Time off in Ukraine: We all have baggage - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

February 6, 2015

Time off in Ukraine: We all have baggage

Ah, Lviv. Now I feel like I'm in Europe. Or would, if everything cost three or four times more than it does. But what a gem of a city, with diverse sightseeing from cemeteries to Nazi-Soviet prisons to the train station experience--returning my train tickets involved a confusing 0% English ordeal dealing with the most unfriendly, most sullen, almost outright hostile people I’ve met in a long time. An experience not to be missed. Though I should mention the last woman I dealt with was nice. (I was returning train tickets because my Chernobyl tour got cancelled* and the weather was good so I figured I should take advantage of that and get back on the bike.)

Such an uplifting city, it's a wonder I was the only tourist there. It was great. Only on Friday afternoon did I spot a huge dancing polar bear desecrating its elegant surroundings.

This place makes me wish I had a decent camera instead of my phone. But then I'd spend time seeking out good light, and getting off the bike to find the best composition, and feeling obligated to stop when I see a good photo, and spending the next year going through all my photos after the trip. I like to pretend I have a life and therefore no time for that.

Speaking of time, I have a lot of ground to cover in the next couple of months, and am considering hitchhiking again, though I don't like the bike becoming mere luggage. I like to travel light--touring in this weather with cheap, bulky gear is testing my tolerance for baggage. I started the backpacking trip with my trusty carry-on backpack and a thrift store laptop bag (sans computer), gradually added more as the weather got colder, bought a new pack, carried a blanket for a while, pared down a bit by the time I got to Istanbul, then bought all this bike and camping stuff. In terms of my budget, I'm pretty lucky that the colder areas, like Ukraine, have had a warm winter. I've been able to get away with poor gear.

I'll be glad to finally ditch the winter gear if only to reduce the number of comments I get about how much luggage I have. In the meantime, I'll start handing out a link to this page.

Why I Have So Much Baggage:
1. Trying to do it all. Clothing (and shoes!) for biking, not biking, and looking presentable.
2. Having, eg., a full size bottle of shampoo rather than not washing my hair.
3. Bike tools.
4. Cheap gear resulting in bulky sleeping bag.
5. Lazy, not careful, packing.
6. Winter clothes. Mostly unused; fortunately more bulky than heavy.

Oh, did I mention I got an external keyboard for my phone? Now I can type every thought in my head without the hindrance of a large screen to facilitate editing. Best of both worlds. For me, anyway. (This is a subtle hint that boring stuff is below. I won't be offended if you don't read it, just be aware that it'll be on the test.)

There’s one thing I did in Lviv that I don’t want to talk about because it was a bit embarrassing: I went skating. There was an outdoor rink in the old town square that I couldn’t resist. The ice wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either. I hadn’t been skating in a year, but the ability comes back pretty quickly (limited ability, in my case, but still a general competence). The problem was the rental skates. Like all rental skates, they didn’t fit well, too loose around the heel and ankle. And if that alone wasn’t a recipe for disaster, like all rental skates, they hadn’t been sharpened all season. So, like a total rookie, my ankles were collapsing and my skate blades slid sideways instead of digging into the ice. I'd hang my head in shame, but I was the best skater in rental skates. Which really isn't saying much.

The procedure to gain access to the rink seemed like a throwback to–-or continuation of–-more Soviet times. The only thing missing was several separate stamps, which are actually the most important parts, so I guess it’s not Soviet at all, just stupid. First, there’s a security guard who won’t let you pass until he gives you a white plastic card. You then walk two whole steps to the ticket office, where you hand over the white card, pay your money, and get a receipt and a green plastic card. You reach the unmarked window for the rental skates and assume you are to hand over the green card, but the attendant has no interest in seeing it. You pick your size, receive your skates, put them on, and proceed to the baggage/shoe window, where you hand over your things and get a numbered tag (this part actually makes sense). Then you can get on the ice. When you have finished skating, you hand over your numbered tag, receive your shoes, and change out of your skates. Then you go to the skate return window and hand over the skates. Next up is the exit window, where you have to hand over both your receipt and your green plastic card, and you are given a white plastic card. You then take half a step and hand the white card to the guard, and you are permitted to exit. Is it just me, or is this ridiculous? I can see the point of the white card, though an extra step, as a way of controlling the number of people at the rink at any one time, but the green card does nothing. Seems like they should collect it when you get your rental skates and give it back when you return them, you know, because someone might want to steal them--having rental skates is almost as good as having no skates at all.

*first cancellation in 10 years, apparently. They were preparing for a terrorist attack. Lousy Russians. So I thought about it, and after bemoaning this now-needless detour to Ukraine, decided to say screw Kiev. I have more mountains in which to freeze my ass off.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
This prison was used by both the Nazis and the Soviets. But it was built by--are you ready for it--the Polish.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Entrance to the hostel. Looks a lot like the prison, doesn't it?
Heart 0 Comment 0
Rate this entry's writing Heart 0
Comment on this entry Comment 0