod happens again. Before we even get to our new spot, some driver notices our awesome colorful sign and decides to stop. By the way, he’s driving a truck. First we thought he was just stopping to take a rest or to fix something in the truck. As we pass by, we get to talk to him and find out he stopped for us and he’s willing to take us to the city of Stryj, which is nearly 160km in our direction! Our hopes of getting to Lviv today are now skyrocketing.
We swiftly climb up into the truck, Viki takes the front seat again, so I make myself comfortable on the driver’s bed in the back of the cabin, next to our backpacks. Soon we found out that our ultimate slavic language mix is useful again, we just need to incline more to using Russian. Now I’m pretty glad that Viki sits on the passenger seat, cause my Duolingo Russian skills are really limited, compared to her two semesters of Russian course at the uni. The driver introduces himself as Ivan. I ask him about the photos of a school-aged boy on the walls of the truck cabin. He says that it’s his son, also Ivan. It seems this is a really popular name around here.
We pass some pretty scenic villages, farms, green forests and nice countryside with small hills around. I just keep chilling in the back, listening to ukrainian music from the radio and Ivan’s complaining about Polish truck drivers, watching the landscape passing by the window. Generally, it doesn’t look too different from Slovakia, except for some details like the orthodox churches with extremely shiny golden roofs and occasional horse carriages joining the traffic.
Next stop: Lviv
Ivan takes us to Stryj, as promised. We express our huge gratitude, take the backpacks and start walking by the road again. Our goal for today, Lviv, is only about 70 km away now and so far it seemed that we have all the luck in the world on our side. It takes mere 15 minutes and we already have our third ride of the day. We can’t believe our eyes when this pretty Škoda Octavia stops ahead of us. Older, quite robust guy steps out and greets us with a huge smile. I get the front seat this time. This is the first driver who can speak english, so we talk about his job as a quality manager for car companies, his plans to travel around India, his wife, I even try to get his opinion about political situation in Ukraine, but he isn’t too eager to share his opinion. We are going 170km/h on the highway and reach Lviv really soon. The manager guy (forgot the name again) leaves us 3km from the city centre so we take public transport for 5 UAH (15 eurocents) straight to the centre.
Yay, we made it!
I didn’t have my hopes too high by the start of this day, but we actually made it to Lviv in an amazingly short time! All thanks to the kind people we’ve met on the road. Lviv somehow reminded me of Prague, but with less tourists and much lower prices. There are many beautiful historical buildings everywhere. I’d like to return to this city someday to explore it more in depth. However, we have only ten days for the whole trip and cannot spend more than one night in this charming city. We pass the Dominican Church and the opera building, which looks wonderful especially at night and search for our hostel, which happened to be just two streets away from the main square (again, only for 3,50€ per night!).
Wandering in Lviv
We get rid of our backpacks at the hostel and venture out to the city streets. Both of us have a very strong affection towards burgers, so our empty stomachs lead us into the well known burger place in Lviv with a kinda generic name – Burger Joint. We get ourselves a nice menu with fries and a beer. It tasted and looked pretty good, but definitely not the best burgers we had during the trip. I liked the meat, but the bun reminded me of the ones they use at McDonald’s. I’d give it 7/10.
In search for beer
With our stomachs full, we hang out in the streets while the sun sets and night begins. Later on, we want to try some more local beers and go get a pair in the closest supermarket. Here we find out a terrible thing! It’s impossible to buy any alcohol in here after 22:00! It’s already past 22:00 and all the pubs we pass by seem to be closing too! We shake off the slight disappointment, get a bubble waffle, eat it and move on. Later we notice that not selling any booze after ten is maybe not so bad after all. We don’t see any drunk people anywhere, kind of unexpected, when you think about reputation of post-soviet countries 😀 .
We were on the way back to the hostel, when a shiny beam of light touches our faces. An open pub! Is it even real? Is it some kind of mirage? We walk in, get our beers for 20 UAH (60 cents). They are real and taste awesome! (Well, they probably didn’t close all the pubs, just the vast majority of them.) With a feeling of great satisfaction, we get to our hostel to gather some energy for the next day.
This is it for the Part Two of our adventure, hope you liked it. The next part is going to be about getting out of Ukraine, bribing some dude at the border, stumbling upon a dead person, night hitchhiking in Poland and more adventures! Stay tuned! (I mean, allow browser notifications 😀 )