From Gelati it’s just 10km to the Moldovan border. At times the road is quiet and flat, at other times it’s badly maintained and busy but I’m quite used to that now, so I gave the cars as much space as I could and made it to the border alive.
I skipped past a line of waiting cars, filmed a brightly coloured train moving some cargo and then rolled into Moldova with a new stamp in my passport and without much fuss.
The road through Moldova is easy and quite fun as it’s literally 1km of bad road next to Moldova’s only a port (and thus access to the open water of the Black Sea). The road passes straight across a pleasant peice of land with a nice view of the river and then delivers you to the border of Ukraine.
Crossing into Ukraine was a mini-adventure as they searched every single centimeter of every single bag I had, asked me about everything and chatted to me about what I do in Kyiv and how long I will stay in Ukraine etc. It was half interrogation and (I think) half a friendly chat by a bunch of bored customs officers who wanted to practice their English.
They did however pickup on the fact that I had previously driven into Ukraine and warned me that the car should leave before the 18th October of I will be fined 600 GBP. I collected my 101st Ukrainian passport stamp …and then I was back in UA.
A little tired from a night on the floor, cycling today was hard work as it was (again) insanely hot. In fact it was so hot it forced me off the road twice. Otherwise it was not the most spectacular of days. Ukraine is a much bigger place and this is immediately noticeable by the smaller number of villages and far greater distances between them. Also, there are very few peasants on carts and not much wild farm animals. It feels more organised, but I started to miss Romania which provides, in many ways, a much richer and diverse experience, not to mention more smiles.
Izmail is the first significant town in Ukraine with a large port on the Danube and it’s a nice, orderly place which seems relatively affluent compared to some Ukrainian towns. Kids were outside playing in their traditional school uniforms while many adults and teenagers were in small cafes dotted around the cities squares and boulevards. I’m not sure how much trade goes through Izmail or what kind of links the city has with Romania across the river, but my hotel was a modern and stylish place and along the waterfront in the evening I discovered many clubs, bars and restaurants which the cities residents were also enjoying. All-in-all it’s a nice town and I would visit again.
I was delighted to see Ukrop (dill) scattered all over my first meal (for those who don’t know Ukrainians put dill on EVERYTHING) and it was nice to be speaking basic Ukrainian again – even though the city is, like so many, almost exclusively Russian speaking.