Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Take a Walk on the Wild Side...Ukrainian Adventures!

Many years ago, I visited Kiev and some of the surrounding areas.  It was just as the wall was coming down and the August Coup was finishing up.  It was at the fall of Communism and the beginning of something that I don't think even the Ukrainians had seen coming--freedom.  In recent months there has been a lot of upheaval in this burgeoning country, and I just thought I would look in on some of the things that amazed me in the past and see a little bit about what was going on there.  I focused on Kiev and the area, just as I did when I visited in the past.  What I found was that even Putin doesn't seem to want to mess with Kiev, which is good.  It's still in tact and just as beautiful as always.  When I went to Kiev or Kyiv as it's now spelled, I immediately was struck by tradition and beauty that is pretty much unmatched anywhere else in that part of the world except maybe St. Petersburg.  This amazing city is the capital of the country and majestically sits on the banks of the Dnieper River, it's full of old churches and other buildings from the times of the Tsars.  It has forts, opera houses, museums, and lots of monuments.  There are monuments to the royalty, lost soldiers, soviets, wars, and many other things.  The beauty and the sights to see never end.  You could spend a month in this town and still not see it all.

That being said, it sounds enticing, but what about all those rumors?  Crime is out of control.  There's a war going on with Russia.  The mafia runs the country.  The police can't stand up to these people.  There's always protests against the government and the occasional overthrow.  Well, some of those things are very true.  There is the occasional government overthrow, but it's been quiet lately.  The war with Russia?  I would say leave that to the politicians, because it's really well east of there.  Crime?  Well, crime is everywhere.  I don't know that I worry too much these days, because kids are getting killed at school in America, so how much worse could it really be?  All things considered, it's no worse than a going to most major cities around the world.  So, don't let all that craziness deter you.

History is something that is alive and well in Kyiv and most of Ukraine.  There are outdoor museums letting you see the old ways of life, just like the forts and old towns here.  They are wonderful and beautiful and the farm museum is fantastic.  I liked taking the city tour that took you to all of the monuments.  I liked the botanical gardens. The opera was great.  The university was amazing.  The churches were terrific.  Pretty standard stuff.  But, where in Kiev would you find something that fits the Adventures for Anyone ideal?

Well, for one thing, if you wished to go to the opera, would you like to have a date?  Well, mail order brides are big business here.  There are several agencies that will find a bride for gentlemen from western countries.  I'm not joking.  Some of the hotels have what we would call mixers almost every Saturday night.  Men from all over the world come to find a bride.  Most of them are wealthy and older and they know what they want.  Here's the kicker.  These women are not desperate young girls looking for a sugar daddy.  They are intelligent educated women of all ages looking for the right man and a better life.  It's one of the biggest businesses in Ukraine these days, and there are many successful marriages that come from these companies.  Amazing, yes.  But there it is.  It's a magical place to meet amazing people that you may want to spend the rest of your life with.  Go figure.  In a country where we hear nothing but warnings about war and safety, romance is alive and well.

So, if you need a little adventure, or a lot of adventure; and you don't need a wife--Kyiv has something else for you.  Chernobyl.  I know, right?  Well, 7,000 people a year pay to take a tour of Chernobyl and Pripyat.  I'm not joking.  I guess the Chernobyl Museum in the city just doesn't do the real thing justice.  Chernobyl isn't far from Kyiv, about a two hour drive, so you're already pretty close to it all.  In that case, why not?

So, here it goes.  For a nominal fee there are several companies that will take you for a tour of the ghost town of Pripyat and the area around reactor #4 at Chernobyl.  Does that sound creepy enough for you?  Well, it gets better.  You get to see all the creepiest sights like the park with the Ferris wheel and the school where all the children used to go.  You get to go up on the tops of buildings and see all that was laid to waste in the 1986 disaster.  You get your own Geiger counter to monitor the radiation, and your guide will tell you if the radiation levels get too high.

No, you don't stay in the vehicles and you don't wear special gear.  I'm amazed.  The Ukrainians are building a new cap for the reactor which is still dangerous beyond all reason, and the old cap looks like it shouldn't work anymore.  Personally, I'm amazed that people go there to sight see.  I'm amazed that they are allowed to, although it is closely monitored and you cannot go out there without a licensed guide.  So, if you were thinking that you would just take a drive out there, no way.  There are guards and they won't let you in.

So, lands that have been reclaimed by the Earth, beautiful cities that have all but risen from the ashes, and all not far from a war zone.  Kyiv or Kiev is one of the more interesting places in Eastern Europe.  They have all the Soviet Stories to tell and they also preserve history like none other.  So, come for the beauty of the city, come to meet a wife, or come to see the destruction that can only come from mankind.  There are very few places on Earth where you can see life come full circle.
You'll never visit anyplace like Kyiv.

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