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14th October

Since late 2013 and the start of the Ukrainian revolution, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been fighting to save their country from the corrupt, criminal, psychopathic and violent. Many thousands have died and countless more have been injured or left without husbands, wives, lovers, friends and children. These Ukrainians (and a few brave foreigners) fought so that people like me can sit in Kyiv drinking coffee and talking about travel apps, so that Podil’s hipsters can ride around on their bikes talking about tattoos, and so the noisy kids in the school next to our office inherit a country that is both freer, safer and more prosperous than the Ukraine of the past 20 years.

Perhaps, as a result of their fight, a future me wont sit here in Kyiv feeling sad that so many of his favourite Ukrainians are abroad. Perhaps a future Ukrainian will be able to live, work, travel and study with the ease that we can in ‘the west’. Perhaps the gap that exists between Ukraine’s obscenely rich and nefarious and the tragically poor will be reduced by enough to provide basic support and shelter for those who currently have no access to effective healthcare or social support.

Perhaps or perhaps not, but as today is ‘Defenders day‘ – here’s to everyone who fought and continues to fight for a better Ukraine.

Enjoy your day-off and Slava Ukraini!

Done

On 6 September 2015 I arrived in Odessa 2100km after leaving Budapest a month earlier.

Along the way, there were:
27 sunny days (+ 1 rainy day)
7 countries
1 puncture
3 million lemonades
2 tired legs

It was hard work but a lot of fun and cycling was a great way to travel but also soak-up some of the atmosphere of life along the Danube which is, for a river, ridiculously long.

Here’s the final selfie as proof

Odessa selfie - 6th September 2015.

Odessa selfie – 6th September 2015.

One day in the future i’ll post the videos too, but for now its back to the real world and back to work…

Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 27. Resting in Zatoka

 
I once asked Dylan, the Enhlish guy I met at the start of my trip, what it was like to go running after riding 5,000km around the UK. “Its weird” he said. You’re heart and lungs are ok but youe legs feel really strange. It kinda made sense and today I discovered that the same is true for walking. I decided to explore Zatoka by foot and had to give up because I was walking like a freak. I have actually forgotten how to walk like I used to walk or perhaps I’d developed muscles in cycling places and this was interfering but whatever the reason – it was weird. Dylan was correct.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 26. Tartarbunary to Zatoka

 
With little to no chance of getting a breakfast at the hotel in Tartarbunary, I packed my stuff and was on the road early today. Yesterday had been slow and hard work in the afternoon heat, so I decided to get going early. My legs were stiff (I assume because of the previous 1,900km as much as the headwinds from yesterday) but with the end in sight I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

I threw the stuff on the bike and was drinking a cheap Nescafe in a cheap plastic cup on the edge of town 10 minutes later.

After leaving Hungary, the shops are all basically the same. The name and languages change but the format is consistent. They are small, dark rooms stuffed full of plastic-wrapped and brightly coloured products. There are always 2-3 fridges, one or two for beers and one for soft-drinks. There’s always bread, sometimes fruit and veg and usually a glass counter/fridge with salami, yogurt and dairy products.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 25. Izmail to Tartarbunary

 
Breakfast this morning was the most disappointing yet. Without providing a menu, a presumably-new waitress, who was being shadowed by a less-than-helpful guy asked what I wanted to eat and then shrugged when I asked what they had. So, I asked for an omelet (everywhere has omelettes) a coffee and an orange juice. Each arrived at different times and the omelet was stingy to say the least, perhaps two eggs and no filling.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 25. Izmail to Tartarbunary

 
Breakfast this morning was the most disappointing yet. Without providing a menu, a presumably-new waitress, who was being shadowed by a less-than-helpful guy asked what I wanted to eat and then shrugged when I asked what they had. So, I asked for an omelet (everywhere has omelettes) a coffee and an orange juice. Each arrived at different times and the omelet was stingy to say the least, perhaps two eggs and no filling.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 24. Gelati to Izmail.

 
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.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 23. Turcoaia to Gelati

 
Waking up by the river was beautiful made a refreshing change from waking up in a hotel room that smelled on my sweaty shoes and damp clothes. It also meant that we were up, fed and on the road early.

The only downsides were a) I was still smelly and covered in sun-cream from yesterday and b) we all needed to use a ‘real’ toilet.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 22. Cernavoda to Turcoaia

 
Having sweated my way up and over many East European hills in the company of two French and now two German speakers, I learnt that all three languages (English, French and German) all use the same idiom “to sweat like a pig” and none of us know why.

One explanation is offered here and suggests the word pig refers to pig iron but this doesn’t explain why the french and German expression uses the word swine not pig.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 21. Silistra to Chernovoda

 
Leaving later than expected (now a common problem), today was to be the first day of cycling alone and was perhaps to be the start of a long and lonely week on the road. I set of relatively early and crossed the border into Romania on the edge of the city. I was happy to be back in Romania. Bulgaria is nice enough and I had a wonderful time there but Romania is, in many ways, more colourful and entertaining. It’s also supposed to be flatter although the first hill I hit at 10:00am destroyed that myth.

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