Friday, November 30, 2012

Kiev Day IV – Last Day

This day I discovered something new about Kiev. Our friends took us to a place I've never heard of. A day earlier they suggested to go to an open air museum of Ukrainian Architecture – Pyrohovo. I wasn't really exited about the idea first. To spend the last day downtown seemed like the only way. But the friends were right, the open museum Pyrohovo was an excellent choice for a farewell.
We met just outside the city center at Lybidska metro station. Before continuing we did some purchases for a picnic. Because there are no shops near museum and it is nice to get some food and drinks. From there we took a bus, which stopped in front of the entrance.
So basically Pyrohovo museum is a vast land where various types of ancient and modern buildings from different regions of Ukraine are. Sounds maybe dull, but it is anything but that. There are many hiking trails, which take you to different areas of Ukraine. There are not just buildings, nature is also a bit reconstructed. We took a walk to Carpathians, a bit hilly and forested part. We were a bit late in the day, so almost all buildings were closed. Normally you can also look inside the houses and get the idea of how people used to live.
Before dark we made our walk towards exit. Pyrohovo is not the type of museum where you just enjoy nature walks and Ukrainian history of architecture. When we ordered some food, the party broke loose. Ukrainian hits slammed out of the speakers while other visitors started dancing. Eventually our background music changed into a karaoke show until people were tired of each other singing and then the disco started again.
We had a great time together and before we knew it was time to get the last bus to Kiev. In the dark we searched for the exit of the museum while other visitors still partied. At this time it is a challenge to travel back. The roads weren't illuminated and it wasn't clear where public transport stops. Luckily we had a lot of locals along, so we didn't have to worry.
Together we took the bus and then the metro, where we had to say goodbye to our nice friends. Just a few hours later our flight to Simferopol, Crimea will depart.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kiev Day III – Independence Day

Instead of rushing to the center to the hustle and bustle of the Ukrainian party, we went first to the island of the entertainment: Hydropark. The main goal was to find the gym section which is still much in use. What you'll find here are the musclemen in Speedos pumping their iron on the rusty Soviet exercise equipment. Great place for people who are seeking for the profound glory of the Soviet past or for those who are in need of some exercise.
Hydropark is not just sporty. During the hot summer days, people can work on their tan, swim in the slightly polluted river Dnepr, eat fresh shashliki and party all night in clubs. It's a place where people get a feeling of holiday. Despite the great national party today, it was not very busy here. But as soon as we leave the island, we see a large flow of partygoers approaching the Hydropark. We left the place on time, or maybe not...
We have had an appointment with friends. They took us for a walk in the center. We met at the metro Zoloty Vorota. Just before the metro is a main entrance to the ancient city. This piece was reconstructed, because the Mongols destroyed the gate back in the 1240. We passed the beautiful Sofiyska square and entered the Andriyvsky uzviz. This whole street is filled with stalls selling antiques, nice pubs and a pleasant atmosphere. I was unfortunately too late for the house-museum of Mikhail Bulgakov, it was closed. But I did take the opportunity to pose with his statue.
We ended the walk in a nice rock pub with live music, good beer and snacks. Our company was very nice and the time passed quickly. It was not very late, but stragely enough the party in the city already last. We walked through Maidan to the next bar and it was very quiet. The bar we went to however was very busy. At the end of the day we tried to call the taxi, but it seemed that no car was available that night. After a long wait we were finally dropped off at the apartament.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kiev Day II

Last time I was in Kiev, my husband and I were not able to view Lavra. Because of some kind important visit the whole area was closed to public. That was a big bummer.
This time we decided to go to Lavra first. The Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery situated on a hill and with a view at the river Dnepr.
From the Pecherska metro station it's about 10 minutes walk to the monastery. The entrance is immediately recognizable with a beautifully decorated gate. In front is a ticket service. Ordinary tickets to the terrain are very cheap.
Inside the Lavra are numerous architectural monuments. There are many churches, most of them are more beautiful on the outside. The area is partly destroyed during the Second World War, but everything has been reconstructed. The most preferred attraction of Lavra is probably the caves with the burials of monks and historical heroes. The visit to the caves is fascinating. You have to carry your own light source, which is a candle. The cave is like a labyrinth with small and dark corridors. The mummified bodies lie along the side of the path. You do walk along the bodies, but you can't really see them because they all covered with a cloth.
When the weather is nice, the stay here is very pleasant. The walks offer a nice view of the nature and architecture. Everywhere there are benches for resting and small shops selling drinks and snacks.
Near Lavra is an open air Museum of Great Patriotic War. The Motherland monument stands in the center of machine guns, tanks and statues which depict the horrors of war. It's a pretty large site overlooking river and Lavra.
From there we went walking to the Mariynsky park also overlooking the Dnepr river. Here again, if the weather is nice this place is ideal to spend the day. Outdoor cafes are everywhere. You can enjoy a walk or just sit and watch people passing by.
We walked through the park towards the Maidan square. The preparations for the independence day took place here. The beginning of Khreschatik was full of huge painted eggs, each one represented a different city of Ukraine.
The party has not begun yet, but the atmosphere was already very festive.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The night train to Kiev

The trains to Kiev or any other Ukrainian destinations leave from station "Kievskaya". My dad livers practically in front of the that station, which was extremely convenient. We only had to cross the road and find the train. The lights were out and it was nearly midnight, so we had to look for our beds in the dark. With a little effort we've given the suitcases a place and waited until the train left Moscow. Despite the poor condition of the train we left right on time. After some time the lights went finally on and the female conductor began to distribute the bedding.
Sleeping and or traveling in the Russian trains is lovely. But it is important to prepare properly otherwise the journey will be less comfortable. We chose the third class because of the finances, but also because of the experience. We wanted to travel as the local people. The disadvantage is that you sleep in an open space and people nearby may be inadequate. Generally the fellow travelers are decent people. One time I had bad luck. I was traveling near a sick child and when I got home I also immediately became ill. This time we did not bother people, odor or noise.
After I had made my bed, I had put on my comfortable, nice and warm clothes in which I could sleep. Besides the pleasant clothes, slippers were also very convenient to have. It gives you the opportunity to move freely through the train without taking the shoes off and on and off again. Cleansing wipes were a must, I felt fresh the entire trip. You get a towel along with the bedding, which is useful if you need to refresh yourself in the toilet. Take a compact bag for all the care routine stuff like toothbrush, hand soap and toilet paper. The toilet in the train was very dirty, but all my stuff on hand made my rituals easily and pleasant.
We slept very well. But we were awakened for a passport control twice. Once when leaving Russia and again when entering Ukraine. We left Russia in the autumnal cold, but in Ukraine it was still summer. When we woke up it was already sunny and warm.
The conductor sells tea and serves it in the typical Russian cup holders. In Moscow we bought some snacks which we had for breakfast together with the train tea.
The train arrived right on time in Kiev. The metro is very close to the train station exit. We bought coins and went looking for our apartment.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Moscow day III

Our last hours in Moscow we decided to spend in the VVT park, the Russian Exhibition Centre. The park is famous for it's iconic monuments from the Soviet era. Grandiose Stalinist pavilions were once meant to glorify Soviet Union.
To get there is very easy. Take the yellow metro line to the north, the ВДНХ station. Once outside you'll see the first monument: Space Obelisk. It's hard to miss, because he sticks high above the metro exit. Walk in that direction and you'll see the entrance to the park. Near the obelisk is a cosmonauts museum, which seem to be worth visiting. I have only seen the outside area. When you pass the great gate of the park, you'll see al the pavilions. In the middle of the square there is a big Fountain of the Friendship of Peoples, which represents the sixteen Soviet republics:
  1. Russia
  2. Ukraine
  3. Uzbekistan
  4. Kazakhstan
  5. Belarus
  6. Azerbaijan
  7. Georgia
  8. Tajikistan
  9. Moldova
  10. Kyrgyzstan
  11. Lithuania
  12. Turkmenistan
  13. Armenia
  14. Latvia
  15. Estonia
  16. Karelo-Finnish SSR
Everything points to the former pride of the great country and its variety of nationalities. That's pretty ironic, because Muscovites are not particularly tolerant of the countries that used to be part of soviet union. Travelers who are looking to the faded grandeur of soviet union can have a good time here.

After having enough of the communist symbols we returned back in the hart of downtown where I did some shopping at GUM. And then we headed home to get ready for the train journey. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Moscow Day II

Autumn has come to Moscow. The sun is gone and it's cold. Which is a bit sad. Moscow is the most fun when you can spend a lot of time outside. To sit inside is not an option, we have an outdoor program at Novodevichi Monastery.
As we approach the monastery it starts to rain. We wait at the gate until the weather is dry and continue the walk around the order. I've been here before, but i never went to the lookout spot by the lake. So I took this opportunity to check out the monastery from a new perspective. When we stood on the other side of the lake, the monastery looked beautiful, exactly like on the pictures in the books. Unfortunately it started to rain again, but this time seriously. The trees were no longer a decent shelter. We could only run in the nearest restaurant, which was a Georgian one and pretty good.
At the end of the afternoon we could finally continue. My plan was to go to the Novodevichi cemetery, but it was already closed. Instead we went to the park Kolomenskoye.
Lats time i've been here it was full of Moscovites who have escaped from the city bustle. Now the park was nearly empty and bleak. It was not worth staying any longer. First we took a break in one of the restaurants. Then we decided to travel back home through some underground stations on the ring line. We took the opposite direction to Novoslobodskaya. It is one of the most beautiful underground stations. Here we made a transition to the Mendeleevskaya station. This stop has it's own history. If you take the stairs up, you'll immediately see a statue of a dog. It's a special memento for a stray dog that was known here. Unfortunately the dog ran against a wrong person who stabbed him. With this statue people are still reminded of the cheerful dog that came here daily and was more than welcome.
This was enough for today. Next day we have our last sites and a train journey to Ukraine. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Moscow Day I

Gin Tonic at Hotel 'Ukraina'

From St. Petersburg to Moscow we took the fast train 'SAPSAN', which I booked on Read the review on this journey here.

In Moscow we stayed at my father's home. I am glad that I can always go there. To find a central, affordable and comfortable accommodation isn't easy here.
We haven't quite recovered from night out in St. Petersburg, but we continued our cultural program anyway.
It is a sunny Sunday and the center of Moscow is full of tourists and foreign workers who seem to have the same plans. Just in time we join the row to the mausoleum. A lot of people behind us will not get inside. If people are still standing in the line 20 minutes before closing time they will not get in.
The row was terrible, too crowded. People were pushing each other, some thought they were in the line for the red square. I advise to avoid the center sights on Sunday.
Check my previous Moscow blog for more info and opening hours of my favorite city sights.
All cameras must be delivered at the special counter before the entrance. You'll get no chance to capture the mausoleum inside.
I love mausoleum and it's dark interior with the mysterious atmosphere. Last time i was here the whole experience seemed quite absurd and surreal. But now the atmosphere seemed to be lost because of the crowds. My husband was annoyed by talking tourists in front of us.

The next sight for today would be Kremlin. But all we wanted is to run away from the crowds to a quieter place. My other favorite place in Moscow is the always peaceful house of Gorky. Even today it was nice to be there.
Afterwards we walked along Petrovka. Where we checked the Tsereteli sculptures at the entrance of the Museum of Modern Art and the Upper Monastery of St. Peter. Petrovka used to be the most aristocratic street of Moscow.

My dad offered us to do a night drive through the city. Before that we've eaten delicious Georgian food at a restaurant near home where I got the idea to look inside one of the so-called seven sisters. We were already near the hotel 'Ukraina', which is one of those skyscrapers designed in the Stalinist style. I always wondered how such building looks like inside. Their exterior only is already more than impressive. Usually you can visit a bar or a restaurant in a hotel, which 'Ukraina' hotel also has.
Afterwards it was a very good idea. It's a special chance to see the building inside. On the top there is a karaoke bar. The bar has a terrace which provides the magnificent panorama view of Moscow. You can eat and drink in the hotel. It's not cheap, but affordable and very special.

After the expensive cocktails in the Stalin Skyscraper we returned home where my dad was waiting.
Then we immediately got in my dad's car to view Moscow by night. We stopped briefly at places like the city center, Christ of The Saviour Cathedral and the modern Tretiakov Gallery where I used to work five years ago. We drove past Mayakovskaya and Pushinskaya squares, Moscow river, Sparrow Hills and of course Kremlin. It was a smooth and enjoyable trip. An ideal closure of the first day in Moscow.  

The Upper Monastery of St. Peter
Vysotsky sculpture by Tsereteli at Museum of Modern art, Petrovka

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