Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Discovering Ukraine

As an enthusiast in the art of exploring the wild, I knew since the beginning that a trip to Ukraine would be quite challenging for a Brazilian guy. Many young people travel to Paris, London or Madrid and then proudly say to their family and friends: "I was backpacking in Europe". I have a different point of view on this; Why not being a pioneer? Why not being a Brazilian with no boundaries? Let's make everybody eager to ask me about all the details of a nearly unknown country and get delighted with funny and interesting situations.

I flew to Kiev then.

The first cultural shock came even before getting there; While applying for a visa in the Ukrainian consulate in Kraków, I had to fill a form in Ukrainian, at least some of the fields. I had to fill the name of the inviting person and her address in the form. The consulate officer insisted that I have to fill it in Ukrainian so I had to copy from the invitation letter and it took me several minutes to 'draw' all those letters in the application form, since I'd never written anything with Cyrillic alphabet before.

On 30th of April, around 23:00 (local time), I landed in Kiev with my visa issued in Ukranian. My name written on it: "Дaнило Poдpiгес". No problems in the passport control. The taxi driver didn't speak English, nor Ukrainian! He spoke Russian only. It is explainable since Kiev (the whole Ukraine) was part of Soviet Union and big Russian influence is present even today. It will take few more decades for Ukraine to regain its identity.

Kiev is a big metropolis with nearly 3 million inhabitants, lot's of sumptuous constructions and beautiful orthodox churches with golden domes of which I won't get into much details since I'm not religious, but these churches are just beautiful monuments. An efficient metro with 3 lines for 2 UAH (single pass) without any instruction in English, only in Ukrainian or Russian. I hope they will arrange some metro instruction signs for the Eurocup 2012 when people from all over Europe might drop by to watch a match next summer. :)

I can say that by knowing the Cyrillic alphabet and having a Polish language background I could survive my first days there. Apart from the many beautiful squares and churches I also visited the local Zoo and I was very satisfied to see a Carpathian Lynx from very close and a Siberian tiger. Two of the most endangered wild cats along with the Amur Leopard.

After long 3 days of survival in sunny Kiev I took a train to Lviv, a former Polish town 6 hours away, close to the Polish border. Lviv was founded by King Danylo in the year 1256. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centers of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Jewish and Polish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city till the outbreak of World War II and the following Holocaust and Soviet population transfers. (Source: Wikipedia)

The town is similar to a Polish town, like Lublin. The prices are much cheaper than in Kiev and the atmosphere is very nice and calm. The town has up to 5 cinemas in which all the movies are in Ukrainian (no option of English with subtitles), the local bus is very cheap: 2 UAH, but also very crowded at all times. One thing that bothered me a bit was the lack of smoke ban in the public places. Not of all the pubs had a special place for non-smokers.

When I was leaving, I ordered a taxi through the hotel's reception desk. The taxi that showed up got had no taximeter and the driver started riding without negotiating the price. Anyway, I managed to pay a reasonable price for the ride. I won't blame Ukraine for a taxi driver because I know that taxi drivers cheat people everywhere. I got cheated by taxi drivers in New York, Buenos Aires and almost in Poland. :)

Well.. I guess my 300 photos show much more then my words, so be pleased to see nice photos from Ukrainian haunted castles and churches...

...for full album of 300 high quality photos, click here!

Next plans for a wild Eurotrip? I'm just wondering about Russia, Belarus or Moldavia. :)


Grzegorz Wolsztyniak said...

Nano don't go to Moldavia unless you want to loose a kidney. :P

Nano said...

I would lose the liver first. ;)