Jun. 6th, 2013

khar_muur: (khar_muur07)
Driving in Kiev is a complete nightmare. Impatient drivers take every chance they get to cut each other off, people park literally anywhere and any which way, and everyone drives extremely fast. Most cars are new, some very expensive, and, unlike in Italy, most are completely intact, despite the chaos. Finally we get to see the caves of the Cave Monastery. Dress code states no short sleeves or short trousers, and women must cover their hair and wear dresses or skirts. The near caves are completely crowded, hot, dark and humid, lighted only by small, hanging lanterns and the prayer candles of visitors. Photography is forbidden inside, but I wouldn't even want to, nor be able to. You just have to keep moving at all times or get told off by pissed-off tour guides. Narrow stony corridors, monks, pilgrims, icons, prayer niches, dead saints in coffins under vitrine glass—which the devout orthodox christians kiss and practically throw themselves upon—and awestruck tourists desperately navigating through the crowd. The other caves farther away are for 'praying only', and dad and brother take a pass, but me, S.O. and sister want to see them. They go a long way down underground where it's cool and nice. The passageways aren't any wider, but there's only a handful of people here, among them a small group of italian catholics and nuns. This was definitely worth climbing and descending all those stairs and hills. The monastery's garden is in full bloom, and the smell of roses is sweet, almost nauseatingly so. Next stop: The Great Patriotic War Museum, and it's exactly what it says on the tin. Just walking there to the sounds of uplifting Ukrainian music is an experience in itself. Inside. Massive granite halls full of war memoraphilia from both sides, weapons, pictures and various other exhibits from the late 30's to the mid-40's. There's precious little material in English, but there really wouldn't be time to read everything very thoroughly. Basically the entire take on WW2 here is that the evil Nazi Germany was evil and tried to conquer the world, and it was horrible, until the Soviet army gloriously pushed them back. Unlike in a similar museum in Arkangelsk, Russia, the attack on Finland was briefly mentioned. Clearly, the image they wish to convey is that of surviving severe oppression through the heroic deeds of common people and leaders of nations alike. We leave the place very impressed, and also convinced of ukrainian national pride. The nice fellow who keeps the hostel we just left helped us find a place for tonight, located along the way from here to Sevastopol', in a town called Pervomais'k. (There's plenty of places with exactly the same name, most of them in Russia. I expect giggles from any Finnish-speakers who are reading this.) Leaving Kiev, we spot a number of old and middle-aged ladies selling strawberries—wild ones, even!— on the highway. We buy some from a pleasant duo who shake their heads in wonder when we tell them we drove through Belarus. On a petrol station, two guys apparently try to swindle us, and they practically try to enter the vehicle, but we just don't understand enough of their babbling to react in any way other than repeating how we must go, and slam the car door in front of their noses. I check the phrasebook for a handy way to say "go away". "Pa!" ("Bye!") would have suited the situation, too. Pervomais'k is a town not unlike the ones we traveled through in Carelia, and the hotel is a bulky piece of concrete. Inside is mostly empty and dim, but when we get to go and see our rooms, the very ukrainian-looking receptionist takes us to a gleaming corridor with shiny black doors, and inside are very clean, spacious and new-smelling rooms with equally nice-looking bathrooms. Not what I expected! What's more, we get to park our cars behind locked gates, which is a relief. A quick stroll around town, then some grocery shopping, and back inside. Us vegans retire while the omnis go restaurant hunting, and a moment later we get a text along the lines of "No menu in English, waitstaff speaks no English, expecting surprise food."

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A Journey in the Dark

March 2016

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