A Weekend in Ukraine
I have just returned from a weekend in Kiev with some work colleagues. Having slept at most five hours over the whole weekend, including the occasional nap on a bus or plane I’m incredibly exhausted and conscious of the fact that a two day visit to Ukraine doesn’t allow much time to really explore. Due to arrive late on Friday night our flight was delayed, landing at one in the morning local time. Adding to that the slowest passport control I’ve ever encountered and our taxi running out of petrol somewhere outside Kiev meant we were asleep on the couch (don’t ask) of our hostel at half past four in the morning. That gave us about an hour of sleep before the sun burst in through the curtain-less windows.
For Saturday we had planned a visit to Chernobyl and Prypiat. Chernobyl lies within a 30km exclusion zone requiring permission and a guide to pass government checkpoints so we joined up with a group in Kiev which we had booked prior to our arrival.
The guided tour started in the city of Chernobyl which has some inhabitants who work in the exclusion zone as well as permanent residents who have returned at their own risk. We then make our way to the power plant and subsequently on to the abandoned city of Prypiat stopping at various sites along the way. In Prypiat we walk around the city, crumbling due to a mixture of nature and vandalism, and are allowed to enter a few buildings and even climb onto the roof of the hotel for a panorama of the area. Over two decades since its evacuation the city is a post-human jungle with trees everywhere, even inside the buildings.
On returning to Kiev we are introduced to a local bar by one of the owners of our Hostel. As with the hostel itself the bar is down a dark alleyway with no external evidence of its existence. Somewhat magically we descend some stairs, a door is opened and a burst of light and noise flows from the stylish interior. After several drinks we move on to a club on the outskirts of the city and forsake our second night of sleep.
We awake early on Sunday morning and proceed on a whirlwind tour of Kiev before our 4pm flight. We walk through a massive park taking in various monuments and impressive buildings as well as gorgeous views over the city. At the Holodomor monument we encounter a local girl who gives us a very eloquent and touching account of Ukrainian history. We then carry on to the enormous Mother Motherland statue where we catch a taxi and our short encounter with Ukraine comes to an end.
Along with the locals that we met we encountered a large number of travelers in Kiev. We even met one man who was driving to Mongolia in an old ambulance he planned to donate on his arrival. A weekend break seems much too short in comparison. Perhaps it is an appetiser for a future adventure.