This is the true story of a middle-aged English male football fan who chose to drive from the UK to Ukraine for the Euro-2012 finals last June.
It is the story of a journey across Europe, but not as we know it. To begin with it is a very long way east to the Ukraine, and the kind of roads after the first 2000 km across the English Channel are not what we are used to back home.
Secondly expect to get lost on the way. There are fewer road signs the further you go and the road maps are not that reliable (a ‘K&K’ map from around the turn of the century is probably the best – I mean an imperial map from about 1900, not 2000 – if you can find one).
When you get lost, ask the way from the locals. There are very many people in eastern Europe, about 200 million at the last count, they are all very helpful (and only a very, very few will sell you watered down fuel for your vehicle – “I was very angry about that,” the English fan said. “It cost me about £120 to get it fixed”).
Getting to Ukraine some knowledge of Polish is useful, although if you prefer there are many other languages to choose from. Few of the locals have travelled west beyond the eastern borders of Germany, and few in fact are interested to (or want to learn to speak English); especially not the Roma (gypsy) people who are the fastest growing population.
In fact, one day soon the Roma (gypsy) people will be the largest ethnic group in eastern europe, and will demand their own country within the european union, which – Facing the 2020’s – could make things interesting for the current 27 nation state members.
Or so I have read. Essential reading for the journey? I recommend Andrzej Stasiuk:
- On the Road to Babadag (Harvill and Secker, 2011)
- Fado, (Dalkey Archive, 2009)
“Best of all is a night in a foreign country,” Stasiuk begins in Fado. It is not about the exotic, or the orient however. It is essential reading because it is about what is coming over here in the next 20 years.
Finally, did the English middle-aged fan and his vehicle get back safely to England in July? I really have not been able to find out.