Saturday, July 10, 2010

The long and terrible roads of Ukraine

My Dad emailed me a few days before I left and asked me to pick up an international driver's license so I could take over some (most) of the driving while I was there.  In most countries, I don't think you need an international driver's license, but since I didn't want to visit a Ukrainian jail for any reason, I thought it would be a good idea. 

When I arrived, the trip from the train station to Dad's house introduced me to the roads I had heard so much about.  Tanya's son Andrei came to pick us up and he expertly manoeuvred around potholes and crumbling streets in the dark.   It wasn't until the next day, when we went on a little drive to the nearby river, that I saw what I was about to face head on.

In the village, every main road looks like a Canadian back alley.  Same width, same crumbling pavement, same potholes.  Well, worse potholes.  I learned that there is no such thing as driving on the right side of the road.  There is only driving where your car will not be destroyed.  On the highway, it is the same thing but with slightly wider roads and much higher speeds. 

A good portion of the highway to Crimea
I drove back from the river to get my feet wet (ha ha) and only managed to nearly take out the undercarriage of the car once or twice.  The rest of the time, I learned to drive while swerving and dodging pieces of cement (yes, cement!) that had come dislodged from the road to the quarry.  It was absolutely the most fun I'd had in a long time, but I am surprised that my father and his wife have managed to stay married for as many years as they have considering the stress of watching him drive. 
Not a bad section of road actually.
Dad started to drive on the long 8 hour trip to Crimea and the Black Sea.  (It would have taken less time if we had been able to go the speed limit, but somethings are too much to ask for.)  We reached the one section of road where to go anything above 5km an hour would be foolish. 

The roads looked like clay.  Apparently, roads are the responsibility of the towns and cities they belong to.  So, in the cities, if there is money, the roads are decent.  In the villages, where money is scare, the roads have not been touched but for small patch jobs here and there.  That was the one thing that communism had at least taken care of.  Now that each section was left to fend for themselves, it did not reach the level of priority that things like, oh, food or shelter did.

They aren't clay, but they look like it.

This is the highway.
After we cleared this section of road, I took over driving.  The rest was a cake walk compared.  I even got to go 100 kms for awhile!!  It was glorious.

When I got home to Canada and saw construction crews out on the highway, it was all I could do not to walk over and kiss them all on the mouth. 


  1. That really bad section in Krivii Rih was in fact clay or something other than asphalt. Tanya said it had been like that for 20 years. Likely a jurisdictional dispute - everyone says it is someone else's responsibility to fix that section of road.

  2. We have a bunch of roads that look like that in Pennsylvania. Way to go PennDOT.

    I would kiss your road crew too.

  3. After spending a year in Florida, and getting used to the lack of potholes from the freezing and thawing effect, we returned to Indiana where a drive into town becomes one of head banging and breaking the steel belts in the tires. There's no such thing here as sipping on a Coke while driving like we enjoyed down south.

    It's safe to revisit my blog Bronwein...I never was the actual bigot I ONCE accidentally appeared to be.

  4. The challenge is that Saskatchewan's roads are becoming more and more like those of the Ukraine. As you note:

    Apparently, roads are the responsibility of the towns and cities they belong to. So, in the cities, if there is money, the roads are decent. In the villages, where money is scare, the roads have not been touched but for small patch jobs here and there.

    How very Saskatchewan. Gotta cut taxes, right?

  5. I'm visiting by way of Beth Zimmerman's blog, A Work in Progress and I have to say I am looking at these pictures and thinking "what's so bad about those?" You see I live in Pennsylvania and our roads look like that all the time. They are always under construction but they never seem to get better.

  6. Looks like I have to take some serious pictures and post them. No one believes you unless they have actually been here.
    Sask roads are superhighways in comparison.

  7. If they look like the road crews Steph and I saw in Ireland, I'd kiss them too.


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