Ukraine Day 1 - Minsk to Kyiv

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October 14th 2019
Published: October 17th 2019
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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.

Eventually, after two full circuits of the airport and one of the car park, we are sorted and can settle in the departure lounge. We even have enough roubles left for 2 burgers and one portion of chips.

The flight is only 40 minutes. Soon we have left the flat countryside of Belarus and have a great view of Kyiv as we commence our descent on a beautiful afternoon. It’s 22 degrees – it was minus 3 when we arrived last week. I am in a t shirt lugging my suitcase of fleeces, coat, scarf, gloves etc.

We book an Uber to the flat of an old colleague. He lives in block number 8 but I accidentally enter 18 into the App. As we reach the correct address, I try to rectify my mistake. As luck will have it, I can count to 8 in Russian, so think I can communicate with the driver. This is not the case. As we pass number 8, we ask to stop (a lot) but to no avail. He has been booked to drop at 18 and he is going to drop at 18. A kilometre later, we are released from our taxi hostage situation and have to walk 10 blocks back down the road.

I last saw Tom when I left the immigration service 18 years ago, so it’s great to catch up. We are staying in Obolon, a suburb on the bank of the River Dnipro. We take a walk to a park which runs along the riverside. It’s a public holiday so it’s heaving with families enjoying a lovely evening.

We stop at a play area. Tom’s three small children are keen to show us their skills on various apparatus. It’s the first time I’ve encountered a play area with a punch bag - the park was financed by the boxer Klitschko and there are muscle bound young men working out among the children hanging from the monkey bars.

We return to dinner of homemade borscht and spend the evening drinking wine and reminiscing about the good old days when we worked together in the 90s.

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