Into the setting sun
Hotel Wien. Lviv, Ukraine
On first impressions Lviv has got to be one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to, if not the most beautiful. Jo and I have just had a brief meander round its cobbled streets and crooked alleyways, past a cornucopia of Renaissance, Baroque, rococo and neoclassical buildings. (In 1998 UNESCO recognised this beauty by declaring the whole city a World Heritage Sight.) Unfortunately however we are both too exhausted to give the city justice, and have had to put ourselves to bed for the afternoon instead. I know that sounds feeble but the last two days have been a bit of an endurance test and with only twelve days to go till Touch Down we need to preserve our energy. If not Jo’s nightmares about collapsing with exhaustion on Brighton Pier will be in danger of becoming reality.
After posting our last blogs we got our best glad rags on and hit the tiles in Odessa, at Arkadia Beach to be precise. Lauded as the Ukraine’s answer to Ibiza this pulsating strip of the Black Sea is a mass of bars, clubs, restaurants, buff boys and tottering girls. We’re used to the Russian and Ukrainian girls dressing to kill but this was something else. The average girl that strutted past was dressed like a hooker and wearing so much make-up you’d have to dig it off with a spade to see what they actually looked like. Skirts were indistinguishable from belts and heels were at least four inches high. If Jo and I had decided to go out in nothing but g-strings and six inch gold heels no one would have batted an eye-lid. The boys here must love it.
Having fortified ourselves with a vodka and watched open mouthed at the human traffic parading past us, we bought our tickets for a club called Ibiza, getting there at 12.30 just as a Levi’s fashion show was kicking off and a troupe of anorexic models were sashaying down a catwalk. The club was even more glamorous than The Snow Project in Yekaterinburg; all open air with white troglodyte-style steps and booths cascading down to the dance floor. Champagne swilling mafia types were everywhere, surrounded by scantily dressed girls clutching Gucci and Chanel handbags. Labels, labels, labels.
The fashion show was followed by the dancers, an array of pornographically (un)dressed boys and girls who were high on a little more than life. Quite a spectacle and very, very different from the sort of clubs we’re used to in London like Fabric and Turnmills. All a laugh though and at 3 a.m we crawled into bed not looking forward to our 400km schlep the next day.
Just as we were checking out the next morning (Sunday) two English men called Donal and Gavin came up and pressed $30 into our hands, saying we had to have a ‘beer on them on the way home’. We’d met them the day before in the lobby and I had jokingly asked them whether they were in Odessa looking for wives, like every other older western man, but in fact they were Davis Cup organizers, the tournament this year being held at the Odessa Lawn Tennis Club. They were the first English / Western people we have spoken to in seven weeks. Thanks for the $ guys if you are reading this.
Jo and I have both been baffled by the reaction of the Ukrainian police to Ting Tong. We’d been warned that the police here could be even trickier than the Russian or Kazakh ones -who turned out to be more nosey than tricksome – but so far we have been stopped only a handful of times. On most occasions they look so flabbergasted as we drive past that by the time they’ve composed themselves enough to wave their baton and stop us its too late.
No doubt spurred on by Jo’s very short shorts and leopard print bikini top, one group of bored cops did stop us on Sunday. They weren’t the least bit interested in our ‘dokumenti’ though, only in taking pictures, sitting in Ting Tong and groping Jo’s boobs. If blogger.com will oblige I’ll post a classic photo of one of the policeman sitting in the driver’s seat, grinning widely, his hand clasped firmly to Jo’s leopard print breast. Jo and I have come to the conclusion that the average Russian or Ukrainian man has an overdose of testosterone pumping through their veins; they make English men seem incredibly tame in comparison.
Jo's new Ukrainian boyfriend
Apart from the randy Cop Stop our drive on Sunday was uneventful. We cruised up the main road to Kiev, turned west at Uman and set up camp in a wood about 350 km from Odessa, both desperately in need of a good night’s sleep. But as usual sleep was not forthcoming in tent land and we awoke early the next morning feeling pretty jaded but with over 450 km’s to cover before Lviv. I’d also managed to pour a saucepan of boiling water over my hand the night before which was agony. Thankfully Nurse Jo and our Nomad medical kit saved the day and my hand is now swathed in special burn bandages. If thats the worst injury we sustain on our trip we’ll have done well.
Only twelve days now till we get back to Brighton so we’ve been busy sorting out the Touch Down plans. We’ll keep you posted but at the moment we are going to land in Brighton at around 3.30 pm and be officially finished by The Mayor, Bob Carden. Fingers crossed we’ll be granted special permission to end in Bartholomew’s Square, outside the Mayoral Office. Then its on to a bar (tbc) for some tukking serious celebrations.
Poland tomorrow...then Prague at the weekend…..followed by Frankfurt, Brussels and home. Can’t believe its getting so close. Xx Ants