Spurins Geriatric Gap Year


Spurins Geriatric Gap Year

Taken early retirement to see some of the world. Next trip South America...

Europe » Ukraine » Kyiv October 19th 2019

It's our last day in Kiev but our flight isn't until evening, so there's time for one last outing. We take the metro into town and then the funicular between its 100 year old art deco stations to Kiev's blue and gold domed skyline with St Sofia's cathedral, St Michael's Monastery and Saint Andrew's church. We round off our visit in style with lunch at 100 Rokiv Tomu Vpered (100 Years Ago in the Future), a restaurant run by the winner of Ukranian Masterchef. The food is a modern twist on traditional Ukranian dishes. There are some whacky things on the menu; I skip the edible bees and the celery with ash and order the chicken with beetroot kvass (bread made with fermented black bread). The chicken is served naked, whilst the waiter brandishes a blown ... read more
View from Kyiv Funicular
Kyiv Funicular
St Michael's Monastery

Europe » Ukraine » Kyiv October 18th 2019

Our train to Kiev is at 11.26 so we depart the hotel in plenty of time to walk to the station via Lviv’s main sights. Our train is a sleeper train in day formation. A carriage contains 10 compartments each of 4 berths. Our seats are numbers 44 and 45. This means that when we reach the end of the carriage, the numbers have only reached 40. We stand outside the toilet a bit perplexed, then sit in some random seats, only to be moved on by their owners. We take another look and discover that each compartment has two extra numbers for day time when 6 people share the bottom 2 bunks. It’s a 6 hour journey to Kiev. This train has no trolley service so we are unprepared. It’s quite dull, chugging through trees ... read more
Town hall

Europe October 17th 2019

A compulsory element of any trip is a journey by train. This morning we are travelling from Kyiv to Lviv. It’s an early start to get into town for a 6 am departure. The train is way nicer than in the UK; it’s extremely clean and modern with tv screens and a trolley service with excellent sandwiches (chicken, cheese, pickled cucumber and dill mayonnaise – a winning combination). The journey to Lviv takes 5 hours. There’s some initial jostling over the blind; the person in front thinks it should be closed. She’s wrong. Half the fun of a train ride is watching the world go by, so it’s not a battle I’m going to lose. I win (obviously) and get to enjoy a spectacular sunrise over the city before we plunge into the forest. 5 hours ... read more
Train to Lviv
St Andrew’s Cathedral
St Andrew’s Cathedral

Europe » Ukraine » Kiev » Chernobyl October 16th 2019

Today we’re taking a guided tour of Chernobyl, together with Olena, our Ukrainian hostess. We board our minibus in Kyiv and are issued with permits and a Geiger counter before setting off for the exclusion zone. Upon arrival at the 30 km exclusion zone, we are provided with dossimeters and told not to eat or drink anything we find in the forest. We proceed to the town of Chernobyl where 2500 people still live and work on a shift basis, staying in dorms and spending half of each month outside the zone to decrease their radiation exposure. Following the fall of communism, Chernobyl is the only Ukrainian town to retain a Lenin statue in the main square. Presumably it’s too radioactive to mess with. Our tour guide is quite bossy and a little crazy. We have ... read more
Angel memorial
Firemen’s memorial
Robots used to deal with debris

Europe October 15th 2019

Today we have our own personal tour guide (Tom has kindly offered to show us round, despite a broken foot). We start at Rodina Mat – a huge statue depicting the motherland with a war museum at its base. The design is similar to Minsk’s Museum of the Great Patriotic War, only here the museum, entitled: Ukraine, an unfinished War, tells a far less pro Russian version of events. Outside, from a row of 3 Soviet tanks, one has been painted in the colours of the Ukrainian flag and turned to face the others. The Motherland statue depicts a lady holding aloft a sword and shield. You can take a lift and climb a series of ladders up 36 metres to a viewpoint at the bottom of her skirt or climb a further 64 metres of ... read more
Rodina Mat
View from Rodina Mat
War memorial

Europe » Ukraine » Kyiv October 14th 2019

Our flight to Kiev is at 1.30 pm but due to the old man’s ineptitude with time zones, the hire car has to be dropped at 9 am. So today consists mostly of sitting in Minsk airport. There are worse places; there are plenty of old aircraft and bison sculptures dotted around to keep me entertained. Ironically, the car hire desk doesn’t open until 10 am anyway, which makes returning a car quite complicated – especially as there is no drop off point. Apparently (we finally learn) you park in the general car park and the Europcar employee rides up and down on a scooter looking for his cars. Parking is not easy. The car park is full and it’s difficult to drive round because so many cars are parked in places other than parking bays. ... read more
Minsk airport
Descending into Kyiv
Sunset on the Dnipro

Europe » Belarus » Brest Voblast October 13th 2019

Our time in Belarus is almost over. It’s time to head towards the airport. We check out of our Soviet era hotel with one last journey in the terrifyingly jolty lift. The drive to Minsk is basically 240 miles along one long, straight, flat road through mile after mile of flat fields with occasional flat woodlands. It’s so dull I find myself longing for hills – a rare occurrence in my world. After 3 hours, we break the journey at Nesvizh Castle, a picturesque 16th Century castle surrounded by a moat. Inside is a museum charting the castle’s history. The floors are a mixture of polished wood, marble, tiles and silk rugs which all need to be negotiated whilst wearing plastic bags on your feet. Health & safety isn’t a thing in Belarus. Afterwards, we continue ... read more
Nasvizh Castle
Nasvizh Castle
Nasvizh  Castle

Europe October 12th 2019

We get up early and go for a run in the forest. The park isn’t open yet so I have the road to myself (the old man runs separately because apparently I’m too slow) apart from a bus containing Santa and his helpers heading to the grotto to start work. This morning, I actually spot a wild bison, much to my excitement. It’s 9.30 by the time we go for breakfast. It’s a set menu, including pancakes (obviously) but the man at the next table goes off piste and orders a beer. We check out and drive south to Brest; first stop Brest Fortress. I love a bit of Soviet sculpture and it doesn’t get much better than here. In 1941, Soviet troops held out against the advancing Germans for a month. As a memorial, you ... read more
Brest Fortress Memorial
Brest Fortress Courage
Brest Fortress Courage

Europe » Belarus » Brest Voblast October 11th 2019

After a bad night’s sleep (a combination of the potato pancakes and sleeping next to the main railway line from Moscow to Europe, with freight trains thundering by every few minutes) we get up and go for breakfast. Surprise, surprise it’s pancakes. Add some jam – call it breakfast. I google potato consumption and am not surprised to see that Belarus has the highest per capita consumption in the world. After breakfast we set off for Belazkaya Plushcha National Park. It’s only 80 miles, but Google Maps takes us on an interesting cross country route which involves less tarmac than is ideal, but enables us to see plenty of rural Belarus. We reach the park around midday. Outside of Minsk, very few people speak English but I get by with my few words of Russian combined ... read more
Driving through Belarus
Belovskaya Pushcha National Park
Hotel complex

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast October 10th 2019

Old men need a lot of sleep. You can get a lot done between normal getting up time and old man getting up time. Today I go for a run. Inside, in the gym – the weather outside is hideous. Which is a shame as we had planned to spend the day visiting castles. The gym is not well used. It takes me a while to locate the ‘on’ switch for the treadmill. I start running at a reasonable (for me) pace but the machine has other ideas. Every 2 minutes, the speed and gradient increase dramatically and I have to try to adjust the controls before I get spat off the back. It’s all very stressful. After 4 km, I admit defeat and leave. Once I have done my run and we have collected our ... read more
Mir Castle
Mir Castle
Mir Castle

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