I have to say out of the three cities I’ve visited so far, Mosco, Kiev and Budapest, Kiev has been my favorite. I had about two full days to walk around and see the city in full. Luckily both days the weather was delightful. I’m talking about sunny, highs floating around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or 14 Celcius. I walked close to 20 miles between the two days I was there.
Kiev is an old modern town set along the river. Honestly, it remembered me a lot of New Orleans. The way the people remained true to where they came from but had adopted the modern practices. After writing my last post at the hostel, DreamHostel, which conveniently had a cafe/ bar attached. I decided it was best to lay low for the night so I just drank there and made some friends from France, New Zealand, and Switzerland. The next morning I awoke around 9 am had a cup of coffee at the cafe. When I left I headed towards the river north about 2 km or a ten-minute walk. I arrived at the scenic overlook and found a boardwalk following along the river. Again, beautiful day so I followed the river south towards the city center. After walking about 10-minutes I found a cut through under the street to a park. After climbing 20 flights of stairs, I’m not kidding my iPhone told me so, I found myself in the middle of the park. I wouldn’t say this was so much as a walk but more of a hike. The trail went up and down very steep so parts and then gradual at other parts. After walking about 30-minutes I saw another protest or at least what I think was one. They were about 200 feet above me waving flags and chanting something. Unfortunately or fortunately, I decided not to investigate as they were too many stairs to climb up to them. Still pushing my luck, I know. After walking about another 30 minutes I arrived at the start of the Mother of the Motherland square.
This square/park/museum was quite interesting. The whole park is an outdoor museum dedicated to the military inside a park with a giant statue located in the middle of a square. The start of it has severely damaged Russian military vehicles with plaques in three different languages. One of them was in English and it said these were indeed Russian vehicles that were in the Russian army captured in Crimea. They went into great detail about what Ukrainian unit had captured/damaged the vehicles, where they got them, and how you could tell they were in the Russian army currently (based on ammo type, Ukraine never had these types, painted symbols, etc). The deeper I walked in the more humbling it became. After the showcase of all the different types of tanks, APC (armored personnel carriers), jeeps, helicopters, missile launchers (those who know me, yes it was like a kid in a candy shop) the walkway began to lead under a fountain towards the base of the feet of the statue. Here in the shadows was the heroes of the past. Built into the stones they had captured the different workers, solider, resistant fighters of WWII. For example, there was a picture of a man making artillery shells, a kid running to give a gun to a man, men charging forward with guns and grenades, women weeping all of them pointing to the Mother of the Motherland. From my understand this is basically their version of the Statue of Liberty, I could be mistaken, but if you go there you would feel it too.
After touring that part of town I walked back to the hostel I was staying at, DreamHostel. Along the way, I went through flea markets, bargaining for fruit (which was amazing both the bargaining and the fruit), and ate like a local from the vendors. Along the way there was a blood drive station setup for the troops fighting, I tried to give but due to lack of Ukrainian/English, I was unable to understand and therefore donate. After, refreshing and changing I decided to try cocktail hour but more hours at the hostel cafe. I had some Ukrainian red wine, a whiskey lemonade, and a hot toddy. I did have to explain what a Hot Toddy was and show them how to make it. The bartender, who I made friends with, enjoyed it very much and said he’d have to add it to the menu. He pointed me in the direction of a local BBQ joint (his words not mine). I figured I should try out this “BBQ” and see what it was like. Heads up it’s not real BBQ, it’s a steak joint. Not to get down, I ordered a steak and potatoes with a dark beer (I’m going to miss the beer here once I leave). But, Treat Yo-Self right? The steak came out on a wooden board and was delicious. Once the bill came I figured it would be like $20 or something, however much to my surprise and wallets delight it was around $8. After dinner, the town was pretty quiet so I headed back to the hostel and saw my friends from last night. I hung out with them and an English gent and I decided to try and see what was going on more in the center of town. After a brisk 3 km (1 mile) walk to the city center we found that all the bars had closed 10 minutes ago. Luckily, one of the phrases I know perfectly in Russian is “Where is the bar?” We found some people outside, I asked them, and they walked us to an underground bar. So this English guy and I drink in there solving all of the world’s problems over Pepsi and Whiskey (Yeah I know, but they didn’t have sprite or coke).
I awoke the next morning a little later found a local cafe where I had a meat board and coffee for brunch. After that, I headed towards Independence square to look around before I left. For those that don’t know Independence square is the beginning of where everything started. Back in 2014, it hosted huge protest literally shutting down the city to oust the president which then started the conflict in Crimea. It was very beautiful with makeshift memorials set up for fallen soldiers again from the recent conflict. I checked out of the hostel with them ordering a ride to the airport. I was half expecting this Dallas/Fort-Worth Airport so when my driver pulled up to the one building, private airplanes in the background I doubled checked we were in the right place (it’s the only airport). Checking in was a breeze and then I waited for the airplane texting my dad funny Arthur jokes about the airport. For those uncultured swine, Arthur is a great 1980s comedy about a rich British dude living in New York city. Some of the jokes are, “It’s so small Rhode Island could beat the crap out of it in a war. They recent had the country carpet it cost $1.89” It’s a great movie, you should check it out. But all of the quotes are true about the airport.
After the quick 1 1/2 hour flight, I arrived in Budapest with my friend Sara waiting to help me navigate the public transportation.