Ukraine (YkpaiHa) exudes all characteristics stereotypical of a former Soviet republic. The buildings, big and grand with gold domes, consume the otherwise stark landscape. The statues stand tall with bold features and some forceful pose. And the people… The people in Ukraine are such badasses! They drink a lot, smoke a lot, always wear red or black leather, and they never crack a smile.
When I decided to abandon the apartment I rented out my first night, a girl at the bus stop took me under her wing to get me to the metro. All the while I was thanking her and smiling, and it almost seemed that her face wanted to smile back, but just did not quite know how to flex the muscles in order to do so. I received a few slight, quick winces in return, but nothing more.
I had to run it through my head a few times that Ukraine has only recently been able to shake Soviet rule and is still recovering from those times. As a country, they are just now realizing they have the opportunity to make money off the tourist industry. For example, there are probably a total of 5 youth hostels in the entire city of Kiev, all of which are no competition to the wonderful hostels in Poland! A guy staying in my hostel now explained that just a few years ago, there were none. Perhaps the people here just don’t know how to react to foreigners, which would explain my metro-helper-girl’s inability to communicate with me expression-wise?
Overall, I think Kiev is fascinating. I’m slowly falling in love with the city, and slowly learning the Russian alphabet. Half of my day is spent trying to decipher signs – street signs, store signs, metro signs – and it’s revving me up for my Russian lessons fast approaching in Kyrgyzstan. So far, I’ve spent time learning about Chernobyl at the museum in town (I passed on the $180 tour to the actual city), and explored the WWII area. Patrick, a Canadian in my hostel who had spent the prior 6 days in town, showed me the ropes and introduced me to the best budget place for awesome Ukrainian-style food. I will probably eat there many times before I leave!
So you can also experience a little bit of the Soviet culture I’ve been taking in, I made a small video. Enjoy!
Soviet Style from Brooke Schoenman on Vimeo.
Oh, and somewhere along the way, a bird pooped on my backpack and shirt, which I was oblivious to until probably many hours later.