Monday, September 05, 2005

Crossing the border

In October I have to go to Kiev (or Kyiv, whichever you prefer) for a few days. I've just been investigating how I will get there. Now given that Romania has a sizeable border with Ukraine (in fact it has two borders with Ukraine with Moldova surrounded by the two countries), you'd think it wouldn't take that long. But you'd be wrong. Either one can go by train on a journey that takes 30 hours-ish via Chisinau (and I know for a fact that Ukraine has a different gauge railway from non-Soviet Europe and that they have to spend a few hours lifting the train off one set of wheels and putting it on another. Why they don't just ask you to get off and get on a new train is beyond me). Or one can go by plane. Via Vienna, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. I mean really. The cheapest option I've so far found involves me flying all the way to Amsterdam so as to fly all the way back again.

It's insane. Really. You'd think both countries would be united in some kind of post-2004 Orange revolutionaty fervour. But I might as well be going to Gabon for all the ease of this journey.


Anonymous said...

You could go to the Danube's Delta (with train to Tulcea) and then swimming in Ucrain!

Don't do that, it's only a joke, it's illegal!

Anonymous said...

One problem is that the two borders are in pretty rough terrain. The southern one is the Danube Delta, which is pretty much impassible swamp with no rail lines; the northern one is very rugged and mountainous. (This is exactly the region where Bram Stoker set "Dracula".)

Going through Chisinau involves, not only the gauge change, but two border crossings; those each add an hour or two. (And that's assuming the train doesn't stop in Tiraspol and "Transnistria".)

Flying... all of SE Europe suffers from the lack of a regional hub.

Unfortunately, the logical regional hub -- the one city that's centrally located, has an enormous airport with long airstrips that can accommodate any aircraft, and has a history of dealing with flights across the region -- is Belgrade. In fact, before 1991, Belgrade was on its way to becoming such a hub. Now, well. Thanks, Slobo.

Doug M.

Mihai said...

Now that you actually mention it, it is strange that Ukraine is hard to get to from Romania. Any other country is much easier. Isn't there an option via Budapest? Flying or going by train to Budapest and then taking a plane to Kyiv? Budapest-Ferihegy in recent times has become a regional hub - I know there's flights to Chişinău from there.

Andy H said...

No flights to Kyiv from Ferihegy, unfortunately. That's usually the second place I look - there's a daily direct overnight train with comfortable sleeping cars from here to Budapest.