It was nice to be able to sleep in a bit today. Check out was at 11 but since we are spending the day in Odessa and taking the night train, Dris had booked 2 rooms as day rooms for us to use. We had breakfast and then Jef and Glen went out to find a SIM card for their cellphones.
At 11, we dropped our backpacks off in one of the day rooms and walked down to the Black Sea, about a mile from our hotel, down a steep hill (why is everything so steep in these countries??).
It was a lovely day and plenty of people were on the beach and in the water. We hadn't worn our suits, figuring the water would be too chilly, but we took our shoes off and waded along the beach for quite awhile...then we waded back.
There were a number of little café places so we picked The Yellow Café for lunch. We split a hamburger and fries, which wasn't too bad. The young man running the café (by himself) was from Morocco and was there in Odessa studying piloting boats (I think--that's what we understood anyway!). As we were sitting sea-side, enjoying the day, Glen, Margaret and Nyarie walked by. They had come to wade in the sea too.
We spent about an hour and half there, then decided to hike back up to the hotel area. Dris had suggested getting some snacks and water for the train so we wandered over to a grocery store and picked up a few things. Just to waste some more time, we went to a coffee stand next to the hotel and then took our coffee to a very nice park next door. We sat and enjoyed the day and people watching. We probably could/should have gone to some museums or explored the city a bit more but it was relaxing just to sit!
At 6:30pm, most of us went to dinner at Ya-Ya, a traditional Georgian restaurant attached to the hotel. The waitress messed up most of our orders: she gave Tommy my chicken with bbq sauce and he'd eaten half of it by the time she gave me his chicken in milk & garlic sauce and we realized the mistake--we just traded half and half; and Jef's order of hot pot chicken & veggies took over an hour to come. He was the last one served. I had ordered a cheese Khachapuri with egg as an appetizer so we shared that--it was really good!
By 8:30 it was time to meet Dris and the others in the hotel to transfer to the train station for the trip to Kiev. Dris, with a pained expression, said he had some bad news. The Intrepid office, who made the train reservations, had reserved only even numbers, meaning that all our bunks were upper bunks and only 2 of us would be in a 4 person compartment at a time...instead of reserving 3 complete compartments for us. He knew that some of us would not be happy about it and he appoligized but there was nothing he could do now. So we boarded our small transfer bus to go to the train station.
We had almost an hour wait there before we could board the train. Dris suggested that if someone wanted the bottom bunk, they ask the strangers they'd be sharing with if they would be willing to switch. Nyarie (70 something New Zealander) was ahead of us getting on and when she asked the young couple sharing the compartment with her and Penny to switch, they said no. Nyarie struggled to get up and was very unhappy. When we got to our compartment, it was empty. I sat on the bottom bunk and Jef went up on top of that. When our compartment mates arrived, it turned out to be 2 young women and one of them, very nicely, agreed to switch with me! I thanked them profusely in my very bad Russian. We sat and talked for a bit--well we tried as only 1 of them spoke a little English-- but we got by. They were Anna and Oksana, lawyers from Vinnytsia, a city between Odessa and Kiev and had been in Odessa on business. They would be getting off the train at Vinnytsia at 4am; we would be arriving in Kiev at 7am.
The compartments were older but not in bad shape. There was a "mattress" (more like a bath towel), pillow, set of 2 flat sheets and a pillow case on each bunk for you to set up your bed yourself. The train had left the station at 10:30pm and at almost 11:30, we all made up our beds and climbed in. I'd like to tell you that it was a nice night's sleep but I'd be lying. It was pretty much uncomfortable and I don't think I slept at all. I normally like sleeping on trains but this one was awfully rocky and jerky. At 3:30, the conductor lady came to wake up our lawyers for their stop. I was planning to grab one of their pillows when they got off to try and get more comfortable. I did take the opportunity to use the bathroom when they left and was surprised that it was in good shape--I'd heard very bad things about the train bathrooms but this one was just fine. Returning to the compartment, I grabbed a pillow and started to settled in when the door began to open. I quickly threw the pillow back on the bunk across from me and pretended to be asleep. I'd never have thought it but 2 women entered the compartment--they must have booked it for the 3 remaining hours to Kiev :( By pretending to be asleep, they couldn't ask me why I was in one of their bunks! I think it was a mother and daughter, young enough that the top bunk was no problem for her; they didn't say anything but just remade the beds and used their side top & bottom bunks. Good for that but bad for me getting a pillow!
...continued on next journal entry!....