Discovering the Ukraine

By: Terrence Aubrey

I was travelling from Simferopol (Crimea) to Lviv (North West) and I had decided to take the scenic route up the Dnipro River to Kiev and then west. The second day of my trip I had only reached Kremenchug and the afternoon was passing....

I was in no hurry and Kiev was distant so I checked my map. The city of Kirovohrad was quite close so I decided to head there and find a hotel for the night. Kirovohrad is a fairly small city and I headed for the centre. As usual in this country there were beautiful ladies everywhere, which was fortunate as I did not find the city that interesting.

The very centre of the city is dominated by various types of government buildings, of typical Soviet design. Soviet architecture is I suspect love it, or hate it. I personally like it. It cannot be described as beautiful, but it is striking, full of character and very bold of design.

I found a pleasant patio cafe and enjoyed watching the world go by over a glass of juice and then retired to my hotel for an early night. The hotel (no names) was I am sure quite splendid in its day, yes, you guessed. It is now a bit sad and neglected and for some reason the whole place smelt of bitumen paint!

I rose early the next morning and it was a glorious day, so I set off back to the Dnipro to pick up where I had left off the previous day. I would reach Kiev by late afternoon I was sure. After about 1 hour of driving, it was a very pleasant route; I stopped at a roadside cafe (Kopje) and enjoyed juice, cafe, salad and eggs.

Refreshed I set off northwards. There was now only one city before Kyiv, Cherkasy; I would take my lunch there. At this point the River dnipro is enormous; it is not even possible to see land on the other side. This is a serious river.

A little like Kirovohrad, Cherkasy was a little non descript, I headed to the centre in search of a cafe, or restaurant and found one. Inside I met two German guys taking a romance trip; they had come to meet ladies that they had met through an agency. They seemed to know quite a lot about the city, I guess through correspondence and told me that ladies outnumbered men 6 to 1. Seems unbelievable I know, but I had heard similar statistics before, like 9 to 1 in Simferopol, not sure I believe that. Anyway these guys were full of anticipation; they had arrived only that morning and were meeting their ladies that evening.

I wished them good luck and set off on the final leg of my day's journey to Kiev. A word of advice, I followed what seemed to be the most direct route from Cherkasy to Kiev and found myself on a road the design of which was clearly taken from the letter S, boy it was slow going and it seemed to take about 2 hours to travel 60 kms!

Luckily I had set off early and had time on my side. Eventually I came across a better road and the road sign told me only I had 70kms to Kyiv, great. Road signs are a little few and far between in the Ukraine and somehow I found myself on the road to Borispol! The town with an airport of the same name, but at least I knew the road to the centre from here.

Again crossing the Dnipro (a long bridge, the river remains wide as it passes through Kyiv) I entered the side of Kyiv that is largely new and redeveloped. A lot of construction is being and has been carried out here, but who designs this stuff.

Do not get me wrong it is not unattractive, but it has nothing to do with Kyiv, or The Ukraine in general. From where do these architects take their points of reference? Miami? Los Angeles? Clearly not from Kyiv which is a magnificent and beautiful city.

Well the Sun was still high, I booked into a smart hotel and I was going to enjoy my stay in Kyiv. I asked a taxi driver outside of the hotel until what hour I could expect the bars and clubs to be open? He laughed and told me Kiev does not sleep........A fun night ahead.

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