One entertaining train ride

Ternopil' Travel Blog

 › entry 11 of 29 › view all entries
Honestly, no experience is quite like taking a train in Ukraine. My trip started off in Krakow, Poland went through Lvov and ended up in Kiev. The train itself is 15 hours with an additional hour thanks to time change. I started off being told I was in the wrong compartment, after the train conductor had assigned me there, much to the chagrin of the two poles whose comparment I had usurped. I am placed into a 4-bed compartment, with a very nice old Ukrainian lady (who spoke no english), a middle aged man who didnt say one word to me in 15 hours (who spoke no english) and a mid 20s woman who spoke some english and probably saved my trip to Ukraine (more on that later). So after being asked where my visa was (I was told non was needed, correctly it turns out, but brief panic did occur) I was entertained greatly by the border guards flipping through my passport and upon finding a Russian visa, a quite fearful look came into his eyes " Do you speak Russian? No (at this point it was basic at best). Do you speak Ukrainian? No. Polish? A little. German? no, but I do speak French. Uhh do you speak English? Uhh yea." We had to go through this conversation despite the fact I had handed her a Canadian passport. They eventually stamped my passport and left me alone for the rest of the trip. Later on my compartment mates were a bit curious about this seemingly weird Canadian traveling to Ukraine. The conversation went something like this (with them asking the questions through the woman who spoke some english): "Are you Ukrainian? No. Do you have family in Ukraine? No. Friends? No. Why are you going to Ukraine? Tourism. Oh are you meeting someone there? No. Wait hold on you are going to Ukraine by yourself, you dont know anybody there and you speak no Russian? Exactly. (At this point the old lady reaches out, taps me on the shoulder, taps her bible, then taps her chest and says something in Russian), and the woman who speaks English bursts out laughing, and says she is praying for your safety. Wonderful. I wonder I am in over my head? Well apperently so, because when we get to Kiev, NON of the ATMs work, and I being a genius had about 30 euros in cash on me, tried to change it but apperently one of the bills "wasnt crisp enough" and wouldnt take it. So i have about 20 euros in Hryvinya and cannot take a taxi, due to my justified fear of Russian taxi drivers. So what does a smart person do, I buy a map hoping to walk to my hotel. Well apperently sometimes Is and Ys are reversed in Ukrainian and since my hotel was on a Mikhaelskaya street but this was spelled differently. So I am debating how I am going to spend 3 days in a train station where nobody speaks english, I have no money, and no sleeping bag. So I am outside contemplating just trying to buy a ticket to Hungary, when out of nowhere the woman who speaks english, comes out, asks me what hotel I am staying in and exclaims "Oh, I have stayed there before, come with me." She takes me on the subway, first to a bank that works, and then to my hotel. See why I said she was the savior of my Ukraine trip. She left me with these words to the wise and thats how I will leave you: "If you want to survive in Ukraine, walk under the street, because people do not care if they hit you with their car."
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