So another tournament and this time a different mode of transport. I headed out to the Ukraine (with the usual match tickets and vouchers for the knock out stages) with Kev and Fiona in their motor home.
They had arranged to meet 2 other groups of road travellers on the Polish/Ukraine boarder on the Friday night. So we had me, Kev and Fi in the Jones Mobile (Vehicle one), Nigel, Z and Bip in Elddis (Vehicle 2)and Jimmy and Sleepy Phil in the VW transporter (Vehicle 3). Another mate Steve would join us in Kiev before the Sweden match.
So the venture begins. Kev came and picked me up from home Thursday evening after work. We headed to there local the Red Lion in Rusthall and when we arrived they had decorated a table for us to wish us a great trip!
Its the 2am Ferry from Dunkirk and we arrive at about 5.30am local time and its now just the 1,000+ miles to do in the next 24 hours!!
Today was really about getting through the miles. We finally arrive at 4am and find the other 2 vehicles in a car park in Jarosław as planned. We immediately get some shut eye as its going to be 2 more days of driving and this time on the more challenging streets of the Ukraine.
We leave Jarosław in Poland early Saturday morning so we can get across the boarder point as soon as possible. We get given our Euro 2012 nothing to declare sign and after about an hour and a half all three vehicles are through and we meet up at the first petrol station to buy some car insurance. All the guide books said there were hundreds of places selling them but we found none so after speaking to some of the many German fans decided to risk not buying any!
So we set off to cross the Ukraine and plan to reach Donetsk by Sunday evening. The first major place we hit was Liviv. We followed good old Ms Sat Nav and she took us straight through the middle of the cobbled conjested city centre!! It was Germany v Portugal there that day so we found the place rather busy and many roads closed. The many German fans looked slightly bemused as our 3 vehicles decorated in St Georges crosses bounced its way through the trams, people and cobbles.
After all the cobbled streets of lviv we stopped at the first petrol station to make sure all three vehicles are still going and nothing fallen off
After all the Sol Campbell racist comments we had to chuckle when we came across this chain of petrol stations!
We continued driving along the E40 in the Ukraine all day, but it was now getting dark so we needed somewhere to stop for the night. We spotted a motel and pulled in. What a result, it had food and a bar, so we agreed to stop. We got some pork cooked in batter and chips plus a salad, the beer was cold and what more could you ask for! Well when we arrived the place was dead but soon it filled up and turned into some sort of youth club disco with beer! By the end of the night Jimmy had been out driving then on the back of a motorbike in flip flops looking for fags, by the time he got back we were allowed in the VIP back room and were soon enjoying free vodka and dark bitter chocolate with the locals! Next a roast chicken arrived. This fabulous hospitality and friendly warm welcome set the tone for the holiday. Nigel gave away some of his St Georges flags to the locals as a thank you for the great night we had just had. It was the first of a series of very late nights!
When we woke up in the morning I had a bit of a hangover from the free vodka. Jimmy had decided sleeping indoors was for wimps so slept outside the van on the floor, once he had set the presedent then this was to happen on most nights.
We also had TOP GEAR issue number 1, Vehicle 1, the Jones mobile had a hole in the exhaust. So the man that likes to get dirty, Mr Jones, was under the motorhome making a temporary fix with a bean can!
Despite the late night it was up and back out on the road shortly after 8am
All was going well and we enjoyed the sights of rural Ukraine. We passed through Dnipro and continue to Donets'k. We were slightly behind schedule and it was getting dark with about 100km to go. The decision was to push on despite the warnings against travelling at night in Eastern Ukraine. We paid the price, first the VW got a puncture (TOP GEAR issue number 2) and they had dropped behind us, so they luckily were discovered by the local police who changed the wheel for them! The other 2 vehicles about 10km ahead pushed on and the roads were awful. Whilst avoiding various drunks and dogs wandering into the middle of the street we had the road from hell with regard to potholes! It was tough going and we clattered a few potholes, but pushed on. Elddis was suffering, Nigel was at the wheel and somehow managed to get it to the campsight in the pitchblack with only 5th gear working (TOP GEAR issue number 3)!!
Jimmy and Phil caught up with us, we set up on the Euro 2012 Campsight and decided we would survey the damage in the morning (after a few cold beers of course!!)
The motorhome section of the campsite was full of rich drunk Russians eager to share the lethal vodka they had. Phil was brave and accepted on our behalf!
Match Day Group D England v France Donets'k
The first thing to do today was sort out the vehicles. Luckily Nigel and Jimmy both had RAC recovery so Jimmy arranged for a replacement tyre and Nigel had to call out for their motorhome to be taken away as the gearbox was knackered. This was TOP Gear issue 4 but by far the biggest and most serious! They also asked if the brakes could be checked as Elddis was rather slow at slowing down!! It was arranged for a recovery lorry to come the next day.
Vehicles sorted it was time to head to Donets'k city centre and have a few cold beers as it was rather warm, I think it was about 36C during the day. Nigel and Co went to the Golden Lion but we decided to stay in the local bars. We ended up in the Penguin Bar!
After a few beers we thought we better get some food, We met out mate Nick who had been staying in Dniprio and had caught the train down that morning.
Before you knew it, it was time to head to the ground
The ground in Donetsk was full of these paintings/murals, made the ground feel much more like a home ground than a massive international bowl!!
So our game was over, but Ukraine v Sweden was about to start so we headed into the city to get some beers and find a TV. Everywhere was packed and apparently 80,000 packed the fanzone. When Ukraine pulled backed from 0-1 to win 2-1 the city went mad. Fireworks and dancing on the streets
We had some cold beers and then Champagne to celebrate Nicks 50th birthday, we soon forgot about the 1-1 bore draw. Nick was crashing in with us as no train back to Dniprio after the match. When the others returned it turned out that Nick and Bip had gone to school together many many years ago, its a small world!!
Soon a recovery lorry turned up and just about got Elddis onboard and the lads waved goodbye to him until we would return back to Donetsk from Kiev on the Monday.
Just after Elddis dissapeared in the distance Nigel realised he had left his passport in it, but luckily everyone had remembered to take out there match tickets. Oh well, It was mega hot again so I headed to the swimming pool, it was rather dirty but so cold and refreshing hard to resist.
We had a lazy morning and I think we all managed to get sunburnt, me mainly my feet! I was on Radio Sussex and Surrey that morning.
We set of early afternoon to make some progress towards Kiev. Half way was the plan but of course nothing goes to plan does it!! Nigel, Bip and Z jumped in with is for this leg of the journey.
Ms Sat Nav was having one of her daysand decided cross country on pothole mad roads and even some roads without proper surfaces were in order! After about 2 hours we crashed and banged our way back to the E40, but it was soon getting dark so we pulled over at the first motel we saw.
Once again really friendly locals and they made us a late meal and had loads of cold beer. As it was so hot we booked rooms at £7 as they had air con. Jimmy of course slept in the car park!
This morning started badly for me. I purchased what looked like a nice Omlette for breakfast and tucked in, it turned out to be cold fish in batter!! Yuk!
We set out nice and early determined to make Kiev by the end of the day but soon had to stop as Jimmy was having TOP GEAR issue number 5!
This time we were in trouble, in the middle of nowhere and the VW going nowhere. Once again the local Ukranians came to our rescue. Phils German came in useful and he was off with a local to go to a grage, but they broke down with a puncture! The bloke was on the way to a local river to take his family out for the day, in the end he took them there after changing to the spare wheel. He then spent the day with us. Jimmys van limped towards the garage before grinding to a halt, so Kev towed them to the garage! They stopped all work they were doing and for the next 5 hours worked on the van. It needed a replacement part that arrived on the local bus from the nearest big town at 5pm. In the meantime we headed to a local bar and at 30p a beer was fabulous.
The VW was mended and all they would take was 80 euros. So we were back on the road for another couple of hours until it was dark.
A fine stop over point - this would soon become our local stop off point as we had to go from Dontes'k to Kiev to Donets'k to Kiev!
A rather fine Pork Kebab from Victorias as we named the bar after the lady who served us. They spoke no English but Shashlik works anywhere. So we got kebabs, chips, salad and cold beers - heaven! We booked rooms in the motel again so we could take advantage of the showers etc, the room was £10 each this time, a bit pricey!!!
This was our aim once again - Kiev - please no more vehicle breakdowns or I think I will have a breakdown!
Whats this hang one, is it really Kiev, Woo Hoooooo yes we have made it! Yipppeeeee. Right time to find the campsite. Ms Sat Nav takes us through some backroads and then we are directed down an unmade road through some trees!!! Luckily there are some locals about and they speak little English but when we show them the address they jump in their car and drive ahead of us to lead us to the campsite. Once again these nasty racist people go out there way to be friendly and help us out.
We set up the Motorhome and then hit the campsite bar and they have set up a tiny TV and we can just make out Italy v Croatia, Then we tackle our own beer supplies and next thing I know Bip is waking me up to lead me back to the Motorhome at 3am Oooops. I blame Jimmys bottle of "Evil Spirits" - 95% proof, it was jet fuel!
Ashford Steve arrived about 3.30am but Fiona had to guide him to the Motorhome as I was too wasted!
Match Day Group D England v Sweden Kiev
We head into central Kiev for the Sweden game. We met Nick again who had arrived by train from Dniprio
Mmm interesting toilet in Route 66 bar
The Swedes try the beetroot and we watch the build up to the Ukraine v France game!We decide to head slightly closer to the ground and eventually end up in the Lucky bar.
We end up drinking with some russians and locals as the ukraine game is suspended because of the rain in Donets'k. So we start on the flaming sambucas!
Rather merry by now and its time to stagger to the ground. The Swedes out number us 20,000 to 4,000!
Look at the score and party time
We leave the ground and the locals are happy for us!
Exhausted but exhilarated we head into Kiev for more drinks and some well needed food. One of the great days supporting England. The support was immense tonight, best I can remember for years. What a party we had for about an hour after the final whistle.
The Campsite was full of Dutch, Germany and mainly Swedish supporters as well as a few English motorhomes. Meanwhile Kev got out the hoover!! Today saw Jimmy and Phil head for home, booooooooooooooo. The good news is the VW made it back to Brighton! Nigel, Bip and Z caught the train to Dniprio with Nick and would meet us back in Donetsk on the Monday. They would collect Elddis on the Tuesday morning.
Today was a free day for us so we headed back into Kiev to do some sightseeing. The first place we visited was the Chernobyl museum.
The wind decided which towns/cities would be devestated
A mutant 8 legged lamb born some months after the explosion
I think this is one of the most haunting images, a list of villages and towns still closed due to excessive radiation levels.
The Official Euro 2012 ball, well a rather big ball!
These ladies walked straight into my next shot...damn them........but we continue on regardless and head to the fenicular.
We reach the top
We find the Kiev fanzone for the first time. We wanted to get the metro to go back to the campsite, but this stop was closed! So we went shopping in the Official store and then headed back to a different metro stop.
The Independance statue is very important to the Ukranians, so very apt it was central to the massive massive fanzone
So today we started the slog back to Donets'k. A large Metro was spotted so in we went to buy supplies including the worlds biggest tin of peas. Yum peas. Now this was not because we are all pea freaks but Kev saw this as an ideal exhaust repair kit as our exhaust had gone once again.
We decided to use the same stop off points. Steve still feels he is behind on the drinking stakes so decides to drink on route! We watch Portugal knock out Holland and spend the night in the motorhome this time.
We completed the final let back to Donetsk no problem. This time we ignored Ms Sat Nav and took a slightly longer route but on proper roads, so we drove nearly back to Dniprio before turning to Donetsk. We were back early afternoon and were soon back in the city for some food and drink and to meet the Elddis lads who had got the afternoon train back. We found a street full of bars and restaurants and had a great meakl watching Spain v Croatia.
Match Day Group D England v Ukraine Donets'k
So D day for group D. We needed at least a point from the game to guarantee going through as France wouldnt lose to Sweden would they! So we had a coffee sitting in our favourite car park campsite.
It was soon time to catch the free bus to the fanzone
Food and drink in the Penguin bar
We then headed towards the city centre and ground to find a few different bars
We headed to the Golden Lion, the englandfans meeting point but the beers was shit, warm, horrible and the queueu for the toilet was always massive so we quickly moved on.
Thats better, a local bar and cocktail time! White Russians for me!
So cruch time, I have seen us collapse on the pitch before and head out of a tournament when we face the host nation. Tonight it would be 46,000 Ukranians v 4,000 England. The atmosphere was incrediable, the noise and passion from both sets of supporters spin chilling, hair raising, this is what tournaments are all about.
We win 1-0 and a brilliant defensive display. The Ukranians are still happy for us despite us knocking them out. We are extra happy as Sweden beat France and we top the group. Back to Kiev we go to face the Italians. Wooooo Hooooooooooo
We celebrate in the ground and back in the city. We end up in a room with a Cherry Blossom tree drinking and eating at 2.30am. I resort to coke as exhausted, the journey and late nights caught up with me tonight after the emotion of the game.
Today was a day of rest, no travelling, no nothing. Up late and then a BBQ on the campsite. Everyone was feeling knackered today but delighted to be returning to Kiev. Nobody fancied another 4 days on the car park campsite. All I did was some washing and then just had food and drink. I topped up my sunburn as well, but kept my feet in the shade as they are still rather red!
The BBQ was washed down not only with the local beer but bottles of Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer. Z who is not a great beer fan had bought crates of the stuff with him, so I manfully helped out to reduce stock levels. Earlier in the trip Bip nearly got knocked out by the crabbies as it slipped out of the overhead storage compartments and smacked him in the face!
There was an amazing sunset but in the distance we could see a massive thunderstorm approaching. Soon it was pouring with rain so we tunred in for the night.
The Elddis lads (plus Steve) decided to head to Kiev via Odessa so they set out nice and early. We left a couple of hours later and we soon got a text from them to say that the fuel problem they had earlier in the trip was back. They had contacted some lads they had met in Dnorpio before and decided to stay there the night while somebody check out Elddis. We headed back to Victorias bar stop over point again.
So we waved goodbye to the campsite, so pleased never to be heading back there!
I dont think I have ever seen so many churches on a trip. The Ukrain is full of them, many appearing to be in the middle of nowhere, so one more picture of a church for you.
We then continue the drive to half way point and our new local (somewhere between Donets'k and Kiev just off the E40 in case you want to visit). Oh and another church!
The mines, industry and transported chickens of the Ukrain.
So time for food (kebab of course) and beer (local) before turning in for the night.
So we continue the rest of the journey back to Kiev. We visit the Metro again to stock up the essentials, and the Motorhome has an arguement with the exit gate and we got wedged in for a while. A bit of forward/reversing and fencing holding and we were out and back on the road
The campsite bar was closed for a corporate function so we ventured into the Hotel Prolisok restaurant. We were the only people eating ina massive room. All very weird but nice pork steakes, potatos and as a treat some choclate ice cream.
We headed back to the motorhome and back to the bar which was showing Germany v Greece. Some of the businessmen came and joined us and Kev and my shouts of joy as Greece equalised attracted there attention. We soon got talking to one of the businessmen and it turned out that his village and Barnsley had links due to the mining industry. he had visited London, York and Barnsley. The beer flowed and as he left he gave us a bottle of vodka as a present. In the meantime Germany destroyed Greece so they awaited the winner of our quater final.
We had an update from the Elddis lads, as well as the fueld problem there alternator had fallen off (which they had to collect by doing a U-turn and driving back and collecting it!), so they had spent a lot of the day in the garage, they would hopefully make Kiev tomorrow.
We had to catch a bus from the campsite to the local metro stop, everyday there was a mini market where you could buy virtually anything!
So we headed back into the city as needed to exchange our vouchers for match tickets. Straight forward? Of course not! The metro on the otherhand was very easy to negotiate and very cheap. 2 UAH per journey (12 UAH to the £)
So we head to the main stadium to get our tickets, but obviously the exchange point was the old Dynamo Kiev ground! So we have to walk from the new to the old ground via the protest camp next to the fanzone.
So we head to the Old ground (still used for smaller league games)
The ticket point was closed when we got there due to technical issues. According to the FA representative the photocopier had broken! When you exchanged your ticket they had to photocopy your englandfans members card or passport. So we headed back to the fanzone until the FA would tweet/e-mail when the exchange reopened.
So several beers later the exchange place reopened.
We stop for some food and drink after getting our tickets and bump into the Elddis lads who had finally made it back to Kiev. They get there tickets and then we decided to have a day on the beer before watching the Spain v France quater final.
Next bar was my downfall, 2 ciders followed by a pint of Cherry punch! Even before this I am sure I had just seen a Bunny Rabbit!
I take a well earned rest!
Match Day Quater Final England v Italy Kiev
The Day starts with Ukranian TV turning up for an interview, We leave it to Z who at the time was demonstarting his cookery skills by cooking bacon!
Back in the fanzone and we meet up with Albion Director Derek Chapman and his mates again. Also Adam and Chris other Albion fans who have come over for the game meet us as well.
I had agreed to do an interview for a UEFA docuementary. So of I went to there hotel to do this, stunning views over Kiev and the Ground.
It was soon back to the fanzone and the atmosphere was building with more and more England fans arriving.
We decide to move on and back to the Lucky Bar by the ground
I think these are warnings after you have downed a Chernobyl cocktail! So on to the game.
The Hotel Polisok - part of the campsite complex - after the penalties its now about 3am and everyone is a bit quiter than normal. Bloody penalties! Gutted, but at the same time I think England put up a battling display. Hopefully Roy can lead us to better things, he has the support of the fans.
So thats that for England in this tournament. We where all up by around 10am and it was time to pack up and plan the trip home. We decided to travel from Kiev down to Liviv and then pick up the E40 and head home and the same way we had come out. This time we were determined to find the Liviv ring road which would take us out past the stadium and also avoid those lovely cobbles. I am not sure either vehicle were up to another bone shaking city centre venture.
I was on the radio about 10.40am local time and once that was done and we had made some tea and coffee it was time to go.
Today was unusually quiet to start with, but then things brightened up. First a puncture, oh joy! Next stopped for speeding, they tried the on the spot fine routine, Kev said no he would pay at the Police station, we were soon on our way with just a warning. When we hit Liviv we found the ring road, woo hoo, then drove into a massive storm as we passed the football ground. So we stopped at a rather posh looking hotel but got the best Chicken Kebab of the holiday and it was also really really cheap. We kipped in the Motorhomes in the car park as wanted to be away early.
Kev and Nigel in action changing the wheel, I stood round helpfully and was able to add that we did have a puncture - perhaps there is hope of me becoming a mechanic yet?
So it was up at 5.30am local time. After about an hour we were at the Polish boarder and about 30 minutes later were into Poland. So the itinery for today - keep on driving, which is what we did pretty much non stop. This time no breakdowns, no punctures, no police stops just driving and driving. We hit rush hour about 7.30am and it took us an age to get going properly. Just south of Krokow we finally picked up the motorway and would not leave that until Dunkirk.
We stopped in Poland for a McDonalds breakfast, well sometimes you just have to. Our only other lengthy stop was in Germany for an evening meal. Then yes you guessed it =, it was back on the road.................
.......and the long drive continues. The only decision we took this morning was to go via Antwerp rather than round Brussels, just 1m longer and we thought what the heck why not get another country in. So we pass from Germany to Holland to Belgium and finally into France and Dunkirk.
We arrive at the port at just after 8am and head to the ticket desk of DFDS Ferries. Soon we are booked on to the next one to leave at 10am local time, so join the queue. We soon board and time for a full English breakfast. The ferry left bang on time and just after 11am UK time we docked into Dover despite a foggy crossing.
Its now my turn to travel in Elddis as the lads gave me a lift home to West Hoathly.
So another trip finished and what a cracker it was off the pitch. The Ukranians could not have been more friendly, helpful, hospitable. I loved it......roll on our return next year for a World Cup 2014 qualifier.
Oh I nearly forgot, just how many miles did we do, well the answer was 4,930 miles in total (which is further than driving from Brighton to Tibet!)