Sunday, September 15, 2013

In Kiev

I was working over in Kiev, in the Ukraine at the end of last of week and the legendary autumn weather was a disappointment in a distinctly damp and English scene.

If you ever happen to visit the country, be warned that you can't find its controlled currency before you arrive and then, when you do, there's a long queue to change Euros into local notes. This I timed at the airport kiosk, took over four minutes for each person, three separate signatures and a photocopy of the passport. It took me forty-five minutes before I could leave with money for a taxi into town; about half an hour away.

Kiev has some wonderful historical sites, churches, monasteries and the museum of The Great Patriotic War. The latter is quite jaw-dropping in parts and unlike our own Imperial War Museum, they have very cleverly told the story with thousands upon thousands of photos among the exhibits, of the faces of all those who fought. suffered and died in the German invasion of Russia; men, women and frequently, the faces of small children.

Kiev is also home to the Scythian Gold, the most amazing collection of gold artifacts from around 500 BC. Unfortunately, taking photos inside the museums is prohibited and so I couldn't share some of the most spectacular exhibits.

As a final comment, Kiev enjoys some of the worst traffic I've seen in Europe, taxis are few and far between and the underground is a mystery unless you speak Russian and I don't. So I walked everywhere and grabbed a couple of taxis when I could, at extortionate rates. If you are up to walking around 10k then you can take in most of the sites and an IPad, with GPS-driven Google maps and a tourist guide app, very quickly routes you to the most interesting locations.

Like visiting anywhere new for the first time, you need to keep your eyes open and Kiev featured in a UK TV documentary a couple of weeks ago on the drugs route into Europe. There are some shady looking characters about and at times I almost felt at home.

Footnote: Be warned that arriving back at the Kiev airport, if you think you can change your local currency back into Euros after going through passport control, then your'e in for a big surprise. No foreign exchange desks, so you are stuck with any local notes. Just as bad perhaps, Borispol airport may be very large and impressive in a post Soviet sense but short of three tiny concessions, you can't even get a decent cup of coffee and a decent sandwich which isn't curled-up at the edges.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's Ukraine, not "the Ukraine"