My lack of preparation for this trip came back to bite me a number of times on this trip, but nothing ultimately stung more than being denied more time in the Ukraine due to my simple oversight of getting a single entry visa. We both loved the time we had in the country, but it feels underdone and begging for more. I was surprised to discover that Ukraine (including Crimea) is the biggest country located entirely within Europe and we barely scratched the surface. Odessa and Kiev surprised and amazed, yet everyone I met told me that neither comes close to the magic of Lviv a city in the west with easy access to the amazing looking Carpathian Mountains. Both places that could have easily been done if I’d simply done my research.
Not that I’m that bitter, the time we had was incredible and soooo ridiculously cheap. In Ukraine, we lived like kings. On balance I have never been anywhere that represents such incredible value for money. We stayed in beautiful accomodation for a pittance and drank the best cocktails and ate the most beautiful and sophisticated meals in stylish bars and restaurants for prices that felt criminal. We never had a bad or even mediocre meal (not counting the power plant canteen at Chernobyl). And the restaurants themselves were just phenomenal too. Trendy joints with fancy brickwork, exposed air ducts, and artistically creative plating. I have been to very few places in the world with such an abundance of chic and stylish restaurants. I am constantly amazed at the exuding coolness of Eastern Europe, and Ukraine may just be the epitome. Dining here while the beautiful people of Ukraine came out to sip a latte’s and cocktails felt worlds away from my preconceived notions of the country skewed by the media reports.
Maybe it was because of the lack of tourists and touts, but we also slipped straight into local mode. We did very little sight seeing, just enjoying the city, markets, cafe’s, bars and restaurants, it was just a lovely place to be. I guess because postings are on my mind, but I kept thinking that those that get posted to Kiev must think they have won the lottery. A beautiful, vibrant, cosmopolitan, clean, green, safe and modern city that has to be one of the heaped things places in the world to live.
Of course, it’s not all roses. Putin is not just at the door, but has crossed the threshold, which, consistent with Newton’s law, has created an equal and opposite reaction in the rise of Ukrainian ultranationalist. I read an article while I was here about the growing violence towards minorities, particularly Romas, and I happened upon a large nationalist demonstration on my final afternoon (which actually explained all the stencils I’d been seeing around the city in the days before). There was a large contingent of police and a complete lack of counter protesters, so the vibe wasn’t overtly hostile so I wandered around the periphery for a bit taking photos, it was only as I was leaving through the adjacent park and came across hundreds of soldiers drawn up in lines waiting for the order to move in that I got a sense that this was an event that could easily have got out of control.
But, that’s that. This will likely be my last trip to Europe for a few years as my professional and personal focus shifts to north Asia, but once again I’ve had an amazing time, come through largely unscathed and with a broader and richer view of the world.Read more