Odessa II – Trip from Berlin to Odessa

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Let’s start with my mother: First of all it happens differently, in the second place than one thinks.
After Pico diligently packed the car for 2 hours on Thursday evening, I only had to quickly take care of a few things on Friday. A few phone calls, bring away something, pick up something, pack the last odds and ends in order to get away. And pack up the computer stuff. Sounded good. Be home at 5p.m. in order to leave at 8p.m. I was at home at 7p.m. After my last visit to Streif. I had hardly come upstairs when I felt some air pressure. Not heat but pressure. Arrived upstairs, showered and first a break. Off to bed, only to lay down and rest. Slept 4 hours, then began to pack up minor stuff. Maybe these should be packed first. But no one ever does this. This takes an amazing amount of time. Then go downstairs 3 times and completely sapped again. It was the day when it was still 30°C at 10 p.m. So a shower and off into the rattrap and then it was already 2 a.m. Until 10 a.m. In the morning on Saturday, the first day of my rental contract for the apartment. So, again carry something down twice. In the courtyard completely hot and sticky. Immediately got broadsided. A break at every landing during the second trip upstairs.

The bike has to come too!


Let’s go. – I figured it out with the selfies too.










Ah, should I call Pico after all? But he’s probably still sleeping and I’ll be ready by the time he gets here. Also nothing more to eat upstairs and no coffee, no coffeepot. Everything packed in the car already. The freezer packs already being used now for probably 14 hours. So drink water like dear livestock, also a saying from my mother. After being upstairs a second time, what now? No driving in the atmosphere outside. “Race onward on the German and Polish highways during the night on Saturday, no trucks etc., then you’ll be in the Ukraine in the early morning and can drive on the Ukrainian route in the daylight, no doubt protecting tires and rims and Thomas” – said an inner voice in me. Ok, that’s fine. Shower and off to a round of sleep. – I wish I could get money for sleeping. Then I’d be a millionaire.

The last Berlin Schrippe (roll) for weeks.

The last Berlin Schrippe (roll) for weeks.


One more cup of coffee and I go… not into the valley, to the Ukraine.

So at 6p.m. the last time going downstairs again but shop a bit more and at least eat a Schrippe roll and drink a coffee. – Instagram users know more.
But I had 3 envelopes to send away and no stamps. Two DHL shops: “no more stamps.” And the automated machine at the post only takes exact change and I only have 10 Euros. What should I do with 6 Euros worth of stamps…. Called Uncle Streif. Isn’t there a DHL shop near you? Yes, Perleberger, or come to me. Perleberger, a parking spot right in front. 8:02p.m. in the meantime. “Stamps, sorry. We’re closing right now.” (Why do people in such situations always say “I’m sorry”?.Of course they don’t care and are definitely not sorry.)

So off to Streif. The was even yet another Benzion Wittler LP lying there for me. Has to be cleaned first before Andres gets it. Streif is taking care of it. I can leave. Thanks so much. Finally. 8:30p.m. Only 2 days late – one could say. Everything came together at once during this departure and it’s actually months. But note that I just can’t fly (am too fat for it anyway), or use the bus or train. Since I drove to Russia … ago? Lilija helped. When was I the first time with the car in Russia? Christmas 2005? Or something like that (Yes approximately then, Lilija). In any case one winter. At the time it had to do with the route and not flying. It’s now different. I want to get away when I’m ready to do so. Me. Not a schedule, not sitting in an airport and chugging overpriced water. Just me. It works too. I’m only responsible for myself. In principle almost. It was most tight in 2012, when I first arrived in Petersburg on the 30th of December. “If he first arrives on the 31st, I wont wrap his presents”, a quote from Katja. Clearly, I did have to be punctual based on that.
Now it’s slightly different. Pico was in the hospital, my ailment, the heat, the company. One can always add something. Kiro uttered the most important sentence: “Thomas, if you don’t leave now, you’ll never leave”. It’s actually not possible. I’m not satisfied with the restructuring. We want to make completed products, we want … There’s always something. So, start now! But complete some things and don’t leave everything lying around. I have to. The Prussian in me. Lilija’s return flight was first on the 11th of August. There wasn’t enough time for me to leave on the 13th.

As already written, it was supposed to be 3 months but only 2 are booked. Okay that fits. It’s somewhat calmer for me. Because on the 13th of November Salt & Pepper is throwing its 1st concert, Henry de Winter in Arminius Markthalle in Moabit 21, On 13th November. 8 or 9 p.m. I don’t know yet. And if I’m in Odessa then, also bad.

So through the city. On the highway 2 tunnels in both directions are being repaired so there’s always a traffic jam. Pass by Adlergestell at the Eisern-Union gas station and onto the highway. Hard to believe that I passed by my favorite sleeping spot without stopping (Because Lilija, who also always sleeps, wasn’t there?) and up to above the Neiße, without stopping, but immediately get gas in Poland. Somewhat expensive to get gas right after the border, 50 cents but better a full tank than to come to a standstill. Next stop for gas 50 km after the Polish border. But it’s really cheap there then; 1.79 zloty for gas or 44 cents. And in between a stop at my favorite parking lot, the one with 16 handicapped parking spaces next to each other in front of a toilet hut with only one respective handicapped toilet for men and one for women. But my camera is a bridge camera and doesn’t do wide angles so I couldn’t recapture the the funny impression this made on me. Maybe someone with such a camera will ride with me once? Off to the border. Of all things, a silly German with his Ukrainian spouse, driving for the first time in their joint life together across the border. Patience. Yes, I have it. There are only a few cars and I’m sitting in the sun. As a preventive measure I bought transparent boxes with covers from Ikea. And with closures that always open. It’s supposed to be sensible that I don’t have to unpack everything when the customs police want something. They can just look in. (Of course 3 packs of beer and a bottle of Feigling schnapps for emergencies.)


The Ukraine

Those bums. It went really fast, Poles, Ukrainians. I was done in 30 minutes. Not even a glance at my super boxes.
Also good. Keep beer and schnapps. And through. It was already 9 in the morning. The sun was already blazing.
Lilija had told me there’s a claim that the right sector had started setting up roadblocks/ controls along the route from the border to Kiev. I didn’t see that. A sad soldier stood at the border with a collection box for supporting the Ukrainian Army. It’s about 70km to Lviv, Lemberg. There was nothing there. Other than newly painted blue-yellow. Everything possible. Bus stops, crowd barriers, bridge railings. And the flags also, many in front yards. More than I had noticed in the spring.



Blue, yellow, blue, yellow, blue, yellow, blue, yellow, blue, yellow, blue, yellow

In Lemberg there was the now familiar traffic chaos, which I would miss if it didn’t exist. And then? Yes you know, or do you? You drive straight ahead, see a street to the left and think: Shit, that’s where I should have been? And the street where you’re driving is (a) completely filled, (b) a one-way street (c) has 4 trams and 15 buses in front of you and (d) all of Lemberg’s autos are trying to enter from adjacent streets directly in front of your car. Ok,you know it. Except that I drove on the outside of the old town, which is completely closed to traffic, drive not even quickly 3 times to the right and was at the right spot again, which of course everyone knows. After 20 minutes I was around once and could make a left turn. Now the point was if I could find the exit to Ternopil. Why now? Why should it be any different than it usually is. But for it to be painful: One lane on the semi-highway was closed, and traffic lights, like those in Petersburg: not automatic. Instead, a police officer presses a button when he feels like it. In this case, he didn’t feel like it. Another 20 minutes until it was our side’s turn. I was the last one to get through as the signal turned red. I could have cared less. The street signs showed that I passed the exit yet again. But such a situation doesn’t allow for a turn especially because I was not the last one. In fact there were cars that drove through the red light for 8 solid minutes. I was at a gas station in eyeshot of the other traffic light. As soon as the first car drove off, I hit the gas like a Le Mans driver. So back again and found the exit. Now nothing could happen. But again 40 minutes lost. It’s already 1 hour and it was getting warmer and warmer. Found all other routes, through Ternopil, also found everything. And onward to Khmelnytski. There were a few very unpleasant memories from the last time. Strict 40km speed limit, every 2 minutes: “Is the light on?“ At all traffic lights, full braking on yellow. All good and I actually got through, saw no police. I counted 12 controls in all between Lemberg and Uman. I stopped and slept twice in Poland. Now I wasn’t sleepy, also not hungry. Although I had less to eat with me than usual, there was still a lot left. I had eaten tomatoes, grapes and cucumbers. Light stuff, lots of water and ice tea like a bottomless pit. So onward to Vinnytsia. Through the sun. Everything is green, light of heart, to be finally on the road. The world looks different than it did in the spring; everything beautiful everywhere and all the people festively dressed on their way to church…. Olga said call me, when you’re an hour away from Odessa. Where should that be? But first Vinnytsia and then yet another 220 km to Uman to the highway to Odessa (from there another 260 km). But how late can I still call my landlady Olga?… Off to Uman. But it was already 7:30 p.m., then 8p.m. and then at 8:30/45p.m. it was suddenly pitch black. And that on a shitty route with dacha returnees and the first trucks again since 5p.m.. Peep – gas is empty. I get to one of the WOC gas stations. Where is there gas? We have no gas. Me: can’t be. There’s a huge advertising column with: Gaz LPG 8.98 UAH. He looks at the column as if someone had just quickly put it there. True, it says that but we don’t have any. (without commentary). Sends me to Nur-Gaz diagonally opposite. But I wouldn’t have stopped there even during the daytime. I only get brand name gas in socialist counties abroad as taught to me by Lilija. And in this creepy hole, nooo. So filled up E 10 0.90 cents. Pricey stuff. And droned on. After an eternity, Uman. Passed a gas station with gas for 8.48. Fool. Onto the highway. Stopped at Socar, a large, new chain. Good food, many salads, everything so extremely clean it hurts. Someone runs around cleaning all the time like at MacDoof. But the toilets are also good. Heart, what more do you want. Yes, there is gas. So, what now. Foolish me looks at my auto clock instead of my telephone, that always thinks along. I’m now an hour earlier in the Ukraine. Now it’s not 10p.m. in Uman, it’s 11p.m. Ok, don’t want to drive more during the night. Sleep and be in Odessa, tomorrow Monday. See some of the landscape before I arrive. Text Olga. Answer is that it’s all ok. Good. First check emails etc. The WiFi reception is strong here. Then a break for eating. Then sleep. Then get gas, drink coffee and continue driving. That’s a plan! At midnight change in cashier. The entire system is switched off. My sandwich which became a wrap, salad – wait 20 minutes. But the 1st bottle of kwas during the trip, my favorite Ukrainian kwas. Until now, today Monday, saw 3 new types, all tested. Semi-dark parking space. And sleepy time.
Stop, not so fast:
Side note: Thomas sleeping in the car

10/20 minutes, in front with glasses and without Hörnchen.
30 minutes to 1 hour, in front without glasses, with Hörnchen.
1 to 8 hours. In the rear, 3rd row on the right, where I can stretch my legs. No glasses, no shoes, with Hörnchen, open belt, with extra pillow and soft blanket (in winter aluminum foil mat below me under the seat so the cold from underneath doesn’t move upward and there’s no draft. The pants stay closed and I have the coat on. In the Golf it was once so cold, – 25 outside, that I was awakened by my cold nose when the motor was running. So cap pulled up to my chin. Yes, gloves were on anyway, scarf on, yes the entire program).
The system has proven itself. I don’t sleep too long at the wrong time and if it should be a long time, I avoid too little sleep.
– Sleeping while the motor is running is something I learned in Russia. As someone raised politically correct, I shut off the motor initially. Then my nose became very cold very quickly. And the lower back and the legs and the arm…
So and now to the very top. I only needed to plan and then I look for stops en route and sleep in a hotel with a shower mornings and evenings and then I don’t smell like an orangutan when I arrive in Petersburg and probably slept better than in the car. My mother said one can’t have everything. Either just simply drive off or plan. I’l find compromise for the next trip. The idea was one day Berlin – Lemberg, sleep in a hotel, then Lemberg – Odessa. Or arrive in Lemberg and stay 2 days, also an option. Pressure is entirely gone and a good break. Should be possible in principle.
Midnight to 3:45 a.m. Slept but in the front without glasses, with H, but without shoes. Because the seat isn’t there. My bike is there (Instagram viewers know more.)
Last part of the plan: gas and coffee: No gas. What, no gas? There’s the column. Yes, but broken. Worked 4 hours ago. Yes. Not now. And gas? No. – The gas station is as large as a soccer field and nothing works?- Ok, you can have coffee. Onto the highway. In 5km Okko, new chain, yes there is a gas column. I park there. A guy comes over – it would be too much to explain various gas sales methods from Germany to Russia right now but this much: in PL, UA, Lit, Let and Rus, the customer is always serviced and is not allowed to fill the tank on their own. The guy sidles over. I put on the filler neck. Yes, sorry, gas is not working. Me, they want to toy with me. 3 km further they had gas. So off to them. My gas signal was on red again. Ok, the gas station was the type “rather not”. But what should I do. I park there. Nothing moves. Honk, it’s possible that a T 4 long version is overseen. Nothing. I go to the cashier building. The guy looks me over, me annoyed: Gas. Nah. None now.
Of course. It was the night watchman who was alone and wasn’t allowed to leave his hut. Fuel yes, because one could get that on their own, but not gas. Looking directly at a highway. One can’t imagine such a thing on a German highway, 4 gas stations in 10 km.
Then I cleaned my window. They didn’t have gas anyway and it was otherwise closed.
What now? As a rule, this highway has two gas stations from a chain located directly opposite one another. And one can make a turn at the gas stations and there’s also a crosswalk. So I thought drive back and if you have to, go to the exit in Uman. I always wanted to make a turn on the highway. Only not in complete darkness. But it worked. There is a loop. One drives straight ahead or straight through for the other drivers, gets into the loop and is then in a kind of parking lot exit. Everyone should get the chance to do it.
The related Okko gas station had gas for 9.09, 10 kopijok more expensive but still only 38 cents (10 kopijok are €0.0041).
Now here’s more on the beloved series about intercultural communication.

Russians getting gas:
I’ve experienced it all often enough to the point of being annoyed and til the cows come home. This damned hard headedness is the worst of it.
So the Russian gets gas. He drives to a gas station, opens the tank, sticks the nozzle in, sets the gage to „scharf“, and then … nothing happens. Because he first has to go to the cashier and say: 1000 rubles, 20 l, etc. then he pays, and then the mama presses the button, lets the gas flow and our pal waddles back to his car which has been filled with gas in the meantime, after 20l it turns off automatically. Lilija and I once spent some time at a Finnish gas station. The guy there was always very nervous when Russians got gas. They come into the store and say 20€, give him the money and go back outside and he always follows them. Because in the “West” the spigot doesn’t turn off and the Russians are not bothered if more comes out. If a Thomas comes to a gas station in Russia. Says full please. Not possible. Not foreseen. At “my” gas station in SPB e.g. I can pay with a card a can “fill er up” but for whatever reason, not after 9p.m. Then I have to specify the amount I want. I think now, good, it’s empty, that’s 140l. But with gas it’s different than with fuel. It stretches and contracts more. So only 130l fit. I paid for 140 and get credit for 10l to be applied to the next bill. Only it always happens on the last day when I want to return to Berlin. No one really believes that 3 months later, I’ll get something else again or even find the piece of paper.
Back. Yes they have gas but I have to pay first. And now yet again what makes me most upset on these trips, even saddens to the point of screaming out loud. It’s the young people standing at the border or even in stores, silly geese but super arrogant and nothing, English, German or something else. Truly dumb Socialism. Poland is the exception. That never happened to me there.

I enter the store. No customers. 5 young people who belong to the chain. I say to the girl who moves away from the group in Russian: I speak no Russian and no Ukrainian. Gas, full please, and offer my Visa card. Full, shakes her head and addresses me in Ukrainian. I do blah blah again but I speak German or English. And that’s it. They don’t speak them. Block completely. Set on getting through. The young people, not the old people, who may still know a few German words from school. Result after what seems like 15 minutes: “How much” am I supposed to say or “wieviel” griwna.
I say 100l, But in Russian and English and because I’m in a good mood and think what’s the name of today’s film again?, also in German. If they understood that. Yes, ok. Type, type, card returned, walk to the car, it’s ready. Me: can’t be, 100l gas is 5/8 more like 10 minutes, Look at the gas pump. She put in 100 griwna. (4€). I return angry. A guy screws everything on again. Another one at the cash register in the meantime, the oldest one. About 30 years old. Looks at me astonished. I say she didn’t enter “sto”l, but “sto” griwna instead. All below except me. 100L doesnt work at all says the older one. A customer next to me asks if I mean 100l. Yes, I mean that. If I had such a large tank……
– As an aside. I once filled 145l in Poland. The guy filling up called everyone over including his pals who were there! That never happened. They’d never experienced that 145l fits in a tank!
A completely relaxed Thomas declares: each 100l, and it’s his car anyway and he knows what he’s doing. He translated. The woman entered the 100l and the rest of trip in finally ensured.

Since I had to check what the sub-group to the griwna currency is called, namely kopijok, I also read that this money was called rus griwna during the Kiew era.

So, now in the right direction again. Turning around on the highway! And onward. Two short naps for 10 mins. And at 7:30 a.m. I was 150 km from Odessa.


7:30a.m. on the highway to Odessa

This highway trip is really beautiful. The highway is sort of on a ridge; not very high, 150 – 200 m maybe but such that one can look far into the landscape on the right and left sides. So it was the right thing for me to sleep in Uman first. And now with the early sun and empty highway as a reward, I’m happy. The sun rose slowly at 5a.m.
There are huge fields as far as the eye can see. Grain and especially sunflowers. And Lilija loves sunflowers and now she isn’t even there. Well, her own fault. I stopped counting at 5 billion sunflowers. More than once I saw someone standing at the edge of the highway, waiting to be picked up by a car. But just in the middle of the countryside, highway, person, field. No street, no path, nothing to see. How did they get there? They didn’t fall from the sky. Maybe someone left them there. Why there? The car has to continue straight ahead also. Why doesn’t he continue on with them? Why in the middle of the route and not at an exit? But there’s something else: Piles of melons are set up and sold directly at the highway, Watermelons and honeydew melons. The honeydew melons are not as shimmery yellow as they are in the supermarket and would be inferior produce at the most due to their appearance. But they look like that at the market in Odessa also. And no one cares. People stop and buy melons on the highway. Not at parking lots or bus stops. (Which have a latrine by the way. Two of course. Men and women take dumps separately on the highway). Pity that there are trash cans there and they tend to be over filled and all of it flies through the neighborhood. Did I already mention the pedestrians and cyclists? I also saw a tractor. You can read that it was a relaxed drive that morning, the goal almost in front of me. Right before Odessa, I expected the barricade again. But it wasn’t there. Dismantled; I saw some remains. The war is over here. – 2 days later Lilija and I will see an exhibit with war photos and a collection campaign during a walk on the promenade. I’ll take extra photos of it. – During the spring I drove around unfocused until I reached my destination. This time everything worked. The streets were in my head. I think the old town, the chessboard is in my head. To my destination without error: Onward, upward, with briefcase and breakfast (Mother Birr).
Arrived, showered and off to bed for 5 hours. Met landlady, emptied the car a bit, changed money, did a little shopping. And began to write.
That was the day. That was the trip.


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