I wrote that I hoped to be able to avoid drama in Warsaw, I shouldn’t have… Missing a flight at some point in life can happen to anyone, but doing so, being on time at the airport, sitting 20 meters from the gate, waiting for your delayed flight is just a little bit ridiculous. So I have to explain myself. Modlin is a small airport about one hour from Warsaw, when I arrived in good time before the flight the information screen said simply “DELAYED” for the Gothenburg flight, without any sign of which time it would depart. I sat down, and started a conversation with the guy next to me, who turned out to be very interesting; A Swedish-Polish guy who was in Poland to investigate the possibilities of setting up an IT-outsourcing business. Obviously we had a lot to talk about, but did have an eye at the screen, waiting for a departure time to show up. It didn’t happen, what showed up was instead the text “DEPARTED”. As experienced eastern European travelers, we didn’t really become upset about the little misinformation that just popped up on the screen, but just to be sure, we took our bags and walked the 20 meters to the gate to find that the plane was not really delayed, but rather departed. No call in the loudspeakers or anything. Laugh or cry? And how do you explain this to your parents and girlfriend waiting at the airport in Gothenburg with the dinner already prepared? Wizzair couldn’t explain what was wrong with their information system either, but could explain that you should always be close to the gate after the security check, I guess they are right. I have now learned the hard way that 20 meters is not close enough….
If to look at the good outcomes, I had a chance to see something more of Warsaw, which is quite a nice city, especially the old town. And I and my newly won friend could lengthen our discussions over the whole Sunday, which wasn’t unproductive. Flying to Rygge on Monday and thereafter taking the bus to Gothenburg via Oslo, effectively arriving almost two days later than planned, I will add to the list of bad outcomes.
I will now stay in Sweden until Saturday evening, meeting up with family, friends, some customers and future customers. As for the way back to Kiev: Let’s hope I can avoid making a drama…
I have arrived to a rainy Warsaw, and hooked up my “office” on a small café. As usual, this night train added to the portfolio of interesting meetings. My cabin buddies this time where two sister babushkas (grandmothers) somewhere in their seventies who brought a great mood into the cabin. During the three hours of their trip we managed to drink some tea together and cover a big part of the life stories of both babushka Valya – who had lived and worked in Kazakhstan during the Soviet time, and nowadays commute back and forth to Czech Republic for work, and babushka Olga – who married a man from Azerbaijan 40 years ago and has lived in Baku ever since, claiming that Azerbaijan is probably the best country in the world, especially after the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku earlier this year. Baku seems to be a place to visit indeed. We also shared some knowledge and I increased my Azerbaijanian vocabulary from 0 to 4 words and got some new input of Ukrainian. I gave a little overview of the possibilities with the world of internet with some live demonstration from my computer and I believe I got them hooked. =)
The border was crossed with ease, I really like the train system were you never need to go out, but just keep your passport under the pillow and pull it out whenever some border guards wake you up.
Now off for a little city walk in Warsaw with a local Estiemer.
I am now at the train between Kiev and Warsaw, I am quite lucky to be here at all considering my “slarvighet” in packing important things. Examples of good things to bring with you for long travels are, money, insurance, passport and….tickets…. I forgot the ticket part… We had done some major cleaning and shape up of our office/home before I left and I had put my Kiev-Kharkov ticket in the accounting folder, not realizing that the Kiev-Warsaw ticket followed with it. I realized this exactly 5 min before the train was supposed to leave – no good odds for success in other words. I called Gustav who had just put on his running outfit, for some light afternoon jogging. Instead of that, 10 seconds later, he found himself sprinting down the 1,5 km long hill that separates our office from the train station with a train ticket in his hand.
In the mean time I started to explain my situation for the conductors and the discussion was soon joined by a couple of passengers who came with various creative ideas on how to solve the situation including topics such as in which city on the way I was most likely to catch the train with a taxi, which conductor that would be easiest to “convince” to let me on board as well as where on the train I most likely would be able to hide myself during the journey. I never had to go with any of those options; our running with the dogs in the last couple of weeks has paid off! When the whistle blew and the train slowly started to move, I hear someone screaming “ANDREAAAS” followed by the sight on a clearly mad sprinter, in colorful T-shirt, with a ticket soaking wet in his hand in the position of a baton for handover. ”Bistro bistro” (quickly, quickly!) was the words of the by now pretty engaged conductor as he held up the door just long enough for me to enter. It’s situations like this that really shows that you can count on your business partners. The engaged passengers were also happy to see a happy end of “The drama at Kiev train station”, I got a handshake, a “ryggdunk” and the concluding remark – “extrimal!” (“extreme”!)
Tomorrow evening I will take the Wizzair flight from Warsaw to Göteborg, let’s hope I can avoid making a drama…
Use Google maps, hit in the address you have got, don’t question the location, and just drive. When you have been driving on a small, dark, bumpy, empty dirt road with pools of water everywhere for some 15-20 min, you can call yourself officially lost, and call the people you were supposed to meet with and inform them that you might be some one and a half hours late. As a learning experience to take with you from this, except from Ukrainians being very patient, is to always be sure in what language you got the address. Since each street address exist in both Ukrainian and Russian language, and those can be written both with Cyrillic and Latin letters, there are four ways to write each address. To add to the confusion, some street names exist in duplicates more or less. Learning experience, use “Yandex Karti” instead of “Google Maps”, and rather search for the name of the place than the street name, if you just have the street name, it could help to write it just in Cyrillic letters.
My girlfriend Yana had the chance to pass by Kiev on the way back home from Belarus. A sunny walk in the city was a good start of the day, but my foot had decided to malfunction for some reason, so driving was a better option than walking for the rest of the day. Where do you go if you have a few hours for road tripping starting from the centre of Kiev? Ukrainka town is the answer, just the name makes it attractive. With an old Lada, you will arrive there in less than 1 hour and you will see a beautiful coastline of Dnepr just next to a beautiful park. You can also go around the city and get the whole view from the hill above a beautiful place for the sunset. That’s all from Rootbeet travel stories for today.
On Sunday I was reached by some very unfortunate news, the much beloved grandfather of my girlfriend, Boris, passed away at the age of 80 in Bobrujsk, Belarus. He was a great man who has been through a lot, and was appreciated for his positive attitude until the very end. I had gotten to know him well through my visits to Belarus as well as Boris own trip to Gothenburg earlier this year when he put himself on a train between Stockholm and Gothenburg without speaking a word in neither English or Swedish, just like that.
According to Russian traditions a funeral should be performed within three days which meant today. I put a lot of effort into finding a way to get into Belarus, but for a Swedish citizen, it would take at least 4 days to get a Visa done. Earlier you could even get the visa at the airport in Minsk, but this option is closed nowadays. Maybe because of Swedes throwing teddy bears from airplanes, what do I know? 400 km or 9 hours by train is too far away if there is too much of a boarder in between. Let’s hope that the future will make it possible to travel without visa in the centre of Europe. From another perspective, this is how travelling is in general for the people of Belarus, Ukraine or Russia to mention a few.
This week has passed by really quickly, but it has been packed with lots of progress on the recruitment side and plenty of interesting experiences, I will share just a few. On Tuesday evening we took the night-train from Kiev to Kharkov. It’s quite a perfect distance since it takes around 9 hours and as long as you get some good roommates in the coupé, you can get a good night’s sleep and arrive in Kharkov in a perfect time to start a workday. It also helps that we have our favorite little hostel to visit were you can rent a bed in a big room for just a couple of dollars, and normally stay there alone, with your own key and everything.
We had planned to stay Wednesday and Thursday to follow up on some of our connections that we found on our little scouting tour in April, as well as meeting some new ones. On Wednesday it came to our knowledge that the Swedish IT company Sigma was arranging a karting competition for IT companies on Saturday, and since karting is sort of what I focused my life on from 2002-2009 this chance of some publicity couldn’t be missed. Beetroot Resources were out for some aggressive recruitment on Thursday and Friday and managed to form a team of 4 IT specialists and one taxi driver for the competition day. It was an action packed day of racing between 40 drivers from 8 companies. Beetroot Resources performed well all day long and entered the Kharkov IT scene in style taking the victory in front of the reigning champions, Sigma Ukraine, Champagne!!
We started our 900 km trip from Moscow to Kiev on the Saturday afternoon, well rested and with a hope that the border cues would be shorter if we passed it in the middle of the night. It turned out to be a good choice, we had some rain in the night but traffic wasn’t too much and the boarder was crossed in some 3 hours or so. The only real hassle there was the green insurance card that we should have bought before the border, but instead I had to take a little run to the Ukrainian side, buy the card in the border insurance shop, and run back again.
One thing that we noticed then, and have noticed much more later is that every person in Ukraine seems to know at least someone who is a programmer, this goes also for the woman who works in the boarder insurance shop, so I came back with not only the insurance card but also the phone number of some random programmer in Kiev. This was around 4 AM in the morning, always at work? The trip to Kiev took in total 22 hours, including border break, ice cream break, sleeping in Lada break and breakfast break. We arrived to Kiev early afternoon and hit the address where we stayed for the first couple of days, with a fast internet connection it also served as our very first temporary office in Kiev.
We decided to take the my Lada, or in Russian “Zhiguli (Жигули)” model 2105 from 1990 that had been standing in Kirovsk, close to St Petersburg since I bought it the summer 2010, while I studied Russian in St Petersburg. Why? Because it really adds to the experience moving in this way, plus Gustav had a lot of his stuff in Moscow after having studied one year at Bauman. The roads seemed to have improved since last I used them and they were of good standard most of the time.
One observation during the distance between St Petersburg to Moscow was the deterioration of many of the small villages on the way. It seems as if time has stopped in these places, and decided to move to the big cities instead. I counted to around 3-4 wooden houses with fallen roofs in each small village plus dozens of really skewed ones with old people still living. Another observation that stayed in my memory was the hundreds of “babushkas” – grandmothers, but the much fewer “dedushkas” grandfathers, who have their small stands with various eatable things for sale.
Arriving to Moscow, it quickly became clear where all the people from the village have gone… The 690 first km where done in some 9 hours and the last 10 km in another 3 hours. Moscow is just one big “probka” – traffic jam. 15 million doubtfully happy people in one place is just a bit crazy, too crazy for my taste. We were still in time to meet up some friends in the centre and finished with a night out at “Gipsy”, probably the best club in Moscow, try it if you have the chance!
[local /wp-content/uploads/2012/09/2012-09-15-15.33.34.mov Starting a Lada]
“Money makes the world go around” is the tones that are playing at Princess Anastasia, the boat I’m taking from Stockholm to St Petersburg via Tallinn, while the show dancers are doing their thing. I am sitting in the bar reflecting over how much the Russian society, after the fall down of the Soviet Union and the communistic system has embraced the capitalism in many ways. Money seems to be burning in the pockets, almost everything is for sale and commercial messages are flowing everywhere. While focus on spending is high, differences in wealth are huge and I believe this is a big part of the bitterness that could be felt from many people in the Russian society, the unfortunate ones feel so much more unfortunate.
Seeing Russian money spending from another perspective, it might not be surprising that money is burning in the pocket a bit more for people who have lost a huge amount of their savings over night in the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the economic crisis in 1998 and partly also in 2009. The quick shift towards a capitalistic view still fascinates me a lot though. The show of the evening at Princess Anastasia was a good one, and the digestion of passengers likewise, young ones, old ones, who doesn’t like a good show?
I made an odd part of the picture sitting and making notes for this text in my calendar. At least for the bartender who suddenly knocks on my shoulder and with a smile on his face asks me: “Ты из КГБ что ли?” – Are you from the KGB or something? I explain for him that I just make some notes for my memory and he agrees that these are good things to remember before we go into a discussion on why there are still so much less Swedes than Russians taking this boat even though it offers the opportunity to visit Saint Petersburg without Visa for a short while, Russia is just still further away for most Swedes than it actually is.