Ron and Susan's 2009 Black Sea Adventure travel blog

Odessa and Trip to Kiev

Wednesday Aug 5 – Aug 14, 2009

From Wednesday, the 5th to Friday the 14th, we stay in Odessa, just doing normal work and make plans to visit Kiev. Sunday night we walked out to the Opera House for a performance. This theatre is magnificent. Originally built in 1887, it got a thorough restoration in 1967. They used 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of gold!! Absolutely breathtaking. My photos do not do it justice. We did not see the Ballet which is the pride of the theatre; they do not perform in the summer. The concert we attended featured three male and three female soloists accompanied by piano. They each performed several popular arias from French, Spanish, and Italian operas. Walking back to the boat after the performance, the pedestrian walkway is all lit up with sparkly lights in the trees, bands playing and crowds dancing in the street – it was magical!!

Friday Aug 14 – Sunday Aug 16 – Trip to Kiev

I had been ill during the week. We also had to wait for our new credit cards to arrive via Fedex. During the week we were swaying back and forth about whether to go to Kiev or head south. Woke up on Friday and made a last minute decision to go to Kiev. So we called the Budget car rental guy, called our travel agent friend, and arrangements were set. We were off by 1530. Five hour drive to Kiev over a very straight, dual lane, divided highway. Al would be jealous of this drive. Arrived at the Hotel Ruz about 2030 after stopping only 3 times to ask for directions!

On Saturday, we walked around the capital city, enjoying the sites. There was Independence Square, site of the Orange Revolution (2004) with its many flowing fountains and statues. Shining above the rest of the city were the beautiful gold domed cathedrals of St. Sofia, St Andrew and St Michael. There was the bountiful and beautiful market called Bessarabsky Rynok in the center of town. I’ve not seen any market so wonderful. The displays of fruit and veggies were artful!! Cavier was on sale (beluga for $1000 a pound), homemade cheesecake, breads, flowers, good cognac and vodka (about $10 and 5 a bottle respectively), women butchers (we’re used to seeing only men butchers) selling every imaginable kind of meat (mind you these were not refrigerated places!! Even one man selling rabbits, completed skinned but with one furry foot!! A little unnerving!! We weren’t allowed to take pictures, darn.

On weekends the main street is closed off, and it becomes a pedestrian walkway. On this weekend, the street was lined with vendors selling school uniforms, shoes, back packs, underwear and school supplies. I guess it’s the same all over the world. Lots of Moms and Dads, with kids in tow, trying on suit coats, etc. We rode the funicular down to the dock for lunch. OK, so we gave in to a Big Mac!! Needed a break from borscht.

One of the popular tour sites is a visit to Chernobyl, site of the 1986 nuclear accident. Unfortunately, or fortunately, reservations must be made 4-6 weeks ahead, and costs plenty. So after lunch, we looked for the alternative - the Chernobyl museum - but couldn’t find it. What we did find was another police scam!!! On our way back to the hotel, we turned a corner by St. Michaels, right into a cop car. Turns out we turned into a ½ block long one way portion of the street!!!! I kid you not. Once again the cops were pulling cars over one right after the other. They had 2 other “customers” pulled over when they got us. At one time, there were 3 policemen sitting in the squad with 3 perps (one being Ron) standing alongside waiting for their verdicts. The cop had collected Ron’s driver’s license, and ordered Ron to return to our car. Since we could not speak the language, a phone call was made to our rental car agent, and we were advised that our fine would be $50 now, or go to trial in 30 days and pay $100 fine. After making us wait about 30 minutes, the cop walked back to our car, leaned on the driver’s side window, handed Ron his drivers license, then reached in and collected the $50 which Ron had surreptitiously placed inside a book. The cop was real smooth in retrieving the money with one hand, checking the amount, and then folding it up into his palm, giving us a big smile and a wave off! Thing is, he doesn’t want to be seen taking any money. After that all we wanted was to get off the streets, and return to our hotel!!!!

We looked forward to eating Chicken Kiev for dinner since we were in the city it’s named for. Alas, it is overrated… disappointing. I have a better recipe in my old copy of “The Joy of Cooking” cookbook.

Sunday we drove over to see Rodina Mat and the Museum of the Great Patriotic War (WWII). The Rodina Mat – means Nation’s Mother - is a 62 metre (that’s over 180ft) tall statue of a female warrior, built in 1981. She is made of 12 tons of titanian. When driving into town, we made one turn and looked up and there she loomed over top the trees and everything. One is moved to say “what the hell is that?” Well, the statue is indeed amazing, as are the museums around her. Ron especially enjoyed the outdoor displays of military airplanes, tanks, etc.

After visiting Rodina Mat, we headed back to Odessa and our boat. Driving along the highway, we were especially alert for cop traps. We’d had enough of that. As we drove along, we passed many, many fields with small tractors working the dark, rich looking soil. Along the roadside at quite a few places, vendors set up shop selling fruit, veggies, honey, buckets of potatoes, something called PAKN (we think it was rice) in big 50# bags. These shopping roadsides were anything from a single car with 1 bucket of potatoes to a group of wooden stands in a short strip-mall-type. This created a bit of a dangerous traffic situation – kind of like people stopping for yard sales, but we are all traveling at 60mph or more!!

We arrive back in Odessa, and miraculously find the marina!!! Gemini is still afloat, and we are more than happy to be back. Next step is a plan to return to Turkey.

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