Adventure Travel

Ukrainian Road Trip

Strangers become friends on a group trip through the Ukraine.

Tags : adventure beach buddies hiking historical shopping

It's mid-July in the danger zone of Chernobyl, Ukraine. The geiger counter is beeping rapidly, as Greg and Kevin explore the ghost town of Pripyat.

Beneath a dilapidated twenty-year old ferris wheel which has never been used, the boys decided that Ukraine should be a place discovered overland by car. They returned to the hostel, where they had met only twelve hours ago, and recruited two others, Leo, a Swedish traveler on his own, and Mariana, one of the employees of the hostel who had yet to explore the other side of Ukraine. There, in the hostel-apartment in Kiev, the newly formed group of four decided to rent a car and drive from Kiev to Crimea.

The Crimean adventure began with two full days of driving, through Odessa and ultimately Sevastopol, where the four new friends, strangers just hours ago, discovered the beauty of the Black Sea at night. Armed with some bread, cheese, beer, and a watermelon, the four have a picnic in the dark of the night on their first Crimean beach.

The next day brings the crew to Yalta, the famous Crimean resort town perhaps best known for the congregation of Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill towards the end of the Second World War. Leo is on a quest to find speedos, such that he might fit in with the locals. Darting through the tourist stands and small shops, he finally finds the perfect suit - shiny, blue, and just a touch too small. With such effort, it only seemed natural for the three boys to partake, and the rest of the Yaltan afternoon was spent in speedos. Given that the boys were wearing speedos and that they were all tourists, it seemed only natural to take advantage of the many tourist photo stands and take some pictures wearing leather jackets and helmets with their speedos, atop a massive motorcycle.

The rest of the day was spent visiting Europe's tallest waterfall (which was not currently running), and making a six kilometer mountainside hike to the Swallow's Nest, Ukraine's first "tourist trap." After a day full of fun and excitement, the boys returned home to work with Mariana on her new resume, in preparation for her job interview in two days.

The last day of this Ukrainian road trip was spent exploring more of Crimea. In the morning the crew ventured to Balaclava, a seaside town wrought with underwater submarine factories and fortress ruins. A two kilometer coastal mountainside hike led the four to a secluded beach, where they swam with jellyfish and dived off rocks into the sea. They hopped on a boat back to the harbor; with dried fish swinging from the mast in the background, Greg shared beers with the captain, and Kevin and Leo convinced him to let them steer a bit back to shore.

Following the seaside jaunt in Balaclava, the crew drove up through inland Crimea to explore the cave cities and monasteries and enjoy an authentic Crimean Tatar dinner. At 10pm, the gang loaded into the car and began their eleven hour drive back to Kiev, just in time for Mariana's interview and the boys' flights home.

From complete strangers to incredible friends, Greg, Kevin, Leo, and Mariana had the chance to see Ukraine as few tourists have, exploring a new culture and a new countryside, brought together by a weekend of adventure in a Ford Focus rental car with blaring Russian pop music.

  • When driving in Ukraine on two-way highways, flashing brights are not aggressive, rather your fellow drivers are warning you that policemen are ahead!
  • If you're traveling through Ukraine, learn to read Cyrillic, and maps and streetnames will be much easier to handle.
  • If you're a foreigner driving through Ukraine, try not to get pulled over for speeding or anything else (cops lurk by gas stations on the highway), but if you do, as much as I hate to say it, you might want to prepare with a little cash on the side.

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