Over the course of three short days I shot more than 500 snaps; fleeting, charming, beautiful scenes that are meaningless to others, but make me smile when I see them. A few moments were best experienced rather than captured on film, though. Like the Babushka who shooed Jack away when I was trying to measure table linens and proceeded to assist me, but nodded approvingly when he reached for the wrapped parcel. And the gentleman sitting at the adjacent table in the French bistro, clearly boring his escort to tears but amusing us greatly as we enjoyed our dinner.

While on our day trip to Chernobyl we detoured to the recently opened-to-the-public Radar Duga-1, a 6 billion Russian Ruble folly intended to detect ICBMs, except, well, it didn’t really work. Television and radio signals were intercepted, but that was about it. The radar is massive, spanning almost a half-kilometer, and the military base associated with it employing hundreds of people at the time.
Since 2013 the entrance to the former military base is not so foreboding; the rusted “Stop, or You Will be Shot” and other signs just toothless reminders of another era.

The radar can be climbed, which pretty much every male in our tour group opted to do for a level or two (Jack included.)

We were in Kiev on the weekend leading up to the Ukraine Independence Day. National pride was infectious; everyone was a little bit Ukrainian…

…from the teams completing the Ukraine puzzle map (Crimea included!)…

…to the street performers wearing American flag t-shirts.

Earlier on Independence Day eve we joined hundreds of Kievans for a walkabout the Memorial Park. This is the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. (Looks a bit familiar, perhaps?)

In the square of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War (WWII) there were tanks to be climbed, and so Jack climbed.

The museum itself was extremely well done, offering informative, if somewhat depressing, doses of the struggles of the Ukrainian peoples.

Standing proudly over Kiev in the museum complex is the “Motherland” statue, too.

And now a word about our hotel. Imagine if you will a Post-Cold-War-Meets-Grand-Budapest-Hotel five-star hotel. We had reserved a suite with balcony at the Hotel Ukraine, overlooking Independence Square, and the views did not disappoint. Nothing with the hotel disappointed, really, as long as perspectives were kept in check.

Upon check-in we were asked to pay the city tax, a usual and customary fee. I did note with a half-raised brow that last group of guests exempt from the tax.

To our 9th floor suite we went. No one was there to greet us when we exited the lift. In fact, the only items at the desk were guest books dating back to the early 1990’s.
Our suite was like time travel to the early 1990’s, brocade and brass everywhere. With a tea set in one of the cabinets, as well.

We arrived after midnight, and the sofa bed was without linens for Jack. By this point we were so tired we could have slept on the floor, so that was a small matter. In the morning we went for breakfast which began, at least according to the information, at 07:00. By 07:10 a small crowd of hungry Ukrainians had gathered outside the still-closed breakfast room, banging on the door. All we wanted was a cup of coffee to take back to the room until such time as we had properly showered. Eventually the breakfast room opened, and we eagerly poured our coffees and returned to the suite, to savor our ice cold coffee, likely leftover from the previous day.

The coffee-and-morning-news scene a bust, we collected ourselves and returned for a more formal meal a little later. The breakfast was five-star (and with fresh, hot coffee)! All of my morning favorites on two plates–sausages, dumplings, salads, dark bread and salted butter, and dry cottage cheese (oh, how I abhor that gloppy, soupy American cottage cheese crap). And a fabulous Eastern European pastry table. Plus, Melted Water!

Returning each day to our suite was its own little treat, too. While the sofa bed had been prepared with linens (all the linens were sumptuous, my goodness), we would return to find that the number of towels in the bath ranged from 2 to 6 on any given day; and sometimes there would be toiletries, and sometimes, not. The water bottles were always replenished; clean glasses and tableware, not so much. Every day, though, these tags were available.

 

As with most holidays, all good things must come to an end. So, until we meet again, Kiev. ❤️