January 29, 2020

Tartan Army: Train to the Ukraine

Ukraine 2 – 0 Scotland

“Ryan, do can speak Russian can’t do?”

“What?!  No…”

“Dammit… hang on, here’s a blonde lass, do act like a train, and I’ll look lost!”

Which we were, and the worse for drink, standing in kilts, and trying to find the train to take us over the border from Poland to the Ukraine.  Thankfully, after she’d stopped laughing, the nice blonde girl was able to help us using broken English… and us broken Scottish… but mostly charades for both.

For anyone traveling the route Krakow-Przemysl-Lviv-Keiv by train, make sure you research the border crossing at Przemysl, because to this day I still have no idea how we made it through, but I remember it being hilariously chaotic.


The Tartan Army with blankets in Kiev!


Alcohol rarely makes you a better traveller – it reduces intelligent thought;  makes you take risks you otherwise wouldn’t;  you care less about the potential consequences as long as you’re having a good time;  and it subdues both panic and caution!

This is the Tartan Army Travels – alcohol fueled mayhem, and singing.


I generally travel with an experienced group of friends who’ve been following Scotland around the world for nearly twenty years!  Some are part of what was the original Tartan Army Travel Club when it was first setup, and have now been to thirty or more countries in the process of following Scotland.  One of the boys refuses to fly and we occasionally join him from the train journeys – I’ve been telling him to write a book for he really can tell some stories…

And that’s an enjoyable part of traveling with such seasoned veterans, the retelling of old exploits, some of which I couldn’t tell, and wouldn’t do justice too if I did.  It’s always funny looking back on the old stories and helping to make new one’s.


Yet experience counts for little when everyone is drunk, your phone is out of battery, you have no map, can’t speak the native language, and you know the next day isn’t going to get any better!


The trip to the Ukraine in 2006 was a two week rail journey across Europe: Aberdeen-London-Brussels-Prague-Krakow-Przemysl-Lviv-Kiev, making stops along the way, and would require several blog posts to cover properly.


Smiles from the crowd at the bare faced cheek…


It’s the small but lasting memories of the trip which still make me smile;

like having to change trains in the dark inside the Ukraine, somewhere, because Europe and Russian have different train track sizes!  And with no platform outside in the dark, one of the guys drunkenly stepped out of the train into thin air expecting a platform and instead landed six foot below amid shouts and rancourous hilarity from above;

or one of the nights out in Prague where we met some Irish girls who could swear more than the worst drunken Scot;

or walking into one of the trains toilets only to see the rail tracks whizzing along where the toilet should have been;

or laughing til we cried as an insane taxi driver in his old bullet-holed Lada, drove, sang, spoke nonsense and rallied us around Kiev like it was a race;

or in Lviv, playing pool and having to pay £0.20 for a pint, pretending to be property tycoons and being taken on a brilliant pub crawl by two bankers;

or getting lost during the transfer of stations in Przemysl for the border crossing, and everyone deciding the best thing to do was head to the nearest bar for the whole afternoon and not think about it.

It was a two week trip, and to go into great detail would be difficult… and maybe you had to be there for most of it anyway!


Looking for a bar in L’viv

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