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Pole to Pole

Day 40: Odessa to Istanbul

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleOnce cleared by Customs we are free to have a last lunch in the USSR. The good news is that the terminal has an outdoor restaurant, something we've been looking for for the last two weeks, the bad news is that it is on a crumbling concrete terrace which looks as if it has been reprieved halfway through demolition. The catering is standard to bad - our twenty-fourth zakuski, a gristly hamburger topped with fried egg, and coffee from chipped cups with broken handles. It's the sort of experience that makes you want to get to Istanbul as fast as possible, but we have a thirty-six-hour journey ahead of us, and to all intents and purposes it will be another day and a half in the Soviet Union. Our vessel is Odessa-registered and built in Bulgaria. She is a thirty-year-old, 280-foot-long, 1000-ton training ship. Her name, Junost, means 'Youth'. She has only recently been converted to take passengers and runs a ferry service to Turkey every five days. There is no alternative.

In the late afternoon the time comes to say our goodbyes to the team of Russian drivers, interpreters and fixers who have become our friends. They have guided us through the labyrinth of official obstruction with great skill and the fact that we have been able to film all we wanted and travel as and when we wanted is down to them. Volodya looks exhausted, and though there must be relief in their farewell waves, I think there is also regret, not just that we are going but that we can go so easily. For all the fatigue I feel after crossing the Soviet Union, the sight of their faces as the Junost pulls slowly away makes me aware of how fortunate I am.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 40
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Odessa
  • Book page no: 89

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