Monday, October 18, 2010


We successfully made it to the capital of Ukraine, Kiev.  Our hostel is clean, the host is nice and the city itself is gorgeous.  I love walking around this city with Claudia.  She has a connection to this city that I will never have: her grandparents fell in love after meeting at the Kiev University many years ago.   Maybe someday I will retrace my own roots, possibly after the drug and gang wars have subsided in Mexico and Guatemala.  Until then, I will enjoy this Eastern European culture.

Kiev is a beautiful city full of elaborate churches, classic architecture and cobble stone streets.  We did a walking tour of the city and made our way past the following sites.  That night, we classed it up by going to the ballet.

Night View of the Street outside of our Hostel

Side Street View

Outside the Fortress

Classy Night at the Ballet

Entrance to Lavra Caves

The ballet tickets were purchased that morning and were under $3 each.  Men, take note that you can wine and dine your lady and live like royalty in this country.  The Lavra Caves under the cathedrals were an unbelievable site.  We purchased candles at the entrance, and made our way into the dimly lit tunnels.  There were icons, shrines, and cases that held many different remains of holy saints.  I didn't really appreciate seeing the shriveled hands although I do have great respect for the people who travel all over the world to pray there.  Claudia told me that went the Soviets came to take the saints away, the loaded trucks did not work.  As soon as the unloaded the trucks and returned the bodies to their resting places, they started up again.  That must have freaked the Soviets out, right?

What I find most interesting about this country is that it constantly reminds me why I studied International Political Economy at UC Berkeley.  My emphasis in Soviet History and Politics was not just so I could justify the incorporation of my fur hats and Soviet belt to all the themed parties I attended.  I know it can be annoying that I actually have an answer to the “Why are you studying Russian?” question.  I study Russian so I can learn more about this part of history that is often glazed over or overshadowed by other tragic events and totalitarian regimes.  History is a funny thing; it is only history if someone studies it or cares to talk about it.  To me, studying the effects of the Soviet Union on populations like those of Ukraine is extremely important.  

Famine Memorial

On a lighter note: Do not order hot chocolate at a Cafe in Ukraine.  You will get a cup of, literally hot chocolate.

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