The day long train to Kiev left at 8:30am. Nothing special about this train except it was the first time I caught platzcart (third class). It is basically a 54 person dorm in one carriage. I slept for most of the ride, and spent the rest of the time reading or just enjoying the scenery through the window.
A familiar metro system greeted us in Kiev (another soviet era metro system) and we caught it to our hostel. An overly friendly English chap greeted us at the hostel, and after talking to him about Chernobyl tours, we booked one thru the hostel (more on this another time).
The next morning I woke to the sounds of drums and shouting. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my camera and walked down the street. On the corner were about a hundred soldiers standing around with their weapons slung over their shoulders. Further investigation showed that the main street of Kiev had been closed off for the military to practise marching before the Victory Day parade that was due to be held that Sunday. I stayed for about 2 hours taking shots of the soldiers and vehicles before heading to grab some breakfast.
We spent the afternoon walking around the city and parks exploring.
That evening we were invited to an English conversation meeting at a local restaurant. This was one evening a week organised for people who are learning English – so that they get a chance to practise. There were nights for Russian, French, Spanish, Italian and German too. Usually it is just locals, but someone from Couchsurfing invited us along to participate too. It was nice to meet some locals and sit down and talk with them.
The next day we went to Perchersk Lavra monastery. It is a big tourist attraction in Kyiv. There is a big monastery complex at the top of the hill, but further down is a smaller church with some passageways carved into the limestone, which is the resting place of some old monks. I didn’t really got anything out of it unlike some of the other pilgrims that were kissing the coffins of the monks while we were there.
Next door however was something I did want to see – the Motherland Statue War Monument and Museum. We started in the museum about the Afghanistan and Vietnam wars, and checked out some of the planes, tanks, boats and even a missile launcher in the grounds of the museum. But unfortunately as we were about to see the Motherland Statue, the area was closed off – presumably something to do with Victory Day preparations. So we spent the rest of the day wandering around and waiting for food (the food service in Ukraine – particularly Kiev is terrible).
Given that I was less than satisfied with the hostel we were staying in, we had organised a Couchsurfing host for the weekend in Kiev. We wanted to stay longer so that we could see the Victory Day parade on Sunday. So on Friday we left the lying English guy and his hostel and met Martin, Denise and ‘Cat’ at their apartment about a kilometre from where we were staying. Martin works for a video post-processing company and originally comes from Canada, and Denise is an English teacher from Romania. We went and checked out Martin’s work, and he showed us what he does – basically an awesome version of Lightroom/Photoshop for video.
The next day we headed back to the War Museum and Motherland statue – this time open! Spent an hour or two walking around the exhibition (Ukrainian museums are incredibly well thought out and executed), in which time we saw lots of veterans getting guided around the museum.
Afterwards we went to check out the flea/tourist market of Andrew’s Decent – an old, steep and windy cobblestone street now taken over by tourist markets.
The Chernobyl museum was next on the list. We got there only 45 minutes before closing time – but it was 45 minutes well spent. Only a small museum, but plenty of stuff to see, read and watch. Another carefully planned exhibition which has a lot of impact – especially after visiting the area.
Victory Day! We got up early to get good spots for the parade. We walked down only to find that all the good areas were reserved for people with tickets. We tried to get into the area, and then found part of the street that was not sectioned off a bit further down. We missed a lot of the action, because most of the soldiers started marching a bit further up, but there was enough to see in amongst the thousands of people that had come out to see. It was disappointing that we couldn’t see that much in the end, but I got a better show during the morning practise so that was enough for me. At the end, children and adults alike were climbing all over the tanks and missile launchers that lined the streets.
We spent the night relaxing and watching movies with Martin and Denise. Kiev/Kyiv was a very interesting city, with enough to do to fill more than a week. I really enjoyed getting to know the ex-soviet city and practising a bit more of my Russian.