August 2016 trip to Ukraine.
We started by flying with Baltic Air to Riga and from Riga to Borispol airport in Kiev Ukraine. To me Kiev is like any other European city the signs had different letters but the rest very similar. People enjoying the summer in the parks and on the beach at the banks of the Dnieper river. Restaurants were not full but still enough of people, it is clear though that this nation is at war and there was some tension in the air. You will see a lot of men and women in army uniforms. We rented an apartment very close to the Interdependent square in Kiev where all the riots took place in 2014. Kiev is not overcrowded with tourists though they are there mainly from Ukraine and neighboring countries we heard very few speak other languages than Russian or Ukraine, and we were for sure the only one talking Icelandic. On Friday and Saturday nights the road in front of the square is closed for 4-5 hours and the square and the road fills with all kinds of activity, the young kids are determined not to let the situation in this country have too much influence on them. They had a dance contest and many other activities during this time. We were only going to stop in Kiev for 3 days (One was spent at Chernobyl )and then we would take an 18 hour train trip down to Mariupol in the east part of Ukraine. There are no flights going to the east part of Ukraine to wage war in the Donbas region. If you book a train and want to be in private then you have to book a business class cabin so you can get a cabin with two beds instead of 4. On the train you can only buy coffee or tee there are not so much food to have so best it to take it with you as most people do, on the way there are a few stops and then it is possible to buy food from local people how will come to the station and sell you right on the platform They are selling bred, beer,sweets,water,soda drinks and local food like smoked fish and specialty baked bread. Some are also selling soft stuffed animals for babies.
Our destination as mentioned was Mariupol a a city with about 450.000 residents, the city is the 10 Th largest city in Ukraine Mariupol is an important city economically since it has two of the largest steel factory’s Ukraine Illich and Azov steel . It is also a major center for the grain trade, metallurgy, and heavy engineering as well as having a big harbor that stretches for more than 4 km.
People there does not seem to be to much thinking about the war that is only 20 km away, the sound of cannon and light guns can be heard in the east part of the city during late evenings, Walking on the streets at night is interesting, there is in some places very limited lighting on the sidewalks and you do not see a hole lot of people. If you need to have a Taxi it is best to call and order one because they will not stop for you, this a result from the war . You will see the ruined buildings from 2014, and you will see a lot of army personnel and army trucks, be sure to have your passport (though it is not required ) I know from personal experience when we got arrested by the army for failing to show our passport.
Mariupol has a small beach which was crowded when we were there in the middle of the week. People did not seem to have any worries though there were barbed wire and signs with words like Mines “do not enter on the beach” Going out for dinner, well you will be surprised, generally you get good food but the price is ridiculously low in some places! For some European the local food can taste and look strange, especially the dry salted fish people eat and drink cold beer with but to us from Iceland this is normal though we do not drink beer with our dry fish. More about prices in Ukraine can be found here http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=Ukraine&city=Mariupol
Our purpose to visit Ukraine and Mariupol was to visit my wife family how lives in Mariupol, I also wanted to go and photograph inside the big steel plants Illich and Azov steel this are very big steel factory’s Illich is 14 km in length and has about 25.000 people working each day. Images and stories about that will be published here later. I will say however that it was very interesting to see these big factories.
We left Mariupol and we will visit again, we took the night train again to Kiev and upon arrival in Kiev I managed to break my foot walking down to the luggage storage. So no shopping for me, now at home in Iceland with gyps casting up to my knee.
I have put here some images from this trip. if you click on the images you will see text on them explaining more about them.