Whew, what a long couple of days. I have not slept much, to put it mildly. I last wrote right before I met up with Elena, a friend of a friend that lives here in Kiev. I got a bit lost along the way. We were to meet at the red building in the University, but Google maps took me to a huge park where I wandered around for the better part of an hour. Finally we figured it out and had dinner at a restaurant called Yolk, because they serve an egg with every meal. After dinner we walked around the city for a few hours. By this time it was dark, so I couldn’t fully appreciate all the sights, but most I have returned to during daylight hours.
I eventually made it back to the hostel and tried to sleep, but couldn’t for a few more hours. The next morning the hostel host gave me a map and drew a good walking tour that I planned on following that afternoon. The first sight was a huge monastery. I took some pictures and toured the inside of the church and the rest of the grounds for about half an hour. On my way out I was stopped by an older lady. She asked (not in English the first time) if Mass was finished. When she learned that I spoke English she became quite excited. It turns out she is attending some conference in London on Monday for her company and wants to practice conversaional English. So we went back to the church and she told me all about the history and beliefs and such. She even got us access to a few of the restricted areas. Afterwards we talked to a few nuns that were friends of hers and they made us a nice lunch. All of the nuns were so incredibly sweet. Everytime I finished a plate, they would immediately remove it and take it to be cleaned. I’ve never had such good service in Ukraine. At the end one of them gave me a present which I am actually regifting to Angie, as I feel she would appreciate it more.
The lady that was showing me around, Lada, then took me to America House, which is some kind of weird sanctuary for Americans. It’s small, but the security was tougher than an airport. Inside we got a quick tour, which were mostly just computer rooms. Afterwards she took me back to her flat and offered a free bed and free lunch and dinner if I stayed with her Saturday night/Sunday and helped with her English. I’m not sure about the evening, but I may meet up with her during the day Sunday. We’ll see.
After returning to the hostel I met up with Aimee (from London) and Kaylyn (from Canada) and the three of us went to a really fun restaurant called “Spotykach.” Okay, it was quite touristy, but the menu was exciting – and quite frankly a bit weird. Kaylynn had pierogies that were colored after the Ukraine flag. I had, among other things, incredibly delicious salmon bruschetta. Finishing dinner we were ready for dessert: some type of giant cake, and a friendly game of rum checkers. Kaylyn and I played checkers with the shot glasses, and I’m sure you can guess who won (although with drinking games, if you lose, you win). I also made one more purchase, but Angie will have to wait until I return for that gift.
Following dinner I met up with Elena and about 8 of her friends at a pub. We only had one beer then decided to move to another location. I was wearing my ASU T-shirt that day, and everyone kept telling me that the pitchfork looked like the emblem on the Ukrainian coat of arms. I personally feel like it looks similar to the Maserati symbol. Either way, when you consider that the logo of Phoenix looks very similar to the Rebel Alliance symbol, ASU probably needs to revise their rules on plagiarism.
But enough about all that. We finally decided, for some reason, to drink warm champagne straightout of the bottle down by the river. There I was, at 0100, drinking on the banks of the Dnieper with six Ukrainians I had just met. Fun times. About 0200 Elena and I left since we had to be up early for travel plans the next morning.
Still without adequate sleep Elena and I left for Yanukovych’s Museum of corruption. Apparently the former president of Ukraine built himself quite nice little reserve outside of the city. Before it was finished, about two years ago, he was forced to flee to Russia. Now they have turned it into a corruption museum – quite a clever idea. Unfortunately, after walking around for three hours, I couldn’t find it. Elena was working (as a journalist) and called one of her friends to help me out. So after an entire afternoon of walking and walking and walking we finally found it. But it was closed. The park was open, and about 50 newlyweds were having their pictures taken, but the buildings were closed. So much for that.
And I was still 20km outside of Kiev. One aspect of traveling I haven’t quite figured out yet is the public transportation. To the point that it actually frightens me a bit. Metros/subways are always incredibly simple and very useful, but I was of course nowhere near one of those. Well, instead of walking for five hours, I decided I was going to give it an educated guess and try. I caught a small bus by a gas station and hoped for the best. I got the next best thing. We made it to Kiev, but way WAY on the city edge. And Kiev is an enormous city. But from were I was it was only about an hour walk to the nearest metro station. I took that and saw some parts of the city most visitors probably don’t. For some reason, I’m always fascinated by huge apartment buildings (several of which I passed). So much life goes on in apartments. So many events occur just in the living room of each flat. Those four walls could surely tell some interesting stories. So almost everytime I pass a building I pick a random window and create a story for what life is like for the residents living in that individual unit. I don’t know why I do this, and I’m confident I’m way off-base on my stories, but for me it’s still enough.
So I made it to the metro and took it to the city center. I wandered around a bit through the buildings and around the fountains. There were many stalls set up by the road (on weekends the block turns into pedestrian-only) selling homemade trinkets and anything else you could imagine. After some careful selection, I picked up yet another gift for my sister. I hope I have room for all these in my backpack. Afterwards I FINALLY found somewhere to get postcards, then ice cream, then a light lunch, then returned to the hostel. Today I have walked at least 20km. I am so tired.
But I think I’m starting to figure out their alphabet. Their 6 is a B, and their B is a V. Their D is a spaceship, and their 3 is either a Z with an arrow above it, or also a 3. Their n is a P and their N is a Y and their P is an R. Their H is an N and their Y is a U and their C is an S. There are more, but the one I haven’t figured out is the banana. I assume they have so many bananas in Ukraine that they need a special letter for it to save time. Okay, they link doesn’t do it justice. On many signs it actually looks like a banana. So in summation, a supermarket is now a cynepmapket. I enjoy trying to decode the signs around town.
That is all for me this evening. I have to decide if I’m sleeping (the best idea) or meeting up with Lada, or getting dinner, or going out with friends. We’ll see what happens.