Saturday, June 23, 2012
Kharkov – Kyiv – Brovary
Fortuitously our bus leaves Kharkov at noon. Otherwise, I suspect, we would never have made it out of here in time. We are in bits after last night’s shenanigans.
It is an eight hour, 480 kilometre bus ride to Kyiv. It would be shorter but the brand new ‘Platini Highway’, connecting the two host cities, only actually exists for about half of the distance, with a large piece of road mysteriously absent in the middle. Corruption – what corruption?
The Patron Saint of Hospitality, Oleksa, is awaiting us at Kyiv bus station, where I take the bullish decision to book a Monday bus to Lviv in the hope that England will play the semi-final in Warsaw next week, placing me just a few hours away from the Polish capital.
“I don’t know what the hell we would have done without you, Oleksa” Neil croaks, clearly the worse for wear after 18 days on the road. He is absolutely right though – without the amazing hospitality of Oleksa life would have been ten times more difficult and expensive…and certainly not so much fun. That's not to mention the brilliant company and many insightful conversations we have enjoyed together.
Thirty air-conditioned kilometres later we are back in Brovary where Oleksa and his wife, Vita, take us out for the evening to an outdoor wooden restaurant set amongst pine trees. It is Midsummer’s night and frankly you couldn’t imagine a more fitting location to spend the shortest night of the year. This is the place where Oleksa took Vita for their first date and where the five of us enjoy shashliks, mushroom pancakes and Chernihovska beer under the stars. There is also a disco pumping out happy Russian and Eurodisco tunes, the music only interrupted briefly to allow a local lad to propose to his girlfriend. It’s a brave move but yes, she does say ‘Da’.
Spain are playing France in the third quarter final but we are happy to miss the match. It has been a gorgeous Midsummer’s evening. Who cares about football anyway?!
Spain 2 France 0