The capital of Ukraine, Kiev with almost three millions of residents is largest city of Ukraine. The name is made from name Kyj, what in translation means „belonging to Kyj, Kyj’s“. We arrived here right before Easter holidays, when Ukraine was suffering calamity and the transportation was not working properly. But we decided to take risk and came here. How is the capital of Ukraine? We were suprised so much.
Right before 4 pm we arrived to Kiev on board the train „Zakarpatia“ to the main railway station „Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi“. After more than 16 hours ride through Ukraine, from 800 kilometers distant Uzhgorod, we finally got of the train to stretch out our legs. To our surprise, nothing like this did not happen. We were shocked how many people are there. The way from the train to the metro station took us longer, than we thought. We almost lost each other in this crowd. Step by step with our hand luggage we passed through the crowd and could not stop wondering. The whole Ukraine lives in this city? I felt here like in one, big anthill and we merged with this crowd completely. But we were little bit different ants and everyone could see that. After neverending minutes spent with crushing other people we finally found metro station and orange machines for tickets. We put 2 hryvnias to the machine, what is 0,25 EUR and got blue, scuffy tokens with logo of Kiev and metro. They looked like those, you get when you go for a ride on roller coaster. For two hrivnas you get one ride with unlimited changes of train, if you do not leave station. The metro in Kiev consist from 3 lines with length of 66,6 kilometers and 52 stations. Daily the system will carry 1, 439 millions of passengers (1). I am curious how they got this number, did they count all the tokens put into the tourniquets? :)
We entered metro station holding these old tokens and boarded the train, which took us to the station very close to our rented flat. Fortunately, the names of stations are not only in azbuka. The hotels in this city are way expensive, and you will pay less when you rent a flat in Kiev with your friends. On the page www.dobovo.com you will find wide offer of flats all over Ukraine for very good prices. Misses, who flat we stayed in looked very typically. The real Eastern Europe woman, and it was apparently, that renting flats in Kiev is profitable business. Afrer little wandering around the street „Tarasa Shevchenka“ who was Ukrainian poem, we finally found the entrance to the old building and knocked on the door. The door was opened by 45 old lady in jeans, black hair and very dense, thick eyebrows. Lets call her Ruslana. In her right hand she was carrying thick notes with many bookmarks. Business woman :) She smiled to us and we were little confused, when we figured out our language barrier. By her very old cell, Siemens A50 she wanted to reach an interpreter, but at the end, we did not need him. She understood Slovak little bit, so we paid the rent and she left. That was the last time we saw her.
We got out to the city and the snow was complicating our trip more and more. Kiev is large city, but I noticed, that people are waiting in queues before boarding the public transportation buses. It is quite nice for a three million residents city. We sneaked to the restaurant, curious how the real Borsch taste, which is an typical Russian soup. Right here, for the first time we get Borsch served not with bread, but with „pampushky“ with garlic. Pampushky are something like buns, but salty covered with garlic cream, and they perfectly fits to this beetroot delicacy. To our surprise, the price for this relatively cheap soup was 5 Eur what is definitely overpriced, when the average monthly salary in Ukraine is not more than 250 Eur (2). And I think, the foodstuffs in not cheap here. Kiev is really charming when you are passing old town streets and big, lightened buildings are catching your eyes. By the end of the March you will discover christmas decorations as well. We were positively surprised by nightlife in this city. The plenty of stylish clubs and cafés in old town is unbelievable. We found a nice furnished club where we thought only artists could enter. Many clubs were absolutely full and we had to look for another one. Night Kiev is full on young people having fun.
You should not miss Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum, or consider visit the city of Pripyat – the ghost town, which is 2 hours ride from town. The metro in is significant for the worlds deepest metro station with the name „Arsenalna“. This station is 105,5 meters deep in the ground and worth the visit as well. There are many „babushkas“ offering fresh flowers for crazy low prices. It is funny thing their public transportation and I did not get it till today. On the last day of our expedition, during the way to „Zhulyani airport“ which is the second airport for Kiev (and closer to the city) we decided to go by bus instead of using taxi. After long search of the bus which will take us there we found out and we were about to get tickets. Nothing complicated, just board the bus and put the coins in front of the driver. That’s it. We sat and travelled almost one hour through Kiev’s streets towards to the airport, while people were getting on and off the bus .
We were sitting in the back of the bus and the most funny thing was, that when bus got crowded, people who got into the bus just gave money to the people in front of them, and their to the others until money got to the driver. I have became part of this ritual as well, and people were often giving me hand full of coins to forward them. When we got to the airport, we hat to wait for the departure of our flight to Budapest with Wizz Air. For this one way ticket we paid only 30 EUR.
For me, Kiev was an exotic place. I do not get big differences in the standard of living in different parts of Ukraine. Some in small villages are growing potatoes, the others have gold necklace hanging on their necks. I strongly recommend to learn basics of russian language, because people don’t speak English. These differences will disappear soon I think, as ukraine is trying to get to European standards. Now is this town very unique and sometimes I could not imagine, how some things would work in the other parts of the world as they work here. For example ticketing in the busses. You will meet here tourists as well, but nos to much as in other cities. The most of the people are locals here. When I got back to Bratislava, I felt like I live in the super modern town, in super working state comparing to Ukraine. Ukraine is as it it – unique and interesting for adventurous travelers. But do not forget to save more money, you would be surprised how much you can spend here. I rate Kiev ten from ten, because I has been a long time since I have visited that unique country as Ukraine is.
Milan Bardún 2014
(1) Kyjev metro (2) Mesačná mzda na Ukrajine