I recently went to France for a couple of days. I had a flight from Bucharest to Paris, a city about the same distance from Odessa as Kiev, so not as remote as it might sound. The problem is that there’s no really convenient way of travelling Odessa-Bucharest. I have done it once before, then I took the easy way and went by bus through Chisinau, a little far but this is the conventional route and what most people would recommend. However, this time I decided to try a straighter but very custom route, something that proved to be a real hit for a dedicated traveller. I went the same way both to and from Bucharest, but these two trips turned out to be quite different. I’m writing this to anyone who is thinking about doing the same trip, alternatively to someone without anything better to do than to read about me going from one place to another in a corner of Europe.
Odessa – Bucharest
- Got up early and took the tram to the central bus station in Odessa
- Was lucky and within 20 minutes I was on a bus to Reni, a town down in the south western corner of Ukraine, just by the border to Moldova and Romania.
- Arrived after 4-5 hours. The driver turned out to be a local celebrity and stopped a dozen of times to talk to people on the street while driving through Reni. People started to jump of one by one until only me and one other guy were left. It turned out that we were both going to Romania, so the driver drove us to the border in the outskirts of the city, let us off and wished us good luck.
- So now I had a travel mate, Daniel. A young Ukrainian gentleman studying economy in Bucharest and on his way back after the May break. A very nice companion, not only for the good company, but who did the trip several times before and now naturally lead the way.
- We walked up to the first border control, which turned out to be a combined Ukrainian and Moldovan one with two offices located on the road opposite from each other.
- After some standard border hassle and silly questions we got our stamps and walked about 3 km, through the very southern tip of Moldova, until we reached the Moldovan/Romanian border
- This border is not allowed to cross by foot so we had to try to find a car. After many rejections by people who probably thought we were trying to bring something fishy into the EU, a guy stopped and offered us to cross with him for a symbolic fee, of course we said yes.
- We passed the Moldovan and the Romanian border checkpoint and our driver was kind enough to drive us all the way into Galati, the first Romanian city on the other side.
- Got to the Galati bus station only to realize that the bus to Bucharest was full, so we walked over to the train, waited for a couple of hours, and 4 hours later we arrived in Bucharest. I said goodbye my new friend with a promise to stay in his student dormitory whenever I happened to pass by.
- The trip all in all was about 12 hours and 560 km. I even had some time to visit a friend in Bucharest before I got out to the airport a little after midnight and continued to Paris a couple of hours later.
Bucharest – Odessa
- After a couple of productive days in France I once again found myself at the airport in Bucharest, Henri Coandă International. The trip I had in front of me should show not be as easy as last time.
- Went straight from the airport to the train station, Gara de Nord. Was lucky and had a train to Galati departing in 8 minutes and 4 hours later I arrived in Galati, so far so good.
- Took a while before I managed to find a reasonable taxi to the border, but eventually found one and a little later I got dropped off by the Romanian border checkpoint.
- Found myself standing at a more or less traffic-free road together with a Romanian border police waiting for a car willing to take me across the border. This time I had to wait much longer, Sunday afternoon turned into evening and was not until I joined a group of three Ukrainians, standing by the road of the same reason as me, I managed to get a ride, this time for an even more symbolic sum then last time. The driver also offered to drive me all the way to Odessa for 150 Euro, I said no.
- Once again I walked the 3 km through Moldova to get to Ukraine. I asked the border guards if there possibly was any chance of getting to Odessa in some way this late Sunday evening. The answer was “probably not, but if you wait for a couple of hours there might be a bus from Varna heading for Odessa passing by. Otherwise I could advise you to hang around here and try to get a seat in a car going in the right direction”.
- Really needed to be in Odessa the day after, so I walked down to a bar some 100 meters into Ukraine and asked around. I ended up hitchhiking with Konstantides, a Greek truck driver in a beautiful Volvo, transporting an elevator from southern Greece to Moscow.
- The roads down there in the south western corner are quite terrible (or “katastrofa” as my fellow Greek repeated at regular intervals) and we sick sacked between the holes and bumps in 20 km/h for 60 km, listened to Zorba and managed to have some kind of conversation despite Konstantides very primitive Russian.
- 3 hours later, an hour before midnight, I got dropped off on a pitch black road outside of the city Izmail, where my driver planned to spend the night. I found three women standing by the road having a late night neighbour to neighbour talk. I explained where I came from, where I was going and asked the way into town. They said it’s not every day a Swede who left Paris in the morning gets dropped off by Greek truck drivers on their road, and helped me to call a taxi.
- It was the best kind of taxi, old-Soviet-man-in-very-well-taken-care-of-Lada. He drove me with great enthusiasm to the train station, I had my last piece of luck for the day and got a train ticket for the train to Odessa at midnight. I even had time to have a well-deserved steak at one of Izmails culinary venues before I left (first time I had to eat anything since my breakfast Ciabatta on the plane).
- Got on the train, travelled the 250(!) km, arrived in Odessa at 07.00 after 7 hours sleep and went straight to the office, boosted with energy after the wonderful trip. This resulted in a total time of 20h for the trip back to Odessa, but since it included almost a full night of sleep I still consider it a success.