Worst Flight Ever
At Frankfurt Airport, when Edward and I lined up to check in, we were the only two Chinese people in line. We seemed very out of place. Some of the people gave us these stares that seemed to ask “why are you flying to Kiev?” We wanted to visit Chernobyl and shoot AK-47’s.
Our experience on the plane was dreadful. Four crying babies/toddlers plus jet lag plus one hour delay was not a good combination. No sleep for me I guess. Worst flight ever.
Awkward Car Ride
The hostel arranged transportation for us and so when we arrived, I looked for someone holding a sign with my name on it (first time ever!). The driver was not happy at how we were late (not that we could do anything about it).
Probably since he was late, he drove like a maniac. He drove way faster than the posted limits and passed every car on the highway. The expected 45 min ride was reduced to almost 20 minutes. The driver didn’t speak English. No one said a word during the entire ride. Awkward.
I had read before that people sometimes get driven to random places by taxi drivers before they get mugged. By getting the hostel transportation, we minimized that risk. Despite that, I was at peak alertness the whole time, making sure he was going the right general direction (I vaguely remembered the directions from the airport to the hostel).
Dream House Hostel
This is by far one of the hostels I’ve ever stayed at. The staff were extremely helpful. We asked them like a thousand questions and they happily answered them every time. They treated security very seriously. Kiev might not be safe, but I felt safe leaving my passport and cash in the locker in the room.
During our trip planning, we had read about the potential dangers in going to Kiev from the Canadian travel report about Ukraine.
The report tells travelers to “exercise a high degree of caution”. It warns of dangers such as pickpockets, passport scams, armed robbery, racially motivated violence, muggings, etc.
Seeing how the hostel’s security was pretty good, we left our valuables in the room. We each carried a decoy wallet with nothing in it except a scan of our passports and the cash we needed for the day. No credit cards, no real ID, no cards at all.
If anybody steals a wallet, no big. Better to lose $30 than all our money. Nobody can scam us for our passports if we aren’t carrying it. I didn’t even put on a hidden money belt. The less I brought the better. We felt pretty prepared, and luckily nothing happened.
People in Kiev generally speak Ukranian or Russian. I know neither. I also don’t know the Cryllic writing system. Even if I wanted to ask in English how to get somewhere, I can’t even pronounce the name of the place. When I went to Greece, I could at least pick out the greek alphabet (side effect of studying math and physics), but in Kiev, I can’t even read anything. Too bad.
The first night we arrived in Kiev, we had no idea what kind of food was around here. We couldn’t even read the menus anyway. Picking a restaurant was a matter of randomly walking into a restaurant. To our surprise, our random pick turned out to be Japanese food. Interesting. No pictures needed. Vancouver has an abundance of Japanese restaurants. Beer is worth taking a picture of though. I can’t even read the label.
One of the hostel staff had recommended to us the Golden Dukat Coffee House. I wish I took more pictures here, but I found someone else’s travel blog with good pictures of it! Good coffee, good dessert. And they have an English menu!
We were told that Borscht is one of the traditional soups in Ukraine. When I tried it, its taste was so familiar and I had to think about where I had tried it before. It tasted a lot like the vegetable soup that people can get at Hong Kong style cafes (羅宋湯). I Googled it later, and apparently the Hong Kong recipe (while a little bit different) is a derivative of it. What a coincidence.
By far the largest city square I have been to. For me this was the place to see in Kiev. The pictures here don’t do justice to how epic it was.
At the square, there would always be these people carrying pigeons around. They kept coming up to me with me and I had no idea what they wanted. Later I found out that apparently they’re trying to get tourists to take a picture with them holding a bird. Not sure why that’s cool but okay.
There were also people dressed up like Mickey Mouse or Shrek trying to get little kids to take pictures with them for money. They did this even when the temperature was above 30 degrees Celsius.
St. Andrew’s Church
Nearby our hostel, there was a nice church. It’s architecture was quite different from anything I’d seen before.
This arch was built to commemorate the unification of Ukraine and Russia when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.
On the way from our hostel to Independence Square, we walked along a long stretch of road with many street vendors selling souvenirs, trinkets and other random stuff. People there even sold gas masks, replica German WWII medals, and fake guns.
Trip Ideas for Next Time
After we came back to Vancouver, we found out that the hostel started offering tours to abandoned missile silos, helicopter rides, and Yak plane acrobatics! If only the hostel were offering those tours. We would have totally gone to those. There’s always next time.
Links to photo albums: