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Eastern European [radioactive] ride: Ukraine - Transnistria - Moldova - Romania

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2015 was probably the best year for me, in terms of traveling, as i rode my motorcycle abroad for about 25,000 km. Some of my trips, not including the one that follows, were on the Georgian side of Caucasus mt range, «The Greater Caucasus ride» and others in the wider Balkans, like «Alone in central Balkans» and «Scouting South Serbia». Also, the following year was just as exciting, as i repeated the kilometers i covered in 2015. Also, because i had my longest ride, 22-days of exploring western Russia, part of the Scandinavian and Baltic countries «Russia & Baltics».

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Day 1: Thessaloniki, Hellas – Bucharest, Romania (~ 720 km)
 
It was still night when we met up just outside the city. I find sleeping at night before a ride a luxury, because of the anticipation of the trip and the violent sound of the alarm clock. Before dawn, we arrived at Komotini and left the country from the border station of Nymfaia.
 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 
Following I5 - E85 road within Bulgaria, we passed Kardzhali (Кърджали) and the town of Stara Zagora (Стара Загора) and had our first stop at the monument - former conference center «Buzludzha» (Бузлуджа).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
The terrible traffic jam we encountered to approach, the ruined carcass of this brutalist communist structure, was explained as our visit coincided with the 124th anniversary of the founding of the socialist movement in Bulgaria (The Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP - Българска социалистическа партия, БСП).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
I have been there several times, but for the first time in such a festive setting.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
While in my 3 posts, under the title «Bulgaria: In search of concrete Titans» [Part I, Part II and Part III], extensive reference is made to socialist-inspired relics, this monument is not included, nor do i have more information about it.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Bypassing Veliko Tarnovo (Велѝко Тъ̀рново) and traffic jams from Ruse (Русе) to the Danube bridge.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
We soon found ourselves in Bucharest and strolled through the Old Town.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
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Day 2: Bucharest, Romania  Chisinau, Moldova (~ 460 km)
 
We left Bucharest early to visit the island on the lake Snagov, where it is believed that the headless body found in the courtyard of the monastery belonged to Dracula.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
We could not find the lake, we got lost several times, we suffered on dirt roads, dead ends, fallen bridges, until we ended up in garbage dumps and gave up trying.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
We moved north on the E85 and then east on the E581, towards Moldova. The section Barlad - Husi up to the border, was a road of concrete slabs, paved side by side.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
It reminded me of the route from Zugdidi to Mestia (Caucasus), although, to be honest, i would have preferred the Georgian mountain temperatures to the 40 Celsius degrees in the vast Romanian plains.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
The heat was unbearable and we were in despair because we could not easily reach to Moldova.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Easy passage in the country and purchase of a vignette (40 lei).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

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The road network to Chisinau (Chișinău) was perfect.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
After quickly settling into a hotel, we went for a walk in the city (almost with my slippers on).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
For some reason it was not very crowded outside and there were few entertainment options, although we were in the center.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Finally to a casino, enjoying latin rhythms.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

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Day 3: Chisinau, Moldova – Tiraspol, Transnistria – Kiev, Ukraine (~ 620 km)
 
The initial goal of the day was to visit the city of Tiraspol (Тирасполь), located in the south, in an autonomous part of Moldova. The newborn state is struggling to gain international recognition and Tiraspol is considered the de facto capital and administrative centre of the unrecognised Transnistria, or Transdniestria, or, officially, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (shortlly, just PMR).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
On Transnistrian territory and after a thorough inspection of documents and personal belongings, we were forced to issue a temporary permit for our motorcycles that cost around 145 Transnistrian rubles [note that Transnistrian rubles arent recognized as a currency anywhere in the world].
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
We were stopped by state authorities, for no obvious reason, on the bridge over the Dniester River and then twice on October 25th Street, in front of the monument that dominates a Τ34\85 tank.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Usual negotiations.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

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I have written an extensive article, entitled A glance in Transnistria and Tiraspol [PMR]. There, i explain the historical data concerning this «autonomous territorial unit», i try to answer the question: «Is PMR one of the last remnants of the USSR?» and i close with some advice for anyone thinking of visiting it. The following five photos are from this post.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Exit from Transnistria.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
We returned to Chisinau, Moldova and headed to Dubasari, to exit to Ukraine.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Not an easy task, of course, since we had to cross again a part that belongs to the territorial jurisdiction of Transnistria. Their border guards had us waiting, under the August sun, for no particular reason.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Due to a «problem to your papers», they expressed a financial demand. I still don’t know why they harass travelers that much, when they are particularly interested in the image of the country abroad.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
At the Ukrainian borders i experienced the strictest control i have ever received as a traveler. After deliberate delays, repeated questions about the purpose of our visit and the route in the country, they took photos of our motorcycles as well as their identification numbers (licence plates and frame numbers).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
I understood later, that the check we passed from the authorities, was necesserary. At every intersection on the provincial road network, i was noticing military Humvees and other small armored vehicles, because of the recent Crimea events. So, them being cautious and strick during the control was justified. The reason why our vehicles were photographed was never officially explained. I just guess the collected data would be used in case we break the law.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
The provincial road Ε584, starting at the border (near Platonove) until its intersection with the E95, was the worst 80 km i ever drove. The holes - craters on the road, gave me the impression that i was climbing the edge of a sidewalk with speed and of course when i returned to Thessaloniki the front rim was found damaged.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
330 comfortable kilometers of highway followed and we were soon in the center of Kiev.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
The day was huge and full. After a short walk for food, we returned to the rooms to rest.

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Day 4: Kiev, Ukraine – Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (0 km)
 
After we met our guide and the driver in Kiev city center, we headed north to the army-secured area. We entered the «Chernobyl Exclusion Zone», the «30 Kilometer Zone», or simply «The Zone» from Dytiatky checkpoint. It is located on a branch of the P02 road, between Ivankiv (32km) and Chernobyl (23km).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Within the Zone we visited several sites: The abandoned village of Zalissya, inhabited only by one elderly woman, the completely buried village of Kopachi [only the kindergarten is still standing], the city of Chernobyl and the Fire Station.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
We also approached the gates of the Nuclear Power Plant, where maintenance and restoration on the old concrete was performed, while the new sarcophagus was being constructed.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
I was especially impressed of the so-called «Red Forest» and the secret Soviet radar «Duga-1».
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Personally, the top spot of interest within the Zone was the town of Pripyat. There once lived about fifty thousand people, mainly military personnel and top scientists from all over the Soviet Union, who were working at the C.N.P.P.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
The city was evacuated the next day of the accident, with the promise that they would return in a short time, which of course never happened. It is the reason they left behind almost all their belongings.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

D14%2BStara%2BVaros%2BBlog.JPG
 
Anyone who wants to know more, may follow the link of an earlier post of mine, entitled «Zone of Alienation». The relevant photos come from that post.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

 

Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
I highly recommend anyone to visit the «Zone» to discover that behind the controlled image of decline (by those who exploit the site’s fate), there was once a Soviet city - jewel and to experience the aftermath of the biggest tragedy of the 20th century.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
We returned to Kiev in the late afternoon.

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Day 5: Kiev, Ukraine  Iasi, Romania (~ 580 km)
 
We left Kiev early for Iasi, Romania.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
First we rode on the E40 to Zhytomyr and then south on the M21, up to the border town of Mohyliv - Podilskyi, next to the river Dniester.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Within Moldova we covered about 160 km, mainly on E583 - R12 and soon we crossed the border and found ourselves in Romania, north of Iasi.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
We spent some time to relax in a café overlooking the Grădină Publică Palas park, in front of the Palace of Culture, formerly the palace of the Phanariot prince of Moldavia and Wallachia Alexandros Mourouzis. The most remarkable event of the day took place in the city of Vinnytsia (Ukraine). There, a motorcyclist approached us on the street and introduced himself to us, as if we had known each other for years.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
We did not know each other's language, but, as always, motorcycle solidarity overcomes linguistic and other obstacles. He insisted that we could not just leave and he invited us to a great place, where the local motorcycle club Zagul meets.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Thank you Igor for the treat, the stickers and those super cool tailor-patches of your club. We will be happy to make even for the hospitality in our place, Thessaloniki Hellas.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

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Day 6: Iasi – Sighisoara – Sibiu, Romania (~ 420 km)
 
The day included everything i like in Romania. Extremely beautiful natural landscapes, lakes, gorges, medieval castles and incredible country roads.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Initially we moved on the E58 and later on the provincial roads 28 and 15, up to the gorge Bicaz (Cheile Bicazului), where the Red Lake (Lacul Roşu) is located.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
After a quick stop, the 12C and 13C roads led us to the birthplace of Vlad the 3rd, or Vlad the Impaler, or shortly Count Dracula. His name is permanently on every list about the most famous Romanians of all times.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
The medieval town, with its colorful old houses and cobbled streets, is amazing and a walk within its walls is a must.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Its reference point is the 64 meters high Clock Tower, built in the 14th century.
 
F10%2BStara%2BVaros%2BBlog.jpg
 
The final part of the route, on the provincial road 14 brought us to Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt, Transylvanian Saxon: Härmeschtat).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
It is probably the most beautiful city in Romania, at least from the ones i have visited, with numerous well preserved buildings. We walked around the main square and tested the legend on the «Bridge of Lies», this idiosyncratic lie detector, which ultimately did not bend from the weight of the lies we have told in our lives.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride

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Day 7: Sibiu, Romania – Transalpina pass – Nis, Serbia (~ 530 km)
 
The route of the day started on the A1, up to the city Sebes (Sebeș), where the famous 67C road, known as Transalpina, begins.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
In a previous post of mine about the mountain pass 7C in Romania, better known as Transfagarasan Highway, i tried to answer the question if it is the best motorcycle road and many had suggested Transalpina.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
I will not disagree with anyone, as these two mountain passes are among the top roads in our Balkan neighborhood.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
On a road like this one, the most difficult thing to do is to stop and take photos, since nature, together with the engineers, created a huge playground for motorcyclists.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Here follows a video of a «relaxed» [this is what my fellow traveler Lazaros still claims] uphill ride of the last section of Transalpina. Set to 1080p and enjoy:
 
 
The end of Transalpina, from north to south, is defined somewhere after the Cross monument and before the small town of Ranca (Rânca).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
After passing the city Targu Jiu (Târgu Jiu), we moved towards the river Danube and the country's border with Serbia.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
This point is called Iron Gates, due to the hydroelectric dam that connects the two countries. Very close there are findings from the first bridge built over the Danube in 105 AD, the bridge of the Roman emperor Trajan, designed by the Greek architect Apollodorus of Damascus. The section of the route through Serbia [the country road 35: Negotin - Zajecar - Knjezavac] up to the city of Nis, was in a really poor condition and we reached the limits of our endurance.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
The day ended with a short walk around the Nis city center.

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Day 8: Nis, Serbia - Thessaloniki, Hellas (~ 420 km)
 
I always find totaly boring the kilometers on E75 highway. I close my post with the next photo i took just outside Nis, that shows a famous warlord of the Hellenic Revolution of 1821.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Eastern European [radioactive] ride
 
I wish «Freedom» to all those who, in these difficult days of covid-19, are under restraint, mental or other.

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