Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Astrid: Out and About in Kiev

Here's another Astrid post.

We weren't expecting to stay this long, so we only rented the apartment for a week, and now someone else has booked it, meaning we had to move again. 
Our new apartment is located really close to our previous one, maybe a 15 minute walk. It has two levels; we all have our own room for the first time, and it has a dishwasher! :) Jen, Jonte and the boys are downstairs and Vicky and myself have the upstairs. I'm sitting on the ledge by the window in my room writing this. I enjoy watching people bustling about their day. 
Something we've been curious about is whether they sell toasters and coffee makers here in Ukraine. None of the apartments we've been in has had any of these two appliances. We make toast on a pan, and brew coffee, make the instant kind, or go out for some. A McDonald's is close to all 3 of the apartments we've stayed in here in Kiev, including this one. There's also a lot of coffee vendors in the street. These people have things figured out in the coffee department, because we haven't bought a bad cup (of coffee) yet. 
McDonald is usually packed with people. First few times Vicky and I went to get coffee, we stood in the lineup, giving the person in front of us a few feet of personal space. The polite thing to do, right? Every time we did that, someone went to stand in line right in front of us. I pursed my lips and breathed deeply to let my rage settle. Really what would talking have helped? I suppose I could have used gestures to get my point across, but whatever. Lesson learned. Or not. This happened 3 times before I was like, fine! I'll stand riiiight behind you and smell your hair. 
People here are very well dressed, and Vicky keeps commenting on their nice haircuts, which aren't as outlandish as back home. 
Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) is the central square of Kiev. It is located on the Khreschatyk Street. Ukraine's independence movement, from Moscow, began in this square when hundreds of university students went on a hunger strike in 1989. The square got its name after that and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 
Our previous apartment was located just off Krechshatyk street. The entire street, only 1.2 km in length was completely destroyed during WWII. Since then it's been renovated and is a very popular tourist attraction. On weekends the traffic is blocked and people can enjoy a pleasant walk down the middle of the street. A lot of parades, concerts, festivals and other city arrangements take places here. We've enjoyed numerous walks along the street shopping for souvenirs, having coffee or ice cream. 
A lot of people don't own a car, and rely on public transportation. I've read the Kiev Metro system is very developed and is the fastest, most convenient and affordable way to get around the city. 
Vicky and Jennifer went to the restaurant right beside our apartment a few days ago for coffee and brought back an English newspaper. Yes, all English! :) There was an article warning foreigners of different ways they can be taken advantage of, which made me be even more cautious than I already was. Fake police, and sometimes also real police is something to be aware if. They'll stop you on the street, demand to see your passport and find something wrong with it (or perhaps make something up), but then suggest your troubles will be over if you pay a fine. To them. In cash. Right now. Reading that, I researched Ukrainian police more, only to find out that they're the most corrupt organization in Ukraine at the moment, and they will do nothing to help you without a bribe. Fortunately we haven't had any bad experiences since we've been here. 
On a happier note, much, much happier, the chocolate here is divine. Milka and Roschen chocolate is mm mm mm. 

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