Day 200 | 200 Days! And into Moldova

Day 200 | Friday September 30

200 days on the road today, it’s already a long time and I’m probably not even halfway down. What an amazing adventure it is already. I saw so many places, learned new stuff and met crazy amounts of people. And I want to thank them as without the help I’m getting from them I wouldn’t be so far.

Today I am exactly 200 days on the road! 100 days ago I was in Oslo, now I arrived in Moldova. It has been inspiring,…

Posted by Plug Me In on Freitag, 30. September 2016

I started this day with a goodbye breakfast with Natalia. Now at a nice Italian restaurant with charger right in front of the door, perfect. I thanked her big time as she really did a lot for me and treated me like a king.

To go more south towards Turkey I had to go a bit west throuh Moldova. Veronika knew a nice hotel who wanted to help me out. But than I had to enter Moldova first and this was a bit more complicated as expected. Somehow I thought the country was part of the EU but this was definitely not the case. At the border there were some complicated processes and it took a bit before I was allowed. About 50 kilometers in there was another border patrol, pretty strange as it was in the middle of the country. Again they inspected my car and I needed to come inside to fill out a form. It was completely in Russian language but the officer “could help me with this” wink wink. I tried to do it myself but it was not possible. Anyway the problem was I had no money with me. In my luggage I had some Russian money left and luckily the guy accepted this.I thought I was there now but only 10 kilometers later another inspection on the road. Again they cleared the car and they saw the 4 boxes of Dopper’s I have with me. The officer said this was commercial stuff and I needed to pay import costs for it, right in the middle of the country. Yeah right. And it was not a small fee, he asked 40% of the value. I was a fed up with this and called Sasha, a journalist who would meet me later today. I gave the phone to the officer, they talked for a few minutes and he would let me go. Good stuff.

I arrived at Villa Drago, a stunning complex with swimming pool and everything. It felt very western and according to Sasha, one of the workers it was owned by Inga who lived in England for a while. The complex was very modern and just at the end of the season so most people where gone. With Sasha I talked a lot and he treated me with some hamburgers. He explained that there is an autonomous region in Moldova with their own laws and border checks, that declared the reason why I was stopped multiple times. 

Sasha, the journalist came by and interviewed me for national television. He told me there is not so much happening in the country so a story like this is very interesting for them. It will be aired on Tuesday and I will post the link in the blog. 

Day 198 & 199 | Odessa

Day 198 | Wednesday September 28

From the hotel in Kryve Ozero it was only a short drive to Odessa. Natalia, the sister of Sergei (number 4) who is a huge EV enthusiast and makes his own electric cars, welcomed me in the city. She arranged that I could stay at Elementary Hostel, right in the middle of centre. From there we drove the car to a charger (there are plenty in the city) and went for lunch at a restaurant. I could pick anything I wanted which is a big treat for me, I was so silly to ask for french fries with the beaf steak to later find out that this was a seriously luxurious restaurant and I received some weird looks when I asked them that, they thought potato puree might be an better idea, fair enough.

Natalia showed me Odessa. I was very impressed by the architecture, it has an Italian/ Greek feel and looks very different as the other Ukrainian cities I visited.

History of Odessa

Odessa is a city with a very interesting history. A small village until 1794, it was transformed into Russia’s 3rd largest city in only 11 years, on the orders of Catherine the Great. She wanted an important commercial port on the Black Sea and decided to named it after the name of the settlement the Greeks had at this very place in antiquity, Odess. Except she thought there were not enough cities in Russia with women’s names, so she feminized it to Odessa.

With Communism came corruption and a bridge, built in 1967, was nicknamed the Mother-in-Law Bridge. There is another pedestrian bridge not very far, and the usefulness of this one is questionable. However, the mayor at the time had a mother-in-law who was an outstanding cook, and he would eat at her house all the time. Along with other communist leaders, he lived in the palaces of the murdered aristocrats and the bridge is located directly in line from his house to his mother-in-law’s! There used to be a lot of love-chains of the bridge but because of the heavy weight they removed them all and placed them on a heart-art-installation. 

We met Veronika, a Moldavian girl who did research for a new business here in the city. At the top of a hotel at the beach we had some drinks and the view over the sea and harbor was stunning. With a very noisy taxi we drove to the city for dinner, real french fries this time.

Day 199 | Thursday September 29

Natalia is really well connected in the city. At every corner of the street someone says hello to her and she also had a lot of contacts in the media. For breakfast Sergei joined us, he came back from Kyiv, that’s why he couldn’t meet me yesterday. He explained me about the EV projects he is working on. In the latest blog I told about the Synchronous I saw and this one is actually build be Sergey. He is owner of EcoFactor, an engineering team specializing in the development and creation of the custom-made electric vehicles. They take part in the biggest experimental projects of Ukraine, related to electric vehicles development.

He created the ZAZ, a cool looking and very yellow electric car. It has a range of 500 (!!) km with a topspeed of 140km/h. They have many more projects like a full-electric tractor, check out their website

Now it was time for some media madness. First we went to a radio-station where I was interview live, you can watch it back here. Than we drove to a little rental-shop where they had all kinds of electric driving things. A lot of friends and people with electric cars joined. They had a segway, an electric autoped, drones and other weird electric things. I tested all of them and they are pretty cool to ride. Some TV-channels came to this place to interview me, you can watch it back here and here.

After all this madness I went to a theater, not to relax but to interview them. It was the Green Theatre. Founded in the 30’s already so it had endured a lot. Now it was still a theatre but with a focus on eco-friendliness. Solar panels, waste separation and a small garden where all there. It may seem logical for Westerners as most of us but in Ukraine this is special as they are not so developed yet on sustainable terms.

At night Slava, Avtor and another guy (sorry forgot your name), who were at the meeting today brought me to town. They had some friends who made live-music, I tested the segway again and it was just really a fun night.

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Day 195 – 197 | Electric cars & More in Kyiv

Day 195 | Sunday September 25

My hosts needed to rebuild  their kitchen so I helped them a bit with that, okay to be honest I moved 1 cupboard and the gasring. As they didn’t need to care about me I could focus on my own work.

At night Serhii made some fresh food on the bbq, potatoes, meat and more. He has a pretty big garden and he told me that he dreams about having solar panels on his roof, and of course owning an electric vehicle. Serhii had diamonds in his eyes when I offered him to test-drive my car.

Day 196 | Monday September 26

Serhii and Sergei (the other electric car guy) went with me to a car workshop. I told them I had some minor issues and they knew a professional workshop who could fix it. The issue was that the power to the Battery Management System (this is a small computer places under the steering wheel) was loose. It disconnected a lot and this gave not the right information about the status of the battery. Also the cigarette lighter was not working anymore, which I use for my navigation and now I needed an powerbank to charge it every time, not so convenient. The electrician looked at it for a few seconds and had it fixed easily.

Serhii than took me to 2 of his friends/ colleagues from the ElectroCars Club, Vladimir and Sergii (the third Sergii/hii I’ve met in the last days, they are not very creative with names here), they offered me lunch and than I headed to a meeting with Smart City Kyiv. This project aims to create opportunities for the evolution of the capital, combining strategic approach, technological advances and widespread public involvement in the creation of a new quality of life. Their office was location on a former Soviet Union complex where the USSR used to demonstrate it’s technologies. A full interview with Smart City will be published later on this website.

Together with Vladimir and Roman (it’s crazy how many people I have been introduced to today) we went a bit outside of the city to meet Viktor. He converts electric cars and had really special ones in his collection. One serial Chinese EV, a converted Ukrainian car which is the cheapest in the country and… the Synchronous. Probable the biggest electric vehicle I have ever seen, or should I call it a spaceship? It has room for 6 passengers and a driver. Monaco ordered this car and it had been driven around in the country, now it was here for maintenance. It has a 24KWh battery and 180km range.

My host for tonight was Vladimir who is the husband of Alina who I met at the Georgian festival earlier this weekend. We parked the car to charge at a nearby fuel station. At home we had some food with Smetana, it’s some kind of sour cream and they put it on everything. Doesn’t matter if it’s sweet, sour or another taste, they like it and I like it too.

Day 197 | Tuesday September 27

Time to leave Kyiv. It would be a long day as I needed to travel 300km. With Vlad I picked up the car at the gas station and together we drove to an Okko station just outside the city. There Sergii (number 3) joined us and we had some belated lunch.

The remaining of the day I drove a lot, charged at a few places and arrived at a hotel late in the night. The ElectroCars Club guys arranged this for me.

Support me

Lately I have been receiving messages from people who want so support me with financial resources. I always declined this as it was the challenge to do it without money, which worked well in the first part of this trip.
Now I am reaching a new stage: the Middle-East and I am going to need a lot of visa’s, temporary car insurances etc. so it’s going to be more convenient if I have financial support.

On the website I added an option to make a donation. You are free to decide which amount you want to donate and you can pay easily with PayPal, iDeal or bank transfer.

See this link: plugmeinproject.com/donate

It’s open now and looking for €29 to pay towards the visa for Turkey. Hope you can help 🙂

 

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Day 193 & 194 | Kyiv

Day 193 | Friday September 23

From Rivne I wanted to reach Kyiv in one day, which is a 330km drive. Under ‘normal’ circumstances not possible but with Ukraine’s charging network definitely worth a try. After breakfast with Ben and Alexandr I left.

I decided to use as much chargers as possible. The first one was as 3-phase charger at a hotel in Novohrad- Volons’kyi. I knew that this was not a free one so I checked first with the reception what the possibilities were, no problem to charge here. I did that for 2.5 hours until it was full and continued to Zhytomyr, just outside of the city was an Okko fuel station. Most of these fuel stations have a charger installed which gives your EV coverage over the whole country.
A few kilometers before Kyiv was also an Okko station so I drove there and thought I would make it from there to my host.

What I forget sometimes is that in some countries a city can have street names which occur multiple times. So when my navigation told me I arrived, I was at an industrial place which didn’t seem right. At a gas station with WiFi I found out I was 30km away from my host. This pretty much sucked as I calculated how much I needed to charge to reach this point, and it was already close to midnight. Now I needed to find a charger nearby. First one was just closed (private parking) but the second one was working, although another car was charging. Funny detail it was occupied by an Citroen Saxo electric, an EV from the beginning of the 2000 era, I saw this car only 1 time before in Germany. The driver was a bit surprised by my car and with a translator on his phone I could explain most of his questions. The older generation in Ukraine doesn’t speak much English.

Around 1am I arrived at Serhii. A few weeks ago another Sergei contacted me on Facebook, he told me he just organized an EV event in Kyiv and was interested to meet me. Today he couldn’t receive me but found his friend ready to host me.

Day 194 | Saturday September 24

Time to meet my new hosts, it was really late last night and after some food we went straight to bed. Serhii is big EV-enthusiast and lives here just outside Kyiv with his wife Lusiena and his kid Ivan. We drove to Mezhyhirya, the mansion which belonged to Viktor Yanukovich, former president of the Ukraine. Now it’s quite to important to know about the revolution which happened in 2014, it’s a very dirty one. In this post I will focus on what I saw today so please read this wikipedia page about it, for some more context. There we met with Sergei, Alina and her kids. All members of the Electro Car Club.

Serhii called Mezhyhirya “Museum of Corruption”. For many years it had been the symbol of the corruption and bad policy in the country, especially under Yanukovich’ lead. When he was the president his mansion was closed for anyone so no-one exactly knew how big this place was and what happened here. Well it’s enormous, about 400 hectares and all artificial. What I saw were many ponds with fountains, a huge mansion, boxing ring, lots of statues and a golfcourse. And we only saw like 3% of it. Also check out this article with pictures of the place when Yanukovich just was kicked out, you will understand what a badguy he was. 

I was wondering why electric cars are so populair in Ukraine. Sergei explained me that Ukrainians would like to be completely in depended from Russia, of course they need to import gas from them so when everyone would drive electric that would not be necessary anymore.

Serhii took us than to an event somewhere in Kyiv. It was about the Ukrainian language and the organizers were very pleased to meet me and offered me some gifts (t-shirts). The presentation was fully in Ukrainian but you could notice that it was of importance. The Ukrainian language has been suppressed for many years and people want to promote te language, they are very proud of their language like all Ukrainians are proud of their country.

Than it was time for some relaxing. In Kyiv center we visited a Georgian festival. That includes Georgian foods, music and drinks. Very cosy and interesting experience. Kyiv so far is very interesting. 

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Day 190 – 192 | Lviv & around

Day 190 | Tuesday September 20

Today Liuda offered me a sightseeing tour through Lviv. Liuda found me on an Ukrainian Facebook page and voted for me to come to her country. The son of the first Ukrainian king Daniel of Galicia was called Lev and in honor to him he called the city ‘Lviv’, or ‘City of Lev’. The city is known for coffee, chocolate and caramel. They have some stores where you can see how they make the products. The caramel one was the most interesting as it was like a museum, they made many objects like houses and even running trains from this sweet good.

Liuda is young, only 22 and already married. She told me in Ukraine it’s common to marry at young age and it used to be even younger, between 16 and 18. We climbed to the top of a church, did a hike to a mountain with a beautiful overview on the city and she treated me with a big lunch. The first decent meal I had since Thursday and my body had a hard time to deal with it.

Day 191 | Wednesday September 21

Nazar, the one that arranged my accommodation came to visit me in the hotel. He is founder of To-U and the Ukrainian Tesla Club. With To-U they are installing the country’s biggest EV charging network, and the good thing: they are all free! They see charging as a service and make contracts with hotels, restaurant, fuel stations etc to install a station. The station is than owned by the hotel for example, they pay for the electricity and maintenance but To-U attracts customers to the stations. A full charge is very cheap in Ukraine so if the client drinks one cup of coffee at the hotel they already make profit. With their intelligent app you can even reserve the stations on your desired time, something I have never seen before.

Liuda had some contacts at a local radiostation and they were very interested in my story. We went there and I told them about my journey so far and my experience with the Polish/Ukrainian border. Which was very funny and interesting, it had something to do with a plastic doll, listen to it here.

Liuda’s husband Dmytro owned a clothing store in Lviv, Like by Look, A store were they only sell locally produced clothing. Dmytro told me that I could pick some new items and I received a complete new outfit! Looking fresh and sharp now.

After that it was time to move, my next stop was in Lutsk were Alexandr invited me. A young guy, 23 and works at the client desk of MacKeeper, if you have a mac you probably have seen one of their advertisements. We charged the car at his parents, than went to a friend, Alexandr had a night shift and his friends took me to the city. Ukrainian beers are definitely worth a try.

Day 192 | Thursday September 22

Alexandr came back from his nightshift, met me at his friend where I stayed for the night and gave me a short tour through Lutsk. We visited a castle from the year 1300 which is pretty iconic, it is even shown on the Ukrainian 100 bill.

My goal is to go to Kiev but that was out of reach. Alexandr had a friend in Rivne where I could stay, 70km from Lutsk and from there it was about 300km to Kiev, so I could make that tomorrow. Alexander joined me to Rivne as he didn’t see his friend for a long time.

On the way to Rivne we made a stop at the ‘Tunnel of Love’. Alexandr is very much into photography and showed me a picture of this tunnel. I had seen this before and didn’t know it was close by or in Ukraine at all, a gift I guess. The Love Tunnel is an deserted railroad in the forest and surrounded by green arches, where you can make the most beautiful pictures, even when you’re not a couple.

In the afternoon we got to Rivne where we met Ben. They treated me with a fish & chips menu at a restaurant. At his home we charged the car and Ben used an extension cord which seemed a bit old and thin. It made me worry a bit. I went for a check an hour later and when I opened the door I saw smoke, heard something crackle, it was hot and the room smelled odd. I instantly thought there was something on fire, ran up to the room to get all the people, ran down again to find out there was nothing wrong. The extension cord did get too hot and smelled burned but the crackle came from the central heating in the room. False alarm but everyone was wide awake now.

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Day 186 – 189 | Some weird days

To not distract from the subject I wanted the previous blog to be completely about Auschwitz, so now I pick it up from there.

Day 186 | Friday September 16

I drove back to Krakow where I had a hostel who wanted to take care of me, the Pink Panther’s hostel. A party hostel and when I entered they had a summer-holiday-party-theme going on. I was up for some drinks but still needed to find a place to charge the car, which was difficult I experienced the day before yesterday. I spend a while driving from location to location but they either were not working with my car or already closes, most of them are placed in shopping malls. I knew that there was one mall with a 32A plug so I thought to go there the next morning, charge a few hours and continue. I parked the car close to the hostel and joined in for some drinks.

Day 187 | Saturday September 17

If there goes something wrong on this trip it usually happens in a chain of events, so was this time the case unfortunately. When I got to the car I found it had a wheel clamp, damn! I couldn’t figure out why because I parked between the lines. All the other 5 cars next to me had a clamp too. Apparently there where some temporary signs and it was not allowed to park here. I got pretty nervous because I was expecting a fine of a couple of hundred euros but it was only 100 Zloty, which is ‘only’ like 24 euro. Even better news was that I still had some Zloty’s left from Wouter and Ania so no troubles.

Than I needed to find a place to charge. The shopping mall was fully occupied and the other charging stations in the middle of the city too. I was hoping to find a place in the city and do some sightseeing. In stead I found a shopping mall outside the town and charged there on normal speed. This changed my plans as I couldn’t leave today. I send a message to Magdalena where I stayed in Warsaw. Later that night she replied that she founded a friend who could help me. I could sleep there and charge the car at the university across the street.

Day 188 | Sunday September 18

My goal for today was to reach Rseszow, about 18km from Krakau. It was raining, there was heavy wind and I lost range fast. About 20km from I realized I was not going to make it and needed a pit-stop to recharge. Problem was a pitstop (fuel station, house or anything with a plug) didn’t appear and I had 4% left. I started dring on the emergency lane with 10km/h to safe energy but after 5km my battery was 0%, damn! It had to happen at least one time this trip so that I did only after 6 months is not a bad achievement I reckon.

The car stopped on bend of an exit to a smaller road but passing cars only noted me when they drove by so none of them stopped to see what was going on. There was no emergency lane too so it was even a dangerous situation. I called my insurance in Holland and they would send a Polish roadside assistance. Just when I hung up a nice man stopped and offered to tow me to the city.

When towing the car started to recharge itself, because of the spinning of the wheels it regenerates electricity, and that goes pretty fast actually. When we got to the city after 15 minutes I already had 25%. I thanked the good man for his kindness and drove to a charger. Before leaving Krakau I did some research and there were 3 chargers here, unfortunately the first one I couldn’t find and the second one was closed on Sunday. The third one was available but the slowest option. Again it was located in the garage of a shopping mall and I decided to spend the night in the car as I couldn’t find a place to stay.

Day 189 | Monday September 19

Hungry, sleepy and Grumpy I woke up in the car around 7am. I realized that the last time I had a decent meal was last Thursday at Ania’s place. The previous day I only had eaten some noodles. Today I wanted to reach Lviv in Ukraine. Early morning I crossed the border, on both the Polish and Ukrainian side they were very cautious. The Polish customs went through the car with dogs 3 times and the complete process took one hour. Luckily for Ukraine I didn’t need a visa.

My hosts in Lviv were Nazar and Lena. I met them at the presentation of the Detroit Electric SP-O1 in Oslo. They are installing a charging network in the country and also sell electric cars, more about this in a later blog. Unfortunately they were away from Lviv to install chargers somewhere in the mountains so they put me in a hotel. As I was super tired I slept some hours and woke up around 9pm. Than I was super hungry and made some rice in the bathroom of the hotelroom. 

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