Greetings From Kiev Ukraine! (20-26 July 2017)
My flight to Kiev from Moscow was interesting. As I mentioned in a previous post I had originally planned to visit Belarus for a few days (Canadians are included in the group eligible for the new tourist tourist Visa where you don’t need a Visa for stays less than a week in Belarus) but later saw that anyone flying from Russia, no matter their nationality would require a Visa to visit. So with that I changed my plans and headed to Kiev Ukraine instead. Here’s the thing, I had to land and catch my connecting flight in Minsk anyways, I pretty much cancelled my ticket only to re-buy it with the added connection to Kiev on it, and with landing there I had to go through their customs security check. As I get to the front of the line the officer asked me “How long are you staying here?” to which I told l her I am only connecting to a flight to Kiev. She then asks me “How much money do you have on you? Do you have enough to Stay in Minsk?” I try explaining to her that I’m not staying in Belarus, I’m not visiting Minsk, I’m connecting to another flight. This then brings up the question of a Visa, and for a second I thought she was not going to allow me to connect to my flight all because of a problem with the language barrier. She talked to another security officer and then uneasily and looking confused let me through to my connecting flight. It was a very bizarre transaction, luckily I caught my last flight without problem.
Once I landed in Kiev, or Kyiv as it’s properly spelled, I had to make my way to the hostel, this was easy enough although I did take the long way as I later found out. There is a subway system in Kyiv that works rather well, and it must be new, or at least the stop at the airport must be, as it didn’t come up on Google Maps when mapping my way from to the airport to the hostel. Instead a bus route came up that I would catch done the road from the airport. The buses in Ukraine, and a lot of the world as I have discovered on this Odyssey, aren’t as professional looking as back in Canada. Most the buses are at least painted the same but figuring out the number it is to find out where it’s going is different matter, some had it on a piece of paper taped to the upper corner of the windshield, some on a side window, some had different numbers in different colours, which I believe each meant something else. It was a bit of a learning curve but I had half an hour to wait for my bus and figured out the code looking at passing buses in time to find my route. Paying the driver was another different ordeal. There was no pay stand like in North America or Europe, with the fare written on the side and you insert the proper change and on you went, and there was no attendant walking around selling tickets like in Russia. Instead you just gave the driver a bill, I had given him too large a bill at first and he asked for a smaller one, tell him how many fares and he would count out your change and give it back to you. While driving the bus and navigating through traffic. Depending on the traffic depended on how fast or long it would take to get your fare back. I somehow managed to make it into town and got off at the proper stop, just a block away from the hostel. Once I found out about the subway train system I decided not to use the buses again during this visit though.
There is a lot to see in Kyiv and with the hostel near central city I mostly just walked around to see everything instead of using any transit, picking different areas of the city to explore each day. Usually I would see a place on Google Maps that I wanted to go photograph, like a park or monument, and end up finding other interesting buildings on the way or around the area while exploring
The is a walkway worth finding and checking out called Landscape Alley where they have built all sorts of weird and wonderful sculptures, playground equipment and benches into all sorts of fairy-tale-like animals.
One day I ventured out to see the statue, The Motherland Monument, and surrounding park. Little did I know about The Ukrainian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War, a war museum which includes a huge area of military vehicles laid out around the park, was there as well and a quick walk to the park turned into an entire afternoon and exploring and taking photos.
As I have some Ukrainian friends, and friends who just love Ukrainian food, I took photos of almost every meal I had to update my friends interested in seeing the real thing. So here’s some of the awesome Ukrainian food I had.
The Lion’s Club
The Lion’s Club Kyiv was another club I was alerted to when looking into possible destinations and asking around in the BJJ Globetrotter community. After talking online with Rashid, the head of the club and purple belt (just got his brown now, congrats!) we set up a time for me to make it out for a class. As it happens we could only meet up the one time, as seems to be the case with a lot places I visit. I took the train to the other side of town and used the directions Rashid gave me to find the club, which was in the basement of a building with a mural of Bruce Lee by the door. The club wasn’t very big, it was almost a full class with the half dozen of us on the mats. We had a good warm up and then Rashid started working sweeps with us, from De La Riva. The students, all white belts, seemed shy to open up to me but Rashid kept coming over and asking all sorts of questions about traveling and places I’ve been to, like his home of Morocco, or places I plan to visit. He is a big fan of meeting travelers as it’s really difficult to get out from Ukraine and travel right now, and with the issue with Russia it doesn’t make Ukraine for a desired place for a lot of tourists (I don’t know why the place is beautiful, the people are welcoming, food the is amazing and it’s cheap!). Rashid is a great coach as he makes sure everyone has a handle of the the technique and made sure to even help me adjust a few things for my own body size, since I don’t have the required long legs to pull off an awesome open guard game. After drilling we had some rolls, the big strong quiet white belt I had been drilling with at this point became another man once we pumped fists and grabbed me in a headlock, threw me down into scarf and put me in a muscled armbar. In maybe 30 seconds from start to end and I tapped. “Well that just happened “ I thought to myself as we re-started, I was a bit more cautious of his grip and bit more aggressive with him the second time around.
After class we were taking pictures together and one of the guys, Yuriy, comes up asks for a photo with me. “I never thought I would meet you” he says during the photo, as it happens he had been reading about my adventures on Reddit all this time. It was pretty cool and meet up with a fan of my blog and I hope he’s still reading, thanks for following me Yuriy!` After class, Rachid and a few of the guys brought me out for food. We talked all about Jiu-Jitsu and traveling and I was asked a million questions about how I liked Ukraine and Kyiv or how it compared to the rest of Europe. I was also given a few dishes of Ukrainian food to eat, but I passed up on the Salo, or cured pig fat.
It was a great hang out and I wish I had more time to hang with everyone but before I knew it my time had come to head off to Kherson, a small city in Ukraine with a very devoted BJJ club.
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
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