Saturday, August 06, 2011

Day 5: Rodina Mat and Kiev Plage

Last night after having a hot dog for dinner (uh, nutritious? I was trying to keep on budget) I was making my way back to the hotel when I heard some music in the park outside the metro station. I just intended to check it out for a second since it was getting late, but it was actually really good! It was a Jewish group playing what I assume was a rocked-up version of traditional music (with drums and electric guitars and keyboards) and there were dancers who were getting people up from the crowd to join in. To be honest, folk music can be... painful... but this was a lot of fun and there was a really spontaneous and joyous atmosphere. Then I saw this shirtless guy waving his arm around in the middle of the circle. At first I thought that he was just doing the "dancing in the ring" type thing, but when a couple of guys came in and grabbed him and pulled him out of there, I realised that what he was actually doing was a Nazi salute. I was really shocked and it was hard not to let that suck the fun out of the whole event. I have to credit the dancers, they just kept on going - I think I would have faltered. Perhaps, sadly, they're used to it. I suppose it's just one guy out of a crowd of about 100, but it still made me wonder how widespread anti-semitism and neo-Nazism might be here. What prompts someone to want to get in the middle of people who are just singing and dancing and having fun and do that?

Well, today I headed out to an I suppose related site, the main WWII museum and memorial. The museum is in the base of a giant stainless steel statue of The Motherland defending Kiev from her enemies. I decided I wanted to go all the way up the statue, 91 metres up in the shield. It was more than half my notional daily budget, but hey, how often do you get to go 91 metres up a giant Ukrainian woman? There is such a thing as being too budget-conscious after all... After much confusion when they made me sit in the lobby for 20 minutes and periodically came and spoke Russian/Ukranian to me, a group of 3 of us was constituted to go up with a guide. I didn't quite realise from the bottom what a mission it was going to be! There was a lift up the first bit, but then there was a lot of climbing up a mix of vertical and 45 degree ladders, hooked on to a safety line - much more full-on than expected! The view from the top was worth it though, first from a viewing platform on her hand, and then through a sort of porthole on the top of the shield, which gave 365 views across Kiev, luckily on a lovely day. The other 2 were Russians, and they were really nice and translated for me, which helped especially for the bits that were trying to save me from falling down the statue to my death... The whole thing took about an hour, and I didn't feel at all like the guide was hurrying us along, even though you could only have one group up there at a time.

I love Kiev... and Hugh Laurie?

Nothing says a happy marriage like a couple of tanks

Statues outside the war museum

Me with one of the statues outside the war museum

Me with the Lavra churches in the background

The Rodina Mat statue

Me and Rodina Mat

Eep, we have to climb up there?

View of the lavra churches from Rodina Mat

Views of Kiev from the statue

Views of Kiev with the statue's sword

Me popping up out of the shield

Me with the sword behind me, bit dark unfortunately

After a quick look around the museum on the way out, I decided to go to an island in the middle of the Dnieper to try and get some photos with the Rodina Mat in it. I knew that there was a 'hydropark' on the island - basically a combination of a funfair and a water park, but my guidebook failed to tell me that there were beaches! Real, proper beaches, Paris Plage can kiss Kiev's arse ;) Dirty beaches, and I was shocked to see people swimming in the river, which MUST be polluted - the Dnieper goes all the way up to the reservoir around Chernobyl and Pripyat, after all - but beaches nonetheless. Getting a bit of beach time was one of the goals of my holiday, and obviously I had banked on Odessa for that, seeing as everywhere else I'm going is landlocked, but here I was lying on a beach in Kiev. Awesome!

View of one of the beaches

Not too many tidy Kiwis on the beaches of Ukraine

View of Rodina Mat and the Lavra churches from the beach

View of the lavra belltower from the beach

At one point, I went off to buy some water. One of the glories of Kiev and Eastern Europe in general is that you're usually never more than about 20 metres away from another kiosk selling you stuff, but of course I managed to wander into a hut occupied by 3 tramps and a lot of empty bottles everywhere. I said "um, do you have water?" and one of the tramps said, "vodka? yeah" (Voda is water, Vodka is little water) so I said "no, water" and he picked up a big 10-litre container for me to drink out of. Normally in these sorts of awkward situations I'll do pretty much anything to avoid causing offence, but a girl has to draw the line somewhere, and drinking tramp water is as good a place as any. So I made my awkward escape... It was kind of nice of them to offer me water though.

After about 3-4 hours, I called it a day, although not before catching my new sandals in the uneven wooden boardwalk and doing a massive trip which wrenched the toe strap on my sandal almost all the way off :( Back at the hostel now blogging (obviously) ahead of my train trip tonight. Will blow the budget taking a taxi to the train station because I would need to change trains on the metro and there's like 5 minutes up and down stairs and tunnels to do it. Planning to leave PLENTY of time to get there for 22.15. I hope it goes well!


  1. Wow - you'd never be able to pop out of the porthole in the shield without a cage around you if it was here! Glad you didn't have the tramp's water - I know I brought you up to have manners but as you say - there is a limit!!! M x

  2. The scariest bit wasn't that, it was that I was also standing over a hole the same size!
    And don't worry, I wasn't actually in the hut, just in the doorway


Feed the Comment Monster! Rawrrrr