Maestro Kenney’s Adventures in Ukraine – part 7

The day after the concert we spent a leisurely morning getting ready to leave Lviv and head to Kyiv. This was after deciding as planned we would head on to the capital of Ukraine since our flights would leave from there, albeit earlier than expected.

We could tell that people were starting to distance themselves a bit more while eating breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel. Still, in walking over on a Saturday to the open air market we’d been in before, the stores were filled with people, although not as many as the previous weekend. A few more gifts were purchased (the fruit jams looked fabulous!) before returning to the hotel and moving down to the lobby where we would meet our driver from the Lviv Philharmonic who would shuttle us to the train station. The ride took almost 40 minutes and we were glad they provided us with the transportation so we could avoid taking one of the street trams that might have taken even longer. That mode of travel would have made us a bit nervous since we really didn’t know where we were going and as it turned out the train station was way out on the edge of town.

The train station in Lviv is an older, but wonderfully classical structure. It has a central lobby and then two waiting rooms on either side at the front and the hallways to the platforms and trains to the rear. We arrived plenty early to catch our 11:30 train and wandered about trying to determine which track our train would be on. Much of the train info on the electronic announcement board in the lobby was in Cyrillic as well as the western alphabet. But the signs in the hallways leading to the platforms were ONLY in Cirillic, so we were left somewhat guessing.

With our platform determined, we wandered over to one waiting area, not realizing that our tickets would have allowed us to be in the other. The waiting room we did sit in was very crowded with people not trying to distance themselves at all. We found a couple of seats and hunkered together to wait for our departure. A family with multiple children was seated to our left, some on the floor, some leaning on me and squirming. Then, just to add to the cultural experience, a fist fight broke out right in front of us with the two gentlemen (?) launching themselves onto the floor and landing on Leslie’s foot, wrestling for at least five minutes. It was at that point that we decided our train was beckoning us . . . and got up with our luggage and headed for the tracks. That was when I discovered the other lounge for first class passengers, nearly empty, on the other side of the main hall. Live and learn . . .

The train was now loading and I managed to show the conductor (a real train conductor) our tickets and she mentioned in broken English we were in the car where she stood and that we should follow the “yellow” signs. As we discovered, the numbers and the colors had multiple choices. Since I’d purchased the tickets online, I wasn’t totally sure how the compartments work (all in Cyrillic) so at first we were separated into two compartments, then seated ourselves into the wrong compartment and asked to move, but finally managed to find a place we could sit together for the 6 hour train trip.

Lviv is more on the western part of Ukraine, thus it was warmer at this time of year and the flowers as has been pointed out were marvelous. Kyiv is north central and it was clear as we travelled that the trees and flora were still coming out of winter slumber. Furthermore, the land was flat and not very interesting so sleeping and reading were the order of the day. We would discover upon arrival that Kyiv was downright chilly and even with the sun out, it stayed that way for the duration of our trip.

Just before the train departed the Lviv station, I went out and purchased a couple of sandwiches, beer, and bottled water. Glad we did, for the provisions on the train were very limited. Our conductor did give us some coffee at some point which we were happy to have. But otherwise, this was not going to be a very entertaining part of our adventure.

It was close to 6 PM by the time we arrived in the Kyiv station–a much more modern structure than from where we departed. As with Lviv, no elevators were available up to the passageways. A gentleman offered to help and we acquiesced and paid the $10 for his services getting us out to the curb where we could acquire transportation. The taxi ride to the Aloft hotel was $25, but the driver was affable, spoke some broken English, pointed out some sites along the way, and then deposited us on the doorstep. We were happy to be at our next stop, even happier when they told us the hotel was relatively empty so they had upgraded us to the top floor. While there, we told them our trip had to be cut short (we would leave on Monday as opposed to Wednesday) and the girl at the front desk informed us that Ukraine was shutting its borders to travel between Monday and Tuesday at midnight. Thus our cancellation of two nights was greeted without concern. We were thrilled to enter our room which was very large, modern, with two different sitting areas, and incredible views of the city.

The Aloft hotel is on a street with many tall modern buildings, but also mixed with other older structures. We would not discover the Soviet influence of architecture until the next day. We decided to walk to dinner in an area laden with many restaurants and businesses. The Pervak restaurant was on multiple lists and had an extensive menu plus a long wine list. Our waiter was very affable, spoke relatively good English and we enjoyed the lovely ambiance. The food lived up to its reputation and we had plenty of leftovers that we would eat the following evening.

On our way back, Leslie had spotted a furrier on the taxi ride to the hotel. We stopped in with some hope since our calculations seemed to indicate that there were unbelievable deals to be had. Fortunately I realized that I was missing a zero on my exchange rate and with that we quickly departed, realizing that it was no different than shopping in Beverly Hills. We concluded our travel day by gazing at the dazzling lights found on many buildings we could view from our hotel room. We were looking forward to exploring what appeared to be a rather vibrant city the next day!

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