Ukraine: Kiev

After I received my new passport in Amsterdam, I booked a flight out to what was going to be my next destination after Russia: Kiev, Ukraine. I actually don’t know anybody from my friends back home that have visited Ukraine. My decision to go here was met with mixed response when my friends heard; a combination of, “Oh, cool!” and, “Wait, isn’t that a war zone?”

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Whilst the entire country hasn’t been at war for quite some time, there is conflict with the Russians going on in the far east, and I also wouldn’t be wanting to get too close to the border with Crimea as that’s also being contested for. Travel to the rest of Ukraine, especially the west is safe as houses, however.

Upon arriving I was first struck with how cheap everything was! The hostel, the drinks, the food.. things were half the price they were in Siberia and that’s saying something. Definitely a good time to bring foreign currency over here. There are quite a few tourists from Poland and other European countries who come to Ukraine to party for the weekend as it’s a lot more cost efficient.

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I did a fair bit of walking around the city and just checking out the sights and sounds of the place. It’s a really fascinating place to stroll around, with loads of murals lining the buildings and not a lot of dull streets, in the centre at least.

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I visited Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, a walled in complex with several old buildings surrounding the focal point of the cathedral itself. It cost around 40c to enter. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside the church but the inside of it was covered in art, much like the ones in Moscow or the Vatican.

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Luckily for me there’s quite a coffee culture here, with a lot of cafe’s selling styles of coffee from all over the world, including New Zealand! This place did a pretty decent flat white, which cost 30UAH, or $1.70.

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On my walks I came across this awesome little street which snaked down a hill to the river. It was lined with markets and pop-up art galleries. After buying a painting I took a closer look at the stalls, some of which sold a range of war medals and souvenirs, as well as anti-Putin propaganda and souvenirs.

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As mentioned: Anti-Putin souvenirs, or, in some cases, shit-tickets with Putin’s face on them. I learned quite quickly that you want to be very careful about what you say about Putin or any soviet-related topic in this country.

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The capital is home to around three million people and as such boasts quite impressive infrastructure and public transport, including this tram which saves you the effort of walking back up the hill. A one way ticket set me back 3 UAH, or 16 cents.

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It wouldn’t be like me to not go scouting out for record shops when in a new place. I came across this one, Diskultura, which boasted a good selection of stuff including a good range of electronic music. I may or may not have picked a handful of rekkids to be sent back to New Zealand for me.

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This APC was sat outside the city’s Chernobyl museum along with a handful of other vehicles which presumably were used back then when the disaster struck. I visited the museum for a taster of what my trip the next day to Chernobyl would be like.

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To be honest, I probably could have done a few more touristy things when I was in Kiev, but one of the main reasons for being there was to visit Chernobyl so I spent time chilling in the parks and drinking a lot of coffee.

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While in Kiev, I took a day trip to Chernobyl, the site of the famous nuclear disaster back in ’86. This was my biggest reason for visiting Ukraine and was quite an experience. I’ve got a shit-tonne of photos from that day which I’ll use in a separate post to be put up in the next few days.

Thanks again for reading!

Tips:

  • It seems that a lot of the hostels in Ukraine are home to long term residents; students or otherwise, who don’t really seem to hold any regard for dorm etiquette. It’s so cheap here that it’s worth exploring options for a single room if you want an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
  • It’s probably good to know that Ukraine embraces a tipping culture.
  • Find out whether the cyrillic script on the flag patch you bought from Russia and stuck on your backpack does or does not contain the words, “KGB” BEFORE you get to Ukraine and walk around the streets. That sort of thing isn’t appreciated here.

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