Melancholic Kiev


We backpacks are very concerned about the situation in Ukraine and felt that it is right and necessary to describe our experience there. In an environment with so much propaganda in all media and social platforms, a first-hand story, which is not retold and adjusted from hundred of reporters or bloggers would help us all see the true self of our European brothers and sisters.

At the end of 2018 we took our humans on a trip to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The plan was to visit also Chernobyl, because we watched a documentary that stated a short trip will be safe. But as it turned out, there was not enough time. So let’s tell you what happened.

The trip was typical for us: a long weekend in a country unknown to us, but with potential to learn a bit of history and get to know the local people and food was about to happen. The mood was a bit depressing, since Nelly was sick and not much in adventure mood.

We arrived at the Kiev airport late on 25th of October. There was a taxi waiting for us. Our driver did not speak English, so the drive to the hotel “Premier Hotel Rus” was quiet and a bit creepy. In the reception there were only young people and there was some problem with our reservation, which took an hour to be resolved. As one can imagine, it was not the smoothest and most pleasant start of a vacation.

It didn’t continue well either, because Philipp and Nelly overslept the breakfast time and this is the biggest sin one can conduct in Philipp’s eyes.

Once our owners were up, we hit the streets to find some breakfast and coffee. The currency in Ukraine is Ukrainian Hryvnia and we did not have any of those, so breakfast and coffee had to wait until an exchange booth was found. This turned out to be an easy task, there were plenty of those on each corner. We even got to have some fun with Philipp, who entered one and said “Grüß Gott!” which is the German greeting phrase. The 60 years old lady working in the exchange booth was not amused with him and the atmosphere was tense. But she was forgiving and exchanged our Euro to Hryvnia. As we had the money we bought ourselves coffee with “Sushki” (sweet bread), which cheered us finally up completely.

The walk continued to the Bessarabian market, where we enjoyed the smell of local products and relatively fresh fish products, like hering and caviar.

Kiev Bessarabian market outside

The next stop of our discovery walk in the city brought us to the “Very Well Café” (it was very well, ideed). This place offered us warmth and time to regain our energy, which was needed as it started to rain heavily during our walk. Philipp thought “When in Rome, one has to do like the Romans”, so he ordered vodka. The waitress replied to him in perfect English: “VODKA?! But it is only lunch!?” That was a punch under the waist for both sides. Prejudices are always there to prove how stupid we are. Being half drunk, but warm, we continued to discover the old Kiev until up to the Kiev Funicular and “Volodymyr – The Great Monument”.

Kiev Palace outside

The walk brought us to the Sophia Square where we felt that the “Soviet Eye” was looking at us from all directions. The buildings were communistic, huge and grey, but the feeling of people walking, texting and shopping was very European. The walkways were not in a good shape, but the streets were bright and clean. It was a total mix between new and old, communism and democracy, between hope and desperation.

The next day we had to put more effort on getting to know the place, so we went on a walking tour around Kiev. Our tour guide was a young boy, around 16 years old. He spoke English fluently and was quite knowledgeable about historical buildings and events. He took his time to describe his view on the events that had evolved in 2014, when the Euromaidan movement and Ukrainian revolution had happened. The pro-European views and non-acceptance of Russian political power were clear in this school boy, who meets tourists and tries to earn some Hryvnia while improving his English. Of course, there were many Russians in Kiev and also in our tour guides family, but it seems there was no nationalistic intolerance, exactly the opposite! He told us he has relatives in Russia and that is okay. This youngster represents Ukraine for us and we will always remember him.

Once the official tour was over, we had to visit the more spiritual part of the city – St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral, St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery and St. Sophia’s Cathedral. So much gold we have not seen in other European cities. The church obviously had a lot of money to build those opulent buildings, although we didn’t meet a lot of believers there.

Kiev cathedral blue
Kiev cathedral green

Being exhausted and cold, even a bit wet from hanging under the rain on our owners backs, we finally got to the traditional restaurant “Korchma Taras Bulba” for a well deserved meal. It included Chicken Kiev and Borsch soup – made of beets with a spoon of sour cream. For dessert we had “Syrniki” – small pancakes made with curd cheese, (which was very delicious!) and for better digestion: another shot of vodka.
After so many vodka shots, we could not remember the prices, but it was definitely very cheap for a Western European budget.

Kiev dinner Chicken Kiev plate
Kiev dinner Borsch bowl
Kiev Phil and Nelly trad

On the next morning we had to leave, but the excitement from the experience stayed with us until we reached home. There is always a bit of melancholy in our memories from Kiev. The expensive cars on the streets, passing by pedestrians carrying plastic bags and wearing old military hats did not fit together. But the friendliness of good people, working hard while trying to make a better future for themselves left a mark in our hearts forever.

We pray for peace! 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦

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