First Week in Kiev

Kiev Travel Blog

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Street Art

Experiences in Ukraine

 

I have now officially been in Ukraine for a week. South Africa seems very far away and, indeed, it is. One of the other secondees here was asked by a little boy upon the little boy first catching sight of him “Why aren’t you black?”

 

Pretty much everything is far removed from Ukraine. Until the early 1990’s, Ukrainians were not permitted to travel outside the socialist countries, being pretty much confined to the Eastern Eurpoean countries. Ukraine shares its borders with Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldava. It is the largest country in Europe, being slightly larger than France but slightly smaller than Texas, with approximately 47 million people, (including 5 South Africans) inhabiting it.

 

Enough of the background information - what of the country? Ukraine is old.

Inside St Andrews (not allowed to take pictures by the way!!!)
Ukraine is poor, Ukraine is rich. A contradiction? Nay, as while there are numerous new and fabulous buildings, they are in direct contrast to the old decaying buildings located right alongside them, a legacy of a country centuries old, a country which has been continuously occupied by various oppressors, including the Mongols, Poles, Cossacks, Tatars and the Germans. In 2004, the country finally gained its independence, staging the Orange Revolution, whereby everyone dressed in Orange (hence Orange Revolution) and protested the elections, leading to a vote of no-confidence, and resulting in Viktor Yuschenko being elected as President of Ukraine on 23 January 2005.

 

What does this all mean for Ukraine today? For one thing, an improved economy. The Ukrainian currency, ‘hrivna’ is indeed stronger than the Rand, a US Dollar trading for 5.05 hrivna. Notwithstanding this, nothing is really cheap when compared to South Africa. A litre of petrol is UAH 4.65, while a two litre coke is about UAH 6.50. All comparatively similar to South Africa.

 

Hotels however are incredibly expensive, costing in the region of $ 100 a night, for bed only. The only English channels are BBC World and Animal Planet, the rest of the channels being, unfortunately, in either Ukrainian or Russian. Indeed, Russian seems to be the predominant language in this country, although Ukrainian and Russian are interchangeable.

 

One of the more unusual things noted is the fact that everyone smokes, drinks and kisses in public. People have no trouble in smoking with one hand, drinking with the other and kissing in between. In addition, there are numerous dogs in the city – none of which are on leases, resulting in their wandering around.

Inside St Andrews (not allowed to take pictures by the way!!!)
Naturally, everyone wears warm clothes, although apparently this year is unseasonably warm. Indeed, the coldest it has been while we have been here has been no more than (less than) -5 degrees, and today was positively boiling, the thermometer rushing up to 5 degrees!

 

A legacy of the German occupation in the 1940’s are the incredible Metro systems, being the railways connecting the city. These tunnels are situated way beneath the city’s surface, approximately 500 metres by any measure. They are a tribute to German engineering, and are a very cheap way of travelling in the city. A ticket to anywhere in the city will cost you only 50 cents. Buses are also extremely cheap, with fares being between UAH 1 and UAH 1.25, while taxis are invariably more expensive, with drivers latching on very quickly to the fact that you are a foreigner.

 

Our office is located no more than 100 metres from our apartment, which is very convenient. The downside is that the hotel is bed only, and there is no kitchen to make food in. Fortunately, Ukrainians since the fall of Soviet reign, have embraced the tradition of McDonalds, and now wherever one turns one is sure not to be too far away from Ronald’s McDonalds.

 

Highlights / Lowlights of the trip thus far:

 

Highlights

Lowlights

v     Flight from Johannesburg to London – got upgraded to Business Class so had my own place to sleep, personal air-hostess as well as movies to watch all night long, not forgetting all you can eat and a menu including steak, champagne and lemon tart.

Metro not allowed to take pictures by the way!!!)

 

v     Language barrier – Ukrainians don’t just speak Ukrainian; they also speak Russian. Which does not help if you only speak English

 

v     Metro – amazing experience descending into the earth

 

v     No English Television, other than BBC World and Animal Planet

 

v     Beautiful girls – almost all the girls are exquisite – attributable to the fact that everyone walks a lot and Kiev is very hilly so people stay in shape, and the fact that everyone dresses up to go anywhere

 

v     Lost my cash passport – fortunately no money stolen and could cancel my card

v     Beautiful churches

v     Bribery and corruption is still rife – we got stopped by Policemen asking for our papers who threatened to take us to the Station unless we paid a bribe

v     It snowed yesterday – nothing quite like the feel of soft snowflakes on your skin

v     The snow melted today – nothing quite like the feel of slushy sleet as it enters your shoes

v     Helpful and accommodating people – PwC took us on a tour of the city and also took us out for Lunch and Dinner.

Snowball fight!
The HR llady has gone so far as to provide us with a list of places to go to, a list of Laundromats / eating places etc.

 

 

 

Attached are a few pictures – but for now, dasvidanya!

 

mclarnon says:
Do you have a list of laundrymarts?
Posted on: Apr 19, 2008
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Street Art
Street Art
Inside St Andrews (not allowed to …
Inside St Andrews (not allowed to…
Inside St Andrews (not allowed to …
Inside St Andrews (not allowed to…
Metro not allowed to take pictures…
Metro not allowed to take picture…
Snowball fight!
Snowball fight!
Yuroslav the Wise riding off into …
Yuroslav the Wise riding off into…
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Avenue
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Cat
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New Church
St Andrews
St Andrews
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Early Morning
Early Morning
Yuroslav the Wise
Yuroslav the Wise
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photo by: Biedjee