Saturday, 22 October 2011

80 Slovakia and into the Ukraine

Friday 21st Oct.
After a short 15 minute drive through the first snows of winter, we arrived in Slovakia and back into the Euro zone.
It’s getting colder..
As usual with European borders, just a sign post telling you that you are entering another country.

The countryside was typically Eastern European.
We drive to our intended destination, Spissky, where they have a pretty spectacular castle, Spissky Hrad. We had intended to stay in a pension (B and B) that I had found on the internet but it was closed, or that is what I gathered from the surreal conversation with the owner over the phone. “Blah, Blah, Blah (in a Russian accent) and Bye Bye” in perfect English.
The castle from a distance.
We saw this in the grounds – What is it ? – Answers on a postcard please.
The inside of the castle was quite impressive once you had had a 5 minute rest from the climb.

The dining hall. Outside were the etiquette rules. No elbows, farting, spitting – the usual stuff. Karen seemed to think I should take a leaf out of their book. I was not sure what she meant ;-)
Another working chapel in a strange place.
Karen told me I should come in here and take my  a man

We left the castle and drove the 60 km to Slovakia’s second city, Kosice.
We saw this on the way in...Wohoo.
speaks for itself.

We booked into a hotel which by comparison was quite expensive, about £65 but as it was the last room the receptionist gave us the “Apartment” for the price on a normal room. It was huge and included 3 complete rooms.
Saturday 22nd Oct.
We had a quick look around Kosice which was typical of all the other eastern European cities but very nice never the less.

Then it was off to the Ukraine. Our first foray out of the EU. This was a different set of rules. Not just a sign post this time, a full set of border controls on both sides of the border.

I had been told by Ray that some Ukraine diplomats had been refused entry to the EU only yesterday and he said that things may have changed for us.  Apparently normally we would need to get a Visa on the border but now it was possible that we could be refused entry and so I decided to panic, well mildly anyway.  We got to the control and were stopped by the Slovakians first, they took our passports and also Leon's, then 3 feet further on, the Ukrainians took our passport and our vehicles passport (logbook), and we were pointed at a lot and then told to go to a side parking area.  I was all smiles on the outside, but inside I was thinking OMG.  After a short while we were let through the Slovakian border into The Ukraine and were promptly stopped again and our passports taken again.  We were asked a number of times what we were doing and tried our best to explain we were travelling.  They have two good words in English and they are "AAH TOURIST". At this they all looked at each other giving us the impression that we were a rarity and did not quite know what to do with us. I was aware that the norm for tourists is to be invited into the country by the hotel of intended stay. We did not fit that mould at all.  We were then made to park up again and we sat for about 20 minutes watching everyone else go through.  (I have to say I thought that Norway had caught up with us and we were party to several outstanding speeding fines...). However, we were in fact quite a bit of a phenomenon and the boss of the KGB, sorry customs, wanted to see us for himself.  He was quite taken with Gromit and Leon, and I have to say I did use the " I was a police officer in London" card, which changed everything.  We had the obligatory search, but we think is was more for curiosity than for contraband. They were blown away by the tent on the roof and could not believe that we slept up there. I was asked if I had any drugs, guns or explosives and before I had chance to think I just laughed and said no. In the meantime Karen was fretting over the fact that they were looking straight into the back of Gromit and there was an axe laid on the floor. In the end I think we brightened their otherwise boring day and they were all smiles. Before long we were getting advice on where to visit, to watch our valuables and don't stop for anyone other than the Police.  He gave us our passport stamp and sent us 300 meters up the road, where we were stopped again, and charged 20 euro's for the privilege of finally being in The Ukraine.  The first thing we saw was this.

and this which looked like a disney castle

After a short drive round, and me waiting for us to be stopped, we found a hotel.  I can only describe it from the outside as Hendon Police college buildings, with a balcony. Inside we stepped into another world of drunken Ukrainians, weddings and our room which was classed as elite, with new furniture, was like stepping back into the 70's, but it was great.  On the whole, this has been a marvellous experience.  We went out for dinner and we didn't speak Ukrainian or Hungarian, the land lady didn't speak, English, German or Spanish, so we all mimed and spoke Italian and probably we had the best meal we have had in a long while. Steak and chips smothered in garlic with a salad starter. It all came to
158 Ukrainian Hryvnia's (we call them Huffs - don't ask why) of which we only had 120. We had no idea how many there to the pound so I had to sneak out and go to a bank (again)  only to find my card refused and the explanation being in Ukrainian. Eventually I found one, got some more beer tokens and paid the bill. We later found that there were 12.7 huffs to the pound meaning that the meal cost us a whole £12.40. 
Whilst trying to write this post in the bar we were accosted by more Ukrainian drunks than we really wanted but despite being drunk they were very friendly and did their best to speak English. "Darling" and "Beautiful" being the most used words !
The view from our balcony, the wooden hut, centre right, was our tasty restaurant.

This was our modern room with "New furniture" and up to date TV

And this is what the Ukranians (and Ray) watch.

1 comment:

  1. In the fountain pic dad looks like he has a wig on lol think its coz the water and his hair are the same colour lol Love you ;-)