Kiev #1. мистер снек.

The trainride was comfortable, and the other three guys on the bunk beds in my compartment were very friendly. They offered me some cold chicken for dinner. We spoke in some kind of RussianEnglish that I came to like as the train rushed to the Ukrainean border. We went to bed, only to sleep a few hours. The border crossing was not spectacular, but weary. Instead of being haressed and arrested by some Russian special forces, highly trained to recognize foreign travelers who don’t register their stay or have other irregularities on their paperwork, and take them in to squeeze some good money out of them. Didn’t happen. A friendly Russian lady just took my passport and gave it back after ten minutes, nodding that everything was fine. My fellow travelers congratulated me ‘officially’ and welcomed me to the Ukraine. After another hour however, the Ukrainean border control wanted to see my id, too. As I handed it to them, with a kind smile as always, one friendly uniformed man became suspicious, and looked to my photo and me, slowly nodding his head, then signaling me to come with him, to his colleague who was to give a second opinion. So it went through my head “what if they don’t recognize me? What if I turn out to be a different person than the guy in the passport? But he was me, wasn’t he? Yes, but he couldn’t proof it. And the passport guy looked much younger than I did, too. So they’d take me to a cold prison cell, connect me to strange equipment and make me very sad.”
…Fortunately, this colleague said yes, that’s him. To cut the story short: if you travel to the Ukraine with an old passport (without fingerprint id) make sure your picture looks like you. Shave yourselves, for example, because that was of course what I had forgotten to do, and my ridiculous tourist beard gave the highly trained border guard a hard time in comparing me to my photograph.

So, Kiev. The climate was cool upon my arrival at 5am. Fortunately, we found a cafe where we had some breakfast. Then we parted, and I walked around the station, ate an apple for 1 griven (about 10 eurocents; the griven dropped during my stay), and went to the cafe again to write. The waitress would not allow me to sit without drinking more coffee than I could endure, and wanted to send me out. I gave her a concise English lecture on moral code and general hospitability, the coffeehouse rules and a codex of courtesy principles every human being should obey, which of course was buried unattendedly in the cafe rumours. I thus let it be, and went outside.

The morning grew older, and I decided to take the metro to the center. There are only three lines, and the system is similar to Moscow, so I felt comfortable with it right away. I bought a blue chip to enter the system (price: 2 griven; a few weeks ago it was 1/2 griven. Anyone remember the last fourfold rise in public transportation fares in the Western World? Exactly). I got off near the Maydan, the central square, in the most expensive shopping district (all the fancy names were in the shopping windows). It had a touch of Paris, I felt. Anyway, my backpack began to feel heavy, and I stepped into мистер снек (mister snek) to have a sandwich and write.

Kiev #1. мистер снек. was originally published on Meandering home

Moscow #3. A Tsar Park and Stalin Towers.

My last day in Moscow had come; the train to Kiev was already booked (thanks to Ann!) and I had opted to see some more things in this amazing city. My original plan was to visit some cities of the golden ring, north east from Moscow, such as Suzdal and Vladimir, but I decided to skip that this time, due to the weather condition. But I’ll be back…

First I took the metro to Tsarinskaya, a large park of the tsars, located a few miles south of the Red Square. It was very impressive and wide. Many Moscovites came here to walk with their children and it was peaceful. A handfull of classicist buildings were scattered in the huge area of the park, and I also enjoyed them. Inside there was an exhibition about Marlene Dietrich, which I skipped. I had lived 2 years within one block of her birth place, so it would have been interesting. But my Russian was still very poor.


After that I went to вднх (“vudinga”), another metro station where an array of pompous Stalinist buildings attracted some tourists like myself. I gazed at the monument for world’s first astronaut, Yuri Gagarin in 1961, a bent thin concrete obelisk with a rocket on top of it. I walked through a gate resembling the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, but less sophisticated, and entered a typical Stalinist pyramid. I was surprised to find Disney and Pixar figures in front of it, and a shopping mall inside. I ate a blin (pancake) and wrote a couple of pages on a cup of bad coffee.

Mascha, my new host, cooked a very tasted rice-meal with seafood. I went to bed early…

… and woke up early to go to Kievskaya station, where my train to Kiev would leave. I sat down in a small cafe and took out my notebook, just as always. The intake of some coffee resulted in the output of a few pages written, but after an hour or so, the lady began to ask me to leave since I sat without consuming anything for too long. I ate some meat dish; it tasted not bad. I had a hard time ordering it, even after studying the menu I had to guess what I was going to get, but that was funny too, in a way.

I moved to a more luxurious place opposite the station. In a mall of several storeys with glass facades and coffee bars on different levels, I waited for Ann, who came to say me goodbye. After a good conversation we wished each other good luck, and she accompanied me until the train compartment, in accordance with Russian tradition. She could tell by their faces that my company for the night were friendly people. She’d been right about that, I found out later.

And so the train to Kiev left the station…

Moscow #3. A Tsar Park and Stalin Towers.

My last day in Moscow had come; the train to Kiev was already booked (thanks to Ann!) and I had opted to see some more things in this amazing city. My original plan was to visit some cities of the golden ring, north east from Moscow, such as Suzdal and Vladimir, but I decided to skip that this time, due to the weather condition. But I’ll be back…

First I took the metro to Tsarinskaya, a large park of the tsars, located a few miles south of the Red Square. It was very impressive and wide. Many Moscovites came here to walk with their children and it was peaceful. A handfull of classicist buildings were scattered in the huge area of the park, and I also enjoyed them. Inside there was an exhibition about Marlene Dietrich, which I skipped. I had lived 2 years within one block of her birth place, so it would have been interesting. But my Russian was still very poor.


After that I went to вднх (“vudinga”), another metro station where an array of pompous Stalinist buildings attracted some tourists like myself. I gazed at the monument for world’s first astronaut, Yuri Gagarin in 1961, a bent thin concrete obelisk with a rocket on top of it. I walked through a gate resembling the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, but less sophisticated, and entered a typical Stalinist pyramid. I was surprised to find Disney and Pixar figures in front of it, and a shopping mall inside. I ate a blin (pancake) and wrote a couple of pages on a cup of bad coffee.

Mascha, my new host, cooked a very tasted rice-meal with seafood. I went to bed early…

… and woke up early to go to Kievskaya station, where my train to Kiev would leave. I sat down in a small cafe and took out my notebook, just as always. The intake of some coffee resulted in the output of a few pages written, but after an hour or so, the lady began to ask me to leave since I sat without consuming anything for too long. I ate some meat dish; it tasted not bad. I had a hard time ordering it, even after studying the menu I had to guess what I was going to get, but that was funny too, in a way.

I moved to a more luxurious place opposite the station. In a mall of several storeys with glass facades and coffee bars on different levels, I waited for Ann, who came to say me goodbye. After a good conversation we wished each other good luck, and she accompanied me until the train compartment, in accordance with Russian tradition. She could tell by their faces that my company for the night were friendly people. She’d been right about that, I found out later.

And so the train to Kiev left the station…