Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ukraine Part 1....Kiev

We landed at Kiev's Boryspil International Airport at roughly 2:30 am local time, welcomed by swells of pouring rain. After having been met at the airport, we quickly walked to the car, and proceeded to change certain pieces of our wardrobe which were more club appropriate. It was V's cousin's birthday weekend and we were therefore expected/very willing to party all weekend long. Sitting in the car on the way to the club, I felt like a six year old for the first time in a while. I knew what sounds Cyrillic letters made, but trying to read words by piecing sounds together proved to be very difficult while speeding by in a car.

Kokos was the name of the fine establishment we were quickly escorted to, for a fine night of celebration (at least that's what we imagined was in store for us). What we got instead was a tacky looking, rather empty club, that left a lot to be desired (shots that just so happened to be lit on fire seemed to be the theme of the night). Nonetheless we had a good time partying it up until 6 am, going to a friends' place after having left the club (the majority of clubs tend to close around 6 am, in fact there is no official closing time. Clubs will stay open as long as there are paying customers present). One of the most surprising occurrences of that night though was the fact that after a number of drinks, most of the people we were with could spew out comprehensible english phrases (in between bouts of yelling this is Ukraine, a la "this is Sparta", quickly followed by the downing of a whiskey or vodka shot). I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep up if the endless drinking of shots was the name of the game being played that night so instead I took the mixed drink route (mixing whiskey with coke), which based on the Ukrainian-styled peer pressure, led me to believe that "real" men didn't mix their drinks. In the end, my fellow drinkers were okay with the fact that I had mixed my shot (some of them did as well) and the "peer pressure" was simply a facade to try and get me, for the lack of a better term wasted. Most conversation that night revolved around the discussion of world football events, including (but not limited to); the upcoming Euro taking place in Poland and Ukraine, Portuguese football, the Europa League match between Metalist Kharkov and Sporting Lisbon,  Chelsea Football Club, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Waking up around 10 am the next morning, we had little time to get ourselves ready as we were to set up for another party taking place that day. We arrived at V's Uncle's new house, sitting on the banks of a fast moving tributary of the Dnieper River, ready to help anywhere we could. There was meat to be marinated, drinks to be poured, and floors to be cleaned. Everything that needed tending to, got done well before any of the guests arrived. We were to have a Georgian themed party, and no expense was spared. A Georgian band was brought in, filling the house with the sweet sounds trumpets, small guitar-like instruments similar to Greek bouzoukis, and an accordion. Delicacies were served, which as you might have guessed were native to Georgia, including an incredibly tasty Georgian red wine, Georgian salads, dips, and really anything else Georgian, except for the sushi which was served. I'm pretty sure sushi isn't a staple of Georgian cuisine, despite it being amazingly tasty and my eating 8 pieces of it. By the end of the night, some had had a couple too many drinks to be able to drive legally (although legality is a very gray area in Ukraine), and I was called upon to drive the monster that was the family car, the Toyota Sequoia. To say I was a little nervous would have been a very fair statement. I had only been in the country for roughly 19 hours at that point, and from what I had seen on the streets, it seemed that some regarded traffic laws as mere suggestions. As interim captain of the SS Sequoia, I couldn't show any fear though, as I comfortably took my position in the driver's seat. My fears were laid to rest when a) there wasn't too much traffic (it was 10 pm on a Sunday night) and b) those who did share the road with the monster were seemingly respectful of traffic laws. It took roughly 25 minutes to drive to central Kiev, and not once did I feel uncomfortable while driving through the Ukrainian capitol's streets. Just in case you're wondering, we all arrived home safely, and no one was harmed in the process of getting home, despite irrational fears of my "Canadian Driving" in Kiev. V's uncle even went so far as to thank me, and state that I was in his opinion "a good driver". Mission accomplished, and I can now tick off "driving in eastern Europe" and "driving in an ex-Soviet country" off of my list of things to do.

The next day V, myself, and her grandfather, were to leave for Kharkov at 5 pm. We decided to take advantage of the late departure time, as well as having a great guide with us (grandpa), and get some sightseeing done. The first sight actually occurred prior to our leaving the home for the day. V and I climbed to the roof of the flat, and had a spectacular view of an Orthodox Church (who's name I cannot recall). We snapped a couple of pics of the beautiful golden domes, and quickly went on our way to view more sights. Throughout the rest of the day we saw Saint Sophia's Cathedral, Saint Micheal's Monastery, a couple of monuments, the arc of friendship, and an old stereotypical soviet Lada. That was really all we could fit in the day as we had to make our evening train to Kharkov. I was filled with expectations of a locomotive styled train that hadn't been changed one bit since Lenin was doing his thing. We were greeted instead with a brand spanking new train, and we were hopping on for its maiden voyage to boot. The six and a half hour train ride passed by in a breeze, filled with mini-domino playing/dominating by grandpa, and his seemingly ingenious business proposals. We finally arrived in Kharkov at 11:30 pm, greeted by V's father (whose meeting I was definitely looking forward to, although slightly nervous about). The meeting went well, and we were soon on our way to his Kharkov home, ready to settle in for the upcoming week (the topic of our next post).....

Wielding a "banya broom", posing with the unknown Orthodox church.

St. Michael's Monastery

The Arc of Friendship, erected well after Grandpa's time because according to him, he "didn't know what it was, and it clearly wasn't that important" dream car

Riding the rails


  1. awesome adventure you are having!!! :D

    1. Indeed we are :) thanks for reading!

  2. I LOVE IT!!!! T. you made me LOL sooo much!! so wish I could have been there to see it all myself, but, your description was fantastic :)

  3. P.S. love grandpa and his opinion of "The Arc of Friendship"

  4. haha...Gpas reaction to the arc was golden...he totally brushed it off. :)

  5. Thank you Mash, the fact that you enjoyed my writing means a lot :)


  6. LADA !! that's the car we had in romania :) loved that little thing. And i love your trip, I gotta take jeff to romania soon, i'm sure it would be just as hilarious / adventurous :)

    miss you both !

  7. i can't wait to read part two :) your adventures make me laugh, cry, and miss you both millions!!