Archive for Kiev

September 2: Kiev

Posted in Kiev, Pirogovo, Travel, Ukraine, Vacation with tags , , , , on November 5, 2016 by Amanda

I got a bit of a late start this morning and didn’t leave my hotel until nearly 10 am.  I took a taxi to Pirogovo which is an open air museum of village buildings from across Ukraine; it was located at the edge of the city.  I had considered getting a driver for the day to take me to some actual villages in the countryside but the cost was more than I wanted to pay.

Pirogovo was an interesting enough place to visit though I’d been hoping that there would be English-speaking guides available at the entrance which apparently happens according to Tripadvisor but there were none.  There were basic English signs but more would have been helpful.  It was quite spread out but the blisters weren’t bothering me by this point so I didn’t mind.  Other than a handful of school groups, the place was pretty quiet.  Most of the buildings (houses, churches etc.) were from the 16th to 18th century but there was also a section of homes from the 1960s and 70s.  Only a few of the buildings were open inside.  The souvenirs here weren’t here in price than anywhere else, surprisingly.


Inside one of the newer houses.


An old church.

After resting at my hotel for a bit, I went and randomly walked around the city a bit more.

September 1: Chernobyl

Posted in Abandoned buildings, Administration building, Apartment buildings, Chernobyl, Ghost towns, Kiev, Parishev, Playground, Pripyat, Self settlers, Stores, Summer camp, Taxis, Train, Travel, Ukraine, Vacation with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2016 by Amanda

This morning we again headed to Pripyat.  The first stop was a store with a yellow phone booth in front of it.  This store had several locked locks but, of course, there were other ways in!  This store still had several cash registers and a piano amongst other debris.  A lot of the ceiling tiles were in pristine condition.


Store with the yellow phone booth.

After that it was the administration building.  I found a 1995/1996 calendar so this building was probably used to around that time.  There were also a few interesting signs but this building was mostly empty.


The 1995/96 calendar.

I then briefly looked at a small playground near some apartment buildings and separated by a street.  One part of the playground looked a bit like a UFO.

I looked around one of the apartment buildings for a bit.  It seemed to be a less-visited one but there was evidence of squatters in one of the apartments with intact windows.  This building had quite a variety of wallpaper left in it.  There was also a fair bit of furniture and some of it was in pretty good condition.  One apartment had a chair that matched the wallpaper.  Of course, I also found a piano!  I definitely could have spent more time here as I didn’t even approach the upper floors.


Matching chair and wallpaper.

Then it was off to the former liquor store that now holds a number of pianos from a neighbouring apartment building.  Some of the pianos still work!

After leaving the city of Pripyat for the final time, we went to look at trains.  I would have liked to have seen the actual train station but that wasn’t allowed.  There were also some tanks there but we were told not to touch because of the high radiation.  There was also some wood cut from the red forest and definitely didn’t look normal!


Wood from the Red Forest.

After lunch, we headed to the village of Parishev to meet a well-known self-settler named Ivan Ivanovich.  To get there we had to go past a guard booth on one road where the actual gate was actually located around the corner on a different road and had to be moved manually.  This village still has an operating fire station which serves a large area and several self-settlers but Ivan is the only one who welcomes visits.  On Thursday, we were his first visitors that week but he’d had four groups visit the week before.  The village has a number of houses and a former bus shelter.  Some of the roads are getting a bit overgrown though.  The levels of the radiation in this area are the same as most places outside the zone.  He evacuated but returned about a year after the disaster.  His wife died a few months ago and he seems a lonely and sad now.  He was upset that his television wasn’t working when we visited; hopefully, he managed to get it fix as I can see how important it would be for him.  He showed us he (non-working) car from the 1950s which he keeps in his garage.  We also had time to briefly look at another (abandoned) house in the village.


Ivan showing us his car.

We then headed to a children’s summer camp.  It clearly had been visited in a while as there was a tree blocking the road.  I think I would have loved this place as a young child.  Quite a few of the cabins were painted with children’s illustrations.  The place had a very peaceful feel and was located near the river though trees now block the view.  Liquidators stayed here during the aftermath of the disaster.


One of the cabins.

We arrived back at Kiev’s train station in the early evening.  The taxi system is definitely weird.  It is much cheaper to call a taxi which our guide did for us.  There were plenty of taxis there but we had to wait for specific ones and it was rather chaotic.  You’d think this would be a place to have a taxi stand.  Anyway, I arrived at my hotel without incident though the driver was definitely crazy.

August 28: Kiev

Posted in Kiev, Kiev Fortress, Rodina Mat, St. Andrew's Descent, Travel, Ukraine, Vacation, Vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , on October 30, 2016 by Amanda

I felt okay when I woke up this morning.  I did go ahead a book a different hotel from after my trip to Chernobyl.  It looked a lot better for only an extra $10 a night though it wasn’t as central and I hoped it would be quieter.

I got on the metro again and was absolutely shocked that it was busy at 9 am; I guess it must always be busy.  I walked past the Lavra, a huge Orthodox monastery complex with some underground caves.  It is considered by many a major tourist site but it didn’t really interest me.  Plus, it was Sunday morning and thus super busy.  It looked like head covering was required to even enter the grounds which solidified my decision not to bother with it.  The sidewalk outside seem to be a popular spot for old women to beg.  It was one of the few places I saw begging.

I then headed to Rodina Mat, the motherland statue.  It is absolutely massive but from the way I approached it wasn’t visible much before I arrived there.  However, you can see it from huge distances in other directions.  There is a World War II museum at the base which wouldn’t normally be my type of museum but I tried to visit as it was the only museum beside the Chernobyl Museum with an English audio guide but despite looking to be open (and the hours online saying it opened at 10) I was told to come back at 11.  I decided to not bother.  I wandered around the area but it seemed not to be the most interesting part of town.  However, I did get a nice view of Rodina Mat from the back.


Rodina Mat

I decided to have lunch at a raw vegan restaurant which was right near my hotel. It was surprisingly good. I found being vegetarian on the trip to actually be pretty easy.

After that I headed to Kiev Fortress. This place definitely doesn’t get many English-speaking visitors at all; perhaps this was why it was missing from the Lonely Planet. It seems that I might have bought the wrong type of ticket as I wasn’t allowed in one of the buildings and the ticket seemed cheap even for Ukraine. I think if there’d been any kind of English signage I would have definitely enjoyed the visit more. I did get an interesting view of the stadium for the fortress though.


View of the stadium from the Kiev Fortress

Later I went to St. Andrew’s Descent and wisely went down the street rather than up it as it is rather steep. Kiev is city with a number of hills and in places it is pretty much San Francisco-level steep. It was a pleasant walk down and it is probably the most touristy part of Kiev but it really wasn’t all that busy. There were plenty of paintings and souvenirs for sale.


St. Andrew’s Descent

I walked around randomly for a bit and then headed back to my hotel when my feet couldn’t stand walking any longer. I hate blisters so much!

I attempted to exchange a 20 euro bill I had that I knew I wouldn’t have time to spend on my brief stay at the airport in Paris on my way back at one of the many exchange places nearby hotel. The first one I tried wouldn’t take it. I was mystified as to why as they weren’t busy, the bill was in perfect condition and euros should be easily exchangeable; maybe they didn’t like to bother with small amounts (though 20 euros actually goes a long way in Kiev). The second place exchanged it with no issue though.

I had dinner at another restaurant near the hotel. It looked very nice and had an English menu and English-speaking staff and barely cost $4.

August 27: Kiev

Posted in Chernobyl Museum, Kiev, Landscape Alley, Metro, People's Arch of Friendship, Travel, Ukraine, Vacation with tags , , , , , , , on October 29, 2016 by Amanda

After a weird but okay breakfast at my hotel, I went to a metro station for the first time.  I’d done some research online so I knew that English signage existed (especially helpful in a place with a Cyrillic alphabet and where few people speak much English).  I was very happy to find that it was very east to navigate.  My research had also shown that MasterCard Paypass should work to access the metro even for foreign credit cards but I couldn’t get either of my MasterCards to work.  Luckily, the token machines were very easy to use.  It was actually probably better to use tokens than have many 20 cent charges; yes, that is the approximate cost of a metro ride in Kiev!  I found it interesting that quite a few things were actually cheaper here than in India.  I was also aware that many metro stations here are very deep but I was still a bit surprised with just how long it took to get down to the tracks and I wasn’t even at the deepest station!

I wandered around for randomly for a bit after I got off the metro and found my ultimate destination, the Chernobyl Museum, before I even tried looking for it.  I got there right when it opened so I had no trouble getting an English audio guide which are apparently in short supply.  The museum would have been pretty useless with the audio guide.  I spent close to an hour and a half there and I felt it was good preparation for my trip to Chernobyl in a couple of days.  It was obviously a bit depressing as the museum really made clear how many people had died or became sick (especially thyroid cancer) from the Chernobyl disaster.  It was also very clear that the government’s initial cover-up made things a lot worse.

Afterwards I bought ice cream.  I realized that the cone had a hole in the bottom and as I’m not exactly a quick eater this was an issue.  I later learned that this is normal here.  I really don’t understand why though!

I then did two free walking tours.  The first walking tour focused on history and stopped at a bunch of churches but only went inside one.  The interesting thing was that, with one exception, they were reproductions as the Soviets had torn down the originals.  One church (St. Michael’s) had even been a small concentration camp.  This tour also stopped at Landscape Alley, which is an area of colourful sculptures and a children’s playground.


Landscape Alley

After this tour I found that the at least some of the maps are upside down as I followed the map and ended up in the opposite direction I’d intended.  Anyway, I still got to the meeting point for the second walking tour in time.  This tour focused on my recent sights including memorials to those who died in 2014.  We also saw bullet holes from 2014.  Everything in Kiev now seems totally calm but tourism numbers are still clearly down and quite a few people were apparently frightened by tanks used for Independence Day celebrations a few days prior.  There also appears to be a relatively heavy military presence and we had to view the House of Chimeras from behind a fence.  This tour also included some other government buildings (from the outside), very nice parks, and the People’s Friendship Arch.  The arch will probably soon been dismantled as Ukraine and Russia are clearly no longer friends.  Our guide was against this as she views it as part of history.  I later saw on the only English-language tv station at the hotel that young people tend to want Soviet history to stay while older people (who actually remember Soviet times) want these types of monuments gone.  It does sound like a lot of them have been dismantled in recent years.  By the end of that tour my feet were really hurting; I guess two tours in a day wasn’t the greatest idea!


Memorial to some of those who died in 2014


People’s Arch of Friendship


When I got back to the hotel I found that my feet were even more blistered.  My stomach hurt a bit and so did my head; the concert going on in the maidan certainly didn’t help.  Needless to say, I didn’t really do anything that evening.

August 26: To Kiev via Paris

Posted in Flying, Kiev, Paris, Travel, Ukraine, Vacation with tags , , , , , on October 25, 2016 by Amanda

Taxiing literally took at least twenty minutes in Paris.  Luckily, getting through security et cetera didn’t all that long as I didn’t have tons of time between flights.  Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered if it took a while as we sat for quite a while after boarding waiting for  a large group of children to arrive.   There was a sign at the gate listing the languages spoken by the flight attendants: French, English, German, Spanish and Italian.  It seemed really strange to me that they wouldn’t have Ukrainian and Russian speakers working on the flight.

The airport in Kiev was really quiet.  It didn’t look like any other flights arrived anywhere near the same time as my flight.  After realizing that I had to use one of the “UA and EU Citizens” lines as the only other option was “Crew/Diplomats,” it took no time at all to get through immigration as the lines were pretty much non-existent in length.  The only thing the guy said to me was “Welcome to Ukraine.”  As usual, when immigration is quick my bag ends up being one of the last off the plane.  I’d arranged for an English-speaking driver to meet me but he was nowhere to be found.  So, I went to the taxi booth and the woman thankfully spoke excellent English and actually brought me right to a taxi which ended up being the only one I used that had a metre during my trip.  The driver didn’t speak any English but I ended up at my hotel without incident.

My first impressions of Kiev were not all that favourable.  There were a lot of very empty gas stations not far from the airport and after that there were some rather third world-looking apartment buildings albeit with nice murals on the side.  But as we crossed the river, everything suddenly looked so much better.  At that point, I started seeing gold-domed churches and it there were a surprisingly number of trees.

My hotel was right on the maidan (the central square) which was convenient.  I later learned that convenience came at a price (too much noise).  After a short break, I went on a walk in the area surrounding the hotel.  There were some English signs but there didn’t seem to be many tourists at all though there were an incredible of places to exchange money.


The Maidan


The other direction