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.
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 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!