Today was a traveling day. Our mode of transportation to Kiev had been a matter of some discussion before the trip and on Sunday evening. To get to Chernihev from Khust means crossing pretty much the length of Ukraine--600 miles. The original plan had been for us to take the train to Kiev and have Dr. P pick us up there. Ivan, though, said that he really wanted to drive us. And this was where matters stood until Sunday, when upon reflection and considering that Ivan was driving his sister's (uninsured) car and the distance, the four of us thought it better if we should investigate the train option again.
We found the station and watched Ivan disappear into the darkness on the far side of it (this was on Sunday night). It had been a long day, and all of us were a little on edge. The slight disagreement about how to get to Kiev didn't help matters any. As it turned out, all the talking and conjecturing had been for naught--there were no tickets available on the train, and so the original plan stood. We would be traveling the length of Ukraine with Ivan at the helm.
Ordinarily, two days' drive wouldn't faze me much. But we were all concerned for Ivan and for the car, and let's be honest: Ivan will not be winning any awards as "the world's safest driver." As for the car, it created other problems. It was an expensive car, and thus it drew attention--to be expected in a place where people are habitually driving cars that haven't been made for thirty years. This had the result of limiting where we could stop and where we could stay for the night.
And speaking of that, where would we be staying for the night? Well, we really weren't sure. In Ukraine, planning ahead is not a given.
We hit the road at nine a.m., after the three of us girls had a breakfast of varenyky stuffed with mushrooms and potatoes. I impressed myself by being able to order tea, and being able to remember how to order black tea, all in Ukrainian. I'm sure the waitress was secretly laughing at my pronunciation, but that's all right. I was tickled, too.
It wasn't a very comfortable trip. Our luggage filled the trunk; the three of us girls filled the back seat; and our little personal traveling essentials filled in any little spaces. A few minutes after setting out, Ivan asked us whether we'd like any strawberries. Having just eaten, we all said, "No." Which of course mean that he stopped and bought four pounds of them. It was a nice thought, but we had nowhere to set them and we couldn't eat them: they ended up sitting on the floor next to my feet.
The morning passed slowly. Bev was concerned about how fast we were traveling; I finally made a point of not looking at the speedometer, though I know at one point we were traveling at the rate of 180 km/hour. All I could think was that it was a good thing Chris had no idea. He'd be so worried!
We needed gas at about midday, so we found a gas station--actually, they're fairly prevalent now. It wasn't a friendly place, though. The lady at the window was quite rude, refusing to take Visa (though they advertised that they did accept it) and shouting at Victor.
We decided to eat lunch while we were stopped, and there was a restaurant nearby, in the hotel. Ivan was trying to settle something with the woman at the gas station, so the rest of us went in. I stepped into the washroom to wash up, but when I returned, everyone had gone. There was another restaurant in the gas station that was cheaper, and the had gone there instead. I missed the name of it, but it had a Viking theme, which at first seemed incongruous. Vic reminded me, though, that the Rus (the first real settlers of the area) were Vikings.
One aspect of dining out in Ukraine took some getting used to. In the U.S., of course, if one goes out to eat with a group, either one is responsible for one's own costs or the host is--but in either case, one chooses one's own meal and accompaniments. Not so in Ukraine! Ivan was our host, even in the restaurant--and as the host, he ordered everything. And by ordering, I do not mean that he asked our preferences. Instead, he simply chose something from the menu, and we all ate that thing. And if one were (as Bev was) so bold as to wonder aloud what some dish was like? Oh, we all received an order of that, too. That's how we all ended up trying green borscht (with basil and perhaps spinach?) along with our fried chicken and potatoes and of course cucumbers and tomatoes.
The day passed much more slowly than did the countryside, which was a blur. I tried to take some photos, but Ivan wouldn't let us roll down the windows and of course we were driving very quickly, so many of them are only masses of blurs and reflections. Gradually, the environs changed from mountains to rolling hills. We crossed many rivers and streams, large and small, and watched the birch stands become pine trees, tall and thin. Here in the northern climes, they never do get very big around, but just keep growing up and up.