**Easter of the Dead**
On Friday I hitchhiked towards Moldova. Through Couchsurfing I had been invited by A. to a ceremony on Monday called ‘Easter of the Dead’ (or commemoration day) where dead relatives were commemorated. The village of A.’s parents (Ermoclia) was about 780km away from Sosnivka so if I had started on Thursday and had cycled without long braks I could have made it on time to Sunday. But that would have meant I couldn’t see anything of Ukraine and Moldava since the village is located in the southeast. That’s why hitchhiking was the best solution. I left my bike in Sosnivka and would pick it up afterwards to continue the tour.
It was the first time that I hitchhiked in Ukraine, since Crimea was already under Russian control in 2014. It didn’t go that well on Friday, I didn’t get far. After a man gave me a ride who importes furniture from Germany and then I went on the back of a motorbike going 110 km/h in the dark on the bad Ukrainian roads, having been offered to stay at his babushka’s (grandmother) house, I just put my sleeping bag next to the road at 1am.
On Saturday it went better. I got a ride from the Moldovan border nearly to the village – but after 3h of waiting and it was already late, when we arrived so I accepted to offer of the driver Haralambie to sleep at his what seems like a second, unused house.
Sunday I finally arrived (as planned) in Ermoclia and A. and her friend Jakub showed me the area a bit on bicycles: some lakes and fields with wild but real Marihuana. In the evening we went to the village centre since there might have been a party, but it was only loud music in a cultural centre with maybe less than 10 people dancing.
Monday was party time. The ceremony started and what shall I say? It was crazy. It’s astonishing, how many customs are existing and how bizarre some of them are. The pictures will tell more than my words, but I try to explain the racket a little bit.
One week after Orthodox Easter Monday is commemoration of the ancestors. People go back to their home villages and with lots of food to the cemeteries. There the graves are literally filled up with the food. It was a vivid hustle and bustle.
In the meantime the priest is walking around with a choir and is blessing the dead relatives. For it he takes a booklet with their names and an equivalent amount of money (maybe 0.10€ per name, have a roughly monthly income of 200€). In the meantime the people lift the food a bit and dangle it around. Then the priest is given a glass of whine for each grave and another bill (like 1€). He pours the whine on the grave. The banknote is somehow secretly vanishing in his pocket. The more money the more time the priest spends at the grave. When this corrupt play is over, the grave is freed by the food which is then eaten like at a picknick by the whole family. During eating people give each other more or less useful presents like towels, plates, matches as well as bread and sweets.
We went to two graveyards, one for each parent of A. and came home to Ermoclia with super full stomachs.
On Tuesday we made a day trip to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. The city itself is not that fantastic, but with A. and Jakub it was a hilarious time. We visited a amusement park that seemed to be from Soviet era. Especially one hall with old slot machines drew our attention.
Wednesday was our last day together. We had to say goodbye to A.’s nice parents, who fed us as if we didn’t eat for weeks, and went to Odessa. There we went to the beach and Jakub and me swimming in Black Sea. Some cool ‘alphas’ jumped out seconds later, but we spent there some minutes simce it was just awesome! As the night approached we took the same night train, though I got off in Lviv and ended my short trip to Moldova.