Kiev, day 1
Andrey and I took the marshrutka back to Kiev from Malyn at 09:00. (I had misunderstood our departure time the day before, so he had to wake me up at 07:30. But I’m a fast mover and was packed up and dressed in 15 minutes.) He also took me metro with me since we were going in the same direction, and he made sure I alighted at the right stop. Thanks, Andrey!
It’s amusing that there’s a knock-off McDonald’s called McFoxy right next to it. You can see it across from the metro station. I was told that their food is cheaper than that at McDonald’s, but it’s not as tasty.
From Vokzalna Metro Station, I walked through another underground passageway with shops and then above ground for about 15 minutes to reach my next Couchsurfing host’s house. Alesia is a freelance interior designer, so she works from home and was available to meet me there. Right when you walk in to her flat, you can tell that she’s taken care in furnishing it.
For lunch, I cooked eggs and ham while she cut up tomatoes and cucumbers for a salad and toasted some cornbread. We also had a strawberry yogurt drink that I treated as a dessert. We chatted about how she moved to Kiev from her hometown when she was 14, but because she was a minor, she had to live in an orphanage. She doesn’t recall why she moved out at that time, but her mom says it’s because Alesia said she wanted to. I also learned that Ukrainians must have a domestic and international passport if they want to travel outside of the country, and even entering the Schengen Area means getting a visa first. Her international passport is filled with visas since she loves visiting countries in the Schengen.
She happened to also have an English lesson scheduled with her private tutor in the afternoon, and you can tell she’s very diligently studying the language. For the most part, I didn’t participate, but at times they would stop the lesson and ask me to clarify something. I was happy to assist!
In the evening, I met up with a couple of Couchsurfing members (Kate and Alyona) at a tiny restaurant in city center called Kiflik. Kate recommended this place because I was looking for traditional Ukrainian cuisine. Although they didn’t have an English menu, the staff spoke fluent English. Kate also provided some suggestions for what to order. The staff brought out a complimentary kiflik, which was stuffed with a date paste. I tried the mushroom soup with spinach noodles (₴84) and corn porridge with mushrooms (₴95). They also had a nice veggie smoothie (₴55: broccoli, celery, pineapple, banana) and red sangria (₴60). My favorite thing was the mushroom soup: the mushrooms were so hearty and fresh.
Alyona brought a slice of Kiev cake from Roshen, which is a meringue cake with hazelnuts and buttercream. I think it would be even better if it were less sweet, but to each his own. We wandered around city center after dark and saw Shevchenko Park and his monument, the Shevchenko University building and its signature red and black coloring, the National Opera House, the Golden Gates (not the same as the bridge in SF), St. Sophia’s Cathedral, and St. Michael’s Cathedral.
Kate talked about how during the protests in 2014 when police started shooting people in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), the protestors ran up the hill to St. Sophia’s and St. Michael’s. But because there is politics in religion, too, St. Sophia’s church wouldn’t let anyone in since they are of the Moscow branch of the Russian Orthodox church. On the other hand, St. Michael’s welcomed the protestors with open arms. The protestors communicated with normal Kiev citizens that they needed help and some were wounded, so people brought food, water, and medical supplies to help them. What a crazy time.
Kate was super sweet and helped me navigate the Central Railway Station after we got off the metro at Vokzalna to take me on the shortest route to Alesia’s on the side where the South Railway Station is. The Central Station has beautiful mosaics high up on the ceiling of different sights in Kiev. I admired them as we went up the escalator and past the old chandeliers. Then we walked down a long hallway that led into the South Station. It was Pivdenny Railway Station! I recognized where the Sky Bus dropped me off several days ago.
It was really great to get to know the two of them and get a better understanding of Kiev.