Kyiv

Lorna has excelled in her selection of accommodation so far this holiday. Our airport taxi dropped us off at a faded building just off Independence Square. It looked like he had got lost. From there, a slightly scary lady gave us some keys and some instructions of where to find our apartment. We followed them across the street into the perfect example of a cold war block – colourless, uncared for, broken. As we climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, I felt like Bernard Sampson meeting an underworld contact. It looked wonderfully unpromising. We opened a Fort Knox of a door to find …… a most modern decor. White leather sofa, very large cinema TV, high speed Internet, all the mod cons you could hope for. All for £72 a night. Lorna had struck gold again and all within 150 metres of the equivalent of Trafalgar Square.

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We visited two nearby churches and then walked down Andrew’s passage (a long and winding road full of tourist stuff). Lorna had been observing Ukrainian women’s bottoms. She said “I bet you can’t find a Ukrainian woman with a bottom”. I have to say that I was more than happy to take up this challenge. After a couple of days, I have to report that I have failed. However, I have concluded that Paul McCartney was most certainly right that the Ukraine Girls really knock you out.

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Kyiv has a wide river, Dnipro, running through it. Sensibly, the Ukrainians have preserved this area as a leisure area rather than have luxury apartments and its Centre lining its shores. We went to an area called Hydropark, presumably named because of an indoor waterpark there. We meant to go this watermark, but ran out of time having spent all our time on Dnipro’s wonderful beaches. This will undoubtedly be THE place to go for football fans next summer. They have outdoor gyms (which Lorna spent a little more time observing than was polite); beach football courts; zip lines; boats; water slides. Nancy and I had a swim in the river. I wouldn’t recommend drinking the river water, but it was clean enough. Nancy and I also went canoeing around the island for 70 minutes. I can report that Nanvy has exceptional stamina. Though some of the beaches near the bridge are crowded, most round the rest of the island were deserted. Nancy was particularly interested in the nudist beaches, doing little in the way of kayaking at those points. If you are in Kyiv on a hot summer’s day, go to Hydropark. It’s a short ride on the metro (20 cents) and is next to free when you get there. Incidentally, watch the speed of the escalators on the metro (I’ve been on slower roller coasters).

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Lorna finally mastered the Ukrainian for “local food speciality”. Having traveled around Ukraine, asking for the local delicacy and getting exactly what the children were eating, she finally got the local speciality. Her Chicken Kyiv was apparently very nice.

We liked Kyiv a lot and will come back here. In both architecture and culture, it has a splendid mix of European, Soviet and Ottoman. It also has its problems. I don’t know what Ukraine’s Gini index is (measure of disparity in earnings), but suspect it will be very high. Ukraine is 140th in list of places to do business and corruption appears to be widespread; this does not augur well. At the weekend we were there, the local newspaper carried an opinion poll which said that only 41% believed that independence was positive. While most of the youngsters thought it was good, the older members of society were living on very little. It’s probably good therefore that the average life expectancy for men was only 63.

I thought Lviv would be the destination of choice for next year’s European Championship, but Kyiv beats it.

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