Created this blog to document my travels, experiences & thoughts thru Central & South America but hell plan to blog my travels to where ever. Goofy harmless Free Spirit hoping to spend most of my time with locals & enjoy the world! So hang on as I travel, drink cervezas, raise a little hell, maybe piss off a few people & hopefully not give Canadians a bad reputation! Of course don't do these things on purpose but while having a good time well "Shit Happens"!
Friday, November 18, 2011
Thought Kiev was a bit of a shit hole but that maybe cuz I was sick & couldn't do anything there but walk to my hostel on a dreary & cold day!!!!!
It all started out when I left Budapest as decided to fly to Kiev to save a day of train or bus traveling. I had originally thought of going Budapest - Lviv - Kiev - Odessa! But found out that to go to Lviv (in western Ukraine) from Budapest well I'd have to fly to Kiev, stay over night and then fly to Lviv! So I figure well going to have to give Lviv a miss this trip! But had heard that Lviv was a nice city as it was more European than Russian (for a lack of a better description). I guess this is because they speak more Ukranian than Russian!
So anyways I had booked my flight online with this shitty booking website eDreams! I had also booked a multi destination booking with them from Istanbul - Addis Ababa - Abu Dhabi - Istanbul in Dec. So hope they didn't fuck up those flights too!
Anyway back to my flight from Budapest to Kiev. Well got my booking reference number so went out to the airport and found out that I didn't have a booking or ticket! So that sucked as I thought hell now what? So I went to Customer Service and the lady said I could buy a ticket for the flight! Thank Christ cuz I had visions of returning to the hostel for another night and come back later! So I paid probably paid $250 for a one way ticket from Budapest to Kiev! Luckily I know now that I didn't get charged for the originally booking! But shit eDreams didn't have the decency to tell me there was a problem or I didn't have a booking! So I got on the flight OK after all that shit!
When I got to Kiev well I had a booking for this hostel there! So of course I printed out the directions of how to get to the hostel! What I didn't realize was that all signs in Ukraine are written in The Cyrillic script (play /sɨˈrɪlɪk/) or azbuka is an alphabetic writing system developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School. It is the basis of alphabets used in various languages, past and present, of Eastern Europe and Asia, especially those of Slavic origin, and also non-Slavic languages influenced by Russian.
So of course the directions I had were in English and I couldn't make out what word was what! hell it may as well been in Arabic, Chinese or Japanese characters!
I did manage to catch the airport. bus into the city for about $4 CAD. There was a Sudanese girl in the seat next to me that could speak English and Russian! She was there to study medicine for the past few years so she learned Russian (but not Ukranian) which most Ukranians in Kiev mainly speak! She told me there were quite a few Sudanese studying in the Ukranian cuz it was cheaper and easier to get a visa! She had a hard time when she arrived to study 6 years before! Cuz all the people expecially the kids were calling her the N..... word! Hell they weren't used to black Africans in Ukranian! Hell I even feel that people are staring at me but not cuz I'm Japanese descent but more cuz I got piercings and tattoos! But shit it was so cold that wore a Nepalese/Tibetan/Ecuadorian wool hat with tassles hanging down! Got the hat when I heard the Dali Lama speaking in Toronto last year! So everyone probably thought I was the second coming of the Dali Lama or something! Cuz doubt they could see my tatoos as I wore a hoodie!
Anyway the Sudanese girl said she'd help me catch my city bus when we got to the Railway Station which was the where the airport bus was dropping us off at!
The Railway Station in Kiev was a zoo like in most developing country cities! I had the directions and the bus to catch to the hostel! But lot of good it did cuz couldn't find the bus, where to catch it or even ask anyone or read the signs! On top of that it was like Rush Hour!!! I had no idea how far we were from the hostel! So the Sudanese girl asked around and didn't have much luck finding my bus! The people didn't seem too helpful like in most large cities!! My direction said to take the bus or subway! Hell there was no way I wanted to take the subway cuz took the subway in Tiblsi Georgia last year! They use the Cyrillic characters and was with a couple of other guys there and we got lost trying to find the correct line and direction as couldn't make out the words! So knew if I went to the subway I'd be lost for sure! So after asking and looking for 10 mins the Sudanese girl had to catch her train back to the university city she lived! So she suggested that maybe it be best to bite the bullet and pay for a taxi this time! It's against my principles as dislike taxis and taxi drivers with a passion as think they're all crooks and assholes in every country or city!!! But wtf I was feeling really sickly with a cold so thought shit that warm bed sounds great! So we manage to find a taxi driver to drive me to the hostel for about $20 CAD. He said he knew the place but the f*ckin liar didn't know where it was so he ended up driving around for an extra 10 mins!
The only way we found the hostel was that the directions I had said the hostel was near this hostel! So once I showed the taxi driver this well he found the hotel and let me off there! So I asked the lady at the hotel but she couldn't speak English! It seems only about 10% if that of the population knows English in the Ukraine(even the young kids can't speak it which is completely different that most Eastern European countries as most kids learn English in school). What is surprising about the English and Latin characters, etc is Ukraine is Co-hosting the 2012Euro Football championship next year along with Poland! Must say that Poland is light years ahead of Ukraine in preparations! Hell most of the guests to Euro2012 will be coming from England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc. Hell the people won't be able to speak Ukrainian so the next thing they'd want to speak in English! But shit no one hardly speak it and the signs to anywhere are not in Latin Characters! So it's going to suck to be a spectator in the Ukraine for Euro2012! Poland is rushing to update it's train system at least in Warsaw! Didn't see the metro system in Kiev but doubt if it's in any other language than Russian! Hell even the hotels (except for say the Hilton speak English) and the restaurants don't! It's going to suck next year as I'd hate to be a fan!!!!
Anyway I was walking down the street trying to find the hostel when I took a chance and ask a young guy! Well my lucky day as he spoke broken English but knew the hostel as his girlfriend worked there parttime and he was actually headed there! So that's how I made it to the hostel on that dark, cold day!
The people at the hostel could speak English as it's a requirement cuz they know us English speaking people are arrogant and don't hardly try to speak Russian (no one speaks Ukrainian in Kiev). The hostel was OK as it seemed like some fancy apartment converted into a hostel!
The guests at the hostel weren't the typical travelers I meet at most hostels! There were 2 Russian guys, 2 Dutch guys learning Russian and an English girl! The 2 Dutch and English girl left the next morning after the English girl came home drunk that night! They were on their way to Lviv for the weekend! Then later an Irish guy came for a few days! Then 2 families of 7 people came to stay! They were quite nice and spoke English so I had someone to talk to other than the Irish guy!
I had to go to an ATM machine to get some Ukrainian Hryvnias which is about 7.2 Ukrainian Hryvnias to a CAD. Then the girl at the hostel told me there was a store next do.or. But it turned out the store next door was one of those old style Soviet stores! Where a miserable looking woman stood behind a counter and picked out the food for u! But shit not knowing Russian well all I could manage to buy was a couple of sweet buns, can of corn and bottle of water! So that was my gourmet dinner for the evening! But I didn't care cuz all I wanted was to get into bed and try to shake my cold!!
So the next day I wanted to go make a long distant phone call to find out wtf happened to my plane ticket the day before plus make sure that my booking to Abu Dhabi and Addis Ababa were actually OK! I had emailed them but they never replied so figure would be best to call them! Plus I wanted to go back to the train station and buy a ticket for the overnight train to Odessa on Sat!
So I took a map (not that it helped cuz the street names that I could find were in Russian characters! So I had to go check land marks to find my way to the Main Post Office! I did manage to phone the Customer Service of eDreams and they said they'd email the eticket and itinerary of my Abu Dhabi and Addis Ababa ticket! They didn't give me a reason why my Budapest to Kiev ticket wasn't booked! But shit that was water under the bridge as I was only concerned that I got my Abu Dhabi and Addis Ababa ticket/booking!!
So found my way to the main post office and back without any incident! But I did see a restaurant with a sign on the window showing a bowl of Borscht and a plate of potatoes for about $4 so thought shit I'll try it! So I took the server outside to show them the sign and price to ensure that it was that price! Yeah it was that price she told me in broken English! So I had a sign and price and u agreed that was correct! Now I get a bill for $12 so she said well that was a special for the bank next door! Well shit the stupid douche bag could have told me that when I showed her the sign to make sure the price was correct! It wasn't going to break me but it did piss me off that she agree on the price but when I went to pay it well it was a lot more!!
So welcome to crazy world of ripping off the tourists in good old Ukraine!!!
The next morning I got up still a bit sick but determined to get the f*ck out of Kiev! So got online and found a real sweet price on some Ukranian discount carrier I think to fly Kiev to Odessa that afternoon! Wow I was all over that cuz wanted to get the f*ck out of Dodge so to speak!
The flight was a2 pm and it was about 1130 so asked the girl working at the hostel. to call me a cab! Cuz didn't think 2 1/2 hrs was enough time to make it to the airport by bus! No she said it's a domestic flight so u should be able to make it OK! So like a fool I listened to her plus I hate cabs and also I'm too tight to pay $30!
The girl wrote me the instructions on how to get there by bus! So I left to catch a city mini bus (Marshrutka ) to the train station (again).then I had to find the airport bus which actually stops and picks up on the opposite side of the railway station from where the Marshrutka stops which is why I couldn't find the Marshrutka when I arrived in Kiev from the airport!
So I manage to catch the airport bus and thought yeah I made it on $5 and saved $25. But dam when we got to the airport the check in counter was closed! It seems they open the check in counter about 2 hrs before even a domestic flight and close it about 30 or 40 mins before the flight departs!! That sucked cuz they don't think of making sure a delayed passenger gets on the flight! So I went to the airline ticketing office at the airport to ask! Well the check in had closed and the next flight to Odessa was at 930 pm and it was not 140 pm. So had to pay $90 to rewrite my ticket for the 930 pm flight which was like 7 1/2 hr wait!
So idiot me missed another flight cuz I listened to the girl working at the hostel who probably didn't take into consideration that the check in counters closes 30 or 45 before departure as the same person that checks in people has to hustle over to work the boarding gate too!
Well I didn't pay an asshole taxi driver $30 but paid $90 to the airlines for another ticket and ended up waiting 7 1/2 hrs. Shit I had a sleep at that shitty airport as the waiting gate to get checked in was open to the main door of the terminal! So shit had to sit in a drafty room for that time! Sure didn't do my cold any good! Shit guess could have taken the long bus ride as probably would have arrived at the same time as the plane and cost a f*ck of a lot less!
Another shitty experience but did I learn a lesson? Probably not cuz "Once a fool, always a fool"!!!
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