If there’s something I’ve realized since I came to Warsaw in January 2106 it’s that Poland is not Eastern Europe. It’s not Western Europe either, actually, but rather something in the middle. I guess there are different reasons for that, but one of them is definitely being part of the European Union, which has made it relatively easy for some foreigners to come to Poland. That is obviously more noticeable in the capital, where half of the friends and acquaintances I’ve made are not Polish. Sure, I’m not Polish so it’s easier for me to hang out with other expats, but that wouldn’t happen in other countries.
When I say other countries, I mean basically non-EU countries like Moldova and Ukraine, two countries I have visited recently which have made me see the real Eastern Europe. I already wrote about Moldova a couple of months ago and now I’ll do the same with my weekend in Kiev.
I arrived with Jesús, one of my colleagues, on a Friday evening. Due to the heavy rain, I guess, we had to stay in the plane for another hour once it had landed, and after that we needed some time to get some help from an Ukranian guy to call a taxi. As you may imagine, taking a taxi there is a big mistake: I asked one guy and he told me the price was 850 grivnas, while the price we finally paid for the taxi we called was 270 (at this point one euro is almost thirty grivnas).
The city made an impression on me since I started approaching it. Huge grey working class apartment blocks sprouted from the ground, menacingly guarding the lower buildings, while an upside-down red car in the middle of the road made us wonder how well people drive in Kiev.
We arrived at Javi’s place rather late and he and another colleague of mine were waiting for us. We decided to take it easy that evening and we just had a few pizzas and watched a random Eurocup match.
The next day, after a long and nice sleep, we went for a long, nice walk. Until it started to rain quite heavily, that is. Before that, we went to Maidan (Independence Square) and walked through parks unnamed in my mind. Maidan is already an impressive place in itself, but when you hear what happened there a couple of years ago and you see the photographs and the flowers you can’t help becoming very solemn. I don’t think this is the place to discuss those events so I’ll leave it here.
Kiev is a very green city and I love that. A few minutes after leaving Maidan, there was a point where I could see big buildings very far away, separated from me by a sea of trees. The whole thing seemed to be taken from a post-apocaliptic movie, like one of these scenes where you can see the city far away, behind the overgrown trees.
It started to rain when we were arriving at Lavra, so we decided to continue walking and go to the Motherland Monument and the WW2 Museum first. I strongly recommend the museum, although many things there will make you wonder how can we get to the point where we lose our soul. I swear I was terrified when I saw the bone crusher, a machine that transformed the bones of dead people into fertilizer.
After that we went to Lavra, a place with several religious buildings which we didn’t have much time to enjoy. I’ll probably go there again next time I go to Kiev, as the place was very interesting. I was surprised by the many young priests I saw, many of them in their early thirties.
We took the underground to go back to Javi’s place. The remarkable part is that we went to the deepest metro station in the world, Arsenalna: 105,5 metres deep. Not bad, huh? Going down took actually more (I think) than the trip itself.
Then came the obvious things: dinner, chilling a bit, watching another Eurocup match, same old. But the day wasn’t over: we couldn’t leave Kiev before a good party. Well, actually I could, as I stayed in with Javi. The rest of them went to a club, joined by two Italians and two locals. According to my friends’ report, they contemplated in amazement how, for the first time, there were many more girls than guys in the club. And excuse me for discussing mundane matters of the flesh, but most of them were extremely attractive. Unfortunately, many of the guys there looked as if they were looking for an excuse to break your face and they certainly seemed to have the muscular power to do it. Long story short, they behaved and didn’t use their Spanish charm.
The next day we took it very easy and, guided by a local girl we met, quickly saw a few orthodox churches and a nice park. Before, we saw how a guy in a minion costume chased a pretty girl and kissed her hand fifty-seven times before she could get rid of him. Note to self: buy a minion costume before the next trip to Kiev. I’d write more about my impressions of the churches and the park but I’m writing this some time after the trip so my memories are quite blurry, plus I think I was too tired that day to pay attention to my surroundings anyway.
All in all, it’s a city I really loved and I’ll definitely go back again, because I realise there’s so much I didn’t see.
Here are some more photos from the trip.