Kiev: Hot, chaotic, disturbing

From the moment I stepped off the train I felt overwhelmed by Kiev.  It’s huge, dirty, crowded,  and bewildering.  Annoying touts calling me “dushka” kept pestering me to get in their cabs.  An endless stream of people kept shoving past me and occasionally walking right into me.  There was no time to think,  no quiet space to step back, observe one’s surroundings, and decide what to do.   And there was no air.  The city was burning hot and all the buildings stifling.

Kiev train station

And that’s Kiev.  A colossal city, too huge to comprehend.  Crowds that never seem to cease.   Sidewalks that seem designed to torture pedestrians: those that weren’t ripped up or under construction featured mountainous cobblestones and/or walking up and down endless stairways in order to do something as simple as cross the street.   There’s just too much of everything:  too many cars, too many people, too much dirt and noise.  Too many unfortunate young women wearing skirts that barely cover their butts and five-inch heels.  Oh, radical feminism: Ukraine needs you.

Down, down, down to the Kiev metro

The old town in Kiev is lovely, but the entire city of Lviv is lovelier still.  Dneiper river cruises are fun, but cruising in Odessa is better.  Hostel guy in Lviv had said: Lviv was very nice, Odessa was great, but Kiev was a bit disappointing.  You were right, Hostel Guy!

Kiev is also more expensive than Lviv or Odessa.  If I had to rank them in order, I would say prices are cheapest in Lviv, middling in Odessa, relatively expensive in Kiev.   It’s still cheap by Western standards (but not by starving artist standards).  Hostel bed was $16 compared to $10 in Lviv.

Despite all this, I managed to have some fun during my stay in Kiev.  I stayed at Kiev Backpacker’s Hostel, which is beautiful.  Only drawback is one shower/toilet and the building is hot in summer.  Otherwise, very pleasant place with friendly staff.  Achim, the owner, likes to party.  He REALLY likes to party.  Not at the hostel though, but at his favorite hole in the wall bar.

Marian and Achim (hostel owner) on Dneiper cruise

There is a crazy bar called which is themed like a mental hospital and where you can drink vodka out of test tubes and eat steak dinners for a mere $6.

Vodka in test tubes

I went there with Achim and some guests from the hostel and we ended up having to drag his drunk ass out of there at 2 AM.   While he was trying to fight with all of us and/or hit on Marian’s mom (she had amazing patience with his foolery).

At least I made a couple of  friends:  Marian, a blonde German who talks in the most hilariously condescending, British-professor way, and his mother.

Marian's Steak Dinner

Marian’s Steak and potatoes. He’s texting.

Marian has Ukrainian language skills, so we went together to the train station the next day: he to catch his train to Kharkiv, me to buy a ticket to Odessa.  I wasn’t sure I could afford to extend my trip as far as Odessa, but Lviv Hostel Guy had told me it was wonderful and I shouldn’t miss it, and so far, he has been completely right about everything.

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6 thoughts on “Kiev: Hot, chaotic, disturbing

  1. I lived in Ukraine for a year, and admire you for being willing to travel there. It’s tough, isn’t it? Loved your descriptions – takes me back.

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