Oct 1st, Wed
Time about 22:00 night; Our departure. Me (Christos) as the driver, and Vera my beloved wife on the other seat. Car is a Suzuki SX4 1600cc 4x4 and counts only 12743 km on dashboard.
Our vitties : instant coffee, plenty of water, countless cigarettes, some candies, fruits and a couple of sandwiches. Drove North from Athens all night long.
Oct 2nd, Thu
Stop for refuel only once. (toll fee paid : Greece 15.10 euros in total for highways). We crossed Greek - Bulgarian borders (toll fee paid : entering Bulgaria 5.00 euros). About 06:30 arrived Sofia taking North East direction to Ruse. Arrived Ruse about 10:30 crossed Bulgarian - Romanian border; bridge over Danube river (toll fee paid for bridge crossing : 8.00 euros paid on Bulgarian side).
At Romanian checkpoint refuel and as usual (toll fee paid about 6.00 euros). They gave me a sticker as receipt of payment. Kept driving North we saw Bucharest after 70 km and then drove East on a new highway for about 100 km where turned North to Slobozia. There we had to stop. First, the need to cool my tires, and then to walk. We had lunch at a restaurant there. The weather was great, sun and 20C.
We leaved Slobozia after an hour. Driving North to Galati via Braila. I had to find the Romanian - Moldavian border crossing at the outskirts of Galati city. It was easy.
Bridge over river Prut. Farewell to European Union at this point. We entered Moldova transit for 500 meters (toll fee 5.00 usd or 3.00 euros).
And now Reni Ukraine. We spent there over an hour thanks to bureaucracy and corrupted officers. (Entry fee : officially 0 euros, unofficially 20.00 euros to avoid waiting more time there). Ukraine was in front of us for almost 1000 km. A problem has arisen; no bank to change Ukrainian money. No at the checkpoint, no at Reni, no at Izmail, not on the road.
Arrived about 22:00 night at Odessa looking for fuel desperately. No one accepts euros! Finally we found a shop assistant at gas station to change money for us. It was a total rip-off but we accepted it due to necessity. With new courage and moral we continued, but at Odessa's outskirts a new surprise came. Again from the Ukrainian police and its incorrupted officers. They stopped us and shown us a radar with a digital monitor with number 53 on it. Speed limit there was 40. I was 13 km above limit. Result : They told me I have to wait there all night until next morning where I had to go to the local court of law for my suit!!! We were laughing (euros 15.00 for tip). They wished us nice journey and we left them behind.
Driving continuously for second night, I started feel the first signs of fatigue. Besides the road conditions worst than ever before. Two lane paved road full of potholes and bumps without bulkhead. Overtaking trucks every minute was exciting. We passed Mykolayiv and arrived Kherson where we took South East direction to Crimea. At Kherson a cop stopped us just to ask "where are you going?" and "where are you from?" without demanding money! He earned my respect for his decency.
Oct 3rd, Fri
Fog is our new surprise. More southern the fog gets worst. At some points you cannot see the white lane on the road. Our fuel tank gets empty. It's about 4:00 morning. We asked for refuel at two three gas stations. No one accepts euros. They told us to wait until morning to change money at bank. We did so at a small town with three bank branches. The bank opened at 08:00 money changed, bought some local cookies, refueled, fresh air for tires and on the road again. The day is sunny clear with 16C.
Endless steppes and horizon all around us.
Our direction is South East to Kerch (port Krim) where we have to embark on ferry to the Russian coast (port Kavkaz).
Finally we saw sea in front of us at the right. The Black Sea. We left Feodosia behind us and now Kerch is only 100 km away. Arrival at Kerch gave us great impressions. Nice city.
We were looking for the Port Krim at edge of the city. We easily found it. And now our objective is only 160 km away. Paperwork : (ferry tickets about 28.00 euros for 1 car 2 passengers) then we had to buy car insurance valid for Russian Federation (they don't accept green card as rest of Europe) cost 52.00 euros for a month. Then Ukrainian customs checkpoint; this time no money demanded. Almost an hour all the procedure. At last ferry embarkation. It was a small ferry. Only 20 cars been on board.
Total journey is only 15min to cross the straight between sea of Azov (North) and the rest Black Sea (South).
And now the great moment! We arrived and stepped on Russian soil. In front of us the custom building and just twenty cars with their passengers.
After four (4!!) hours, we had the honor to get off the heavy iron gate of customs area. We were the only car with foreign registered plates and we had special treatment. Cost about 10.00 euros for issuing a temporary vehicle permission which needed reissue or renewal after a week, at our local customs house of our area of stay. As anyone could easily understand, bureaucracy lives on well, at Russia today. A heavy heritage from Soviet past. Anyway we were very happy continuing our trip. It's about 20:30 night and still 150 km to Novorossiysk. First impressions on the road; excellent road conditions, lanes, signs, no potholes; after Ukraine was the driver's paradise. We were approaching close to Novorossiysk when I felt tired seriously for first time. It was psychological phenomenon due to relaxation. At 22:00 we were at Kostia's home parking the car. The first leg of our trip ended.
I drunk two glasses of wine and slept into a deep sleep.
to be continued...