Sunday, July 1st, it's time to go.
From the Place de Clichy with 15 kg to carry on my back, and my absurd stop sign (It's written "New York" ; my mother tells me that if a car stops, it will be either to take me to the hospital or at the airport) I'm off on my way to Germany where I planned my first stop ... with friends.
Through the window, I look at the landscape and already, I feel the ecstasy of my first kilometers to the East.
I leave the next day after my first goodbyes. Contrary to what one might think, it is not so easy to "follow the path of men" when there are so many choice like highways, trains and subways, buses, bikes tracks .... Obviously, as I do not like the ease, I found myself hitchhiking along a highway, in the dark. I first lift my thumb nonchalantly, then, panicked by the speed of the cars that almost touch me, I call for help with my phone flash and I finally managed to stop a car. I was relieved until the driver asks me to drive so that he can calmly drink his soup. An hour later, here I am at the Cologne train station where I will take a train that goes to the East.
I go down to the station of a small village where I find a car that takes me to Berlin! I stay barely a day, the cities are not the best place to meet people. I head south to Dresden and the German border. Until then, it was rather easy, Europe being a vast borderless network where mix nationalities and roads, it is only to be rocked according to the direction one wants to take.
Then, out of pride for wanting to embark on a great expedition, I plunged into the forest of Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic, where I slept under the stars on a pile of grass and walked about thirty kilometers over 2 days. Just to say I did it.
It was nice, it was a bit of an amateur adventure, but it did not take me very far.
So I lifted my thumb up on the roads and was then taken to Liberec and Prague.
After a nap in the garden of a Prague convent and a good dinner, I leave by bus this time to Cracow, and Lviv to Ukraine. From Lviv, I take the train to Kiev ... and I meet Natalia sitting in front of me.
Through the telephone intermediary of her French and English speaking friends, she invites me to her home. Natalia, the Ukrainian mama, greets me and pampered me in her modest apartment without drinking water or hot water, 45 minutes from the center of Kiev. She leaves me her keys and offers me to sleep at a friend's house to leave me alone at home.
Of course we will stay together until I leave, three days later, for the east of Ukraine to Moscow ...
She's taken me everywhere in her dear city, every museums of every churches, every small and pretty garden, the great squares... Only will she let me walk alone on the Maïdan square, the one where the Independence took place, she doesn't feel good there.
Tuesday, July 10, Kiev in the early morning, here I am embarked in a wagon whose configuration surprises even Natalia, yet used to travel simply ... It is a set of large wooden benches, one behind the other, and we stay there no really able to move, bruning in the sun behind large, condemned windows. You can enjoy smell of sweat and urine for free.
Right before I arrive, a young Ukrainian offers me timidly a bracelet in the colors of the country, I'm so grateful I quickly forget my discomfort.
I arrive at Putivl where I have to wait for a bus that will take me to the Russian border. The bus station is in another village that has the same name ... I walk a few kilometers, I order a dinner in a cafe for €1.30, and I board in a very local bus to Moscow. Arriving at the border, I put away my Ukrainian bracelet so as not to get me into trouble unnecessarily, and I wait for my passport to be checked once, twice, seven times. We will spend four hours at this border crossing as large as a provincial gas station. As I'm the only foreign in this bus, I am asked about the reasons for my trip, a dog sniffs my bag more than 15 minutes, and I smile because we have just qualified in the final.
Ten days have passed since the Place de Clichy through a Europe ultra connected, where it is not surprising to discuss with young Jehovah witnesses, Ukrainian revolutionaries, forest guards of the Swiss Bohemian nature park ...
Ten days during which I was able to also lower by a few notches the slider of my comfort scale, the one that makes everything more appreciable and prepares for the long journey.
And in a few days I will be launched on the rails of Siberia, to the Republic of Altai, Russian Tibet at the crossroads of Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China. In a few days the adventure of Holy Russia begins. But first: Moscow! And it's soon the finale ...