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Pole to Pole

Day 37: Cerkassy to Odessa

The Dnieper River 
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The mighty Dnieper: south on the Katun.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleBreakfast at the Hotel Dnieper in Cerkassy offers some odd fare. There's very sweet yoghurt, served in a glass, cottage cheese with sugar, and a choice of either dry hard white bread or dry hard brown bread with slices of sausage. There is no coffee, but tea from the samovar.

As I'm upstairs packing for what I estimate to be the seventeenth time on the journey so far, I look down at my bed and experience a most unusual feeling of foreboding. I'm not normally given to precognition but something warns me against proceeding to Odessa by road. Two out of three vehicles are damaged, one beyond repair, and I've experienced enough of the haphazard inefficiency of Soviet life to make me fear for the safety of the third.

Our problems in the end aren't mechanical as much as navigational. Somewhere between Cerkassy and Uman we get horribly lost on unmarked maps and unsigned roads, finding ourselves stranded in sprawling landscapes of weed-ridden wheatfields. Eventually we find ourselves on the Kiev-Odessa main road, which is narrow and fortunately not busy. We cross the fast-flowing river Bug, and twelve miles north of Odessa we pass the first vineyards I've seen in the Soviet Union. The people down here are darker, almost Turkish in looks, and the blonde hair of the north gives way to the lustrous jet black of the south.

By six, after a drive of 300 miles, we reach Odessa safely. From the top of the Potemkin Steps, a few hundred yards from the hotel, I give thanks beside the Black Sea.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 37
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Cerkassy
  • Book page no: 83

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