Day 1 & 2 in Kyiv, Ukraine (9/20/21-9/21/21):
-There are exchange places all over the city center with much better rates than the airport.
-No one yields to pedestrians and I hate it.
-Ukrainian banks have PINs for their credit cards. It was an initially awkward, heated conversation explaining to my receptionist that USA credit cards don’t have PINs because he pretty much thought I was stupid.
-Ukraine and Estonia are the only countries I’ve been to on this trip that are weirdly lax about COVID. Wearing a mask is hit or miss and I have seldomly been asked for my COVID vaccination outside of immigration.
-They’re also two countries where you can simple use a contactless credit card to tap pay to get on public transportation instead of needing a metro card.
-Laundry service is expensive in Kyiv. They don’t charge by the weight of laundry but by the articles of clothing. Washing and drying a single sweater costs $5. I had a ribeye steak for the same price.
-I learned a few things from locals today: They don’t like Russia because the Soviet Union has killed what they estimate to be ten million of their people during Stalin’s Holodomor.
-Slavery was legal in Russia until 1861.
-Ukraine has only had passports within the last fifty years which left them trapped under Soviet rule.
-One of them told me about how when he was nine years old, him and his family stood on the top of their roof to see the sky turn red from the Chernobyl disaster.
-I stumbled into a sermon at St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral and it was something I can’t describe. I believe in God but lost my faith in Christians a long time ago. Something about this place brought a little faith back.
-I don’t know what it is but I can find any restaraunt but a local one. Georgian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, American, and so on. Kyiv is full of foreign food restaurants.
Day 3 in Chernobyl, Ukraine (9/22/21):
-Chernobyl still has over a hundred people living in the radiation zone who were evacuated but decided to return. The government can’t legally kick them out and they actually live off of government pensions, have electricity, grow their own vegetation, and have people, like tour groups, bring them groceries.
-Chernobyl is full of stray dogs.
-For some reason, I had a barren wasteland image, like Mad Max or Fallout, in my mind when I pictured Chernobyl, but it is a very lush, green city that has simply been partially abandoned.
-There is still a running church in Chernobyl.
-There is still a nuclear reactor functioning with workers in Chernobyl.
-There is a huge, no longer functioning missile detector that is 7km long, around 20 stories high, and is rumored to have taken 1/4 of Chernobyl’s energy to run.
-There is still wildlife in Chernobyl like birds, fish, and foxes. I saw all three.
-To get out of the Chernobyl zone you have to pass two radiation checkpoints at the 10km and 30km. If you don’t pass you have to wait or, at worst, find a way to wash yourself.
-Chernobyl security isn’t strict like you might think. The only things they are unforgiving with are to have your passports and to wear long sleeves.
Day 4 & 5 in Kyiv, Ukraine (9/23/21-9/24/21):
-Ukrainians can drink. Don’t go shot for shot with them ever. Trust me.
-Gyms here require you to have a separate, clean pair of shoes just for working out.
-Everyone speaks both Russian and Ukrainian. Only very basic English is common here.
-Locals drink chilled shots of Jager with an orange slice and it’s a revelation.
-The local ciders here are heavenly as well. Blackberry is my favorite so far.
-Louis C.K. is a comedian legend here.
-Locals are very reserved. Don’t take it personally.
Day 6 & 7 in Kyiv, Ukraine (9/25/21-9/26/21):
-There’s a full, outdoor, Soviet era gym with chained up free weights and it’s as gangster as it gets.
-The currency is pretty straightforward although there are some notes and coins for the same denominations like 5 and 10.
-There is a serious lack of common courtesy and basic manners with many locals. There’s nothing as gross as waiting at the crosswalk and seeing the well-dressed guy next to you snotrocket a huge booger onto the street.
-The hipster bar scene out here is amazing and I don’t even like hipster bars.
-Ukraine has a surprisingly abundant amount of nature.
-Stray dogs are caught, neutered or spayed, have their ears tagged as proof, and released back into the streets.
-The treatment of dogs is all over the place. One minute, I see dogs in name brand coats or strays being fed by passerbys, the next minute I see them being shooed away for no reason.
-I went to the ballet at the opera house and got sat down next to a cold, hard ten yet again. Only to learn she would be on her phone the whole time, sighing out of boredom, and not applauding any of the acts. She literally took videos, which is rude and prohibited, then didn’t even watch the ballet but read stuff on her phone. She actually got up and left as soon as the ballet ended before the final bow. This is as unattractive of a personality as it gets for me. Screw your looks.
-The metro is organized chaos. It’s literally a mile into the ground, hot as a desert, masks aren’t required, and packed to the gills regularly. Covid central.
-Speaking of that, half of the shopping centers, bars, and restaurants are underground which gives some places a divey feel and others an underground city vibe. I think it’s awesome.
Day 8 in Kyiv, Ukraine (9/27/21):
-I went to an English speaking club with an open bar and it was delightful. Best way to meet new people while also helping locals.
-Everyone uses Telegram to communicate and for QR code menus.
-Digital wallets are huge out here as well.
-The museums here are nice but lack English translations. Therefore, it really deterred me to want to go because I’d have to take pictures and Google translate everything or hire a tour guide which was 5x more expensive then.
-The 1, 2, 5, 10 bank notes are being gradually replaced by coins. They are still legal tender but no longer being added to circulation.