I am currently in Kiev with Mikey, and will be until Sunday. Kiev in summer is outstanding, and my gracious hosts are certainly laying on the hospitality. I am taking record numbers of photos of 1950s soviet architecture with which to bore you when I get back. Be warned -- this is going to be even worse than New York, though I may end up being a little more selective.
I have not, prior to this, been much of a world traveller. My gap-year plan to earn money in London then tour India got as far as the earning money in London part. My world travelling consisted mainly of leaving Trinidad and moving to London in the first place. Since then I've been to New York, and very briefly to Paris.
But now I have spoken English only to about 3 people in 3 days and eaten vast quantities of thoroughly novel but very tasty food (Ukrainians seem to share my philosophy that it's not really food unless there's a lot of meat in it somewhere). I'm enjoying myself, but I certainly left my comfort zone somewhere far, far west of here.
I will probably write up some kind of summary at some point, but a few highlights of the trip so far, so as not to forget them:
- On our flight over we sat next to a very friendly and extremely talkative gentleman who turned out to be a really quite senior figure within NATO's division responsible for liaising with politicians and advising upon the political situation in Ukraine -- sort of like finding yourself, on a flight to New York, sitting next to Madelaine Albright. As such, large quantites of extremely high-value gossip were exchanged.
- Lots and lots and lots and lots of deco architecture, especially around the "official" parts of the city
- Mikey's flat is unbelievably plush. Details are being withheld, the better to blackmail him with later
- Andrew's descent is a sort of religious version of Camden Market at a 45 degree angle. Buy your russian dolls here.
- Churches, churches, we got churches. From 9th century through to 19th century and plenty around the 1200 sort of area. Mostly topped off in gold and full of gold stuff.
- A random restaurant out in the country based somewhat oddly on a World War II theme. You'd think you'd base your restaurant theme on something a little less closely associated with starving to death and/or dying of gangrene, but apparently not. Featuring a replica of Michaelangelo's David holding a machine gun.
- Military hardware a big recurring theme.
- Mullets are In
- Capitalism also In. Nokia was holding a gigantic Nokia Quest competition, with loads of sweaty teenagers running around Kiev clutching mobile phones and ending up at a big concert in the centre of the town. That looked like good marketing until, for the price of a few flags and balloons, a local mobile phone company (and a jeans company owned by the same corporation) hijacked the whole affair by sending a gang of guerilla marketers careening through the crowd on roller blades, holding flags and balloons. Awesome, especially as the whole thing was going on in front of a giant Stalinist monument.
- Their underground is way nicer than our underground, featuring marble floors and chandeliers and no advertising (apart from the trains, where they've adopted a rather ad-hoc system of sticking posters to every available flat surface, including the ceiling). Also, they have mobile reception in their underground stations. Calling London Transport! Time for a fact-finding mission to Central Europe!
- Underground catacombs and a gigantic monastery, featuring the coolest museum idea ever. Pictures definitely to follow.
- A gigantic sort of Stalin Theme Park, featuring gigantic brutalist sculpture, a rescued soviet missile, bombers and tanks, not to mention a 200-foot high statue to Motherland made out of, apparently, stainless steel, that makes the Statue of Liberty look like a child's plastic plaything.
In summary: awesome.