Due to our unpleasant little encounter in Lviv Station two days earlier, Peder and I were concerned that we might be in store for one more police shakedown on our way to the train to Krakow – so just to be safe we left the hostel over an hour in advance.
Thankfully, we made it onboard without an issue. The only challenge that now remained was to cross out of the country; it would be our last and final bout with the most corrupt police force I’ve ever experienced. For this trip, at least 😉
On the one hand, Ukraine-Poland is an official EU border crossing, so it’d probably be reasonable to expect professional and courteous treatment. But on the other, it’s hard to forget the unpleasantness we experienced while making our way into the country a few weeks earlier (though to be fair, those were Transdniestrian guards and not Ukrainian ones).
In any case, for the time being we did the only thing we could. We waited. And when we finally did reach the border, the immigration process went by without a hitch:
1) First were the formalities of exiting Ukraine. Immigration officers boarded the train, walked up and down searching the rooms, checking passports, and collecting arrival cards. They also did something I hadn’t yet seen on any train: a walk-through with a drug dog.
2) After they finished, the train continued just one or two kilometers farther before stopping for the Polish border patrol to enter and repeat a similar procedure. Each step took probably half an hour, with a half an hour of waiting in between. Tick tock…
3) Finally, the train’s wheels had to be adjusted. Because the Soviet countries use different gauge rails than the rest of Europe, every train that crosses between the two systems either has adjustable-width wheels or the ability to lift the passenger compartments off the carriage below. Ours was the former, which involved another half hour or so of bumping, jolting and clanging.
By the time all of the above had finished it was just past 2am. At last I could enjoy my wonderfully comfy bed.
…Until around 4 when the sun started to rise.
It was now just one day before the Summer Solstice, so by 4:00 our cabin was already filled with brilliant sunlight. I guess the only thing our perfect train lacked was a set of blackout curtains 😛 And although a simple eye cover is usually enough to let me to sleep through any level of brightness, the sun just happened to be positioned right outside our window, shining directly onto my face. I eventually did get back to sleep, but it took way longer than I would’ve liked.
Ah well. It was still a fun little experience – and perhaps the only time in my life I’ve actually wished for a longer train ride. This room was seriously more comfortable than some of the hotels I’ve stayed in 🙂
Next stop: Poland, my 40th country.