TWENTY-EIGHTH MOVEMENT: UKRAINE
I woke up in my hotel in Batumi, showered, dressed, packed my bags, and checked out shortly after 11:00. I then walked through the nearly vacant Sunday-morning streets of Batumi until I found a cab; the driver tried to charge me twice as much the hotel receptionist quoted me, but I wouldn’t have it; so, eventually he relented and took the fair fare rather than no fare at all. I was then driven to the airport, located south of the city, and entered inside the terminal around 11:45. My flight was scheduled to depart at 17:50, so I had time to kill. I walked to the café in the terminal, found a table, put my bags down, and ordered a Georgian beer. I then read from T.E. Lawrence’s ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom.’ Throughout the duration of my wait, I also had another beer, potato chips, and a sandwich stuffed with tomato slices, sausage slices, and lettuce; later on I had a cappuccino and a chocolate bar; even later, I had an Americano. Also, while waiting at the café, there was an announcement played repetitively on the loudspeaker alerting everyone that there was a fire in the building for about five straight minutes; no one paid any attention to it and neither did I. At 16:30, I checked in for my flight, passed through Passport Control, and entered the waiting area at the gate, where I had one last Americano in order to exhaust most of the remaining Georgian lira in my wallet. Finally, it came time to board the aircraft – a Boeing 737-700 operated by Turkish Airlines. The flight took off after 18:00 and I was surprised to see an active chef as part of the flight crew (wearing the chef hat and all); we were then served our in-flight meal of a salad (made up of lettuce, a tomato, smoked salmon, and a potato salad), crackers, a sandwich (filled with tomatoes, cheese, and lettuce), and water; I also had a small bottle of Turkish dry white wine that tasted of lemons, pears, and flowers, with a hint of vanilla (it may have been crafted from Pinot Grigio grapes based on the taste). As the plane approached Constantinople Istanbul, we flew over the city and the Bosphorus Strait (which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea and splits the city between Europe and Asia); Istanbul was bathed in a late evening blue light, creating a fine image for us simple passengers to view as we descended down to the airport. The plane landed thirty minutes later than scheduled and I had forty minutes before my connecting flight was scheduled to depart. It was a mad rush to get to the flight to Odessa (which was at its last call), but I made it and so did my luggage. Once I and the other late-comers arrived at the gate, we took a bus to the airplane and boarded the craft; naturally, all the overhead compartments were full due to too many passengers bringing two or three carry-on items with them and quite a few carry-ons people bring these days are the size of checked baggage – I have no idea what the Hell is wrong with most people . . . entitlement I guess; so, I had to do like other passengers (about a quarter of them) and stow my carry-on under my legs since it didn’t fully fit under the seat in front of me – fuck it, forget about airline safety regulations. The aircraft (a Boeing 737-800 operated by Turkish Airlines took off shortly after 19:10 and we flew north to Odessa. I then had the in-flight meal which consisted of a salad (made of lettuce, tomato slices, and cheese slices), a turkey sandwich (with tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles), crackers, a delectable chocolate mousse, and water; in addition, I had Turkish red wine crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes, and that tasted of raspberries, cherries, vanilla, and earth flavors with a hint of coffee. Sadly, on this Turkish Airlines flight, I did not see an attendant wearing a chef’s uniform.
The aircraft then landed at Odessa International Airport at 20:40, I exited the aircraft, passed through Immigration, grabbed my bag from the baggage carousel, passed through Customs, pulled some Ukrainian hryvnia out of the ATM, and then exited the terminal. Unfortunately, the buses to the city had stopped making their runs for the day and the taxi drivers demanded a rather high price (on top of that, they didn’t speak English); well, I knew what this meant: exercise. I walked north, following the majority of traffic and tried my best to figure out where I was based on the limited maps I had available on my iPhone (snapshots of where several hostels were located; too bad I couldn’t connect to the internet in the airport to get my position on the Map application). I fared pretty well, passing the railroad tracks, the Odessa Cognac Factory, and I walked on for a while (over two hours after departing the airport – it was now 23:20) before deciding to ask for some directions (in turns out, I was pretty much where I imagined I was); I stopped at the convenience store for a gas station and asked the girls behind the counter, but none of them spoke English (move over Israel, I think we have a new winner for “least-English-friendly country” – based on this and the following three days I was in Odessa); a man then came in to pay for the gasoline he poured in to the tank of his car and looked at a map on my iPhone (I had originally planned on staying at a hostel near the Railway Station, but I had walked too far; so, I then planned to stay at a hostel in the central part of Odessa, in the old town) and I indicated that I wanted to go to the center of Odessa; he then agreed to take me to the hostel and drove me the short distance there (I would’ve been glad just to receive directions, but being driven is nice too); he then asked for 100 hryvnia for a service that I thought was a goodwill gesture; since we didn’t discuss a price beforehand, I contested the price and told him (through a language-translating application on his smartphone) that I thought it was a goodwill gesture; he then dropped the issue and kindly wished me well. I then walked to the hostel, rang the doorbell, and was let inside. They had spare beds available and I asked to stay for four nights. There was also a picture of Ernest Hemingway next to a model ship, which I took for a good sign. I then paid for my stay, dropped my bags off at my bed, checked my emails, and then went to sleep after 01:00.