June 08, 2016, Moscow, Russia
As quickly as we made it from the outskirts of Kiev to Moscow, we managed in one day, so slowly did we move in between. We had only planned to stay in Moscow for 3 nights, and yet we have been here a week already. Partly due to the unfriendly nature of the Russian visa requirements, here we are degraded as a tourist to a mere “Input”, but more on that later.
First: Kiev. We were warned that it is no easy hitchhiking destination from Odessa, although it seemed straightforward enough on the map. But as we took turns waving our КИЕВ (Kiev) sign, smiling to the cars passing by and flashing the red and blue of our bright colored ponchos while walking up to people at a nearby petrol station with our best “privjet” (hi), we gave in to the rain and the temptation of a nice warm seat on a bus. It also got us in time to our next Couchsurfing address with Sonya and her fluffy (definitely not fat) cat Ted and her pet snail Isha. Not soon after, Jeroen was unsuccessfully running after Ted to get him to perform on video, while Linda was showering Isha on her hand in the sink. Ted was not amused by Jeroen’s frantics, but, as far as body language goes for snails, Isha was having an awesome time.
As did we. Kiev is a beautiful city and Sonya showed us some of it’s most beautiful places. After sharing a nice Warenyky meal (see our film section), we were on our way to the biggest country in the world: Russia!
The tip we got from hitchwiki.org was “Do not accept any rides to the city of Brovary, as there will be no useful spots to hitchhike along the road”. We felt confident we had communicated perfectly where we needed to go. Not soon after, we were dropped off in Brovary.
As the rain started coming down in buckets we decided to make the most out of it and find a cheap hotel. In this rather smallish city we felt we couldn’t possibly miss out on something. So like Isha, we decided to curl up in our little home and stay inside, which turned out to be so comfortable, that we decided to take things easy and stay two more nights. Lo and behold when we went for a walk on the third day, Brovary was putting Transnistria to shame in all it’s old Soviet glory, with wide streets, big arches, fighter plains in parks and a selection of battle tanks for children to play on.
But we were on our way to Russia, so to Russia we must go. With the help of Larissa and her husband and the incredible friendliness of Sascha to make a big detour for us and drive us all the way to the border, we seemed to have refound our speed again. Although the momentum was abruptly halted, when we got to the Russian side of the border portal. For no apparent reason we were left standing, melting like a slug in the blazing sun, until finally, we were allowed to enter the “Input” line for Russia. After the final necessary recitation of famous Dutch and German football players with the last border patrol, we had made it into the land of 11 time zones: Russia.
We quickly got back up to speed again when Andrew 1 and Andrew 2 picked us up, as they were on their way to where we wanted to go: Moscow! We don’t know how many of our nine lives we lost on that journey, but somehow we managed to come out alive. Andrew 2 told us: “don’t worry, this is Russian style of driving”, which made us wonder why we were the only ones overtaking others. Andrew 1, while overtaking someone on the right, reassured us; “I did a safety test for driving many years ago, I have a certificate”. Well, why don’t you just unfasten your seat belt, close your eyes and get some sleep, this man has got a certificate…
As we got off our hot tin roof, we refound our slower, more comfortable pace again and had a great time exploring the city of Moscow with Couchsurfer Fedor and his two little sisters. The sisters, around 9 and 14 years old, were pushed by their big brother to speak English with us, in full sentences. When we asked whether they liked cats, a simple yes or no was not cutting it. Fedor forced them to correctly repeat the question and to reply in whole sentences, “they may not like me now, but they will thank me for it later”. We think they enjoyed it quite a bit and as soon as both got over their initial shyness, they really got going. Our favorite one, was: “What is your hobby?” The nine year old: “I like old pre-revolution buildings… at night”.
And when we found out that the visa hassle back home and at the border was not good enough for good old Putin, we need to register in the first city we enter ánd in each city where we stay for more than 7 days, we decided to once again curl up in our little home and take it easy, while waiting for the necessary paper work to come through.