Day 5: Unique Ukraine
After four day’s in surprisingly sparkling Minsk was it time for the Ukraine. The train journey from Minsk to Kiev takes around 16 hours. Travelling by train in the former USSR is always a pleasure and usually comfortable. We had a good night of sleep (helped by some Vodka and Beers) in de train and saw the first outskirts of Kiev around 12 o clock. Twenty minutes later we crossed the Dnepr river and had a fantastic view on Kiev’s famous golden domes and the giant motherland statue. We got of the train at the central railway station a very busy and slightly intimidating place to arrive. Many people are hanging out around the station and doing their thing like drinking Kvas a typical non alcoholic drink tasting like malt from a blue yellow tank.
Hotel: the Slavutych
View from the Slavutych hotel
We had booked our hotel form the internet a few weeks before our journey. There are usually enough hotel rooms free in cities like Kiev but we preferred to book ahead so we did not have to carry our luggage trough town in search for a room. The hotels that could be found via the web or travel agents are not very cheap as always in the former USSR. We booked the Slavutych hotel situated on the right bank because it was reasonable cheap, near the centre and very close to Hydropark. The Slavutich is near Livoberezhna Metro station, so we took the metro from Vokzalna station near the Train station. From the metro station we had to take a packed mini bus to the hotel which took about 15 minutes. We found that the giant Hotel Tourist is very close to Livoberezhna metro station so much better located then the Slavutych. Fort this reason our hotel recommendation for Kiev is the Hotel Tourist. The view from our room did make up for the impractical location however, we had a direct view on Rodina Mat (the Motherland statue) and the golden domes of Pecher’k over the Dnepr river. The rooms of the hotel have not been renovated so it is a true Soviet experience! During our stay there were folk groups from all over the former USSR, we would have some fun with them later!
After our train journey we checked in at the Slavutich hotel it was time for some relaxation. One of the reasons for choosing the Slavutych hotel was it’s location close to Hydropark on the right Dnepr river bank. Hydropark is a natural island in the Dnepr river formed by floods in the 19th century. Beaches were created in the nineteen sixties, making Hydropark one of the biggest city beaches in Europe. A bridge connects the island to the left and right bank of Kiev and there is a Metro station. Restaurant’s, bars, exclusive club’s , a funfair, Soviet era fitness equipment, boats for rent and much more can be found on the Island. We spend some time on the beach enjoying the clean Dnepr water, Ukrainian beer and a marvellous view on the old city. On dinner time we moved to one of the many outdoor restaurants. Most restaurants have a band and later in the evening people start moving to the dance floor. We finished the evening in one of the Hydropark clubs and walked back to the hotel.
Day 6: Gracious Kiev
Day 6 of our journey in Belarus and the Ukraine and it was time to explore the beautiful city of Kiev. We had not planned to much time in Kiev, just 3 full days so we wanted to plan our activities as efficient as possible. We decided to start at the museum of the great patriotic war with the giant Rodina Mat (motherland) statue and from there walk to Pecher’k, a walled area with many monasteries, churches, museums and caves. It would be a very hot day in Kiev and we took our breakfast outside, on the hotel terrace. From here we could observe the Taxi place and spot when a Wolga Taxi would be available so we could jump in. Wolga was "the Mercedes of the Soviet Union" and is still sold in large numbers in Russia and the Ukraine. Our Taxi driver told us that his Wolga GAZ 3110 is sold for $10.000 in the Ukraine. We were dropped of at the Memorial Complex "National Museum of World War II History, 1941-1945".