Entering the borderlands

Kiev Travel Blog

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Our first taste of the Ukraine was in the airport bar chatting for a couple of hours over vodka and beer. It has that decidedly eastern European feel, the buildings are dingy and long past their prime, the women are very carefully dressed in almost comical glam (very short satin dresses with matching high heels or tight jeans with embroidered sequins and a mid-riff top complete with glitter), while the men were dressed with complete disregard in old mismatched clothes. John was on a different flight to us, but managed to find us while we were having lunch with an polyglot American who was working in the Ukraine training NGOs. It was really good to see John again.


We had quite a few hours between landing in Kiev and flying out to Lviv, so we walked into the outdoor area of the airport bar and found space at a table where an old guy was eating cheese and bread and drinking vodka.

The flag of Ukraine flies the blue sky over the yellow field of grain.
We were able to have a fairly complete (if repetitive) conversation with him, although it did require John translating from French a few times. He was a 51 year old Armenian living in the Ukraine since '88 (he said the Ukraine was a good country, not like Armenia, which was "lost") and who did six month stints working in Algiers as a French-Russian translator (making him fluent in five languages). He son was 32 and a private contractor for the construction business, and had a long-term girlfriend but wasn't married. He hastened to add, though, that his son's girlfriend was a good woman worth marrying, and started to bemoan the "liberty" and "openness" that made it easy to find women for a good time in the Ukraine but hard to find a "good woman for a wife, who will stay at home". He insisted we all drink vodka with him (we protested that it was too early, but he said in the Ukraine vodka was for breakfast, lunch and dinner, unlike terrible Algiers where there was no vodka at all, and the women were pretty but dressed head to toe so you couldn't see their faces) and we finally all had a couple of drinks, except Lydia. He was very enamored with Lydia, and kept on telling her that she was a good woman and a beautiful woman, and tried really hard to buy her something. It was an interesting introduction to the Ukraine, but I think Lydia felt a bit of relief when we finally had to leave to enter the secure area.


Our flight to Lviv is now just about to leave. We waited long enough at the bar that a storm has had time to roll in. The wind outside has picked up and lightning is coming down. Our tiny plane almost looks like a converted military aircraft, and has the feel of an old piece of machinery faithfully serving long past its due-date thanks to the aid of gaffa tape. We are left with the comforting words of the Director general of AeroSvit ("The Ukrainian Airline") - "If you have a printed AeroSvit ticket, save it. Soon you might be the owner of a rare item."

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The flag of Ukraine flies the blue…
The flag of Ukraine flies the blu…
photo by: Biedjee