I have had very good experiences on Ukrainian buses. Granted I have only used one company on one route but I have travelled that route several times. The company in question is Autolux and they run a luxury service from Kiev to Odessa, in sleek modern buses with only 25 seats, all business class standard. Its fair to say they are excellent.
It was with this in mind that I was looking forward to our trip to Moldova. Wait, I hear you scream, why Moldova? Well, its simple really, the Ukrainian immigration service bears not even a passing resemblance to Ukrainian immigration law, and so all the information we had received in Tania’s home town of Izmail, was completely wrong in here in Odessa. Therefore, I needed to depart the country, or apply for political asylum, which to be honest, despite the lawlessness of the British streets, I was unlikely to get.
So on yet another beautiful sunny Odessan morning, we found ourselves at the bus station looking for the 8.20 to Chisinau. This was not difficult, it was by far the oldest, most decrepit vehicle in the station. My sharp observational skills deducted that it was formerly a German bus, based mainly on the fact that it still wore its original livery. I suspect that this particular style of livery had been long outdated at the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is appropriate because it felt like the seats had been made from bits of the wall. The advertised air conditioning was in fact a blower system so feeble that it would struggle to ripple a feather and the windscreen was not so much glass as a varied collection of dead bugs.
So with uncannily German time keeping, at exactly 8.20 we left the bus station and headed onto the Odessa – Kiev motorway. This man made marvel of three lane perfection lasted all of ten minutes before we turned off, onto the road to Moldova. Here the true state of the Ukrainian roads soon became apparent. Single carriageway, rutted, potted, and quite frankly fuck-ed. Rural Ukraine passed us by at an agonizingly slow pace, made more agonizing by the buses shock absorbers or shall I just call them shocks because they certainly did little absorbing. At one stage we passed a convoy of Ukrainian military vehicles, which ironically made me feel better. This was due mainly to the fact that the bus was actually a lot younger than the army trucks and also because we had not broken down. In fact of the convoy of around 15 trucks, 4 of them were on the roadside with the bonnets up. The invasion of Moldova on hold until someone could find the right sized Soviet spanner.
The sunny morning had predictably turned into a humid august day, the vent above my head was a little strange in that instead of a big hole blowing air, there was a big hole with loads of cardboard stuffed in it. Curiosity did not get the better of me, and while Tania wasn’t looking I directed her nozzle at my head. It made no difference at all. At this stage and with a certain amount of inevitability, the rather large Babuska in front of me decided to recline her seat. Now I am tall, and if I were female and blonde, I would be called leggy and these legs were now wedged dangerously close to one of my chins. Her husband tried to do the same in front of Tania but with all the authority of a sergeant major who had just found his wife in bed with the general, she shouted “Niet” The man in front froze for a second, before his seat slowly almost imperceptibly moved back upright. I swung my legs in front of Tania’s and a modicum of comfort was restored, at least for a while. After around 90 minutes, the bus started to slow down from its already sedate pace. We were approaching the border.
TO BE CONTINUED