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July 20th 2015
Published: July 26th 2015
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July 20, 2015 – Today was a transition day. I left Cyprus and headed for Ukraine. I had some time in the morning, so I repacked my things for the flight and then went out to take a few more pictures. Hot though, so I came back quite quickly. For breakfast I forgot to buy milk, and the milk in the house had gone off, so I had cereal with water. Not quite as delicious as it sounds. But it worked. I said good bye and left for the bus at 11am. I had to take city bus #30 to the stop for the airport bus that would take me back to the Larnaca airport. The first bus took slightly longer than I thought, about 30-35 minutes, with frequent stops. I asked the driver at some point if we were there yet, and he said not to worry, he would tell me when we arrived. And he did. Then I had 10 minutes before the airport bus arrived, so I went to the kiosk nearby and bought my ticket. The airport bus was on time and left at 11:45. We arrived at the airport at 12:30 or so, and then the endless waiting began. I got in line to check in, and stood there, and stood there, and stood there. It was eternal. It wasn’t even that the line was so long. It just didn’t move. It took an hour, and finally it was my turn. A new woman started running the line midway through the person in front of me. My turn took only a couple minutes, and while there, I saw the original woman kneeling down and she seemed to be wiping tears away. Not sure what had happened but I was glad she was on some sort of break, for both our sakes. Security was pretty quick and then I went to my gate. Checked out some possible lunch options on the way, but nothing looked good. The flight boarded pretty quickly after that, and once on, I started eating pretzels I had been carrying since my overnight train ride back in Georgia. Not a bad lunch really.

The flight was three hours, and went quickly. In Kiev, I went through passport control quickly and my bag didn’t take too long to come out. I went out to the buses and immediately found the airport express shuttle
First look at KievFirst look at KievFirst look at Kiev

I stayed opposite the tallest building in the picture
bus I needed. I got on, found a seat, and waited for the payment thing to happen. The driver drove a little ways and then stopped and collected money from everyone. Interesting. But it was quite manic at the airport, so maybe he just wanted to keep others from boarding the already full bus. It was cheaper than I thought, since I was only going to the metro – like 50 cents. Then I got to the metro and bought a ticket for even cheaper – about 20 cents! Amazing cheap. I had to go about 9 stops on the metro without changing lines, which was nice. I was meeting the guy I rented the apartment from at 7pm and made it by 7:15pm, which was quite good I thought. That included me trying to find the right streets when I emerged from the subway. Andrii showed me around the apartment and explained how everything worked and answered a couple questions I had. Then he left and I went out for some dinner and groceries. The only grocery store close by was in the basement of a fancy shopping mall. I went in to take a look and to find out when they closed so I could come back after dinner. To get there, I had to cross the street underground, which is true at many street crossings in Kiev, and many of those crossings are actually quite large, with several exits and shopping underground. Since it was late, I decided to try a place from my guide book that was not too far away. It was called Pervak, and I got – you guessed it – Chicken Kiev. In Kiev. And it was good. They even brought me bread with two spreads as a starter. One was a spread cheese with garlic and the other was pork fat with garlic. I tried them both, but the pork fat did not actually have that much flavor. Or maybe the garlic was too intense to be sure. After dinner I stopped for some granola, as it turns out I left mine in Cyprus. I also bought yogurt and water. Made it back home and settled in. I even did a load of wash, staying up until 1am to hang it up. Why do I do laundry so late at night?

July 21, 2015 – Thought I would sleep in today, but never can manage. I think I made it until 7:45. I did some research and found that there were free walking tours at noon and 4pm, same company, different itineraries, so I decided to do both. I was lazy in the morning, watching the news and so on, and then walked over to the right place. It was a perfect day, close to 80 degrees, partly cloudy skies, with a cool breeze. It had rained the evening before a little, so that brought the temperature down, which was such a relief. My first impression of the city was good, and it stayed that way. I enjoyed my walk to the square where I would meet the tour, and arrived early, so I took some pictures. The tour lady put up her flag a little before noon, but told me we wouldn’t leave until 12:15, so I went to find something small to eat. Another woman mentioned there was a supermarket under the dome near where we were standing, so I headed down. Nothing caught my eye, but it turns out there was a whole shopping area under there, so I went down two more floors and had a small
Independence SquareIndependence SquareIndependence Square

Under this dome is food and shopping and ice cream!
pre-made Ukrainian dish of pork and mushrooms in a creamy sauce for less than $1. Headed back up and started the walking tour.

The tour guide was good, but she seemed to be in a bit of a hurry and she sometimes talked away from our ears, which made it hard to hear her. But overall, I got a good first impression of the city. We saw three of the main churches, and they were all beautiful. We got a good look at many historical buildings, and ended at the Golden gate, one of the gates that used to lead into the city. On the tour I met a couple other American teachers, one which will move to Korea in a few weeks for her new teaching job. From there I went to the St. Sophia church/museum complex and walked around. I was there for about 1.5 hours, including climbing the bell tower. I love them. And the main church was absolutely beautiful inside. And there were no pictures allowed. Heartbreaking. Then I had to head back to the meeting point for the next tour. I had just enough time to get an ice cream back underground before the tour. On this tour there was a girl from New Zealand who had been living in London. She was good to talk to, as was a Brazilian guy who was on the morning tour as well. I liked this tour guide better. She was fun to listen to and was more relaxed. She took us through a different, greener part of the city. When we got back towards the place where we started, three hours later, there was a large protest going on. We all stayed together and watched it for a while, and then we walked right past it like it was no big deal. I’m sure you’re always supposed to stay away from those things. But it was fine. The protest was over the ongoing war with Russia in Crimea/eastern Ukraine. It is war, and yet the country still has diplomatic connections with Russia and isn’t treating it like a war, which people are upset about. I had dinner with Raphael and Jess in a cafeteria style Ukrainian restaurant the guide showed us, and it was good and super cheap. I had three things and it came to $2. It was Jess’s birthday the next day so we also split a piece of cake. That came to about 75 cents. Still shocked over how cheap everything is. After dinner I grabbed something at the supermarket and headed back to the apartment, getting in just before 10pm. A long day, but very nice. It was even almost cold outside when I got back! A beautiful day. Until I washed my hair. I don’t wash it very often, and it really hasn’t been properly washed in three weeks, so I washed it tonight. With two eggs. Yes, it works. But when I rinsed it out, the water looked brown. I think my hair was really dusty from the last few places. Kind of gross, admittedly. But all better now. There is even a hairdryer here, so that was awesome. Actually, the same happened when I washed my clothes yesterday. Some water got stuck and didn’t rinse out of the rubber part on the door of the washer, and that was quite brown as well. Dusty clothes? Sweat? Don’t really want to know.

July 22, 2015 – Today I left at 9am to head towards the most popular tourist site in the city, the Lavra monastery cave complex. I took the metro there and had to switch lines. I’m always amazed at how far underground old Soviet subways are. You ride the escalator down forever. And everyone always seems to be leaning up or down, depending on their direction, because of how steep it is. Today I caught every train as it arrived and never had to wait. Once I got to the stop I needed, it still took about 15-20 minutes to walk to the monastery. I paid for a ticket to get in and a ticket for the camera. I was unsure what the ticket allowed me to visit, and I’m not even sure the camera ticket helped much, but there was not much English spoken and nothing to read, so there was just a bit of bumbling around on my part. I found it a bit difficult to know where to go or what was even a church entrance vs a museum. But I went in where they let me and didn’t when it was a small museum and you needed a separate ticket. My travel guide suggested spending a half day there, but after an hour I wasn’t sure how I would spend that much time.

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But I did. I stayed from 10am – 2pm. Where does the time go? I guess much of the time I was just trying to figure out where to go next. But eventually I ended up going down to the caves, which are really underground passages. There are two, and both of these passages are very dimly lit and narrow, with low ceilings. The passages are curving and there are niches carved in the walls every meter or so. In the niches are glass coffins with monks in them, covered so you cannot see them. And everywhere in these passages are people, mostly women, walking through and praying at each one and kissing the glass. And it’s dark and creepy. Seriously, what is up with religion? It is just so nonsensical, especially when seen like this. But I enjoyed watching the crazy rituals anyway. In a slightly scared way. Pictures weren’t allowed, but I did take some video, just to remember the occasion. My last stop was the bell tower. There was an extra cost here, but it seemed like a good way to see the whole complex, so I did it. I just can’t get enough of climbing endless stairs. But the views were good. Shame that today was back in the 90s, but it was still beautiful out. On my way down, I ran into this French guy that I had talked to yesterday for a minute at St. Sophia. Funny the way you keep seeing the same people.

After four hours at the monastery, I walked over to the Ukrainian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War, aka WWII. Quite a good war museum, dark and scary. I bought a ticket and there was nothing in English except a few cards you can read. Then I saw someone with an audioguide and went back to get one. Much better. The museum is also near/under the Mother Ukraine monument, another large lady statue with a sword and a shield. After a couple hours here, I was quite tired. Also quite hot, as the temps got to 90 again. I tried to find a closer metro than the one from this morning, but no luck. All I found was the highway. So I had to scoot it back uphill and back to the other metro stop, which took about 25 minutes. I decided to eat dinner at the cafeteria from last night, and it was only one stop away, but it looked like quite a walk on the map, comparing it to where I had just come from, so I splurged on the 20 cents and took public transport like a champ. Had another good meal, this time I upped it to $3! Afterwards I went back to the apartment and finished packing and chatting on skype. So nice that the guy let me stay until my train since no one else was coming in. I left early, at 9pm, and arrived around 9:40, an hour before my train. The Kiev train station is huge and manic, with people everywhere. I had to wait about 20 minutes for my train to show up on the list to tell me which track to go to. Once it did come up, I just happened to look in a hall nearby, and saw the place to buy international train tickets. I thought I would give it a try, and see if I could buy tickets to Chisinau. I wrote everything down so I could show her if she didn’t speak English (hoping she could at least read Latin letters). I told her Chisinau from Lviv and she said there was no train. I explained it had to connect through another town and gave her my sheet, and she was able to make it work. Oh yeah – I know my stuff. So now I can start planning a place to sleep in Moldova, so that is good news. One more overnight train ticket to buy when I’m there, and that is done. I got on the train with 10 minutes to spare, and there was a family with a mom and two sons in their early 20s in the compartment with me. The boys talked loudly until midnight, but otherwise it was ok. Not a lot of sleep on my part, but not too bad.

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