I just got back from Ukraine but I didn't write about it until now because it is much easier writing on my computer at home and not on a laptop in a hotel room!
In my last post I wrote about difficulties with my two social groups in Girona. I tried to find solutions but that was not possible. So Girona Social Meetup has a new Organiser, I am not a member, and Girona Grapevine... well they just turn up! I was rather upset by one guy who suggested that I maintained the Girona Grapevine website for my own pleasure, to feel important! Within about 2 minutes, it was no more. I have other things with which to occupy myself. My annoyance lasted for a very short time!
I have two friends in Ukraine: Marina in Kharkiv to the east, very close to the Russian border. I have visited her there many times. And I have another friend, Marta who lives in Nizhyn which is about 90 minutes by train from Kyiv. Both are around 30 years of age. I am sure I have said before, it is a huge pleasure having young female friends but of course, there is no physical relationship. Hey, I am 74. But my mental age has no age. I know that "Kyiv" is spelt "Kiev" sometimes but it is simply a transliteration of the Cyrillic, київ. The use of Ukrainian is more common in Kyiv, Marina in the east speaks Russian. Marta uses Ukrainian. But both of them speak both languages.
I decided to base myself in Kyiv and not go to Kharkiv this time. That way, I could see both my friends. I arrived last Wednesday in the evening, booked into the Ibis Hotel near to the railway station and relaxed with a beer. There is an airport bus, Skybus, which takes 40 minutes from the airport to the station and then there is a 20 minute walk to the hotel.
Marta arrived by train next day at mid-day and we spent the afternoon in a small tour bus. It was great to see her again! Last year we went to Lviv together and we are very relaxed with each other. She checked into the Ibis Hotel and we had a meal together in the restaurant. She felt rather uncomfortable because the restaurant was almost empty and two of the waitresses were simply standing near by watching us. Too attentive! Naturally, people sometimes assume that the relationship is about something more than friendship! But I think she simply didn't like being watched. I was facing in the opposite direction so I was not subject to their gaze.
Next day Marta looked up excursions to Mezhyhirya Residence which is where the previous president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych lived in stupendous luxury. After the protests and violence in Feburary 2014 centred in Maiden Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), he fled to Moscow, Petro Porochenko became President and Ukraine turned more towards Europe and away from Russia. How is it possible to write in one paragraph what happened four years ago? The police fired on the protesters and almost 100 people died. It is impossible to visit the square without thinking about those events. Photos of those who died are posted on the hill above Maiden. The paths around the square still have many paving blocks missing as a reminder that these were used as missiles. The building which was burnt down is still covered with a huge fabric screen with a message of freedom, an image of chains broken. I am sure I have a photo from a previous visit - I will look for it later.
After breakfast on Friday, Marta was searching the internet on her phone. She reckoned that we needed to take the Metro to the end of the line to the north of Kyiv, Heroiv Dnipra, and then there would be transport waiting to take us to the residence. And she was right! Dnipro is the river of Kyiv, more about that later. We took a very comfortable car with only the two of us in the back seat, the journey was about 20 minutes.
The estate is enormous and we hired bikes. I've added lots of photos here which I hope you enjoy looking at.
The whole time I was in Ukraine, the weather was superb! Blue sky every day, a big high-pressure area sitting above me! I was expecting it to be cold but, in fact, the weather was better than in Barcelona.
These first two photos are when we visited Maiden Nezalezhnosti after the bus trip.
I know it looks like the sea, but this is looking north up the Dnipro River. In parts it is very wide.
I bet they had some great parties here! I can just imagine the large black limousines with tinted windows parked up by the river.