A day of contrasts. Different countries and very different cities
21.06.2011 - 21.06.2011 24 °C
Tallinn, Estonia – Kiev, Ukraine
Our Air Baltic flight to Kiev, via Riga leaves relatively early in the morning. However, even at this early hour our check-in agent is friendly and smiling. With the airport very quiet we breeze through security following the age old ritual that has been pleasantly missing from our more recent travels. However, with plenty of train travel to come the brief morning flight to the south is pleasant alternate.
Descending from the plane steps, in Kiev, we are at once met by warmth. Not the sub-tropical warmth we became used to earlier in the year but nevertheless pleasant warmth - at least by Tallinn’s standards. As our driver takes us the 45 minutes into the centre of town the sapphire blue sky is in stark contrast to the myriad of grey, Soviet style flats and apartment complexes that we pass. Seemingly endless 10s if not 100s of these soulless buildings crowd the skyline. After enjoying medieval cobblestone streets with fairytale houses the change in architectural style cannot be more extreme. Yet it is in this style of accommodation that the vast majority of Kiev’s official 3 million and unofficial 5 million inhabitants reside. Resplendent with the local facilities, that the centre of Kiev cannot match, these almost self contained towns provide doctors, supermarkets, kindergarten etc along with excellent transportation link throughout the city.
Concerned that Kiev’s Soviet history will watermark the entire city the sudden abundance of bright green trees and golden cupolas, sparkling in the warm summer afternoon, as we cross the Dnipro River, is more than welcome. By the time we reach the centre of the city the grey apartment blocks have been replaced by an architectural jumble of classic renaissance and imposing Soviet architecture. With Stalin’s heavy handed design residing throughout the city we settle into our apartment, excited that we have kitchen facilities. After so many hotels, self-sustenance has become something of a rare treat.
As in previous cities we spend the reminder of the day randomly wondering the streets of our new home. A restaurant in the rather bijou Botanical Gardens affords us an excellent late lunch. The covered halls of Bessarabsky Market with their fresh produce, meats and honey make for excellent photographs. However, it is the stalls piled high with varying degrees of authentic ‘caviar’ that are of particular interest, well until the price is understood! Cheap by western standards 50g of Molossus caviar will set you back 100 USD…about half the price in the UK. As one of few tourists visiting the market our continued interest in caviar illicit a keen response from each of the stallholders that we pass. Yet, with restrain aplenty we leave with only the ‘bare essentials’ for breakfast the following day.
With dusk falling for the first time since we arrived in Krakow we partake of a pleasant evening stroll down from Verkhniy Gorod to the Dnipro River. Seemingly every fifteen minutes ferry boats take beer and picnic laden passengers for brief trips down the river whilst on the opposite bank golden sands are enjoyed by sun worshipers as far as we can see. Returning to the upper section of the city by funicular railway we are met by the immense Stalin imposed Foreign Affairs building and alongside the rebuilt, classic periwinkle cathedral of St. Michaels Monastery with its seven cupolas, so visible during much of our journey from the airport.
Whilst lacking the Old Town characteristics that we have been expectant of it is clear that Kiev has plenty of attractions to keep us occupied during this brief visit. Tomorrow, we will continue our exploration.