Today my cluster mates and I took a bus to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. We live only 2 hours north of Kiev, so we’re pretty close. Ukraine is about the size of Texas, and volunteers are posted all over the country. One volunteer I met lives 14 hours away by train, and has only been back to Kiev once during her year of service. So I’m glad we got to see the city while we still live close enough to make it a day trip : ) Here is a map of Kiev: right now we’re training in the Chernihiv Oblast (kind of like a state), which is in north-central Ukraine. But only for one more month!
We took the bus to Kiev, and it dropped us off at the metro, which we took downtown to see the central train station and Peace Corps headquarters. Here’s some of my poh-droo-has (girlfriends) on the metro ride : ) From left: Janira and Tammela (cluster-mates), Natalia (our second language trainer), and Katerina (our technical trainer).
The train station was beautiful, but our stop there was also educational: each of us were given a slip of paper with a location on it, and told to find out when the train leaves for this place and how much a ticket costs. We’ve been learning travel vocabulary the last week, so this was the application of all our lessons! Could we successfully use our Ukrainian to get where we want to go? The answer—heck yeah! I found out that the train to Poland was leaving in 4 hours, and a seat in 2nd class would cost 713 hereven (92 dollars). Mission accomplished : )
I don’t know if I’ll make it to see Poland during my 2 years here in Ukraine, but I definitely want to see Moldova, Macedonia, and Albania. One of my dear friends from Taylor (my university) recently went to Moldova on a mission trip to an orphanage there, and she’s planning on coming to visit me in Ukraine next summer. So hopefully we’ll make it back to Moldova, and from there I hope to take the Euro-rail as far as my budget allows : )
I love riding trains and metros because there is always excellent opportunities for people watching. In Cairo riding the metro was always an experience. The cars are segregated there, so men ride in the male cars and women in the female cars. I remember running late for work one day and sprinting down the stairs in my heels, and jumping into the metro as the doors shut. Too late I realized I jumped into a male car, and had everyone’s (negative) attention. Ooops!
The metro in Kiev is not segregated (this is Europe, after all), but still was a fun experience. This one lady had on a crazy fur hat and matching red jacket with fur trim. She looked exactly as I would’ve imagined Ukrainian women dressing before I came here and discovered how they actually dress. So I tried to be super sneaky as I got out my camera, and first took a picture of my friends so she wouldn’t suspect anything. Then I let it rest on my knee, and snapped a picture without the flash. And it actually turned out well! So here, I’m posting the results so you can people-watch Ukrainians vicariously through me : )
After we finished the educational part of our visit to Kiev, we had time to explore. Some of the main streets downtown were closed for the anniversary of Kiev’s liberation from the Nazis, on 7 November 1943. There were tons of people dressed up as soldiers, and old motorcylces and tanks to take pictures with. Here’s a picture of Natalia (our 2nd language trainer) making a new friend ; )
Some of the other highlights from our exploration include finding a Steve Madden shoe store, and window shopping as we walked by. Tammela said a pair of boots was 2000 herevnia (250 dollars) which isn’t exactly within our Peace Corps stipend, so we had to pass. I also found an awesome poster of a very famous actor here in Ukraine, and had my picture taken with him. He’s a cutie, huh? ; )
We also learned about Kiev’s long history, and got to see the ancient entrance to the city which is called “the Great Golden Gate.” This gate was built in the 11th century, and has been restored so you can see what it originally looked like.
There are monuments all over the city, but I’m only going to show you my two favorites. The first is a monument to the Cossacks, with an incredibly lifelike horse listening to the Cossack play his mandolin-like instrument. The second is a golden cat, and to be honest, I don’t remember why there is a monument for a cat that looks like it popped out of Alice in Wonderland. But Katerina (our technical trainer) told us you have to touch the cat and make a wish, so I had Janira take a picture of me as I pondered what to wish for. And I’d really love to share, but I’ve always feared that if you share what you wish for, you jinx it, so I’m sorry to say that I’m leaving you in the dark. This wish is too important to jinx, but you can try to guess if you want : )
And this visual tour of Kiev ends with an incredible shot of a monastery and a bell tower, with a monument of a horse and rider in front of it. The Ukrainians really know how to craft lifelike monuments of horses—in this one, the horse looks like he’s about to rear and you can see his tail in mid-swish!
Actually, I just found one more picture I want to share. Some of you can recall my very first globetrotting experience, back when I was fresh out of high school and had the opportunity to spend my first semester of college in Ireland. Needless to say, I had a blast and ended up with a pretty serious case of wanderlust as a result. I loved living in Ireland, and still remember that semester very fondly. So when we were walking through Kiev, I was delighted to stumble upon an Irish pub right next to the “Great Golden Gate” (see above). We didn’t have time to stop and have lunch there, but seeing an Irish pub in the middle of Ukraine warmed my heart : ) I snapped a picture so I would remember to go back there the next I’m in Kiev!
That’s all for now, but I hope you enjoyed this visual tour of Kiev. I was trying for more pictures and less words, so hopefully it was an enjoyable post that didn’t take an hour to read : )
All my love.