Published: April 30th 2009April 30th 2009
First impression arriving to Kiev was - big, ugly (Soviet style) and big, but also very interesting. And that impression stayed for all the time. First experience was waiting in a huge irrational line by metro to get our zhetons. It took around 20 minutes to get them. Metro is one of really impressive things in Kiev - it goes so deep down and has these shiny advertisements that it looks surreal (and it looked surreal and hilarious when I listened to Moby - Run On song). As my host was busy I had put my backpack in hostel where my coupe mates were staying. While looking for it, near independence square we were “attacked” by unshaved drunkard-looking man wearing unwashed white bear costume. He wanted us to pay for talking pictures with him. No matter how “tempting” this suggestion was we refused and we had to do it in quite strong way for him to understand. After finding hostel we got to know that hostel was… moved. It would seem as some usual scenario for a scam, but as matter of fact it was not. So we had to go back all the way and even more. The hostel was
in an apartment building in one of flats. But it was nice place.
• Very nice place to eat in Kiev is “Puzava Xata”. It is canteen style café serving tasty Ukrainian dishes with cheap prices. As the locals I talked to said that it is the best place in matter of price/quality I ate there almost all times during my stay. Totally recommended for backpackers on budget who want to try out local food.
Daytime I went sightseeing with Sasha - he suggested me to be my guide in Kiev through couchsurfing. Well the places we went to were nice. What was always weird to me is this light blue colour of their churches. And the most impressive things in Kiev are those enormously huge buildings. Just normal buildings are huge and government buildings are truly enormous. That’s the heritage from Soviet Union they have. They really make you feel like little bug that can be squished instantly. I would not like to live in Kiev for sure. Everything else was big too - the parks, the monuments. The monument for “300 Years of Friendship with Russia” was big, but the most spectacular monument was “Mother of
Nation” statue. These not very well known to the world powerful (and ugly) creations show the power of Soviet Union. One can feel it walking around there. But it gets awkward thinking that it is power that exists no more. In Mother of Nation park they also had nuclear weapon as a monument and Sasha said they sometimes play dialogues of fighter plain pilots just before they crash.
Sasha told about his experiences in Orange Revolution in Ukraine. He was one of participants there camping in cold to protest the election of president. He told how they went to guard President Palace from “fake orange”. Also about Eastern Ukrainians who were brought to this revolution and given just two bottles of vodka and nothing more - no tents, no food. So the Western Revolutionaries sang a song “East and West together” and invited them to share food and tents. This is on event Ukrainians are really proud of. But as the say only thing they gained is lesser evil and government is still corrupt and does not work for people.
In evening I had to go to my host who lives quite far from city center. I got my backpack
and took metro, 7 stops. While looking for right mini bus I experienced Ukrainian helpfulness again. A woman whom I asked for help started asking everyone around and was really trying to help me find the right mini bus and she did - it was already on a way so we had to stop it. In the end she wished me best luck. In mini bus I asked people to tell me where my stop was and old woman assured that she will. When I was leaving she also wished me best luck. My host Vova met me and we had spontaneous movie night, watching “The Matrix” until 5 a.m. Of course getting up at 10.30 after that was not very easy. Using sense of direction I found my way back to bus stop and got to center where we I met Dutch people again. Sight of the day was Chernobyl Museum. We joined excursion and got really good overview what happened during that disaster. Things I remember the best are a huge letter from Hiroshima children to Chernobyl children and a video about soldiers working on the roof of power plant after explosion. Those soldiers were offered to work
Glory of capitalism
How can you now call it anything else but The LG gate.
2 minutes on that roof and they will be granted freedom of 3 year army duty. That was horrible looking how they shovel nuclear waste with shovels down from the roof. They had some safety costume, but it was a roof of nuclear power plant that had explosion just that night… As our guide said, many of them have not survived even ten years after this. After that we walked by the river where we saw church in water and a woman singing karaoke by karaoke machine all by herself.
Next day the main sight was Caves Monastery. I joined excursion, which was in Russian. Best thing I can remember is that main church there was rebuilt just 9 years ago. In 1941 it was blown up by the order of Stalin, as that time Slovakian president was visiting it. But the bombs did not go off at visit time, just later. (I hope I remember this story right…) Going to caves themselves was quite a mess. All women had to wear scarves on heads and to have skirts. I had my scarf and my coat was long enough, so I could go just like that. Other women had to
rent skirts leaving deposit money and eventually they ran out of skirts so they said others need to buy them for 20 hry. But eventually I got my candle and went into caves. Caves were quite full of people and I stayed there for short time, but it was interesting to see “the heart of Ukrainian orthodox religion”. In caves there were saints in glass sarcophaguses, their faces were covered as “sinners are not supposed to see faces of saints, just their hands and feet”. People were praying and kissing the sarcophaguses.
Evening ended up being a bit crazy. I went to hostel to look for Jurek and Aafke. Instead I met Australian guys Joel and Luke. My host Vova was up to going out that day too, as well as other couchsurfing girl Maryana. And on a way from hostel we also met the Dutch people so this whole bunch of us went to a pub. After some beer-vodka drinking session I had a dilemma - to go back home with Vova or stay out until 6 in the morning when metro started to work again. Well, of course I chose later. After pub we went to club, but
it was all empty, I guess not that much is going on Wednesday night in Kiev, or we did not find it. So eventually the last place that was open was (sigh) McDonalds. We found two British backpackers hanging around there too. So after around 6 years break I ate McDonald’s food. Near McDonalds there was an old beggar woman sitting on the chair, she had a big Mac and was asking to buy some tea for her. We were wondering if she is always there, if she is that means she always eats McDonald’s food… So after night snack we went back to hostel and my mission was to sneak in. It failed quite fast as hostel was (of course) locked and the Lebanese guy who has keeping it has to open it for us. But he did not mind me entering at all. And when I sneaked into one of empty beds he (also sleeping in hostel bed) was worried that I would get cold and got me a blanket! So I set up my alarm and in two hours I got up. Morning Kiev was kind of nice. I went back to Vova’s places (who was not
angry with me when I woke him up 7 am) and in other three hours of sleep had to get going to Zhechkov. At first I met Sergej, friend of Masha (who herself is old friend of my grandmother and lives in Zhechkov). Sergej drove me to minibus place. We were driving through places he used to live as a child and told some stories about them and Kiev in general. The forest near student district during war times was a frontline. Also he told about park nearby his house, the entrance to it used to cost 10 kopeik, which he rather used to spend on ice cream and get into park squeezing through bars. He knew by heart where he could fit through. And guards could never catch the kids. So after this tour I was in a minibus to Zhechkov.
In Kiev I thought about importance of street musicians and street performances. During all ages and the same now people like hanging around in public places and it is so good that those shows prevail now and they should be kept and supported. Kiev is really not the best city for a nice walk in center, but
Lenin, Stalin, House (??), Gagarin
Well I get the other, but what is House doing there?
with music and fire shows it becomes much nicer. Nice video presenting Kiev Kiev metro Free hugs in Kiev
Few Ukrainian jokes:
Two dogs walking in the park. Suddenly one stops and says to the other:
- I think my master has paranoia.
- Why do you think so?
- Well, I might be wrong, but he is often thinking that I read his thoughts.
A man comes into pharmacy and tells something silently to the pharmacist. She (loudly to the whole drugstore):
- What kind of protection do you need?! This is pharmacy not Ministry of Defense!
There are more photos below