Against all odds

I am writing this blog post from the comfort of the Hotel Panorama in Kremenets, meaning that thankfully, the mechanic saved the day. Having hooked up the car to a computer system which read the failure codes, it diagnosed it as a problem with fuel. The cheapest part to replace was the fuel filter and so we gave that a go, we had to wait 4 hours for the part to come and then it took no more than 10 minutes to change it, the car was firing on all cylinders by 1 pm and against all odds, it looked like we would be on our way.

Unfortunately, Sylwia was tied up with work and could not leave until after 4 pm, by the time we’d left the house it was almost 6 pm and 6 hours later than we’d have liked but better than nothing. The road to Lublin was terribly congested and slowed us down further. There were several places along the way where traffic was at a standstill. Traffic eased after Ryki but we still had to pull into a garage to change one of the headlamp bulbs and for an obligatory hotdog. We took money out of the Euronet machine in Chełm, opposite the McDonald’s just as you enter the town (best place to do it before the border) and rolled up at the border at about 11.30 pm.

Crossing the Dorohusk-Jagodin border

My understanding was that there were 3 lanes at the border, the lengthy truck one, the shorter but still lengthy one for Ukrainian passport holders and the EU queue, so I drove down the left lane passing all of the cars until I could go no further due to the presence of a border guard jeep. At this point,  I cut into the lane to the right of me which left me about 5-6 cars from the barrier. I’m not really sure if I did the right thing or inadvertently passed about 150 cars in a diplomat / Mafia style move. Sylwia suspects the latter.

The border guards allow a certain amount of cars through the barrier at once, maybe 10-15, the Ukrainians bunch up on the right and the EU passport holders / cars should make their way to the left. I’m not sure what came over me but I felt a strange attraction to one of the middle lanes and packed our car in there with cars on either side of me. After a few moments, I realised that the EU queue was on the far left and had to ask the driver to the left of me to let me out when the cars moved forward.

The EU queue was pretty small, maybe 5-6 cars at the most. First, there is a Polish custom officer who asks you where you’re going, takes your passports, checks the boot of the car and in some cases the engine as well. Having collected enough passports, the customs officer, gives the passports to a woman in a passport booth and then hands them back to you.

After passing that part, you then join another queue which leads up the hill and over an iron bridge, traffic nudges forward every 10 or so minutes. On the bridge, a Ukrainian officer will ask you to come forward and write down the registration of the number plate while you come towards him. I didn’t realise what he was doing and almost ran him over, unfortunate fellow. He then checked how many people were in the car, wrote it on the form and handed us the slip. We tried to photograph it but got told not to take photos, the one we do have is a bit blurred and probably not worth posting. There is yet another barrier and the queue turns around the corner, until at last, you are guided into a queue by a border guard with a torch. Keeping left throughout this procedure is a good idea.

Regardless of whether you’ve been moved to the queue on the left or right, you need to head to the passport office in the middle lane – you need to take all passports, the car documents and that little white slip of paper that was given to you on the bridge, which will then be stamped.

In our case, it was about 3.30 am, so our kids were fast asleep in the car, the border guard did not have a problem to come out to the car to look at them. After everything is sorted out at that office, you need to go to the customs office with the stamped slip of paper, car registration documents and the passports. If the car has not crossed the border before, they will enter the details into the system. The lady border guard did not seem to like me much, but Sylwia somehow bonded with her and managed to get a smile from her.

My name does not feature on the car documents as an owner and the border guard said Sylwia should drive, which at 4 AM she was not particularly keen on. After letting you through the barrier, you go forward a couple of metres and stop at the next stop sign, a border guard will come and take the slip of paper off you, that’s it, you are in. ‘Welcome to Ukraine. Happy Road.’

The petrol station on the right, straight after the border offers an exchange rate of about 6.2 UAH for 1 PLN, which is worse than the official mid-market rate but better than you’ll get in most places in Poland.

Motel Euro

Luckily our hotel was not very far from the border, a mere 16km away on the ‘Warszawska’ road (Dorohusk-Jagodin to Kiev road). The road was quiet and being a dual carriageway, it didn’t take long to get there. The only catch is that the hotel is on the opposite side of the dual carriageway from the direction we were heading. If you too, are coming from the border, then you need to go past all the petrol stations and then do a U-turn where there is a signpost for a road to the left. Motel Euro is illuminated at night and it has a long driveway that joins the dual carriageway.

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There is private parking which is watched over by a security guard. The night porter took passport details, payment and gave us the keys. It has a 24 hour reception and because of the border being close by, they seem used to people arriving at awkward hours. The rooms were clean, we had one with two single beds and one with a double bed. We had booked the rooms in advance on Booking.com, and they set us back 700 UAH (350 UAH per room) for the night. If I had one complaint, it was that one of the rooms smelt a bit smoky.

In the morning, we had breakfast in the bar / restaurant / reception. For 4 plates of scrambled eggs with sausage, bread, 3 coffees and 2 juices, we paid 200 UAH. Motel Euro is a good choice for a bit of shut-eye, a proper motel for those on the road. I say morning, it was almost midday, which is when we decided to hit the road again.

In our weary state we forgot to take any photos of the Motel Euro.

In the next post, I’ll cover our journey from the Motel Euro to Kremenets, sightseeing in Kremenets and Pochayiv and an abandoned fortress near Dubno, now home to the dangerous Sosnowsky’s hogweed. First I need to get acquainted with Robert Doms and some of his beers.

 

Glossary

hooked up – connected

to give something a go – to try it

firing on all cylinders – to be operating as powerfully as possible

against all odds – despite very low probability

tied up – busy

standstill – at a complete halt, stopped

inadvertently – unintentionally, accidentally

latter – the last option

to make your way – move to

what came over me – what affected me, made me do something

nudges – moves slowly

keeping left – stay to the left

keen on – enthusiastic about

catch – drawback, difficulty

set us back – cost

used to – accustomed to / familiar with

weary – tired

 

 

 

 

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