Fragments from a War Diary, Part #159
There’s been a problem. I mean, not one. There are lots of problems every day. This is a war zone. There are bound to be problems. It’s just that this is a particularly silly and vexing problem, and of course it’s all my fault because I am strange. I am going to Kramatorsk. That is the main problem of course, and the problem is in my head. I shouldn’t be going there but I have agreed to go and I have some obligations and so let it be. In case you don’t know, Kramatorsk is about 40 kilometres west-northwest of Bakhmut, the frontline city occupied by the Russians. It is open carry of firearms in the supermarkets there, so Kramatorsk is quite a place. It’s actually adjacent to Sloviansk, where the regular reader of my diaries will know I’ve been before, so it’s all perfectly alright. If you’re slightly mad.
Anyway I am going with a colleague, and I decided to reserve a hotel in advance which struck me as good security protocol when heading so close to a boiling hot front line. I was recommended a place by someone or other of dubious qualities, and I found the hotel using a Google search and then Google recommended that I book this hotel on that omniscient portal, booking.com. I thought, that’s strange, I didn’t think booking.com would let me book hotels in Kramatorsk, so close to the front line. booking.com has things like insurance policies and compliance managers and lots of other things that won’t let damned fools like me book hotels in such places. Nevertheless, to repeat an aphorism I developed recently, technology makes idiots of us all, and I decided to go ahead with the booking on this website.
A few days later I thought I would write to the hotel confirming the booking, because booking.com mysteriously kept telling me that my credit card had been declined. So I wrote to the hotel in my finest Ukrainian, telling them that my colleague and I were looking forward to staying with them in Kramatorsk. And then next morning I received a horrified reply, saying “We are not a hotel in Kramatorsk! We are a hotel in the Carpathian Mountains. Please cancel!”. The Carpathian Mountains are a beautiful set of ski and spa resorts in the far west of Ukraine, as far away from the lunacy of Kramatorsk as one can imagine and the hotel proprietors were presumably alarmed that I was coming to stay with them in Kramatorsk. So I cancelled, and I realised (or I presumed) there are two hotels with the same name: one in the Carpathian Mountains, and the other in Kramatorsk. I went back to Google and I found the hotel’s telephone number and I wrote to them again and said that my colleague and I want to make a reservation with them in Kramatorsk. And I waited for a reply.
All of this took a lot of faffing around, by the way. I had to install some complex piece of software on my laptop, with a translation facility (because my Ukrainian language skills really aren’t very good), and all the rest, and this took a good half an hour of shouting and arguing with my self about why it wasn’t downloading properly. Anyway I was proud of my usually impoverished IT skills as I had finally managed properly to contact the correct hotel in Kramatorsk.
And then it occurred to me. Had I really contacted the hotel in Kramatorsk? No, I had written to the hotel in the Carpathian Mountains again, asking for a reservation at their hotel in Kramatorsk. I realised that if they read this message again, about their hotel in Kramatorsk, then they might call the Police. So I rapidly backtracked, and thankfully these instant messaging applications have a function called “delete for all” which enables you to delete a message you have sent in error. And I have informed them that a Google search locates their hotel in Kramatorsk, something which I imagine they are not at all ecstatic about.
I feel like an idiot, but that is not the first time. It is common to feel like an idiot when you are tramping round the rougher edges of a war zone. It is not easy to travel to the front line safely and securely, and it requires significant amounts of preparation, asking for advice and exercises in trial and error. You need to stay in contact with people who are doing the same sorts of things as you are doing, and you need to check and re-check everything you do several times if necessary. I have concluded that there is in fact no hotel by the name I was given in Kramatorsk, and if I contact those poor and no doubt lovely people in the Carpathian Mountains again and ask them to book two rooms in Kramatorsk then I might give them a heart attack. I have promised these hoteliers that when I have finished my business in Kramatorsk then I will go back to stay with them for a night or two in the Carpathian Mountains, and do something sane and normal and not something manic and mad. But I am in Lviv, and this is the eclectic asylum of the crazy and bizarre in which everything goes and it is from here that I must plan my trip to Kramatorsk. All that work, downloading software and playing with applications, and all for so little reward.
I will contact another person for a better suggestion on where to stay in Kramatorsk, and then - hopefully, possibly, probably, maybe - the trip will go ahead. After all, it’s only 20 hours to Kramatorsk, in a de luxe sleeper carriage, with limitless cups of sugary tea and a chugging wood-fired boiler to keep the carriage warm. I’m sure there’s a poem in this sort of romantic journey somewhere. It’s a long, long way to Kramatorsk, but my heart’s right there.