[Original post by Elliot Mogerman – Transferred from yahoogroups.com]
Went to dinner at a Japanese restaurant. The staff was smiling and friendly, waiting at the door to help us. The food was wonderful, and the waitress spoke a little english and was very nice. We had every dessert on the menu at the end because the portions were very small. Kind of like the japanese p….. never mind. We think it was a chain owned by TGIF. The sushi chef was a white Russian, not the drink. I didn’t eat sushi because I promised to hold out for Japan. Someone did order a roll wrapped in egg, which is different.
That night, before we left Ukraine in the morning, we were convinced to go have a farewell beer with our fellow hostel roomies and the manager Vitali. First, we went to an underground club that wouldn’t let us in because Mike and I wore flip flops. This upset Vitali because the manager told him to bring tourists and business, we explained tourists do not always have the right clothes, they agreed it would be fine, and then turned us away at the door. So we went to this close by bar that was very eclectic. A fusion of Indian, Persian, Russian, Polish, and a few others. We enjoyed ourselves and returned to the hostel around 2am. Everyone went to bed except Vitali and me. We stayed up eating two different types of pickled tomatoes and a Ukrainian National food. This food is Pig Fat (head cheese) and i looked up how it’s made, thanks tamir. Yummy. It looks like a hunk of cheese. You cut it up similar to cheese and put it on bread like cheese.. Throw some salt and pepper on it and chow down. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. We woke up early and prepared ourselves for a 12 hour day of riding and border fun.
Ok, so trying to leave Ukraine was almost another hassle. They tried the declaration crap again on us and was about to start using the jail signal and Mike pulled out the phone and kept saying consulate. They let us go pretty quick.
Here’s where the fun begins. If you don’t read anything else, read this day from here. We arrived at the Russian border prepared for hours of fighting and negotiating, etc. The first station of passport verification, 5 minutes right through. The second station for bike declaration, they spoke English, smiled, warm, friendly and helped us with the paperwork. What is going on, this isn’t like Ukraine. Then third station, customs, uh oh this is where they get us. Wait, a really cool business man passing by after us came in and translated for us and 15 minutes later we were on our way to find a hotel in Russia for registration. Oh this gets better. So pleasantly surprised by the friendly attitudes of Russians we met so far, we went for gas. They didn’t speak English but everyone smiled and admired the bikes, Mike let an attendant sit on his for fun. Then the sun was setting and we are running out of time to find a hotel. We pull into a small town and couldn’t find a hotel. We were told we have to get a hotel to register our paperwork asap. Found a group of taxi drivers and they pointed one out across the street. The lady wouldn’t even look at us. So went back to the taxi drivers and the most intoxicated gentlemen wanted us to go to his house for food and sleep. Of course, no one spoke English in this town. We tried to solicit his help. So we thought there was an understanding he knew what we wanted, and he went into the hotel with no luck. Then he gets on my bike and says follow me. We end up at his house, after a muddy, dirty back alley ride through narrow paths behind buildings, and very reluctantly but our bikes in his garage. Then we drove to another “hotel” with a peep hole, locked door and a mail slot. They wanted our passports and paperwork to see what we wanted. The woman behind the locked door was screaming at the guy while he was trying to talk with her. We declined handing over our documents and he took us to the police station. Oh vey, now we are thinking they will find something wrong with our paperwork and lock us up. At least we would have a place to sleep. The cops finally tell him they can’t help and we end up back in the taxi driving through back dirt roads up to a house. Mike is like this is it, this is how it ends. A large man came out, the shirtless bear police chief for the town! We went to disturb him with our problem on his day off, hahaha. Anyway, he actually knew registration and told us we have 3 days to get it. With no place to stay for the night the drunk man takes us to a bar. We had a few beers and he was trying to convince us to go to a casino or strip club. We declined again and had to beg another taxi to take us to his house. They all had a good laugh. We get back to his house and his mother and wife wake and yell at him for bringing us over unannounced. Yelling back and forth for what seemed like forever poor grandma looks pissed and wasn’t having anything he was saying. They kept telling her to go back to sleep, we think. We tried saying we can go, give us the bikes and we will ride away. Then the wife turns to us and begs to follow. She gives us sandals and towels and takes us to an outside bath. Gives us soap turns on the hot water and they both stand there motioning to shower. We try to get out of it, but they were very persistent. So mike and shared our first personal moment sword fighting in these strangers shower while the drunk guy made sure we were ok, I think. Then she leads us to a room with a pull out bed and has it all ready for sleep. Actually, was a comfy bed except for the little miniature Doberman who liked jumping on us while we tried to sleep. First thing, at the roosters shreek at 4:30am we got up and breakfast was waiting for us. Fresh whole mike from Bessy, tea, bread, jame, fresh eggs, he even pulled out the pork slab, which we turned away. When finished with eating she blessed us with water and gave us two saint Alexanders for good luck. Then he gave us, I think, slippers he had when he was a boy, something sentimental to him, for us to remember them by. She went to tend to the farm, and he helped us out with our bikes. We were totally attacked by bugs overnight and both left with tons of bites. Then not more than 5 minutes away from town we were pulled over by the freeway police. As soon as we pulled up the cop inside the car probably said those were the two americanskis from last night and he smirked and just let us go as soon as we stopped to get off our bikes.
Wow, we survived our first Russian hospitality experience. Today, we are riding to Moscow. On the freeway it was like riding through snow with all the pollen in the air. There is a tree that looks like a big cotton tree letting all this pollen loose in the air. My head itched like crazy all morning and it sucks not being able to scratch it under the helmet. One town smelled like old cheese. There were two semi’s in an accident on the freeway, one flipped on the side and the other on top of the median. We fortunately missed most of a rain storm, the freeway was still wet and slippery and we could see the storm just open up not too far away. Plenty of waves and smiles on the road, and hope we find a hotel tonight for registration. The cop cars here are 7 series Bmw’s and audi a8l.. My gps is done for. It broke off a few days ago in some hard riding and won’t stay on even with our rubber bands tying it to the mounting bracket. Oh well. Also, we have stopped relying so much on them because it is about 5 miles off of mapping and makes it difficult to find our destination. Seemed to work well today, put us a few feet from the hostel we are staying at, which is huge and very nice, Godzilla Hostel. We liked the name so decided to check it out. The girls at the reception desk really enjoy our bikes and the idea of travelling like we are. They are very good at English and enjoy travelling also. Hopefully they will have the opportunity to do the same. And best of all, they registered our paperwork, hopefully, won’t get it until tomorrow.