I couldn’t decide between a layover in Nairobi or Kiev. I finally decided on Kiev because it was $200 less. I had already booked a hotel in the city center and as soon as I got past immigration, I tried to withdraw some money….to no avail. My bank was closed so I couldn’t call. I didn’t know for sure if cabs accepted credit cards, and I didn’t want to risk anything after my recent experiences with cabbies in SE Asia, so I didn’t really have any choice other than to stay at the airport.
I had planned to make this post a scathing review of my travel credit card because I had just waited for an extra week for a bank transfer and now my card wouldn’t work! However, I later learned that Ukraine is on a list of a handful of countries where my card does not work. Even though I had envisioned staying out all night in the city center and watching the sunrise over the People’s Friendship Arch, I was dismayed to learn that I had to stay at the airport for fifteen hours :(.
You would think that I would be upset about this, and while I will admit that the airport wasn’t exactly an ideal place to sleep, I actually really enjoyed my limited contact with the people here. It was nice not to attract attention or be the target of opportunists like in SE Asia. My first impression of them was that they smoke a lot (LOL). To my untrained ear, they sounded Russian and, like the Baltic States, there are a lot of Russians here. But they are completely and totally NOT Russian (as you should know if you are over the age of five and have paid attention to the news ever in your life). First of all, I didn’t get the impression that they want to kill me, which can’t be said for Moscow (I always think of the quote from Elf, “This is like Santa’s workshop…except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me” when I think about my time in Russierrr). It’s decidedly European and, like the Baltics and other neighbors of Russier, Ukrainians are very well-informed of world events. I love them. I can’t tell you exactly what it is about Ukrainians that I love, but they are extremely endearing. Their language is softer than Russian, less confrontational, less harsh, and more friendly. Their art and traditional crafts are beautiful and also distinctly European. They have every reason to hate me (see: Paul Manafort, The Current Administration of the U.S.) but they didn’t. They were friendly toward me and didn’t seem to mind my presence. There seemed to be a sentiment that we share the same struggle, which is not untrue, and I appreciate that they recognize that I am not a T***p supporter, which is not the case in many countries. They are very, very tough.
I ended up buying a lounge pass where I got a shower and breakfast before my flight out. It was surprisingly peaceful in the airport overnight. The only comparable thing I can describe is finding myself alone at 4AM in Times Square. On the flight out, I saw Volcano (Vulcan). I highly recommend it if you are interested in Ukraine or the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Here is the trailer: https://vimeo.com/275997875/description
I would love to return to Kyiv. The people were kind, particularly for a city this size, they are smart, and the culture is interesting. Some tips I would offer is to bring cash (preferably USD, Euro, or GBP though it doesn’t really matter; they took my Baht at a good exchange rate) and don’t drink the water (apparently it’s safe but it is highly chlorinated so it tastes bad). ????