I am visiting a city that I have not found any trip reports on, Berdyansk, Ukraine. It is located on the sea of Azov in between Melitopol and Mariopol. I am going down to join my fiancée for a few days and then we will go to Kiev for her K-1 interview and spend some more time in Kiev.
I have not been able to find a lot of information on Berdyansk. Not a great tourist destination for Westerners. But having talked about the city with N through 2 summers now, I know its beaches are a destination for many Ukrainians and Russians during the summer. This is evident also by the train schedule there. The train from Kiev runs every day in June-Aug. Then in Sept. it changes to every other day, then stops until next summer. I am catching the next to last train for this year.
The flights to Kiev were as usual uneventful. Leaving my home at 4:30 AM Mon. California time, I was prepared for the long trip. As usual I arrived at Ontario airport with a lot of time to spare. Although, when I arrived a check-in I did receive a surprise. The luggage allowance had been lowered at the beginning of September and I did not check the weight of my bag… I was 10 lbs over the limit. The clerk offered to give me a box to lower the weight and shuffle things around. I decided to go ahead and pay the $25.00 charge. My actual bag was inside of a bigger bag that I was bringing to my fiancée for her use when she comes to the US. It would have been real easy to split the bags up but I had visions of me in the Kiev airport trying to get them all to fit together again in preparations of catching the train. Not a pretty mental image.
On the flights I didn’t get a lot of sleep but this didn’t matter too much. I still had the train trip ahead and I figured it would be better to sleep that time away then sit with little to do. On the flight across the Atlantic I did remember a couple things I forgot. I was so preoccupied with bringing all the documents for the visa interview; I didn’t include my tour guide of Kiev and my Russian phrase book. The tour guide didn’t matter too much as we weren’t going to many sites, I just like to have good maps of the towns I visit. The phrase book I was concerned that I forgot. I have only needed it once on my trips but this time I thought I would need it on the train. So, while in Amsterdam, I checked the shops there looking to buy a new one. They had a large selection of phrase books (some very strange), but none in Russian. Gosh, doesn’t everyone visit Russian speaking countries?
Arriving in Kiev at 3:00 PM Tues. local time I made it through passport control relatively quickly. I noticed that the visa I had from my previous trip had expired but with the new no visa rules, that was no problem. I proceeded to the customs area where my bag was waiting after I filled in the Customs declaration form. When I got to the customs inspection area, there were neither lines nor any travelers there. I presented to the officer my form, who asked about any gifts I had and was waved through. Then, I had a rather unique experience. The officer took a few moments to explain to me that I didn’t need to do the declaration form if I had nothing to declare. Wow, what a surprise, an officer that was actually helpful without being asked.
After leaving the customs area I was greeted in the waiting area by my taxi driver as planned. I use Pavel’s assistance when I go to Kiev but this trip had some bad timing. I was arriving on a day that he was on vacation. So, he took care of my train ticket and arranged for my taxi to the train station who had the train ticket with him. Although, the communications was not completely clear. The plan was to first go to Independence Square so I could exchange money and get some food. What the driver knew was to do money and go to McDonalds. So the first McD’s on the road he tried to stop. We quickly came to the understanding to go to Khreshatic for the stop. While there I changed some cash, hit the McD’s there and picked up a SIM chip for my phone (unlocked tri-band). Then it was off to the train station.
After trying out the SIM chip and looking through the package it came in I noted that I should have tried it in the store where I got it. All the instructions are in Russian and the dialing code to call my fiancée’s phone the clerk gave me didn’t work. Another reason I wanted my tour guide as it explains the dialing codes. Oh well, I did find the page that explained the dialing codes and with my limited Russian, I was able to figure out where the problem was.
Finally my train appeared on the board in the lobby about an hour before the train’s departure time. I thought this was great as I could soon settle down in the train cabin and be able to be free of the backpack I had been carrying for days now. And I just keep waiting. Usually the track is announced about an hour before the departure time. For this train it was about 35 minutes before departure. That did allow me some time to practice my alphabet some more reading the town names as the board alternates between Russian and English.
When the track was announced I proceeded to the proper track. Getting to the tracks was fairly simple as I had accompanied my fiancée and Pavel on 3 previous trips. If it were my first time in the station it may have been more of a challenge as there are not many signs in English. But, just following the crowd would have also worked. There was another short wait at the platform then we were allowed to board. When boarding, the conductor did have to make a double take when he checked my I.D. I guess he was not used to Americans showing up in his car but there was no real problem. I had the ticket and my passport ready to show him to gain entrance. Once in the cabin I was able to store my luggage and finally make my call to my fiancée. It was nice to hear her voice again now that we were in the same time zone again.
The story continues at Russian Ukrainian Adventures Russian Women Discussion Forum