Axis of Evil (part 1) - Ukraine,Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Transdniester travel blog

Axis of Evil (part 1) - Ukraine,Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Transdniester

Gunga Jim travel blog
(Photo - Patiently Waiting My Turn for a Ride on the Ferris Wheel at Chernobyl, Ukraine, 8/22/08).

On August 15th, 2008 I embark on the most ambitious journey of my life, explorations that I hope will extend for five months and follow a huge arc beginning in the Ukraine, slowly moving eastward to Burma and then moving up the Asian Pacific coast to my northern terminus, North Korea.

I am playfully calling this my Axis of Evil Journey as it takes in two of the three countries so designated by the current Administration and skirts around the third one. In addition, I will pass through a host of other countries that, currently or during my lifetime, have been the setting for extraordinary acts of greed, corruption, torture, slavery, alleged genocides, despotic rule and heroic efforts to overcome these obstacles in pursuit of liberty and independence.

Because of its length and complexity, I am dividing the journey into four segments. The initial weeks take me take me to the extremities of southeastern Europe through countries bordering the west and north coasts of the Black Sea. With the exception of Istanbul, these countries were part of or under the sphere of influence of the former Soviet empire. Personal freedom and democratic institutions in this region are in a fragile, evolving state. An enormous struggle is beginning to evolve to determine if its states in this region will join the EU or be or return to the Russian sphere of influence and control.

The second phase of the journey involves a repeat of a successful tour I helped organize and market in 2005, the Caravan of Countries along the Central Asian Silk Road. It begins in Iran, moves northward to the Caucasus’s (Inshallah - God willing - that things cool off in Georgia) and then passes eastward through the five former Soviet Stans.

It is because of this tour that I am reluctant to label the collective segments of my trip as my Axis of Evil Journey. The MIR Corporation, perhaps the best tour company focusing on the Crossroads of Europe and Asia, operates the Caravan tour. I am the Group Organizer, the guy who finds people to go on it. But, in the final analysis, it is MIR’s product. I want to emphasize that I alone chose the phrase in question to characterize my five months abroad and not just MIR’s tour

It goes against conventional marketing wisdom to use language that associates danger and fear with a product or service. I trust that MIR and the 20 adventures who have signed on for this tour will recognize the playful aspects of my use of the phrase, Axis of Evil. In 2005 I found the people of these countries to be among the most gracious and welcoming I have encountered in my travels. I didn’t experience a single moment of fear during the entire tour and I fully expect the same to be the case this time around.

The tour will conclude in Almaty in late October. From there I proceed to segment three arriving in Kathmandu via Dehli. From there I will explore Nepal (given that a semi-dormant Maoist movement doesn’t fully resurrect itself) on the Himalayan kingdoms of Sikkim and Bhutan. I’ll then spend time in Bangladesh, Kolkata and Varanasi before moving on to Thailand in hopes of securing a visa for my third visit to Burma (Myanmar) where the effects of the massive cyclone earlier this year still linger.

The final phase of the journey includes a month in China with a final stop in Seoul including an excursion into North Korea. For the last eight years I have been helping with the education of a young lady from Tibet. Here father abandoned the family after her birth and her mother never remarried. She has only been beyond the Tibetan Plateau twice in her life for brief visits to Nepal and Chengdu. Her dream is to visit the USA, a prospect that appears quite dim at the moment. In the meantime, she’ll settle for a look at Beijing, Shanghai and the Pacific Ocean. Oceans now exist only in her imagination in land locked Tibet.

(see August 14th entry for the continuation of this overview)

Order: oldest at top ( reverse )

 
16 
 
 
Yalta to Odessa
 
17 
 
 
Odessa
 
18 
 
 
Odessa
 
19 
 
 
Tulcea, Romania
 
20 
 
 
Tulcea & the Danube Delta
 
21 
 
 
Nessebar, Bulgaria to...
 
22 
 
 
Istanbul
 
23 
 
 
Istanbul
 
24 
 
 
Buyukada - Princes'...
 
25 
 
 
Istanbul
 
26 
 
 
Chisinau, Moldova
 
27 
 
 
Tiraspol, TransDniester
 
28 
 
 
Chisinau
 
29 
 
 
Chisinau to Bucharest
 
30 
 
 
Bucharest
 
31 
 
 
The Road to Curtea de...
 
32 
 
 
Transfagarasan Road/ Sibiu
 
33 
 
 
Sibiu
 
34 
 
 
W. of Sibiu, N. to...
 
35 
 
 
Saxon Fortified...
 
36 
 
 
Sighisoara. Viscri,...
 
37 
 
 
Brasov, Rasnov & Bran
 
38 
 
 
Law & Order in Romania
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