Upon our arrival at Simferopol, we found out that leaving the train wagon does not mean the end of adventures and attractions in beautiful Ukraine. To get to our destination – Bakhchysarai – we had to change to either the next train or bus. Unfortunately, the train departures in this direction were quite rare, so the only option left was the bus.
Money, money, money
Without much hesitation, we went directly to the bus station (fortunately, it was really close to the train station). On the way we met some beggars who were asking for money, and while smiling they presented to us shining rows of gold teeth. It is quite a popular practice in Eastern Europe to have a few gold teeth. Still, the consternation when the beggar has in his/her mouth gold worth more than you are able to save in a year – is priceless.
Golden smile, worth more than a thousand words of certified translation (source: The Washington Post)
When we arrived at the station, it turned out that it is the starting point not only for the employees of registered carriers, but also for the gray area’s human transport. These businesses promote their services very loud and a bit aggressive, but where nowadays the aggressive marketing is unused? “Only 50 hryvnia, wherever you want! Theodosia, Bakhchysaray, Koktjebel, blah blah blah…”. All of them, like one – 50 UAH, so that nobody makes his buddies any unfair competition.
Announcements that were made from time to time with loudspeakers placed at the cashbox of registered carriers only added color to the whole situation: “Please do not trust the taxi drivers, they are frauds. They transport people illegally. Using their services can lead to accidents and even death”. Nobody, however, does a thing to these “frauds”, because, as we all are aware, everyone wants to earn some extra money.
Railway station in Simferopol, in the foreground: potential “victims” (source: lovetotravel.pl)
To get rid of all those beaters, one should ignore them. Any attempt to inform that you do not want to use the service offered is equal to the fact that the bait has almost been swallowed. This means that you will be nagged, until you finally accept the offer. The illegal taxi drivers were nagging even more stubbornly, because April is not the tourist season yet, so any tourist is an incredible financial opportunity. Everything is not, however, so nice and sweet. For stubborn ignorance of thrown in my and our direction “once in a lifetime” offers I was called “Swabian”. Above that, facial expressions of the person uttering these words and his body language left no illusions that it was supposed to be an insult.
It’s hard to guess the reasons for this state of affairs. Certainly we have been categorized as non-Russian tourists, due to our accent and, most of all, clothes. And if not the Russians, who else may visit Ukraine? The answer is: Germans.
Germans quite frequently visit Crimea and leave their money there. Less than Russians, but it is still often enough to be a recognizable nation. Although the price of registered carriers is five times lower (10 UAH) I suspect that Germans would willingly go with the taxi driver who speaks English a bit – probably the prices are also for this reason that high. Wasteful Germans in many places spoil the market 😉
In Ukraine the customer is always right
We took our seats in the bus, and left the station, but already 10 meters after the station the bus driver stopped at the first stop. Why? Because here are picked up those who do not have tickets, but if they pay the driver – they can go. The driver will get some extra cash, people will get wherever they want. A win-win situation, would anybody want more? Minor problems arise only when on the horizon appears a traffic police patrol, and some passengers in the bus are standing. According to Ukrainian law, all passengers should sit. Consequently, the driver warns his passengers, they bow so that they could not be seen by the bus windows, and the problem is solved.
Policeman in winter uniform (source: flickr.com)
Stops are made, of course, where they should be made and everywhere else: on demand. During one of our trips the bus driver took an intoxicated man from the side of the road, where there was no bus stop. What’s more, when during the drive that man informed the driver that he wants to pee – the driver scolded the drunk passenger and stopped as requested. It’s almost impossible to find in buses and marshrutkas timetables and station names. However, if you ask the driver he will tell that it’s your stop already. The client is king!
The typical thing for Ukraine are monuments, and more specifically their mass occurrence. Even beside the road, away from any city, one may find a huge monument. Even more surprising was the 80-octane gasoline, best available – 92 Octane. Although it is cheaper than in Poland, for Ukrainians it is still pricy. This is not too big a problem – one can always use the gas, even for a bus. Just equip the vehicle with the right amount of extra gas tanks, preferably on the roof. And that the engine dies once in a while is just such a small detail. The main thing is, that it is working!
Typical Crimean road (source: flickr.com)
Always at your service!
In our plan we left one big unknown – accommodation. With the exception of those in Lviv, which we booked in advance, we did not book anything. Our move was based on the internet information that off season finding accommodation is not difficult. Thus, having the list of potential places to stay, we went into the streets of Bakhchisarai with the hope that the advice we found on Internet will get confirmed in reality.
Although we had a GPS, it was hard for us to find a place that we have chosen as our target. Luckily, the locals decided to help us – one does not need to be Sherlock to, basing on our appearance and behavior, hit upon the conclusion that we are tourists. The local man gave us all the information we need and even more – almost brought us to the place. To our surprise, he did not want for it any money – he only advertised his tour company. It was the first and not only example of Ukrainians’ selflessness, but I will mention other exammples when the time comes 😉
This is how Bakhchysaray looks like in early April
The owner of the lodging, in which we decided to sleep, was a polite elderly gentleman, who very willingly demonstrated his language skills learned thanks to having clients from almost every part of Europe. The rooms were nicely furnished, but the bathroom and toilets were outside. As for the toilets, many can get confused when facing for the first time a specific type of toilet (squatting, not sitting), which may be quite often found in the Crimea. I assure you that there is nothing to fear – Japanese highly praise this type of toilet, as defecation in the squatting position is apparently very healthy, as it is natural for the human body and more hygienic.
We unpacked, bathed and went to explore the city… in a week I will share with you information about what to see in Bakhchisarai area. Expect a lot of photos and many more! 🙂