Listen what I am saying! The rope did not break, it cracked…..
After passing the Kiev signboard, I pedaled approximately 24 km towards to the city centre. While pedaling towards to downtown Kiev something caught my attention. I entered the city from the western side. Heading towards east, the urban quality of the city increased. Then, I thought of Bucharest which I entered from the southern side. The old buildings of Soviet Union were situated on the south. The city showed an urban development pattern towards northwest direction. I also entered Sophia through the southern way and this city is also urban developed through northwest direction. Kishinev, in Moldavia towards northeast. Well I wonder, in which direction Ankara was expanded? To the west. An absurd logic probably, but it fits. Whether trade routes or social interactions had played a role, I am not sure, but it seems that the urban development process to modernization of the capitals had been embodied to the directions of settings of the capitals of countries or systems to which these nations feel themselves close…
The hostel which I had found from the internet was right in the middle of the city. It was pretty good, cheap and located in the centre, but it was extraordinarily difficult to find it along the side streets. Furthermore, the attitude of the girl to me at the reception was very impolite. I don’t know how she behaves to other customers, but the one I had, especially after she had learned that I’m Turkish, was not acceptable. Hey, it is not up to me what you had experienced with other Turks! I shared my opinions in a widely voted accommodation website immediately.
The question had come from the left side but I was looking to the right; “I beg your pardon, what was your question again ?” Hahaha (Serkan just took a good shot) www.ukrturk.net
Thanks to our Kiev ambassador Mr. Mehmet and Cultural Attache Mr. Berat, Mr. Fatih, Mrs. Irina and Mrs. Katia for their hospitality during my stay in Kiev. During that time in Kiev, I came together with press for giving interview focusing on that the bicycle could be used as a transport vehicle for traveling under every circumstance. I shared the videos with Kiev press that I had taken on the road. I had also the opportunity to meet with the students of Turcology class of Ridvan Hoca (teacher) in the Foreign Languages School of Kiev University and the primary and secondary school students of Meridien College. Besides, I had a talk with the Ukrainian adventurers who devoted themselves to cycling and wandering. I tried to tell to the people who I’m, what I’m doing and why I’m doing. Thanks to Inna and Snezhana taking me sightseeing the city.
This journey had started from Ankara, the capital of Turkey and I arrived the 5th capital, Kiev. Till now, the number of capitals I have had visited summed up to 13. Without any doubt, I should say that the worst city in terms of urban development, infrastructure, publicity and eco-transport systems is the capital Ankara!
What an amazing people square that is, how wonderful buildings they are. How wide the roads are. To the subject of subway, I don’t even want to mention. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned. The history of the subway had started in the beginning of 1930s. Furthermore, during the Soviet era huge subways were constructed. Go down the stairs to the main hall such huge that you can play a football game with 11 on each team. The matter of depth on the other hand is horrifying, never ending descent. The underground construction was kept enormously big to be used also as shelter during war times. The air conditioning inside is another engineering wonder.
The whole country is covered with snow. The removal such amount of snow is a huge problem. Although Kiev is a wonderful city, its municipality does not work that much. Everywhere is iced. Walking on the sidewalk is almost impossible. But I was not able to understand how the women could manage to walk with high heels, till now. The ice stalactites hanging over roofs are enormously dangerous. Since so many people died due to this, there are red cords in front of the buildings. “Do not pass over this area. It is dangerous!”. As soon as any door or stairs get iced, warning shields are posted immediately. Who is doing that? Inhabitants of the buildings. Nice precaution.
(Even though you go to the other end of the world, you always face with it. Remember what Japanese farmer told you “Every countries on this planet need one Ataturk”)
I told before that I had given presentation in universities. I was invited to the class of Ridvan Hoca (teacher) in the Foreign Languages Faculty. The whole class full of Ukrainian learned quite good Turkish. First I introduced myself to the students. I told them what I am doing know and had done before. I answered the questions of the students getting acquainted with every single person. Some asked about my private life, some about my future expectations. While you are standing on the podium, you actually follow quite well what they are thinking about what you are talking. It is possible to catch the impressed looks. These impressed looks are not for me, at the end, there is not an unicorn standing in front of them. That impression goes to the magic and the performance of the event itself. They were questioning, how I managed the things using the system. They asked many nice, interesting questions. I am sure that some thoughts about their lives or their future plans have changed right at that moment. We actually lose our real dreams when we start learning what money means. We start to live to earn money. What type of work you would have done, if money would not be a subject of a matter? Ask this question to yourself. One must follow his dreams. I always wanted to travel with my bicycle. Right now, I’m travelling with my bike. It is that simple. Remain matters you could think about just follow this dream.
The presentation to the primary and secondary class students was even perfect. Let’s see, how many pupils will come with a bike to school this summer? Or what happened to their point of view to the matter of bicycle? I wish I had the opportunity to take a picture of these moments afterwards the presentation. Sometimes, the events happen instantaneously. So many times I think to myself that I wish someone recorded these moments.
Ukraine is the second biggest country of Europe in terms of surface area. It can be said that the country is the grain and pulse storage of Europe. It was so in the past and lasted also now. I tried go around as much as I could in Kiev during these 5 days, I staid. To walk around at such a cold city like Kiev is difficult. I didn’t break any of my bones during cycling but while walking through the streets I fell down so many times almost breaking my bones. I guess I’m better balanced on the bicycle than on my feet.
Aside important events I had never been interested in European history nor was aware of what happened and where happened . But I started to learn about the important historical events while cycling through the countries. I go on sightseeing, the museums and worthy places in Kiev, with Snezhana. She had traveled by bicycle in Turkey and met Nuzhet Hoca an academician at Mersin University. While coming close to Kiev, she gave me the contact information of Snezhana and we met. She walked with me the whole day at that cold. Without her, I would not be able to see so many things and not learn many events in such a detail.
There appears only one single thought in my country when Ukraine or Kiev is mentioned! The women are beautiful. As like every man, I also have heard how beautiful the Ukrainian women are. I asked to the university students, what they really think about Turkey and I said “talk honestly”. As they answered me, I got really ashamed. Even on the road, till Kiev, the people I met and talked to, the ones who helped me, presented a country totally different than being ascribed. The conversation among the Turks who traveled abroad happens mostly as such: “Hey man, I went to Ukraine, went also to Russia”, “Oh shit, and you? Have you been to Japan? I had been also!!!..”.. My friend, the Ukraine you saw is only Kiev, the Russia only Moscow. Japan? Just Tokyo or maybe a few more big cities… Don’t ever try to talk about a country being in only one of its cities!!!! Have you ever been in a village? In whose house were you hosted? Did you drink couple shots of vodka with the villagers in the community center? Well, they think that all the girls are awaiting them coming to Kiev. There is no such a World my dear friend. Do not throw a shit to the country and its people just to show some airdrops to couple of your friends!
We came in front of the monument of eternal glory with Snezhana. I saw similar monuments in Moldova and also in Romania.
The eternal fire in front of the monument burns through day and night. Snezhana told me about the degree of devastation during II. World War. I was very upset while listening. Her grandfather also attended the war, she shared some of his memories with me. Then, we came in front of another monument. She kept silent for a while. A very dramatic sounding song was coming from the speaker.
– What is this?
– This monument was constructed for the victims of the great famine during Soviet era. This country had suffered a lot, Gurkan.
-Tell me, I don’t know what happened.
Now, the Ukrainians had undergone many bloody battles with Russia during Lenin time. Every single person in Ukraine fought against the Russian troops in order not to lose their independence. But Lenin came with such a huge army! With Polish front in the west, Russian front in the north, the country couldn’t cope with the war and capitulated at the end. Revolts continued under Soviet regime. After the battles ended, the Soviets began shipping out huge amounts of grain to Moscow and coincidently occurring drought in the Ukraine resulted in widespread starvation. This resulted in a surge of popular resentment against Soviets. To lessen the deepening of resentment, Lenin stopped taking too much grain. The situation got worst after death of Lenin, succeeded by Stalin. To Stalin, the national revival movements in Ukraine were totally unacceptable. The Soviet system of land management imposed by Stalin was not accepted by the Ukrainians, because the farmlands and livestock were generally privately owned. They stopped production under suppression. As he realized that the harvest would not be good, Stalin sent his troops to Ukraine in 1932. He seized any stored up food and livestock, leaving the families without a morsel for the rest of the whole year. Staling sealed off the borders of Ukraine and turned the country into a gigantic concentration camp preventing any food from entering. Starvation ensued throughout the country. The ones who tried to flee had been killed. Food supplies sent from many countries were halted at the border by Soviet authorities. The official policy of the Soviet Union was to deny the existence of a famine. Stalin declared that “anyone claiming that there is a famine would be accused for traitor!” But it was impossible to silence the international press. In Moscow, Stalin prisoned a group of press members including 6 foreign journalists. The reason: Traitorism. The penalty: Death sentence. The international journalists were warned that they would be shut out of the trial completely if they wrote news stories about the famine. Even a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter wrote “.. all talk of famine now is ridiculous”. But between the years 1932-1933 millions of people had perished due to starvation and the diseases caused by starvation in Ukraine.
Also the grandfather of Snezhana was one of the eyewitnesses of that terrible period. People even had to eat their own family members. Their neighbors had gone mad with hunger. Russian troops left practically no morsel in the country. How this country had suffered… At the end, in 1933, Stalin reopened the borders. The Soviet Union achieved an unbelievable record in the amount of grain export between the years 1932-1933. He dumped this enormous amount of wheat harvested by Ukrainians on the foreign market to generate cash to finance his massive military buildup. Nevertheless, this was not the end and after 10 years the Nazi troops stormed into the country with the aim to rob the grain and pulse storage of Europe. As I look into the general history of Ukraine, I realize that the battles never ended in this country. One reign of terror was simply replaced with another and blood continued to flow over this land. Maybe that is the reason why these people are such hospitable and genial. BROTHER/SISTER WE ARE FINE, WE ARE ON THE SIDE OF PEACE. Holodomor, the famine-genocide in Ukraine is not accepted by Russia but by many other countries nowadays.
I leave this monument and go to the II. World War museum, one of the most impressive but most afflictive museums I have ever visited.
The reality inside draws you right into the heart of the sorrow in those years. Hundreds of letters, photographs, writings… There are the condolence letters sent by the government to the families of fallen soldiers, in one section. “Your son made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of his country. He saved the lives of many soldiers. He is a true hero…” Thousands, ten thousands of letters.
I don’t believe that neither any politicians nor army members had visited those museums yet. If any, most probably just in the company of press or so. And then, I don’t believe that they think any other thing than the show off. Here is the history, it tells how the devastations occurred and who suffered. I felt the same way in Hiroshima. Wars still continue in all over the world, also in my country. If you are human being you would become estranged from the mankind.
It is a reality that the world needs new executives. Having a look into the general view, I see that a generation older than the one of 60s is ruling their country. I wonder if the 1980-1990 generation would better rule their country when in charge. Or, as a result of consumption mania would those rulers even be more brutal? We will see in the future, all together…
Good to go! It is time to leave Kiev. First I hit to the North than to the East to Russia. The first day the road was clean, since I was on the main road I could speed. The weather is minus 20 degrees centigrade, I listen to my ipod. Ups suddenly it shut up! What happened? It has batteries. I took out the ipod from my pocket, and saw that its outher surface had been iced.
I pedal with a speed of 30 km per hour. What’s up! You gotta be kidding me !!!, no way! At the evening, as I want to install my tent in a small town, the poles do not fit into each other. They do not fit since the ropes lost their flexibility. I try to push the ropes into the pole holes for an hour, with no success. The dark fell up. First it started to breeze increasingly then blizzard. I still couldn’t manage to install my tent. I lid my head lamp and went to the corner of a construction out of wind. I try to fix without my gloves. My fingers started to burn due to cold.
I have to wear my gloves. I can move my fingers inside the gloves but then I cannot push these ropes inside poles. Pofff.. Finally I succeeded pushing the rope millimeter by millimeter. I looked for a non-windy place but could not find. Yet, I have to go inside my tent. After such effort outside my body chilled down. Sometimes I enforce my limits. The poles of the tent bend enormously due to wind. This tent really held on quite fine. In the middle of night I had to pee. I tried to unzip the tent, couldn’t. The zip had frozen. I pressed my lips on the zip and started to blow through the zip line. To cope with these things at such a cold needs patience. When I have to urinate I don’t wear my shoes and go away. I open the tent door and pee just in front of the tent and hurry back into the sleeping bag.
I woke up in the morning with the soft sound of falling snow. It is obvious from the white mass on the top of the tent; the outside is totally white. We checcckkkk outside.. Yesss, outside is fucked up. Is the road clean? So so. Pack up Gurkan. I take the outher tent, then come to the poles but the junctions are frozen. I try to thaw with my breath, it loosens. You gotta be shitting me!!! The rope inside the poles just broke off. Let me tell you something!!! The rope did not split off, it broke off. Aha, there is no rope anymore. The poles one by one remain in my hands. Ok, ok you put my patience to a test. J. No problem, I’ll stop at the first gas station and fix it. I pack up and depart (set off). Meanwhile, I started to think to myself about the other possibilities. Throughout the night I tried to push the ropes inside the poles on the snow. The wet ropes got frozen in the cold wind. I bought a banana for breakfast. As woke up, I tried to peel the banana, could not. That banana became a hammer. Take it and bang a nail. I already had known this before. While pedaling in the South of Kiev I took a video of my frozen shoestrings, I had thought of good that the ropes of the poles do not freeze. It seems that they freeze J There is spare parts of almost of anything but not a rope even an elastic thin one. I took out the material in the first restaurant I have found.
I ask the woman “Do you have such a thin rope like that?”. She showed a rope but that is a regular one. Since it has not elasticity property, it would cause trouble during installation of the tent. It is idiotic to waste time to adjust the poles outside at such a cold. I had experience that pain last night. Well then, I stretch the rope and fix it. But as I inspect the pole one by one I realize that two of them had cracked. Wuhuuuu… I repaired them with a special tape. Meanwhile, the zipper of the tent is completely broken down. Just touching the zipper, it starts to separate. The zip teeth are not locked anymore. I‘m 90 km away from Kiev, may I turn back? No, no I will manage this situation. I fixed the pole ropes already. It became a little stiff but works out.
I packed up and set off. After 15 minutes on the road, a car hold me up. A voice with a broken English:
– Please, offer you coffee?
Well why not, I am not on hurry. The car washing place and the cafe next belonged to the man. He invited me. While having conversation I realized that the man saw me on the television. Anddd he says that there is a place to sleep in the building. “You can wash your clothes if you want to”. “I don’t want money from you, stay as long as you want”. I am glad about his hospitality of Ivan (Look he is Ivan again). I need to leave. Then he says “wait” and comes back with a bottle of vodka, hahaha. Vodka is the start of friendships in this country. Meanwhile, I put my mobile for charging, after 5 km it came into my mind and returned. Ivan said “This is a believe here, if you return in a short time to the place you just left, then you definitely come back once again in the future”. Let’s see
I pedaled like crazy through the snow till evening. The road has two-traffic, while trucks are passing by, I don’t stop. A different type of experience is needed while cycling among the trucks. This is really very important, indeed, I need to write a detailed report on this issue. Bicycling during winter on such road is particularly difficult.
I am about to camp at night and this time an elder villager invites me to his home, I accepted. He lives alone in a tiny hut. He in Russian, I in Turkish… What stories he is telling. Wow! The place he offered me is next to the stove. I swore, I took off all my cloth till my slip. I burned.. Meanwhile, I checked from the internet and see that the next night is expected the coldest one in Ukraine. Thnx God… I fixed the tent. The next day pedaling all day till evening, not a single interesting thing happened anyway and I don’t want to bother stopping to take photos in this bloody cold weather.
The camping time is again troublesome. Ugh! I cannot find a suitable place. Outside the road, everywhere is snow high up to my knees. So it was getting dark again while seeking for a good place. That is bullshit !!!, there is a place across the road behind the trees. Excellent, the ones passing by would not see me. I pushed my bike as far as I could, took off the bags and carried them to the place where I will install my tent. It is better not to mention the wind of speed! I adjusted my tent accordingly. I took out the poles and.. They separated and fell down one by one. Before the third one I grabed the pole rope. Yeeeessssss…. It is simply impossible to fix the poles under this weather conditions. The rope had just been rotten. How many times this tent was installed. Quite normal. I got pissed off to myself just in one matter that why I didn’t take a spare pole rope. The wind was beating on my back. Minus 22 degrees, gooooodddd, I remained without tent. What to do now??? I got through so many things as an adventure and here I am, I will get over this as well.
Within a few seconds I managed to install that tent. If you ask me how, this is a subject of another issue worth a couple of pages. Inside the tent it dropped to minus 26 at night. It was snowing and breezing. Since I could not install the tent properly, moisture accumulated inside due to breathing. With the morning lights, I further realized what an idiocy thing I had done. Inside of the tent, every single point was completely frozen, because the top of the tent right above my nose. I could install the only this way. There is a 46 degrees difference between the warmth inside the sleeping back and outside. Anyway, without this sleeping bag I had to forget about camping in such cold weather. Without hesitation I got up and packed. I set off. Since I had to struggle in the snow for hours, my toes started bitterly pain. The day was the day today. I opened the first pair of the warming bands and placed inside my shoes. The second pair of bands went into the gloves. Keep going on…
I was pretty away from Kiev now. Besides, I don’t return the way I came once more. It is impossible to sleep without the tent. I was not able to eat dinner nor breakfast. Impossible without tent. There is not a big city along the road anymore, only a town named Korotop somewhere along the road. But there is still 150 km to reach. This means I needed two or three more days to sleep in the tent. Also, settlements were rare. This was the end. There was no necessity to risk my life. After 35 km, I reached a cross going to Borzna and a few other towns. I start to hitchhike at the bus station. Two vehicles stopped, but as they saw my bicycle they didn’t hitch me. I was pissed off. Shall I go to Borzna? Maybe I find an elastic rope there?? It is written, 5 km… Let’s go there. At the entrance of the town, in a gas station I asked for a hotel. Instead of describing they escort me with their car to the front of the hotel.
– Are you Turk?
For God’s sake, who are you? If someone had said that you meet an Ukrainian speaking Turkish here, I would not believe. This is a situation like meeting a Bedouin and a polar bear in the desert. Svetlana. She took Turkish classes at the University. She knows not only Turkish but also 6 other languages. Together with her husband they are the only computer programmers in this region. Both are computer engineers. I tell them that I came from Turkey by bike. She immediately calls her father and talks. He has seen me on the television.
He says that he will be honored to meet such a man. Apparently the whole village had known me. Firstly I met the villagers then the Borznalians. They invited me to a birthday party in the evening. The day after, they took me for sightseeing the whole the historical places around.
I become a popular man in neighboring from lunch to dinners. By the way, neither in Brozna nor in the neighboring villages, I found the rope I needed. “Gurkan we take you to Korotop by car. If you still cannot find your robe you could take the train to Moscow”. There was a train from Korotop to Moscow. I am 80 km in the vicinity of the border. 400 km is left to Moscow and I am without a tent. L I am very upset, very. When we arrived to Korotop, I could not find those ropes. Svetlana did not leave me alone even once, although she was so busy. She told about me to the custom officers. The whole Korotop gets to know me. Such an important person has come to the city, unbelievable. Regional press just shows up. Hahaha We laughed together with Svetlana. They first took me to lunch, then told me about the history of Korotop, took me to the museum in the afternoon. I met a Tatarian Muslim Suleymanovich. As I told him that I travel the World by bike, he says “you have a blood of your ancestors”. This saying appears familiar to me. They explains their history of his city very nice, I just listen with a great pleasure. Meanwhile, the students of the Gymnasic College do the translation.
You might wonder, where do these students come from Gurkan? I told that the whole city knows me. Everyone tries to host me. The whole city mobilized, people are looking for the rope I need. Wow, in order to see this face of the people the rope had had to split off and I had had to be without tent. I saw such a concern and respect once in Japan and now secondly here. Unfortunately, the rope was not found. The most precious academician of the city and Ukraine hosts me in his house in the evening. Together with his wife, they sing their own songs and many others.
The head of Custom and Border Protection deputy hosts me in his office. He organizes a special place for my bicycle on the train. He tells about his duties and what happens daily in the station in a very funny way.
Whole soldiers get informed. The head officer of the customs and border protection deputy, Sergey says: “You are a brave and fearless person. Godspeed ”. I got mixed up upon such an attention and respect. I just get ashamed, I didn’t do anything just biking. Just as I attend to buy my train ticket, they tell me that they had bought my ticket in the sleeper compartment. As I get into my train, a 5 men customer team and two women soldiers and a K9 dog accompany me to the compartment. Hahahahah.. Well, I’m just taking the train to Moscow.
See here! I don’t understand what is happening. There are almost 60 people in the wagons, everywhere is full of beds. The people were told who I am and what I am doing, come to meet me and shake hands. They share their meals. You know the men all are sturdy (well built). Muscular, 2 m tall so on. One of them started speaking to me, in Russian. Another woman in the wagon is translating. That guy knocked on my shoulder to admire, I slipped one step aside. My shoulder perished perished. Cap it all, he hugs me. Stop, my friend! The place is narrow enough, I cannot move. Hahahaha that rope had had to break to leave this country in such way. There are so many experiences. Well, if I hadn’t slept in the tent at minus 26 degrees centigrade, I would not have met these beautiful people and would not have eyewitness these wonderful events. (The contest is over! The winner is Ömer Kerim Gül from Antalya…At which town was the regional journalist waiting for me to pass during my Turkey-Japan tour? What is the name of this town and what is it famous for? Please, send your answers to the e-mail address found in “Gurkan Genc bisiklet veriyor” section of my website. I will respond back through the same address and give a bicycle as present. I share the winner through facebook and my website. This question was asked on January 1st at 18:30. I accepted the answers sent until January 2nd 2013 at 00:30. I do not accept any answer sent after dead line or to any other address. 153 people answered this question and 86 of them sent the correct answer. I replied to everyone. I will write the name of 4th lucky person right here…)
I got off the train in the morning. I am in Moscow. I used the train for over 400 km, no matter, I would add a country in place of his. Now it is time to check my equipments and my bike. Let’s see the Red Square before I go to the embassy guesthouse. I will stay in Moscow till January 8th. After renewing the equipments, the target is St. Petersburg.
I entered the New Year in the Red Square. I had seen this square always in the movies, in tour programs. Now, it’s now my turn and on top of it, at the beginning of the new year. The years pass on and we get older. I believe that in order to realize our dreams, first of all we need to be healthy. Be healthy to follow our dreams.
Happy new year to everybody! J
с Новым годом!