|The Ukraine was colorful, flavorful, soulful and definitely worth a visit|
Michael’s recurring nightmare has him standing at an ATM in a city where we don’t speak the language, inserting his card, following the instructions, entering his pin number and … not have any cash come out.
Well, it finally happened in Lviv, Ukraine on our first night. And there was no English translation option on the screen so we had no idea why the transaction did not go through. We were certain there were enough funds in the account. So we tried again. Same result.
We found a woman nearby who spoke English and she did her best to help us. With her looking over our shoulders we tried again for a third time. She wasn’t sure why we were having trouble, but sort of shrugged in the end and said “It’s Ukraine. Anything can happen when it comes to money.” At that point, we had potentially made three withdrawals with no cash to show for it and worried our bank was busy withdrawing funds from our account.
|Not sure what I am trying to explain here - maybe that the ATM ate our money!|
But I should probably back-up and explain why Michael, as our Chief Travel Planner (and a person endlessly fascinated with post-Soviet-era Europe) had us going to the potentially dangerous country of Ukraine in the first place. Two reasons: It added another interesting country to our list, and it was one of the 15 Republics that made up the USSR until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. And, wouldn’t it be exciting if we could visit them all? Sure, why not?
|On the lookout for signs of Soviet occupation|
|Fortunately, I didn't see this map or the warning below until after we left Ukraine.|
The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and could change quickly. U.S. citizens throughout Ukraine should avoid large crowds and be prepared to remain indoors should protests or demonstrations escalate. No problem.
|One way to avoid crowds in Kiev was to show up to a football match at the wrong stadium|
So, living life on the edge, Michael booked our travel from Lviv to Kiev on Ukraine Air - which could also seem a little risky to some (me), but the travel planner was comfortable enough that we ended up taking three flights on UA in the weeks to come.
Our stay in Liv was interesting. It seemed like a city just waking up after a long, troubled sleep. There is a lot of beautiful architecture behind the grime and neglect that followed WWII and a long Soviet occupation, but we saw great progress being made to renovate historic buildings and spruce-up public spaces. Most of the stunning Orthodox churches in the city had also been restored to their original golden glory and new restaurants and retail stores had opened around the main square where we were staying.
|We've been in dozens of Orthodox churches and they never cease to amaze us.|
|You can't judge an Airbnb by the building - it's what's behind the door that counts. Just keep saying that to yourself.|
|The market was amazing - too bad I couldn't cook in our apartment.|
|If you skipped the supermarket you could have a great time stocking-up at markets like this.|
|Rubbery little dried fish were offered as a snack at the bar. No thanks!|
|Things got better when the grilled pork arrived with lots of dill covered potatoes and brown bread|
|If you can eat it in the Ukraine - you can probably pickle it.|
But first we met Igor a self-proclaimed ambassador of Kiev. We had arrived too early to check into our Airbnb so the driver our host sent to collect us from the airport, dropped us at a typical state-run Ukranian restaurant that served an inexpensive breakfast buffet. The driver kept our bags and would meet up with us later at the apartment. We worked our way through a line of unusual offerings including whole pickles, jellied eggs, and pizza, and then collapsed in a booth.
|A nice young women doing her best to translate the breakfast offerings.|
|Igor looked a little like this fellow - perhaps a long lost relative.|
From there we settled into our very nice Airbnb - although once again the building entrance, and this time a small, green cage-like elevator made getting to the front door challenging. But also once again, the place was lovely and had a great view of the city skyline. Kiev airbnb
|We said a little prayer every time the cage door clanged shut.|
|The 2014 Euromaidan protests took place on this square just around the corner from our Airbnb.|
|The Ukrainian people are fiercely proud of their hard won independence|
|It's hard to fathom just how much money Yanukovych stole from his country.|
|There wasn't a single inch of the house or the grounds that wasn't absolutely perfect.|
|The boxing ring. Who has a boxing ring? A man who has everything, that's who.|
|Michael checking out a shower covered in intricate mosaics.|
|We wore booties to protect the floors and preserve this shrine to corruption.|
|The main entry staircases with inlaid marble trimmed in gold.|
|Our view towards Kiev from the master bedroom balcony|
|Yanukovych had his food tasted and was scared to ride in his helicopter for fear it would be shot down.|
Perhaps our reaction to Yanukovych’s world of insatiable greed was so profound because we’d spent the day before touring Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear accident in history where thousands of Ukrainians suffered (and still suffer) from the Soviet government’s incompetence, and the appalling cover-up and disinformation campaign that followed.
I will write a “glowing report” on that adventure next time! Thanks for following along,
Debbie and Michael
The Senior Nomads