Introduction
Day 1 - San Francisco to Prague
Day 2 - Kyiv from the air
Day 2 - Boryspil International Airport
Day 2 - First Views Of Kyiv
Day 3 - Guided Tour of Kyiv
Day 3 - Kyiv - On our own
Day 3 - Night train from Kyiv to L'viv
Day 4 - L'viv with Father Ken
Day 5 - Radekhiv
Day 5 - Vytkiv
Day 6 - Trip to Kolomyia
Day 6 - Halych
Day 6 - Ivano-Frankivs'k
Day 7 - Bazaar at Kosiv
Day 7 - Between Kosiv and Kolomyia
Day 7 - Kolomyia
Day 8 - Zvenyhorod
Day 8 - Back in L'viv
Day 9 - L'viv with Orest and Vitali
Day 10 - L'viv - Morning walk with Dad
Day 10 - L'viv on my own
Day 11 - L'viv with Dad
Day 11 - Night train to Budapest
Day 12 - Budapest
Day 13 - Budapest
Day 13 - Szentendre
Day 14 - Homeward bound

TRIP TO UKRAINE
September 19 - October 2, 1999

Day 11 - NIGHT TRAIN TO BUDAPEST
Another train ride, Changing wheels, Hungary


Map with train route from L'viv to Budapest marked in blue

Wednesday, September 29, 1999

It was 9:30 PM. Our train was late arriving in L'viv, and our group stood huddled on the platform in almost total darkness, mostly a little uneasy - we had heard terrifying stories about bandits and thugs. Finally the train arrived.

It was late, but few of our fellow passengers seemed ready for bed. Our group had an entire car to ourselves, and were warned by the attendant not to leave, it, and to lock our compartments when not in them, and while we slept.

We stood in the hallway and chatted, and shared provisions with other members of our group, reunited for the first time since our last ride, from Kyiv to L'viv. I hadn't had a chance to get to know any of the others, so I enjoyed the socializing. It turned out I was the second youngest member of the group. Most of the others had been born in Ukraine at the end of WWII, and were taken out or sent out as children when the USSR took over. This was their first time returning to their childhood homes. They were all dismayed at the poverty, corruption, and confusion.

Our railcar was a different style than the one we rode from Kyiv - probably newer, but smaller compartments, three bunks each, and the same bumpy ride.

The car attendant's kitchen. She had tea and beer for sale, and was very cheery and good-natured.

Dad naps while I party. Eventually we made up our bunks and tried to sleep.

Border crossing
At 4:30 our car attendant wakened us, and told us to get our papers ready for the Customs Officer. We were at the Hungarian border. She hadn't warned us this would happen so early, and I felt as though I had just fallen asleep, so I was grumpy. Besides, I had wanted to watch them change our wheels.

The changing of the wheels
One incredible feature of the border crossing is the changing of the wheels! The rail gauge in the former Soviet Union is wider than that in Western Europe, and all trains spend several hours at the border getting their wheels changed. The carriage bodies are lifted, the old wheels are rolled out, the new ones are rolled in, and the bodies are lowered and bolted on. Aside from the long time standing in one place, one would not know what was going on - it's all done very smoothly (as it should be - they must do it several times every day). We had to be up, of course, since we had to clear Customs while the change was taking place. We arrived on time at 4 AM, and finally continued on our way at 7:30. I was told I wouldn't have been allowed off the train to watch anyway.

Customs Crisis!
We had to deal with TWO customs officers, one for departure from Ukraine, one for entry into Hungary. The Hungarian officer was cheery and polite, and did little more than glance at our passports and stamp them. The Ukrainian officer was just the opposite - curt, officious, and slow.

There was a minor drama about my papers, because no one had bothered to tell me that I needed to show some forms I had gotten when I entered Ukraine at the Kyiv airport. I arrived there late, alone, after the rest of the party, who had been accompanied by, and briefed by the tour company representative. Money was the issue. One is not allowed to take out of Ukraine more foreign currency than one entered with. Fortunately, I always save EVERYTHING when I travel (and when I don't, actually), so once I understood what the officer wanted, I was able to produce the form declaring how much US money I was carrying. The odd thing is, all I had to do then was tell the officer (i.e., I didn't have to prove it) how much I was taking home with me (most of it, as Dad had paid for everything), and he stamped my passport and went on. So the real issue was simply the procedure. His procedure required seeing the form.

Or at least that's what I think happened. Everyone else was too grumpy to explain much, and later it didn't seem important.

Day 12 - In Hungary

After we crossed the border into Hungary, we had half a day's journey by daylight, but the windows were so filthy one could hardly see out! I would have jumped out and washed ours (maybe earned a few bucks washing everyone's!), but the train never stopped long enough.

Scenes at Hungarian Train Stations.

The ride in Hungary was much smoother and quieter than in Ukraine, though - better suspension and better roadbeds. The country-side looked much more prosperous as well. There were cars and trucks, Western-style advertising, no idle factories or half-built houses.

I'm a rail fan, remember? So I took photos of trains and stations as much as I could, but I got only a few worth showing.

Top


Back        Home        Next

parent Site


All text Copyright © 2007, William M. Senkus

Send feedback to:

Created -- 03/22/2007 Revised -- 03/22/2007