ladcykel østeuropa
August 31, 2014

On a cargo bike through Eastern Europe

The Maidan revolution in Ukraine was in full swing. The protests in Kiev were violent and Maidan Square was barricaded. There was armed fighting at the front in eastern Ukraine.

When I lived with a woman in a squalid apartment in Minsk, Belarus, she would turn on the radio in the kitchen in the morning while we ate cheese. We listened to the shooting from the front in Ukraine and she waved her index finger in the air in front of my face and said “Ukraine – No-no!!”. I tried to reassure her that I wasn't going to the front and that I should probably be alert and take care of myself.

The first morning in Ukraine, I stuck my head out of my tent, next to a small river. There sat a man fishing. He invited me home for breakfast, and by 10 o'clock I was drunk on vodka, full of delicious local specialties, and high on life after forming a beautiful friendship with the man and his family.

He didn't know a word of English, but called his daughter, who could translate. Through her, he said: "It is only the big, powerful politicians who create disagreements and chaos in the world. We ordinary people like each other and are good at getting along. There are no problems here”.

When you don't know the same language, you can always call your daughter, who knows English.
My first experience with the hospitality you experience on a bike tour.

It was my first long trip by bike. I had chosen an Omnium Cargo bike because it was fun and eye-catching. And its large bed was extremely convenient to pack. I got good attention on it along the way, and I found out how easy it is to strike up a conversation with locals when there is immediately something to talk about. People asked if they could sit on the bed and go along for the ride. I even got into the newspaper in Belarus because I caused a stir.

The bicycle is a good icebreaker
…and easy to pack
The local boys found out how good the brakes are, the hard way.

I'm sure my flying ears grew even bigger as I approached Kiev. I was super alert to every little sign of conflict. But everything was peaceful, all the way until I could wheel my bike into Maidan Square. There was barbed wire and barricades. Tanks kept strategically placed. A wall of pictures and flowers reminded all passers-by of the sacrifices made in this chaos of hope for a better future.

I met some local young people who invited me to stay with them. Just like the months before, Yaya Hassan had been staying. Through them I learned about the revolution and what they were fighting for. The young girls were not allowed to take an active part in the conflict, but had made a soup kitchen, from which they brought food to those besieging the square. A week after I left Kiev, I got word from the girls that the police had cleared the entire square by force. The front continued in eastern Ukraine, but life in the capital now went on in its normal course.

Maidan square
The site was cleared with bulldozers a week later
The fallen are remembered

When at the end of the trip I stood by Potempkin's steps in Odessa, looking out over the Black Sea (or the industrial port, which blocked the view), it was just the beginning of this summer's adventure. Then I went to the Alps, to mountain bike from Mt. Blanc to Matterhorn – From Chamonix to Zermatt. And to top it off, I climbed Mt Blanc.

My first longer bike ride ends at the Potemkin Stairs in Odessa.
Lenin everywhere
Pimped Volga
Classic Borscht
24-hour visa to Transnistria
Ham Sheriffen owns most of Transnistria
1 month later, on top of mt Blanc

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