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Ukraine 2002 - Riding in Crimea and along the Dniepr

BY Peter Wulff, Wed, 13 Nov 2002 13:28:03 +0000
Having in 2001 experienced how nice a country Ukraine in many ways is, I returned for more riding in 2002. During about two months I rode 3927 km in Crimea and along the Dniepr river. I arrived in Ukraine by boat from Istanbul in Turkey and left the same way. Since last time I was in Ukraine things have improved; better food (now one can have Ukrainian made cornflakes and musli), the cities also look better. Surely Kuchma is doing something right. One thing hadn't improved though - the horrible mentality in most state-owned hotels. Luckily there are several types of alternative accommodation. Ukraine is cheap and during two months I spent less than 1000 USD. On the whole I enjoyed the riding as much as the previous year, not that Ukraine is always pleasant, but it is rarely boring. There is something special about riding in Ukraine, the contrasts, it's socialist history, the absence of western tourists, the light, the Ukrainians, well, I can't exactly put my finger on it but nice it is.

The itinerary/places where I slept was as follows; Feodosia - Ribatche - Jalta - Feodosia - (Kerch) - Feodosia - Strelkovoe - Dzankoj - Feodosia - Otradnoe - Feodosia - Kurortnoe - Sudak - Jalta - Lyubimovka - Pribreshnoe - Mirnyj - Meshvodnoe - Khorli - Lazurnoe - Golaja Pristan - Kahovka - Kamjanka Dnieprovka - Nikopol - Dniepro Dzerzhinsk - Komsomolsk - Chigirin - Cherkasy - Prokhorovka - Kedina Gora - Khorol - Komsomolsk - Dniepro Dzerzhinsk - Novomoskovsk - Vasilivka - Strelkovoe - Feodosia - Belogorsk - Bakshisaray - Inkerman. The choice of route was heavily influenced by where I reckoned being able to find cheap accommodation. Crimea is the most tourist-friendly Ukrainian region.

May 21-25th, Istanbul-Odessa-Feodosia (boat and buses)

Boarded the boat to Odessa at 16 and immediately the Soviet atmosphere appeared. The otherwise friendly English-speaking steward checking in passengers asked if I had the necessary hotel voucher and the compulsory Ukrainian health insurance. I didn't have any of them, and didn't want them either, I only had the visa. "They will ask for them and if you don't have them, you will with 99% likelihood be sent back", the steward said. Well, then I might as well not go to Ukraine at all, I said. He got less secure then, and said that he would see what he could do. I went to the cabin. Later it was announced that the boat would be delayed one day due to storm on the Black Sea. That wasn't bad news, as I would get yet a day in Istanbul. The "Caledonia" is a comfortable boat with nearly boiling water in the shower in the corridor, air in the cabin was good too. Not to speak of the delicious food that three times a day was served in the restaurant. The meals were included in the 85 US$ ticket. I had the cabin for myself, maybe because I when buying the ticket had said that I would prefer not sharing it with alcoholics. Next morning the steward said he had been in contact with the customs authorities in Odessa in Ukraine, and that there was a chance that he could "disembark" me there. Sometimes during the day 41 young women from Ukraine, Russia and Moldova entered the boat. They were prostitutes being deported by the Turkish authorities. On the boat the 10 Kurds lived up markedly and the prostitutes made some extra money. The boat left Istanbul in the afternoon. Nice sailing up through the Bosporus. Out on the Black Sea there were still quite heavy wind and big waves. Had supper in the restaurant but didn't eat much. Neither did the other passengers, many of whom were sea sick. The muslims (about 10 Kurds) in particular didn't get much to eat as the main dish included pig. Got sea sick later in the evening and went early to bed. During the night there was a lot of vomiting going on and the zink in the bathroom ceased working. The toilets were equally disgusting as many of the male passengers didn't flush or couldn't hit. Consequently I sneaked into the womens toilets. Felt ok next morning and had the friendly staff make buckwheat instead of the ordinary breakfast. Saw 7-8 dolphins (or porpoises). Lots of garbage in the sea, whenever I watched the sea I saw garbage floating around. Saw also a big halfdead bird in the sea, seemingly either a big seagull or a pelican. After noon the waves were no longer a problem. From time to time sparrow-sized birds landed on the deck. Talked with an Australian Turk, and a German. They thought the boat was sailing slow so as not to arrive in Odessa in the middle of the night when bureaucrats are asleep. On the whole they had a very accepting attitude to Ukrainian bureaucracy whereas I already was up in arms at the prospect of having to subject to bureaucrats. Saw more dolphins and Phocaenas. Saw a big dark seagull-like bird chasing a tern - trying to make it throw up its catch. In the evening the boat passed the tiny Ukrainian Zmijnij island, and Odessa was reached next morning at 8.45, May 24th - 68 hours after I had boarded the boat in Istanbul, an unexpectedly long trip but it was mostly pleasant. The first fast passport control in Odessa took the 150 passengers and their giant luggage 1 hour to pass. The next passport control 50 m later took another 45 minutes. Having heavy luggage I waited until everybody else had passed, thus avoiding to stand in line. At the main passport control inside a building a long line quickly formed. Not wanting to stand in line I instead sat down and watched the spectacle. Most of the E-Europeans got slowly through the passport control whereas the about 10 Kurds got stuck for some reason. The Australian Turk and the German were made to pay the compulsory health insurance and had their luggage searched. After nearly two hours everybody except me and the Kurds had had our passports scrutinized and had passed the hurdle. Eventually a bureaucrat addressed me and asked if I didn't want to enter Ukraine. I picked up my gear and went slowly and with an aggressive attitude over to the desk, showed my passport and got through in 30 seconds. On the other side of this hurdle I sat down again, wondering what would happen in the customs. The Kurds were still on the other side of the hurdle. Shortly after, at 12.15, a taxi driver surprised me by asking if I needed a taxi, obviously I was free to go. Thus I got into Ukraine without any trouble except the about 4 hours waiting, no search in the customs, no questions asked, no filling out formulars, no shit-taxes paid. The taxi driver offered to drive me into central Odessa for 20 US$ - completely ridiculous as I was only about 5 minutes walk from the center, he claimed there was 15 km - moron. Left the building, crossed a road, walked up 100 steps and was in central Odessa. There I took a Lada-taxi costing about 2 US$ to the bus station and was after 10 minutes in a bus to Kherson - 15 Hryvnia (5.3 Hryvnia=1 US$). In Kherson a young man offered to drive me the about 300 km down to the Crimean Black Sea coast for 100 US$ (530 Hryvnia), an absurd price. He tried again, next offer was 350 Hryvnia. He was pushy and started irritating me, these kind of young men are always irritating and simply don't understand what NO! means. An hour later I boarded a bus to Simferopol. It didn't drive the short way I had anticipated, instead it passed through Nova Kahovka and Genichesk far out to the east. Consequently I would reach Simferopol at 3 o'clock in the middle of the night. In the bus a sleezy type addressed me - the third tiresome young Ukrainian man that day, this one claimed he had a hotel in Simferopol. At about 1 o'clock the bus drove into the train station in Dzankoj. I had been there the year before and knew about the inexpensive accommodation in the station, so I left the bus and the moron, and got a basic 8 Hryvnia single room, the elderly lady in charge was friendly and served tea despite it was in the middle of the night - a recommendable place to spend a night. Next morning the lady woke me up at 7.30 as wished. Went out to find some breakfast in the central market. Also tried finding an internet cafe in order to mail Swedish Henrik who would join me a couple of days later. Back in the station the staff had changed. When buying tea I said "only little sugar, please", she said "two spoons are the norm here", so I got two spoons despite I only wanted a half. I even had to sign a "kvitantsia" for having received the tea despite it only cost 0.8 Hryvnia. There is a typical railway station atmosphere in Dzankoj - the travellers with their luggage, the vendors, the sounds from the trains and the twisted voices in the loudspeakers. The station is clean and regularly patrolled by the police so it had been no problem waiting there during the night in case I hadn't got the room. Took a slow bus to Feodosia, and walked the three km to the nice place I had stayed in last year. There the elderly lady immediately recognized me and 5 minutes later I was installed. The room costs 25 Hryvnia a day, but then the landlady also serves tea, sometimes meals, and washes my clothes. There are two rooms for rent in this place, in the other room a student had stayed the last 8 months. He paid 40 Hryvnia (7 US$) a month for his room, including meals, incredibly cheap. Assembled the bicycle and took it on a test ride. In the evening Jurij, grandson of the landlady arrived, had as usual a long conversation with him.

May 26-28th, Feodosia.

Strolled around in Feodosia and ate and drank a lot to gain weight and energy for the hard riding I no doubt would have with Henrik. I also enjoyed the atmosphere, Feodosia is such a pleasant place in May, before the tourist high-season. Besides, 2 new restaurants had opened, their milkshakes cost 1 Hryvnia so I had a lot of them. In the afternoon of May 28th Henrik arrived by taxi from Dzankoj. Neither he had had any problems getting into Ukraine, except that he had been forced to pay the half a dollar a day health insurance.

May 29th, Feodosia-Ribatche, 124 km, 2200 m climbing.

Got up at 5.10 and left at 6.30. Knowing that we would return to Feodosia we stored some unneccessary gear in the room before taking off. Rode over Ordshonnikidze in foggy weather so we didn't have the fabulous view over the Kiik-Atlama peninsula. On a telephone line we saw two exotic-looking birds. They turned out to be bee eaters which none of us had seen before. We also saw a roller. In Koktebel we had a small lunch while watching a few good-looking Ukrainian women on the beach. Shortly before Krasnokamenka a military guard told us that we couldn't continue because the area ahead was military area. That was bad for Henrik as we had taken this particular road because he wanted to visit the 35E, 45N confluence. Anyway, on the way back we met a sunbathing slightly poisonous small snake and removed it from the road. Weather got better and hotter. In Sudak we had the second lunch that day. After Morskoe there were nowhere to buy refreshments and Henrik was about to hit the wall. Eventually he went into a house and asked for water, but before getting the water a dog bit him, he screamed loudly. After 11 hours we at long last reached Ribatche. Henrik thought it was his hardest ride ever, and hard it was. In Ribatche we got installed in private rooms I knew from the year before - 15 Hryvnia for single rooms, a price we both liked. Went out to get something to eat, and buy milk for the cereals we would have for breakfast next day, but most stores were already closed or had no milk.

May 30th, Ribatche-Jalta, 72 km, 1100 m climbing.

Got milk in the morning from the market, 2 ltrs costing 2 Hryvnia. When having a break a big fat snake approached me from behind but sensing my presence it stopped. When Henrik arrived a few minutes later I was about to grab its tail so that we could take a closer look at it. When one meter from it, it started shaking and moved towards me so I hastily retreated. I had seen this type of snake the year before but being fast it always got away. Had lunch in Alushta and fixed flat, then continued on the now heavily trafficked coastal road. Got accommodation same place as last year I was in Jalta, 25 Hryvnia a head. When eating in a stolovaya (a kind of cantina) a man addressed us. We thought he demanded to get our table so we remained seated longer than necessary. When we left it turned out he had only asked for the bones and other leftovers form our meals, quite embarrasing. Down at the Lenin square Henrik mounted a strange trike and I photographed him. In a store Henrik was addressed by a boy begging for money but he didn't look poor and got nothing. He continued following Henrik, and later me until I in the end shouted fuck off!

May 31st - June 1st, Jalta-Simferopol, 107 km, 1500 m climbing, taxi back to Feodosia.

Left Jalta at 6 am. The plan was to ride up to 1545 m high Roman Kosh - Crimea's highest point. Saw squirrel in hedge shortly after leaving, later heard some big animals running away in the vegetation. Roman Kosh is in a nature reserve, and when passing a gate somebody shouted something at us but we hastily continued. Passed two deers lying a few meters from the roadside, they saw us but didn't flee, clearly they are never hunted. Rode surprisingly fast uphill and was after about 3 hours at 1400 m in a very scenic area, but clouds were low and spoilt much of the view. The road pass is at 1448 m, 1446 m according to Henrik's GPS. After yet half an hour's ride we hid the bikes and started walking towards Roman Kosh, passing a gas pipe that runs over the mountains. Dense fog descended on us and a little later it started raining. Due to the fog we didn't know exactly where the summit was, and there are several summits seemingly at about the same height. Eventually we were on the right one however, there Henriks GPS showed 1559 m - 14 m higher than the official 1545 m. The GPS may be the more accurate. The summit is at 44,36'46"N, 34,14'34"E. There was no view at all due to the fog, instead we got soaked and cold. Back on the bicycles we continued eastwards for a while before turning north towards Kordon Olen, a few minutes late we saw several deers, in total that day 14 big female deers. The reason they have survived here is that this nature reserve doubles as Ukrainian president Kuchma's private hunting ground. One has to be lucky to see any edible wildlife in Ukraine, but the country really has something to offer when it comes to birds - it is an ornithologists paradise! I'm no ornithologist but still saw thousands of interesting birds. Many species were new to me, many more were unidentifiable as I hadn't brought any ornithological literature and didn't have a binocular. Anyway, a few minutes later we passed Artek Dubrava, which I've been told is Kuchma's hunting lodge. The road was still paved but as we continued downwards it gradually gave way to a slippery dirt road. Henrik rode fast downhill, and eventually fell. It was a spectacular crash and he ended up on his back, shocked. At first Henrik thought he had got whip-lash but after five minutes he was back in the saddle, now riding somewhat slower. The forest is very lush and beautiful on this side of the range. The bicycles got dirtier and dirtier and at Kordon Olen we washed them in a creek. Two forest guards emerged from a house and fined us 17 Hryvnia (3 US$) each for being in the area without permission. I got a ticket which I later had translated - it said something about littering, setting up fires and taking out hay from the reserve, i.e. nothing about riding through it. Further down, in Kordon Sosnovyj, two other forest guards tried fining us, "we could fine you again" they claimed, but we had no intention of giving them any money, and they gave up. They also wanted to have the tickets we had received in Kordon Olen (so that they could reuse them) but we kept them. They claimed knowing Kuchma personally - a nice guy. Riding got worse and worse because the rain turned the dirt road into mud. Henrik had too little mudguard clearance and his tires were unable to remove the mud that accummulated between the them and the mudguards, eventually he had to drag his cycle instead. At about 9 in the evening we got out of the forest at Partisanskoe. Rode in darkness and heavy rain into Simferopol. The transmissions sounded terrible and were running in mud rather than in oil. At the railway station we loaded the bikes into a small stationcar, after which there was only room for one passenger. Consequently I had to sit in an uncomfortable compressed position on Henriks bony leg for nearly 2 hours. At 0.30 we arrived in Feodosia, the taxi cost 30 US$. The landlady didn't hear us knocking and we went down to the train station and tried getting a room but being foreigners and wet and dirty we were rejected. So we had to sit outside the station for 5 hours, luckily it wasn't cold. We bought hot dogs and weren't bothered by alcoholics or the like. It had been a terrible ride, but I'll never forget it. The landlady not only rents out rooms, she also supplies her 130 Hryvnia/month pension with brooming a nearby street in the early morning. So at about 6 we got into our room and slept until 11. In the meantime the landlady hosed our dirty bikes, but it still took us several hours to bring them back to normal. She also washed all our dirty clothes, our panniers, shoes and sandals. In the early evening Henrik rode to the 35E, 45N confluence near Grushivka. Having more leisurely desires I stayed in Feodosia

June 2nd, Feodosia-Kerch-Feodosia, 149 km.

Left Feodosia shortly after 10. The plan was to ride to the small Zakasnik-Ostaninskie nature reserve between Feodosia and Kerch - a trip Jurij had suggested - plenty of birds there. A few km from Feodosia the road runs parallel and close to the Black Sea, and we saw 3 dolphins, one of them big. Had lunch in Leninskoe, served by good-looking young women that opened the restaurant for us. Continued to Ostanino through beautiful terrain, at a point we reached 60 km/h due to heavy tail wind, saw two cranes and a roller. On the Ostanino station we were told that first west-bound train would leave at 21 - six hours later. Shortly after we watched and heard a number of hoopoes. When they call they make a strange movement with the head. At the small dam Zelyonyj Jar Henrik discovered an ordinary Remiz pendulinus, a small bird that makes a strange basket-like nest. Later he saw three black-winged stilts (Himantopus himantopus) at a pond outside Novonikolaevka. First time we saw them in Ukraine. Back on the E-97 road we decided that we might as well ride to Kerch and take the train back from there. A little later we passed a big colony of red-footed falcons (Falco vespertinus). There were 40-50 nests and hundreds of falcons. There were also hundreds of crowes nests there. We also saw one turtle and 5 hedgehogs, all flattened by cars. 10 km from Kerch we could see over the strait to Russia where we would have liked to go, but with that country's visa policy it was impossible. Saw a hare just before Kerch. Rode around in that pleasant city before taking the train back to Vladislavovka where we arrived at 23.30. Saw from the train a small owl , most likely the Little owl (Athene noctua). From the station we rode back to Feodosia in total darkness, except the strong light from Henrik's Schmidt hub dynamo, at times like this I regret I didn't have a similar hub.

June 3rd, Feodosia.

Did nothing, Recuperated and relaxed. At the beach Henrik discovered a tick on his leg. It took two Ukrainian women to pull it off but it's head remained in Henrik's leg. Ticks in that area can transmit Borrelia, and even worse encephalitis so Henrik was on the verge of panic. Back in Feodosia he went to a hospital and had some surgeons dig out the tick's head, a service costing 5 Hryvnia (one US$). As it later turned out Henrik didn't get infected by either Borrelia or encephalitis.

June 4th, Feodosia-Strelkovoe (Arabatskaja Strielka), 134 km.

Left at 5.30. Passed a couple of falcon-crow colonies similar to the one we had seen two days before, saw also a small owl, 3 purple herons and several hoopoes shortly before the start of the Arabatskaja Strielka - the 120 km long sand spit just east of Crimea. Bought water etc. in a shop in a camping wagon in the village Soljanoe. There we were told about pelicans and flamingos which we might encounter. An hour later we saw 8 pelicans. We also saw 500-1000 cormorants, 100 rose starlings, numerous herons of different kinds (Egretta alba, Egretta garzetta, and grey heron), 50 storks, 9 foxes and one hare. Contrary to last time I was there, we didn't see many lizards. Henrik nearly rode over a big snake, judging from the many tracks across the shell-sand road there are lots of snakes on the Strielka. The ride itself was much easier than the year before as there was far less ribbon texture, we also had tail wind. Reached Strelkovoe at 16.30 and got installed in a Turbase that wasn't open yet but they let us two rooms anyway. Saw bee eater just outside the turbase. Bought 2 ltrs of milk fresh from the cow, 2 Hryvnia. Had good dinner in new restaurant close to the Lenin square, 15 Hryvnia all incl.

June 5th, Strelkovoe-Dzankoj, 128 km.

Left at 7 and continued northwards. Was passed by a police-escorted huge convoy of buses loaded with children on their way to the turbases on the Strielka. In Genichesk we passed a typical piece of Soviet art, a tall musculous Caucasian with a well-shaped Caucasian woman on his right and an African man on his left. In Novooleksijovka the sky to the north looked threatening and we split. Henrik continued northwards to Nova Kahovka where there is an old Swedish settlement (Zmievka) and the 33E, 47N confluence. He didn't reach the latter, but was successful in reaching 25E, 48N near Putila in the Carpathians. Anyway, I turned southwards to Dzankoj, back to the sunny south. Endured some showers and came across a big mole cricket that probably had left it's subterraneous habitat because of flooding. Really a strange animal. Reached the Dzankoj train station and got a room there. Ate in the restaurant in the train station while watching a big wall painting depicting young atletic Homo sovieticuses on a sunny beach. The women were good-looking with all desirables, the males broad-shouldered and musculous. Had also tea there later, I paid 1 Hryvnia and left but the waiter called me back and gave me 0.5 Hryvnia. Most Ukrainians are very honest.

June 6th, Dzankoj-Feodosia, 140 km.

Left at 6 and rode southwards on small roads mostly. Saw bee eater picking up insects floating in the North Crimean canal. A grass snake also swum there. Saw that day also about 10 cuckoos and a purple heron. Found on the road a wrench suitable for unscrewing the bottom bracket which hadn't been serviced for long. Back in Feodosia I went to the Stolovaya on the corner of Ulitsa Karla Marksa and Ulitsa Revolutsionnaja, where the cheapest food in Feodosia is served.

June 7th, Feodosia.

Did nothing except resting and recuperating. At the train station more and more trains arrived from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, all loaded with tourists. Consequently there are also a lot of landladies and room-agents trying to hire out rooms.

June 8th, Feodosia-Novootradnoe, 86 km.

Left at 7.30 and headed westwards on the M17. Later along the N-Crimean canal to Lenino where there is a hotel and a distinct Soviet atmosphere. Continued to Chelkino and passed an oil-field with about 50 oil-pumps of the type one see in American movies. Close to there is also a nuclear powerplant that was never finished due to the Chernobyl event. Saw two rollers. Had plov in Chelkino which is a holiday resort with hotels, turbases and private accommodation. Rode over to the eastern side of the Kazantipskij peninsula and then southwards through forest that according to signs is infested with ticks carrying encephalitis. Met cormorant unable to fly. Reached Novootradnoe at 14 and got installed in good 2-room cabin in turbase at the sea costing about 12US$, supper and breakfast included. When sitting outside the cabin two hoopoes landed 10 m away. A staff member came by and told me that the flamingos had been spotted not far from Chelkino. She thought I found the turbase a boring place, if just she knew how good I think the Ukrainian turbases are. During the supper I was addressed by another woman from the staff - a good-looking woman staring at me in a promising way. Unfortunately my Russian is limited and the conversation never got off the ground. Two cats strolled around in the cantina and was given food now and then. On the whole the staff is very friendly towards the cats and the guests - mostly children. Cloudy all day but not cold.

June 9th, Novootradnoe-Feodosia, 160 km.

After breakfast in the cantina I continued eastwards along the coast. After Zolotoe the road turned into a dirt road and the terrain became very beautiful. Perhaps one of the most beautiful areas I've been in in Ukraine. Went down to the rugged coast a couple of times. Had everything to myself, there were nobody around except a tractor driver. Saw hawks, some lizards and a small marmot-like mammal. Rode northwards around the Chokrakskoe bay and later had a swim at Kurortnoe (there are several Kurortnoes in Crimea, this one is the one north of Kerch). There were also some cows on the beach there, and private accommodation could be had in the village. Could easily have spent a day there, but continued to Kerch. At the station there were no trains to Feodosia the next many hours so I decided to ride instead. Rode through Bagerovo and Chistopole and passed the turbase I had left several hours earlier. Continued later along the canal and passed huge dam with cooling water for the unfinished nuclear power plant 10 km northwards. The dirt roads along the canal are ok and I reached Feodosia before darkness. Saw that day all the usual birds; hoopoes, rollers, numerous birds of prey, and herons.

June 10th, Feodosia.

R & R in Feodosia. Strolled around in the outer parts where there is a factory on which is written "Slava Trudu" - probably a socialist equivalent to the nazi Arbeit macht Frei.

June 11th, Feodosia - Kurortnoe, 35 km.

Left late as I was lazy and in no hurry. Saw bee-eater in same place as twelve days earlier. Had a swim in Koktebel before ending in Kurortnoe where there are turbases and private rooms. Paid about 3 US$ for private room in lush garden. Had supper in restaurant at the sea. The three waitresses were dark, exotic, tall and slim, quite strange creatures I thought, also the music was strange. Had plov, salad, juice and tea while enjoying the view to the Karadak mountain. When getting back to the room I was addressed by English-speaking Vladimir - a Russian from St.Petersburg. Had a long interesting conversation with him while sharing a bottle of Crimean wine he had bought. Sometimes during the pitch dark night I fell on the way to the toilet, hitting a thorny bush and some concrete constructions resulting in unpleasant rashes several places.

June 12-13th, Kurortnoe-Sudak, 30 km.

Continued westwards along the coast. Saw 3 bee-eaters on powerline. In Sudak heavy rain started and after some hours I decided to call it a day and look up some accommodation. Got installed in 4US$ room. In another room lived two children with their parents, the mother was stunningly beautiful, completely perfect. There was also a doctor from Kiev in a third room. In the afternoon the landlady invited me on tea and delicious strawberry porridge with milk. On the table laid the Watchtower - a Jehova's witnesses' publication. I turned a few pages after which the landlady started a discussion. She had been a socialist during 33 years but had 8 years ago converted and now didn't believe in Darwin or any other sensible stuff. I said that until few years ago Lenin, Marx etc, were gods here, she said that they were only pseudo-gods and claimed that they had been foreseen in the bible. Complete nonsense but it was a funny discussion, after an hour she realised I am a hopeless atheist and gave up. Strolled around in pleasant Sudak and ate etc. Next morning I was tired so decided to stay yet a day in Sudak. Rode out to Mediterranean-looking Novij Svet and watched plenty good-looking women on the beach, some of them had Botero-proportions but were still interesting sights. Saw on the way back a big beetle - Procerus scabrosus. Had 10 Hryvnia supper in a cantina. In the evening the landlady served more tea. At the table also sat the beautiful woman and her daughter, they also turned out to be Jehova's witnesses so the discussion I the day before had had with the landlady continued. It lasted about three hours during which I transgressed several of the 10 commandments. She claimed that e.g. WW2 and Chernobyl were mentioned in the bible, not directly of course - one had to learn to interpret the bible before being able to extract the facts - mindless nonsense. Anyway, she told me that Chernobyl was not the cause of Ukraine's current low life-expectancy, instead it is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Being a nurse and living about 80 km from Chernobyl she probably knew what she was talking about. On the whole she was an unusually charming woman, a shame she was married. If just I could find an easy way to profit from the stupidity of all the believers I've met....., unfortunately I don't have the talents of gurus, priests, politicians or other demagogues. Not only do these people milk the believers financially, they also get their will with all the young beautiful female worshipers. The socialist Mao had a new mistress each day, scientologist Ron Hubbard lived a life in luxury. Surely I envy them.

June 14-15th, Sudak - Jalta, 127 km, 2 km climbing.

Left Sudak at 9. Saw 4-5 dolphins at Morskoe. Had lunch in Sonjatnogirsk, 9 Hryvnia for all I could eat. Very hot day. Got installed in the usual place in Jalta, now price had gone up to 30 Hryvnia (5US$). Took bus to Partenit next day and strolled around there. Climbed over a fence and ended in a huge Soviet style holiday resort where I followed signs in the direction of a Stolovaya (cantina), that included walking into a long tunnel and taking an elevator. There was a kind of James Bond-like atmosphere over the place. Had a cheap meal in the huge cantina with about 300 guests. It cost 10 Hryvnia and was ok except for the fish. There were red stars on the plates and the cucumbers were cut to look like sputniks. Three meals a day cost 20 Hryvnia. I should have stayed there instead of in Jalta.

June 16th, Jalta - Lyubimovkal, 85 km, 1 km climbing.

Rode on the heavily trafficked M-18 until Simeis, then from about Opolznevoe on a smaller road below the escarpment. Spectacular view over the Black Sea and along the range. Passed newly restored church that attracts lots of tourists. In Orlinoe the Crimean Tatars returning from central Asia are building plenty new houses, a couple of which had already collapsed. Ate in the the McDonalds in Sevastopol, the hotels in that city all insist on overcharging Westerners so I took a 1.5 Hryvnia ferry over the Sevastopol bay and ended in turbase in Luybimovka - 32 Hryvnia for two days (they only hire out cabins for minimum two days).

June 17th, Lyubimovka - Pribreshnoe, 85 km.

Left at 8 and continued northwards along and as close as possible to the sea. Passed that day several places with plenty of turbases and private rooms - all the villages at the sea are tourist resorts, especially Mikolaivka is big. Rode on the sandy track on the sandbar separting the sea from the Kizil-Jar salt lake, a beautiful place so had a swim in the warm water. Later rode on a number of embankments in the Sakskoe salt lake. The embankments separate salt water from fresh water in which there are lots of big green frogs. Met also big green lizard that seemed paralyzed from fear of me, but when touched on the back it ran away. Got back to the coast at Pribreshnoe and got installed in a big turbase - 20 Hryvnia for a room with toilet and hot water in the shower. The turbase teemed with good-looking women. In the evening two Turkish-looking staff members addressed me, they claimed being war veterans form the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. They also claimed being invalids but to me they seemed completely intact. One of them offered to find me a prostitute.

June 18th, Pribreshnoe - Mirnyj, 55 km.

On the sandbar between Pribreshnoe and Evpatoria I saw about 10 of the small marmot-like mammal. Strong head wind all day so in Evpatoria I needed a long break. Evpatoria is a pleasant city with all the usual socialist street names, a hotel is called "Pobeda" - Victory. My intention was to ride on the sandbar between the sea and the Donuslav lake but at the start of the sandbar I was told that the sea had breached it many years ago. Consequently I had to turn back to Mirnyj where I got a private room costing 20 Hryvnia, and close to the sea. The landlady was a nice woman. The bed-linnen had hammer/sickle symbols. Went for a walk on a nearby dried out salt lake. Rain storms in the afternooon. I had as usual giant appetite, good that it is so inexpensive to eat out here. Saw that day lots of army bases, there must be more than 100 bases along the whole Crimean coast.

June 19-20th, Mirnyj - Meshvodnoe, 55 km.

Rode NE to get around the big Donuslav lake. The town Novoozernoe is a very Soviet place, primarily inhabited by soldiers and there are a lot of flats for sale in the high-rise concrete buildings. Saw a 17 MW wind-mill park with about 100 wind-mills that nearly all worked despite not being of Danish origin. Obviously the Ukrainians are able to build sturdy wind mills, they are called "vetriki" in Ukrainian I was told. Had big lunch in cantina in Chernomorske on the Crimean north-coast. Saw plenty birds of prey, and a roller. Heavy headwind much of the day. Ended in Meshvodnoe and found private room for 15 Hryvnia on Ulitsa Komsomolskaya. The landlady produced rabbits and hens and all kind of vegetables and fruits, probably churning out as much as a mid-size collective farm. A Lenin statue in front of a school had been attacked, his face was smashed and there was a hole (bullet?) in his back. Had knee-pain next day and extended stay, besides, the daughter of the landlady was nice. I had a long talk with her in the morning, she thought that life during the Soviet Union was better, among other things they could afford to buy sausages. I've heard this several times in Ukraine - in the good old they could afford sausages. Down at the beach I watched a bee eater for a while, and had a swim. Later the landlady invited me to have lunch with her, the daughter and grand-daughter, we got a kind of bean-potato soup. Some of the potatoes had been attacked by mole crickets. They had dug up the potatoes in the backyard so when they in the evening continued digging up potatoes, I waited to see if a live mole cricket was unearthed. And one was, the girl picked up a fine specimen which I bought for one Hryvnia. It was terrified from being in the sun-light and tried hiding under the dirt I had put in the glass I had it in. I let the mole cricket into my hand and it immediately dug in between two fingers, it's unexpected strength surprised me and I dropped it. The girl picked it up and placed it on my diary where I could control its position by tilting it. The Ukrainians hate mole crickets and kill them whenever possible. The girl waited for me to release the mole cricket so that she could kill it but I released it outside the garden and it disappeared within a minute. There were also lots of colorado beetles in the potatoes, I tried feeding a couple of them to the hens and cocks but they were uninterested, ordinary worms were more to their likening. There were about 20 hens and 2 cocks, they mated several times during the 20 minutes I observed them, sometimes a hen was gang-banged by both cocks. Bought milk form the neighbor's cow, 1 ltr was 1 Hryvnia.

June 21-22nd, Meshvodnoe - Khorli, 160 km.

Left at 8. lots of accommodation (turbases and private rooms) in Steregushe. Saw hoopoes, rollers and falcons. Had lunch in Rasdolnoe. Five minutes after I sat down three alcoholics arrived, they were noisy, aggressive and touched my bicycle, I've never liked alcoholics. In Krasnoperekopsk I went into hotel Fantasia and asked for a room. They did have rooms but as a westerner I should pay an extra 100%, I consequently had a short unpolite discussion with the moron-receptionist. There are no turbases or private rooms in Krasnoperekopsk so I continued the 20 km to Armjansk (possibly the most depressive concrete city in Ukraine) and went into the drab hotel there. The receptionist first said that I should try in Simferopol 133 km to the south, but when understanding that I was on bicycle she pulled out the price list and asked if I had 458.3 Hryvnia (86US$). I thought she was insane - 86 US$ for a room in a drab hotel. She wasn't insane however, rather she was embarassed, and apologized for the insane price but she wasn't in charge. Instead it was the city counsel that had decided that westerners shall be charged 900% more than Ukrainians. I asked how many foreigners had stayed in the hotel last year, 2 she said. The city counsel should be sent to Siberia. Anyway, I asked her if she knew whether there was any accommodation to be found along the coast to the west. Try Khorli she said. Reached Khorli at around 21 after having seen 10 hoopoes, 2 hares and about 100 swans the last 30 minutes - my records for any of the species in one day in Ukraine. Also collided with thousands of small flies. When in Khorli I asked a woman if she knew of any accommodation, she suggested asking her neighbor who was working in her garden. The neighbor turned out to be German-speaking and the nicest person I've met in Ukraine. She normally didn't rent out rooms but made an exception, and after 15 minutes I had had a much needed shower, was installed in a room and was sitting at a table drinking tea and eating cakes. I asked how much this excellent service would cost but she wouldn't have any money, instead she asked how long time I wanted to stay. We agreed on two days. The woman - Lydia - had with her husband and son been stationed in E-Germany during the cold war but when the Soviet Union withdrew it's army they had ended up in Khorli where lydia's mother had a house. Next day I was shown a lot of photos from places in E-Germany, e.g. the beautiful Sans Souci where I've never been. They had 3 cats, one dog, chickens, ducks, goats and sheep. In addition the garden was full of vegetables and fruits, and they caught shrimps in the sea. What I especially liked to see was the gentle and friendly way they handled their animals. When the goats came back from the field they went into the kitchen as the most naturally thing in the world, trying to get something edible. The cats were also in the kitchen, one on the refrigerator, another on a table. From time to time somebody would point a finger at them, saying something like "you shouldn't really be there, please move a little bit", and so on. The husband - Mikhail - took me for a ride in his car around the village. The name Faltzfein was mentioned several times. Faltzfein was a German baroness who had owned the peninsula and other Ukrainian properties. On Khorli she built a powerplant, a school, a harbour and planted a small idyllic forest, with canals, bridges and so on. She had also founded the Askania Nova nature reserve to the NE. Obviously a progressive woman, consequently she was killed by the socialists when they came to power in 1919. She is buried in the local graveyard. When at the harbor we watched a golden oriole chasing a magpie. In the afternoon I went to the beach and swum. In the sea there were thousands of stinging goples of a kind I hadn't seen before. When the children were stung they quickly returned to their mothers crying "medusa, medusa". I tried touching one of the goples with the inside of my wrist to see how bad it was. It was worse than a mosquito but not as painful as a wasp. The itch lasted for some hours.

June 23rd, Khorli - Lazurnoe, 85 km.

Golden orioles, hoopoes, herons, a woodpecker, quails, cuckoos, storks, these were the birds I saw that day. Ended in Lazurnoe and got private room for 7 Hryvnia. A chained dog called Rolf had diarrhoea and barked whenever it saw me, a sad sight. Strolled around and swum in the rather hot water. There are several turbases in Lazurnoe, one of them cost 58 Hryvnia incl. all meals, regrettably I didn't stay there. Had a kind of supper in a bar called Limpopo - a rather unpleasant place as a drunken woman in her forties irritated me.

June 24th, Lazurnoe - Golaja Pristan, 60 km.

Left without breakfast as there was no milk to buy in Lazurnoe. Didn't get anything to eat until I at noon reached Golaja Pristan at the Dniepr. Just east of the center I saw the Khopri sanatorium. Went in and asked if they had a room for me, no problem they said, so I got excellent 17 Hryvnia room. The loudspeaker played old Russian music, not that I understood the song but I imagined proud marching soldiers, or hard-working peasants on endless fields. Immersed myself in the adjacent turbid salt lake and didn't do much for the rest of the day - it was very hot and energy was sucked from me. In the evening I went to the cantina for supper which was good and more than adequate. They didn't want any money but I insisted on paying for the meal, and for breakfast next morning. A small pond at the sanatorium houses plenty of frogs, fish and a couple of grass snakes. This sanatorium really is excellent value.

June 25th, Golaja Pristan - Kahovka, 90 km.

Left sanatorium at 9.30 after big breakfast. Very beautiful riding after Churopinsk, especially around and west of Kosachi Lager. Saw several hoopoes, rollers, golden orioles etc. About the most beautiful rural idyll I've seen in Ukraine. In Kahovka I asked sunflower seed seller on the street if she knew of any private accommodation. She did, in the house behind her. She called the landlady but she already had a guest. The vendor then suggested that I tried in hotel Tavria on Ulitsa Karla Marksa, and if that didn't work, she would accommodate me herself. At the hotel the receptionist wanted to double-charge me but changed her mind when realising I would never tolerate that. So I got a single for 17.5 Hryvnia, probably the best room I've had in Ukraine except for the private hotel in Tatariv the year before. In Kahovka some Swedes years ago started the Chumak tomato ketchup factory which in a few years became Ukraine's most profitable enterprise - it even has it's own bus stop.

June 26th, Kahovka - Kamjanka-Dnieprovka, 135 km.

Continued NE-wards along the eastbank of the Dniepr. Before 9 o'clock I had already seen 4 rollers, 1 bee eater, two golden orioles and several herons and birds of prey. Saw also some big turtles in narrow river arms. Went into private hotel Tikhaja Zavod 5 km before Kamjanka-Dnieprovka and got ok 25 Hryvnia room. Ate in the attached restaurant.

June 27-28th, Kamjanka-Dnieprovka - Nikopol, 15 km.

Rode to the quay in Kamjanka-Dnieprovka and waited 2 hours for the ferry across Dniepr. The ferry cost 2 Hryvnia (0.4 US$), cheap. Saw the big 6-reactor nuclear powerplant called Energodar. No success in getting a room in hotel Rodina in Nikopol - the receptionist wanted to overcharge me. Instead I rode out to Rishi Kova where there according to the map are turbases. First option was a sanatorium where nobody knew what to do with a foreigner, so after 30 minutes of confusion they politely suggested that I would do better if I continued a few hundred meter and tried getting into one of at least three turbases. I did and got a single room with refrigerator for 8 Hryvnia. The refrigerator is called Kristall 404.1 and is completely soundless. Swum in the Dniepr, as everybody else did there. Good view to the Energodar. Had lunch in the cantina - borscht, makaroni with meat, two "kompot" (homemade juice) and tea, all for 3.67 Hryvnia. A really inexpensive turbase. The staff was friendly too. Went into Nikopol and unsuccessfully tried finding an internet cafe. On the way back I had a discussion with a funny socialist bus driver, he claimed socialism in the Soviet Union had been derailed by the mafia because they got free cars, USA spends 33% of it's BNP on the military and is rich only because it exploits the whole world. Where do these socialists get it from? When passing the sanatorium a girl asked for a cigarette and from where I came. Denmark I said, "is that in America?" she replied. Ate again in the cantina, pelmennij and a huge portion of manna porridge the staff had made on my request. While I was eating a boy turned on his ghetto-blaster so everybody had to listen to the shit-music. It reminded me about my time in University - when on excursions I often had to endure pop-music emitted from low-brow students' ghetto-blasters. The rooms in this turbase are in 3-4 houses that each are run by a kind of floor ladies. Had in the evening long conversation with the floor lady, a nice young woman. In that period I easily got tired because of the warm weather so next morning I extended my stay in the turbase. Saw a golden oriole sitting in tree and calling, first time I've heard that. On the way to the bus stop I saw yet a golden oriole and a big grass snake. The peninsula, Rishi Kova, on which the turbase is situated is lush and inhabited by millions of frogs. In Nikopol I went for a long walk along a giant 6 km long industrial complex that must have been bustling with life during socialism, now it appeared dead and abandoned. This was just one of several industrial complexes that exploited the world's biggest manganese deposit in Marganets 16 km to the NE.

June 29th, Nikopol - Dniepro-Dzerzhinsk, 185 km.

Left Nikopol at 8 after having had trouble finding the right way out. Saw 2 rollers, 6-7 golden orioles and lifted stunned sparrow off the road. Had tail wind most of the day and did the 120 km to Dniepropetrovsk in just 5 hours. Dniepropetrovsk has been given two Lenin medals and there is a huge industrial rust belt in the suburbs, smelters, powerplants and so on - a socialists dream. Ate there in two different McDonalds. Pleasant city, the center looks affluent, especially around the central Karl Marx street. Watched chess-players and squirrel in park. The hotels looked expensive so I didn't bother with trying to get a room. Instead I continued towards Dnieprodzerzhinsk and lost the way a couple of times. In Dnieprodzerzhinsk I crossed the Dniepr because there are turbases on the other side. First turbase had no guests, no cantina and no electricity, the second was like a jail and didn't open, the third didn't want foreigners (only time I had that trouble in a Turbase), the fourth was ok though. It is adjacent to good-looking compound that looks like a sanatorium. The staff in the turbase was service-minded and had within minutes installed me in a cabin. The standard in this turbase is rather low but as it costs only 5 Hryvnia (1US$) it is excellent value (never stayed that cheap anywhere), besides it is 10 meters from the Dniepr where I swum as there is no shower.

June 30th Dniepro-Dzerzhinsk - Komsomolsk, 101km.

Left at 8. Passed the Dniepro-Donetsk canal. Head wind all day. Rode through Orlik where there according to the map is a turbase, I didn't see it though. Beautiful area around the bridge over Vorskla. Saw there several nests with storks. Also several golden orioles, and after Grigoro Brigadirovka 4 bee eaters on telephone line. I bought cereals in a store in that village, and milk from an elderly woman with a cow (they never have milk in village stores as everybody buys it directly form the cow). While eating two alcoholics arrived on their motorcycle. They immediately started bothering me with questions but I pretended not speaking Russian. They asked for vodka, I answered in English and in Danish. One of them said to the other that I was a "Durak" - a goat. Why haven't they been sent to Siberia long ago? Passed the Kremenchuk iron ore deposit which is still being exploited. There is a huge concentrator and a smelter. Went into hotel Slavutich in nearby Komsomolsk and endured having to pay twice as much (35 Hryvnia) as Ukrainians. I claimed being from Latvia (Latvians pay the Ukrainian rate) but she studied my passport and victoriously said "you are from Denmark". I told her it was none of her business whether I was from Denmark or from China, "Ponjal-Ponjal" (understood-understood) she said and stopped the KGB-style interrogation of me. The room was clean, there was a toilet but the shower didn't work and there was cold water only. Komsomolsk is a typical socialist town - a big Lenin statue on a big square, big concrete high-rise apartment blocks, and wide tree lined boulewards and so on, quite interesting, I liked it. The socialists worshiped the early Soviet dictators, both Lenin and Stalin became gods already when still alive, not unlike some of the Roman emperors 2000 years earlier.

July 1st, Komsomolsk - Chigirin, 88 km.

From the bridge over the Psel river I saw some big fish, the biggest I've seen in Ukraine. Kremenchuk looked like last year. Rode over the Dniepr on the eastern bridge, then on village roads through Beletskovka and Pavlovka. Continued on narrow boulder road through forest and passed military camp. It took ages to get from Kremenchuk to Svetlogorsk, the remaining 40 km to Chigirin were fast however. Saw a golden oriole same place as the year before. Got room in the hotel in Chigirin, it cost 29 Hryvnia and there was TV and refrigerator. Chigirin looked better than first time I was there, now there are much more to buy in the shops some of which had newly opened and the mayors house on the Lenin square was undergoing restoration. One shop had a easily serviced and sturdy-looking Russian bottom bracket with two big cartridge ball bearings, it cost only 10 Hryvnia - less than 2 US$ for a bottom bracket! Unfortunately it is not compatible with modern cranks, wonder why the Russians don't modify the design and start exporting it.

July 2nd, Chigirin - Cherkasy, 75 km.

Was tired in the morning because I had watched TV for the first time in five weeks. Continued along the Dniepr on small boulder-paved roads close to the river. Went into the usual hotel in Cherkasy and paid 35 Hryvnia for room similar to the one in Chigirin. An old radio called Donbass-309 hangs on the wall. It cost 5 Rubles when it was made in the Soviet Union in 1986. Ate in the McDonalds which had more guests than the year before. Saw young cuckoo with its mouth wide open sitting under a window, don't know if it could fly. When passing later somebody had given it water. Went to the war memorial from where there is a good view over the Dniepr.

July 3-6th, Cherkasy - Prokhorovka, 116 km.

At the northern end of Cherkasy I passed private hotel Ukraina with singles for 99 Hryvnia, it looked good. Rode to Nabutov and through the area where I the previous year had seen numerous storks, now there were fewer however. From there through beautiful rural area along the Ros river and back to the Dniepr. It was a hot day and I had a swim in the river and slept for half an hour in the sun. In Kaniv the receptionist wanted 70 Hryvnia for a single so I continued to the eastern side of the Dniepr and rode southwards, knowing there is a turbase on the shore south of Keleberda. The turbase was closed but at Prokhorovka a few kilometers later there are five turbases none of which are marked on the maps. Got a cabin in the Komsomolskaya turbase, the administrator asked how much I found reasonable, 15 Hryvnia I said, and so it was. The cabin had a kitchen without running water, instead there is a bucket system, i.e. one gets water from a tap outside the cabin. Komsomolskaya is a big turbase with maybe about 100 cabins, each with minimum 4 beds, I stayed in cabin no. 50. On a central location an old MIG is on display, other kinds of socialist memorabilia include a pillar with slogans like "Friendship, Happiness, Work, Peace, Chemical war -No!, Atomic threat - No!, Armament - No! War -No!". There also is a so called Club in Komsomolskaya but it has been closed. Clubs were places where people during Soviet times gathered to build models of ships and warplanes, or listened to socialist preaching. The toilets are in small buildings here and there and of the squat type, the walls between each hole is only about 50 cm high so there isn't much privacy, but lots of mosquitoes, they are in fact everywhere except on the beach. The cantina in Komsomolskaya no longer operates so in the evening I tried cooking myself but it was no good. Next day I learnt that the turbase just to the south of Komsomolskaya has a cantina. Went down to the river and had a swim, water was above 20 C and refreshing. Most of the other guests are mothers and grandmothers with children/grandchildren. They spent their time on the beach, swimming and sunbathing. The Dniepr seems clean there, I saw insects known to occur in clean water only. In the cabin I watched with pleasure spiders taking care of defenseless mosquitoes that got in whenever I opened the door. The name Komsomolskaya is quite common in the former Soviet Union, Komsomolsk was the name of a youth organisation, the socialist's equivalent of the nazist's Hitlerjugend. I imagine Western socialist coming back from a socialist get-together - "over there they take the Youth serious". There wasn't much noise, except for some young women in one of the bigger cabins. Anyway, I liked Komsomolskaya and stayed there for three nights, spending most of the time on the beach - watching the beautiful Ukrainian women, and swimming over to an island in the middle of the Dniepr. Had I had fishing gear I might have rented a boat too. There is also a lot of exotic birds to see, sometimes they came in over the beach. I could easily have stayed longer.

July 7th, Prokhorovka - Kedina Gora, 40 km.

Continued southwards and saw within the next 4 hours one bee eater, 4 golden orioles, 6 hoopoes, 25-30 storks, herons (Bubulcus ibis, Ardea purpurea among others), many birds of prey, and a turtle. Rode through a lot of lush wetland and lost the road a couple of times. Ended in small village - Kedina Gora where there are several turbases. Got basic 7 Hryvnia room in turbase associated with a company from Cherkasy. Three English-speaking Ukrainians from Kiev invited me to taste fish they had caught in the Dniepr. Later I went for a swim and saw a pike and lots of perches and roaches. During the evening there was a lot of noise and drinking - the administrator was only there during day-time.

July 8th, Kedina Gora - Khorol, 165 km.

Left at 6.30. Passed a big turbase just north of the Cherkasy bridge, should have stayed there instead. The wetlands continued and I saw numerous herons, especially around some fish farms not far from Irkliev. Also storks in some villages. Asked a woman in Starij Kovraj about where there was a food store. Being English-teacher she replied in fluent English. 25 km from Lubni I met a Ukranian touring cyclist coming from Skadovsk at the Black Sea. He rode a heavily loaded old bicycle with skinny tires, after one km he got a flat and a broken spoke. 20 km before Lubni I turned right through Miknivtzy and Kolonitzya - rural idyll. In a village I got water and was told it hadn't been raining for ages so the potatoes were small. In Lubni the shit-hotel wanted to triple-charge me, 48 Hryvnia the receptionist wanted, so I had to continue after having told her my honest opinion about her mentality. A few km before Khorol a private hotel had seemingly luxurious singles costing 80 Hryvnia but I continued. In Khorol I with some difficulty found motel Express - it is a train wagon turned into a motel. The 4-berth rooms cost 12 Hryvnia but I paid 20 Hryvnia in order to get the bicycle into the room too - something the manager didn't like. Had really good supper in the adjacent restaurant, 29 Hryvnia for more than I could eat. Drank about 12 ltrs that day, probably my record. The night was somewhat unpleasant as millions of mosquitoes tried getting inside. In the end I taped the window and the holes in the mosquito net, still there were several satisfied mosquitoes next morning. At that time I had gotten hundreds of mosquito bites and a kind of allergy had developed, it itched for days on end. I should have stayed in the private hotel.

July 9th, Khorol - Komsomolsk, 123 km.

Rode back to the Dnepr. Passed row of small dams at Pirogi, an excellent bird-locality with nesting herons, a kingfisher, and different kinds of waterfowl. I didn't recognize the herons but they were small and had dark backs. Followed the Dniepr closely after Gradisk, where I had bought a "Baton" chocolate bar from the Karl Marx chocolate factory in Kiev. When reaching the dam wall I had a swim, washed my clothes by wearing them while swimming. Also washed the bicycle. When there I was approached by Ukrainian bicyclist on a high-end mountain bike. He claimed he had bought it second-hand. How much did you pay for it? I asked. 100 US$ he claimed, a lie, more likely he or somebody else had stolen it in the West. In Kremenchuk I went into hotel Kremen on the Lenin Square just to provoke, so when the receptionist said that westerners should pay more than natives, I left after some aggressive remarks. Saw a street vendor with a fair selection of 1:200,000 maps, first time I've seen this outside Kiev. Continued towards Komsomolsk and passed forest fire that locally changed wind-directions. Rode as close as possible to the fire and ended in area with ponds full of human manure, and plenty of birds feeding on all the insects attracted. Stayed in Komsomolsk same place as last time, in hotel Slavutich, 35 Hryvnia for a single - double the price paid by natives. Komsomolsk is tidy and actually a pleasant town, down at the Dniepr there are three tanks on display, maybe made from iron coming from the mine.

July 10th, Komsomolsk - Dniepro-Dzerzhinsk, 107 km.

Slept badly due to heat and some mosquitoes - despite being on fourth floor. Had problems buying milk in the morning as the store couldn't change the 50 Hryvnia note. Rode that day mostly on the roads I had followed last time I was in that area. Located the turbase in Orlik but it wasn't open, "come back in end-July, then there will be guests here" the attendant said. The place looked pleasant. Later, down on the embankment two good-looking women enjoyed eachother, legs wide apart - an erotic sight. Went into the turbase I already knew, swum and watched approaching thunderstorm. Plenty of lightning over Dniepro-Dzerzhinsk, but not over the turbase, just a little rain.

July 11-13th, Dniepro-Dzerzhinsk - Novomoskovsk, 75 km.

Left without breakfast as there was no milk to buy, but an hour later I came across a cow and bought 1.5 ltr milk for 1.25 Hryvnia. Beautiful ride on this side of the Dniepr - storks in nests, old villages and so on. Very hot so went into the turbase "50 year October" at a lake named after Lenin, but as there was no cantina I continued. Continued to Novomoskovsk and tried getting a room in hotel "Hotel" (?) which is a private rather luxurious hotel but at 70 Hryvnia I found it too expensive. The friendly (for a change) receptionist suggested I tried getting accommodation in the "sportbase" nearby. Got adequate room there for 30 Hryvnia. Was tired next morning so extended stay. Didn't do much except relaxing and maintaining bicycle. Very hot all day and in the late afternoon heavy thunderstorm, temperature dropped from 35 to 20 C in half an hour, pleasant. Visited an old wooden church that survived socialism, neglect and war. During socialism it had been a picture gallery. The interiour was new but typically orthodox style, lots of brass, candles and icons, and the ubiquitous elderly women maintaining the place. At the entrance I watched a poster depicting a doctor killing babies with a sword, chopping them to bits and pieces. The babies were brought to him by women looking like alcoholics and prostitutes (i.e. only fallen women have abortions) - an anti-abortion poster obviously. I discussed the poster with an English-speaking woman who were firmly against abortion. She told me about a woman with a lot of children which despite being poor were soooo nice - they kissed the icons. I don't think the human race has any problem that can't be solved by abortion, or better still - sterilization. To me caring about humans means limiting their number - it is better that few have a good life than many have a bad life. What also bothers me with the religious do-gooders is that they get concerned only when victims of unwanted pregnancy turn to abortion, instead they should provide the needy with contraception, and definitely not pious messages about abstinence. The do-gooders, especially the roman pope, are doing nothing to stem the tide, on the contrary. It is disastrous. We couldn't agree on the abortion issue but we agreed on that socialists actually are believers. Despite being a believer she was a sympathetic woman, just as there are sympathetic muslims, socialists and nazists, it is just that they have to be kept firmly away from power. Next morning more rain, so extended stay in the sportbase, like the day before I didn't do anything, the heat and high humidity sucked the energy out of me.

July 14th, Novomoskovsk - Vasilivka, 150 km.

Left at 7 and rode over the Samara river. Saw immediately 4 signs advertising turbases, so there is no shortage of accommodation in Novomoskovsk. Later, at about the 245 km sign there is a hotel, and at the 275 km a sign advertises a turbase (not marked on 1:200,000 map) down at the Dniepr. Saw several golden orioles and a hoopoe. Rode into Zaporizhya and got lost in huge concrete housing area called Cosmic, rode from there through ugly area with garbage everywhere. Kept close to the Dniepr and faced plenty of hilly riding. The Dniepr river valley is very beautiful south of Zaporizhya, before it enters the huge dam. After Malokaterinovka I rode on an embankment with two railway tracks. There were no troubles with the guard watching the two narrow bridges on the middle of the embankment and I was happy no trains passed when I carried over the bicycle. After coming up from the embankment heavy rain started. Was later nearly hit by fucking truck. I revenged myself half an hour later in Vasilivka where the police had stopped this truck. Got installed in little hotel in Vasilivka costing 24 Hryvnia. The hotel is at the central square, on fourth floor and it isn't easily found. Upon arrival the bike and I were soaked and dirty, but that was no problem for the friendly couple in charge of the hotel, instead they were sympathetic and showed me where I could dry my clothes and clean the bicycle. The room was ok, and there was hot water in the bathroom in the corridor.

July 15-16th, Vasilivka - Strelkovoe, 200 km.

Left a 7. Ignorant car drivers in Melitopol. After Melitopol I passed 6 heavily loaded Ukrainian touring cyclists on their way to Feodosia, one of them had a mechanical problem of some kind, and when that happened they all were brought to a halt. It had been interesting riding with them for a while but at their average speed it would have been too slowly. Very hot day but tail wind made progress easy. At 13 wind-direction changed 180 degrees followed by extremely heavy rain and 1 cm big hails. Traffic stopped completely and I sheltered under a tree in hurricane-like gusts that tore off branches from trees and lowered visibility to a few hundred meters. Never experienced anything like that before. It ended as quickly as it had started, and wind returned to it's southerly direction, so the next 20 km took less than half an hour. A falcon dived at me 7-8 times, probably a bicyclist has once done wrong to it. In Genichesk I half-heartedly tried finding a private room. There were plenty of ads in front of the houses along the coast but they didn't want to hire out a room to only one person, and definitely not for only one night. Their way of rejecting me was arrogant, they just said NO! and looked the other way. I got irritated and in the last place I said that I would pay whatever they required if just they let me in. "OK, 10 bucks" they arrogantly replied. I accepted but said that I would first inspect the room. It was actually ok but I said that I could never sleep in such a primitive room, and left smilingly. They got angry and I felt victorious. Continued down on the Arabatskaja Strielka to Strelkovoe, now in head wind, Passed hundreds of private rooms and tens of turbases, but in the end I got installed in the usual place - the Tavria turbase. Paid 60 Hryvnia for 2 nights and four meals. Swum in the Azov Sea, the water 25 deg, and clearer than the year before. Did the routine maintenance next day, and spent hours on the beach. Fat Ukrainians everywhere, when over 40 they are often obese. I've once read that the widespread obesity among Afro-Americans is due to only the fattest ones survived being transported over the Atlantic. Maybe the obesity among the Ukrainians is due to only the fattest ones survived spending time in the socialists' Siberian camps. Saw two bee eaters exactly same place as last time I was at this turbase.

July 17th, Strelkovoe - Feodosia, 130 km.

Left Tavria at 7. More washboard texture on the dirt roads than earlier, and less birds, but did see 4-5 rollers just south of Strelkovoe, and herons now and then. There are turbases as far as 45 minutes riding south of Strelkovoe, one of them is called "Geophysicist". Watched a tick walking up my leg, regrettably I didn't have the guts to wait and see where it was heading. After 5 hours I was near the southern end of the Strielka. There is a turbase there, also called Tavria (there are numerous Tavrias in Ukraine). Had a long swim together with lots of fish in the clear water. Very nice place, could easily have stayed longer. Saw more rollers and maybe some bee eaters. Reached Feodosia in the afternoon, no room the usual place as everything was occupied by two families. Went down to the station and met agent who directed me to a 15 Hryvnia/day room in a quiet place near the center. The room was similar to where I used to stay in Feodosia, sun-heated shower in one shed, home-made toilet in another shed. Met with Jurij in the evening and strolled around in the center, like thousands of other tourists - it was by then high-season.

July 18-26th, holidaying in Feodosia.

Visited the Aivazovskij museums, nice golden-age marine paintings, some religious ones too. Some of the marine paintings depict sailors in hopeless situations - among giant waves, stranded on serrated rocks, storms and so on, wonder what effect they had on Aivazovskij's contemporaries. Had also stomach problems for 3-4 days and got exhausted, in the end I spent 10 Hryvnias on medication after which the problem was gone. In the room I spent time each day killing mosquitoes and watching all the other insects that also inhabited it. One day a small spider had caught a much bigger beetle which slowly got wrapped up in silk, and later was sucked empty. Another day a big spider of the type that runs up its prey fell victim to a much smaller one which had a net behind a door, unfortunately I didn't see that kill. It took the winner 1.5 day to empty the loser. Wrote also a text about my riding in Turkey, there are a couple of inexpensive internet cafes in Feodosia. Some of the bars in Feodosia have professional dancers in the evenings. Else ate a lot to regain weight lost during the previous riding.

July 27th, Feodosia - Belogorsk, 74 km.

Left at 9 and ended a few hours later in Belogorsk, extremely hot day so hadn't much energy for riding. Got single with toilet and shower costing only 12 Hryvnia in the town's only hotel. Went into an internet cafe but it didn't work, no connection to the telephone net. The owner was a Crimean Tatar, involved in politics on behalf of his tribe. He told me about their situation after they have started returning to Crimea (Stalin had them deported to Uzbekistan). 250,000 were deported of which 50% died on the way. Being muslims the 125,000 survivors procreated heavily during their time Uzbekistan and now numbers half a million, 300,000 of which have so far returned to Crimea. Currently the Tatars constitute 12% of the Crimeans and there have been clashes with the majority population which doesn't want to return property or give the Tatars special right and so on. "We want integration, not assimilation - we are muslims", he said. He knew exactly what I hinted at when saying that with only 12% the Tatars had a demographic problem. "Yes, but the Ukrainians get 1 or rarely 2 children, whereas we get 4-5" he said. Maybe the Ukrainians should start procreating a little faster, or do what the Chinese are doing in Tibet. Strolled around in the heat, Belogorsk is a very quiet place. There was no light in the hotel, it probably hadn't paid the bill. Besides me there was only the receptionist - an elderly lady seemingly frightened by the darkness. The worst about the darkness was that I could not see and kill the 2-3 mosquitoes in the room, so they got what they wanted during the night.

July 28th, Belogorsk - Bakshisaray, 78 km.

Left early and quickly reached Simferopol. Ate in the McDonalds there and continued. In Bakshisaray I was exhausted and paid 36 Hryvnia for not very good room, the bastard in the reception probably double-charged me. Strolled around and went to the old picturesque muslim monastery that is now a museum. Later discovered that on Ulitsa Proletarskaya close to the monastery there is a big turbase where I could have had a room for 12 Hryvnia. Regrettably I didn't know that before it was too late.

July 29th, Bakshisaray - Inkerman, 60 km.

When continuing I realised Bakshisaray is much bigger than I thought, there's a big concrete housing area to the west of the hotel. Saw bee eater on telephone line shortly after. Crossed from Inkerman over to Sevastopol where the rear tire went flat. When fixing the problem an old sailor came with a bucket of water and home-made strawberry juice. Bought 95 US$ ticket for boat back to Turkey next day. The boat didn't leave from Sevastopol, instead a bus would take the passengers to Skadovsk to the north. Strolled around pleasant Sevastopol, ate twice in McDonalds, got new battery for camera and so on. The only problem in Sevastopol is that hotels double-charge westerners so I returned to Inkerman. There the turbases were full but in the end I got installed in what I thought was a hospital because the receptionist directed me to a doctor which said it was allright that I stayed there. The place is called Albatros and wasn't a hospital but a "Profylaktii" - a kind of sanatorium. I paid 60 Hryvnia (11 US$) for excellent room and three meals, then went down to the coast for a swim. Supper that evening was delicious and the staff was completely normal and friendly, could easily have stayed there longer. Disassembled the bike and readied myself for the boat to Turkey.

July 30th - August 2nd , Inkerman - Skadovsk - Istanbul, bus and boat.

Took 10 Hryvnia taxi down to the harbor and sailed over to Sevastopol. Deposited my luggage in the ticket office and went out to the big statue of a mariner and a soldier. Typically Soviet piece of art, quite impressive. I like Soviet art, it is technically good and purposefull - no decadent or non-figurative or abstract shit. Passed hundreds of Ukrainians sunbathing along the harbor, many of them good-looking women. At the Sevastopol railway station there is an old locomotive on display, it carries the text "kill fascism". The bus left in the early afternoon and reached Skadovsk in the evening. I imagined that the boat could be boarded immediately, but it wasn't so. Instead the passengers had to wait all night long in a theater turned waiting-room, I never got any explanation, or any sleep for that matter. Characteristically nobody complained. Anyway, next morning I got through customs without any problems except a bureaucrat shouting "stay behind that line!" at me, if there is anything I hate.....The boat is called Gessik and the single-cabin I got was pleasant, and with two vindows, actually I can't think of a better way to enter or depart Ukraine, than by boat. Anyway, thus ended my trip to Ukraine. Delicious breakfast was served shortly after departure, the other meals were of similar quality. The Black Sea was quiet that day and I saw plenty dolphins and its minor relative. Next morning I saw a hoopoe on the deck, it flew up when seeing me but came back, also saw more dolphins. When sailing down the Bosporus I wondered about the fabulous giant-villas along the coasts, obviously many Turks are extremely wealthy. Got into Turkey without any hassles.


The info below is based on my experiences from riding in Ukraine in 2001 and 2002.


In 2002 I got my visa from the Ukrainian embassy in Copenhagen. There was only one bureaucrat in the embassy when I applied for a 30 US$ 3-months tourist visa. He was completely normal, friendly and non-obstructive, no shit about the so called "invitation". He asked me when I would enter Ukraine - something I didn't knew at that time. Well, he said, then I'll better give you a 6-months visa instead. That's an atypically good service. Henrik applied for a tourist visa in the Ukrainian embassy in Stockholm, where they wanted to see an "invitation" which he didn't have. Henrik then said he would visit the camera factory "Arsenal" in Kiev, and was instead issued a business visa. Being obsessed with cameras and lenses Henrik actually did visit the camera factory and bought an expensive camera from the factory outlet. I think we both got our visas quite easy, clearly the Ukrainian embassies have understood that it is not in anybody's (except a few corrupt bureaucrats, of course) interest, least of all their own, to obstruct tourists.


Due to the discriminatory pricing policy of the state-owned hotels I did whatever I could to avoid them. I often went in and asked about the price just to see how insane they were. And insane they are - in Armjansk westerners are charged 10 times (1000%!) what natives pay. Consequently I stayed in private rooms, sanatoriums, train stations, private hotels, a sportbase and in turbases. The only problem with most of these places is that they primarily occur along the Black Sea, the Azov Sea and along the Dniepr, i.e. where people can swim and fish. In larger cities they are rare or non-existing, that's why I followed the route I did in 2002. The turbases offer accommodation in cabins and/or in barracks costing 2-4 US$, they are open from about mid-June to mid-September I've been told. The sanatoriums I stayed in were 4 to 10 USD and of good standard, I guess many of them are open all year round. Private rooms range between 1.5 and 5 US$. Getting a room in a station is sometimes possible, in Dzankoj and in Rakhiv it cost about 1.5 US$. Accommodation in turbases and sanatoriums can be with or without meals, usually the meals are excellent value. In private rooms meals can sometimes be had for a just about nothing. One way to find the turbases and sanatoriums (requires one can read Cyrillic letters) is via the 1:200,000 maps where they are marked "turbase" and "san" (sanatorium) but also "D.O." (Dom Otdhikaet), "Lag. Otdhk" (Lager Otdhikaet). In Novomoskovsk I stayed in what is called a sportbase, I should think there are more sportbases around than this one. Private hotels aren't uncommon in Ukraine, they cost more that accommodation elsewhere but they can be really good - like the little hotel in Tatariv in the Carpathians, where Henrik stayed again in 2002. In the high-season it takes slightly longer to find accommodation, and it is sellers marked so prices also go up, but not dramatically.Getting a towel was never a problem, no matter where I slept. Important; look for alternative accommodation if you are not allowed to store your bicycle indoor. There probably wouldn't be any problem in camping in Ukraine, I saw numerous suitable places. Anyway, except for the state-owned Ukrainian hotels, accommodation is value for the money in any case, I don't think a higher quality/price ratio is found elsewhere in Europe.


good and inexpensive 1:200,000 topographic maps are available in large bookshops on the main tourist street Kreshatik in Kyiv, they cost 2-3 Hryvnia, do not count on finding them elsewhere, except from a vendor in Kremenchuk who had a fair selection. A road atlas called something like "Ukraina, Atlas Aftomobilnikh Schlyakif" 1:1,000,000 provides detailed maps of larger Ukrainian cities, showing hotels, museums, bus and train stations, hospitals, churches etc.


Few Ukrainians are willing or able to speak English or German, so knowing some Russian and the Cyrillic alphabet make matters easier.

Public transportation

One of the really good things about cycling in Ukraine is the ease with which one can get a bicycle on board buses and local trains. The service is mostly free of charge, else cheap. My bicycle is equipped with S&S-machine torque couplers enabling it to be split in two halves thus easing it?s storage in the luggage compartment under the buses. Sometimes I did not even have to split the bicycle as the driver allowed it to be stored in the rear of the bus, or the luggage compartment was big enough to swallow the bicycle without any disassembly. The bus drivers did what they could to get my bicycle on board. I've had the bicycle on trains on several occasions, it is completely uncomplicated and costing something like a quarter of a dollar for a 150 km ride. Ukrainians transport a lot of stuff when travelling, including bicycles, in Kyiv I saw ponies boarding a trolleybus. One can even get one?s bicycle on board the Dniepr river boats.


Domestic products are cheap. The highest quality/price ratio is in the Stolovaya?s - a kind of "peoples kitchen" or cantina. There is a lot of fresh fruit for sale along the roads in the countryside. Ukrainian ice cream is delicious and costs half a Hryvnia (0.1US$) for a "Stakan". Bottled water is readily available. In certain larger cities there are artesian springs with drinking water. Generally I ate whatever I wanted everywhere, and suffered from diarrhoea only once but there are pharmacies selling adequate medication on literally every corner.


Ukrainian public toilets are exotic, sometimes unforgettable. Bring toilet paper, 65 m cost 0.5 Hryvnia.


There are ATMs and currency exchange offices everywhere. US-dollars may sometimes be used in lieu of Hryvnia.


Ukrainians warned me several times from cycling alone in Ukraine. Nothing ever happened, I felt safe all the time and everywhere - except just after I had been warned against all kinds of terrible dangers. There were a couple of situations that might have developed unpleasantly but I left in time. In 2001 I had my bicycle and my rear light stolen - both times I got them back. I should think cycling in Ukraine is as safe as cycling in Denmark, but in the latter one is unlikely to get the bicycle back if stolen. Bring a picture of the bicycle to show the police. Ukrainian dogs chase cyclists but that is actually great fun, they never tried biting me. Do not kick them! Henrik was bitten once, when he was not on his bicycle.

Road conditions

Most roads are O.K. and enable daily distances of 100-200 km to be undertaken. Dirt roads often offer the most interesting riding, but when wet they are really unpleasant. Potholes are deep and common in the cities. The smaller roads are little trafficked, but on the highways one is sometimes overtaken by cars driving >150 km/h. Some drivers are not too clever, ruthlessness occurs. Sign posting is sometimes sparse so basic map reading skills are required, a compass comes in handy. An interesting feature along Ukrainian roads are the numerous memorials or graves - places where somebody was killed in a car accident (usually a 18-30 year old male). Sometimes a steering wheel is part of the "decoration", there may also be a picture of the unfortunate. Another interesting feature is that most roads, squares and occasionally villages are named after persons, events or objects held dear by socialists; Lenin, Iljitj, Engels, Kirov, Karl Marx, Schmidt, Dzerzhinsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Kalinin, Karl Liebknecht, Frunze, Sverdlov, Patrice Lumumba, The Heroes of Stalingrad, Gagarin, Pioneer, Komsomolsk, Worker, Proletarian, Factory, Victory, Freedom, Decembrists, Patriot, Kollektivist, Revolution, Progress, People?s Friendship, Cooperative, Komintern, October, Record, Rocket, or the Ukrainian and Russian writers Shevshenko, Franka, Pushkin or Tolstoi. Even the smallest village has streets bearing these names.


I rode a dedicated touring bicycle though a standard-quality bicycle suffices. My wheels are 26 inch. 1.75 inch tires work, 1.9 inch is better though. Standard size tires (mtb or road) are not too difficult to find in Ukraine. Mudguards are necessities, as is sufficient mudguard clearance. Mounting a long mudflap on the front mudguard saves the drivetrain from much dirt. A suspension seat post adds to comfort when riding on e.g. the Arabatskaya Strielka. S&S-Machine torque couplers are really practical on a travel bike. The chainset is 26-36-48 and the cassette 11-34, more than sufficient for all conditions. In Kyiv and Odessa, and probably most larger cities, there are bike-shops with adequate selections of spares, in the countryside little of that kind is found, so bring basic tools and spare parts. I rode around with a spare tire but never used it, it had been smarter buying one if necessary. I had a kerosene-filled Sigg bottle in which the chain was submerged and cleaned when necessary. The kerosene was also used for cleaning the chainset and cassette. One might consider buying a Ukrainian or Belarussian bicycle instead of bringing one?s own. They can be purchased for less than 500 Hryvnia (90US$) including pump and basic tools. Some of them are with two racks even set up for touring. I should think they would be up to the job under most Ukrainian conditions except in the mountains, and one would not have to worry so much about theft and about getting one's own bicycle to and fro Ukraine. Furthermore, spare parts of eastern European origin are readily available everywhere and unbelievably cheap. The loads Ukrainians carry on their bicycles are impressive, no wonder the frames are so often distorted.


The longer I cycled in Ukraine the less stuff I realized I needed. Had I cycled in summer only, one pannier and a handlebar bag had sufficed. The Ukrainian summer is hot, especially along the Black Sea, so there is no need for warm clothes. It does not rain much either, so rain gear may also be omitted. Very little chothes are needed if they are washed nearly every day - ordinary Ukrainian hand soap works fine.


Little is printed about travelling in Ukraine - Lonely Planet probably being the most updated. There is nothing about cycling in Crimea or the Ukrainian part of the Carpathians, not even in Russian or Ukrainian tongue. Except on the internet I found nothing about bicycling in Ukraine, which seems to be in a kind of vacuum when it comes to information about tourism, and about bicycling in particular. A shame as it is such an interesting country.