Over breakfast at The Frontier Hotel I met the owner is a Maltese gentleman and who at the age of 19 bought a brand new MG Midget as his first car. He was thrilled to see Bridget and learn what we are doing, albeit he questioned the wisdom of visiting some locations.
We left the hotel at 08:30 and drove, without incident, the 500 metres to the border. The queue was not too long and in total it took less than an hour to negotiate Customs and Passport control for exiting Romania and entering The Ukraine. However, it took another twenty minutes to purchase a green card for Bridget. I had no local currency to pay for the card and the only ATM at the border was broken! Eventually, the broker and I came to an understanding, I only had 20€, so he would charge me 20€.
As we left the border the queue of cars and charity workers waiting to cross the other way was quite short. The queue of HGV’s stretched as far as the eye could see. I measured the total distance of parked lorries and it was 9.1 miles. The drivers at the back of that queue will have to wait probably two days to cross. I am amazed that the border hasn’t introduced a streamlined procedure temporarily to get these trucks rolling. They are desperately needed to get goods in and out without these kind of delays. To hell with the normal EU paperwork, check that they aren’t carrying drugs or illegals and get them moving.
Don’t anyone run away with the idea that I am brave and this tour has become dangerous. With sound advice I have been instructed that I can, with reasonable confidence, travel safely around this North-West corner of The Ukraine. I will not be allowed to wander deliberately, or otherwise, over to Kiev, the Eastern Donbas region, or south to Odessa.
Observing as much as possible whilst driving here and from walking around the town, life generally appears to be, what one assumes, is quite normal. We passed through one military checkpoint, but then passed two police radar traffic speed checks! There is little in the town to suggest that there is a crisis, except for some small hints. The windows of the main railway station are taped up to prevent glass shards flying in the event of an explosion. All the windows of the railway carriages are covered for the same reason as the station windows and when I took a photo of the sandbagged City Hall, I was quickly apprehended, in a very respectful way, and told that such photographs were ‘undesirable’.
Ivano-Frankivsk history is a mixture of Polish and Russian domination. The architecture of the major buildings is largely one or the other, the City Hall for instance in Polish architecture, many of the apartment blocks Russian, but there is an occasional building where there is a mixture of Polish and Austrian. Gives a little variety.
As with most Eastern Bloc countries there is a preponderance of parks with lots of statues. Most are busts of men who have performed great acts for the state, for which the state cannot reward financially, so they are awarded a medal and a bust in the park (so to speak). One such park by the name of the Valy (earth walls) Park has several figures, but by far the best known is the sculpture “Ascension of Jesus Christ”. As is so often the case that is not the sculpture I photographed, which is the one below that I found far more interesting. However, other than telling me what I had assumed, which is that it is the sun, nobody has been able to enlighten me further. Unless you know better, in which case please leave a comment telling us all and a donation to Save the Children!
The other park I visited, near the railway station is shown below, again. Clearly, the driver of this one had a little more to drink than was good, or the engines brakes were as bad as Bridget’s. The station is behind the engine.
Whilst in The Ukraine I will try to post an update post each evening.