For Easter weekend we ventured to The Ukraine, Kiev specifically. Fun facts though, they actually prefer if you just call the country Ukraine and spell it “Kyiv” instead of “Kiev”. It’s really interesting the things you learn spending 24 hours locked in a Ukrainian prison from people like this guy.
Just kidding! These are interesting things we learned while spending eight hours locked in a car with our Ukrainian friend Sasha after finding ourselves temporarily homeless. But let me start at the beginning.
After landing in Kyiv on Friday night, we went straight to our hotel to tuck in for the night. Waking up bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning, we walked to a grocery market to stock up on road trip essentials (namely buckets of water since we can’t drink from the taps) before going back to the airport to collect our reserved rental car. Upon arrival, we were told they had no car for us. No apology, no nothing. They just somehow didn’t have any left in the entire city so it didn’t matter that our hotel was an hour and a half away and we had no way to get to the Tunnel of Love, our reservation was canceled (by them…in front of our eyes…when we showed up). It went almost exactly like the video below but with a strong Ukranian accents and we didn’t get a car at the end.
Ever the problem solvers, we quickly found a hotel and adjusted our travel schedule. Saturday was now the day for exploring Kyiv and Sunday we’d take a nice 8 hour round-trip drive with our new bestie, Sasha, the chauffeur to the Tunnel of Love. Though admittedly, we did debate using tractors to get there as we both felt inspired having read A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.
Now, in case your confidence in our planning skills isn’t already flagging, let me share with you that we chose Kyiv thinking that Ukraine and the Greek Orthodox Easter is not on the same day as the Catholic Easter (aka Polish Easter to us). Therefore, we figured many things would be open throughout Ukraine on Polish Easter Sunday and the Monday after. Little did we realize that we’d looked at the two dates, we’d looked at the wrong year. So yes, I can confirm that it was not the same day in 2015 or 2016 or whatever year we looked at but this year it most certainly was the same day. Quite an unfortunate, big coincidence, you might say.
But hey, that’s ok. The Easter festivities afforded us the opportunity to witness some… riveting acrobatic feats performed by children under the age of 11. In one of the main squares of Kyiv, flocks of bundled-up Ukrainians crowded around to watch child after child take the stage. Some girls did gymnastics, one girl dressed like a frog and hopped around for the duration of a song, one boy tried to break the gender barrier and juggle (unsuccessfully). All the while, we spied two girls practicing for a seemingly dangerous tandem routine. The wind chill was comfortably around freezing, but they perched in leotards on a cantankerous folding table trying to practice their stunt, where one girl performed a one-armed handstand while forcing all of her weight on the forehead of the girl below. And of course, when time comes for them to take the stage, they emerge dressed like M&M’s – fortunately their practice paid off and neither got concussions.
The journey to the Tunnel of Love was honestly incredibly beautiful and full of many historic landmarks, which our chauffeur was more than willing to share with us. In Rivne he pointed out the trolleys which were ‘much worse’ than the already ancient ones used in Kyiv. He pointed out a bridge that people like to avoid altogether or drive over incredibly quickly as it’s been structurally unsound for almost a decade. He spoke longingly of “Europe” as some far away land, despite the fact that Ukraine is squarely in Eastern Europe. And he shared with us his opinions on one President Trump.
Despite the rainy day, we had fun walking down the train tracks at the Tunnel of Love and celebrated with a Georgian feast for dinner. And all in all, it was probably best we didn’t have a car as we might have overshot Kyiv on our way back and ended up in Russia.