Ivan's travels experiences....In the Ukraine

E told me that it gets up to 35dC in the apartments here in the middle of summer, you an not open the doors as undesirables can wander in, in fact security is at a level here that most of us would find unacceptable, but if we lived here we would only be able to buy extra locks (if we could afford it) and lock ourselves into our small apartment. Of course in the winter you freeze…..

The apartment has satellite TV, BUT all of the programs are in Russian, even the ones that started out in English have been dubbed over, except one that I found which was a southern black minister, who was talking in his English, guess either two things, they could not understand him to translate or they figured leave it as is and no one will know what it is about.

I will say this however more and more of the young have English as a second or third language.

However the West has well and truly arrived here with all of the adverts I am used to seeing with many of the same products, the world is now truly a global village.

Exchange rate at the time of writing is $US1 = 5.27 UAH therefore 100 UAH = $US18.97

Tuesday 6 May
Today was the time to start to head north on again on my travels, in the Crimea, the week that I have been in Sevastopol the trees have all greened up with their springs colours the blossoms are magnificent, yes I am here a month early, however E tells me that October is great with all of the Autumn colours, perhaps next time

E collect me at 9am as arranged, but my landlady did not arrive so we took the bags down to the car and waited, I would like to say a taxi screamed up to the apartment block and she leapt out of the car, but no it chugged to a stop, she waved at me from the back seat and as she struggled to get out of the car I wandered across to return the key, first I had to give her another hug, try to ignore the start of a beard, gave her the key and escaped!

So it was off on the road to Simferopol, part was a wonderful new road that trucks were not allowed on, yes it was the Presidents road so he could get to his summer house easy, I pointed out to E at least he was allowed to use it!

As we stopped at traffic lights on our arrival in the city there was a twin to the "Blue" lady I mentioned in my last letter but this one was wearing a matched outfit in Pink, this time my camera was at the ready and I shot thro the windscreen at maximum telephoto, but with the size of the file on the D60 camera it will be OK!

A ten minute stop in Simferopol E told me for him to get a change of clothes and 90 minutes later and two phone calls he turned up, said his family wanted to talk! Well that is no problem, but if I had known I could have done one of many things, take more photos in the main street, visited Sasha's theater where she works painting backgrounds, but oh well, 40 years of Communism can not be wiped out in 15 years.

So again we were on our way over a flat uninteresting landscape, which apart from the many headstones on the side of the road, where someone was killed in a road accident, it could have been anywhere, hope it gets better as we get to the mountains, we have now passed out of the massive grape fields that you see everywhere in the Crimea, no wonder it is known for its wine!

About 5.30 we arrived in Kherson on the Dnieper River, to a Intourist hotel, WITH hot water, only 94 UAH ($17.83), presentable room one small single bed but no worse than the one I has at a higher price, interesting shower No shower curtain so the whole room get wet, no problems many in Europe are like this but they are designed like that this one was not.

Before dinner went for a walk thro town, the main street, it is easy to see the difference when you start getting further into the country how there is not quite as much fashion, but still more` than I see at home an a walk down the street.

We have been thro some very small towns (ie not a village) and without a doubt the ladies are dressed "to kill" through out the country when ever they go out, OK not all but perhaps at least 60%. Makes me think of the '60's back home when you had a pride in the way looked, wonder how long it will stay here, I guess as long as the women have time to tend to their appearance and until other pressures take effect. It will be interesting to really see Italy, the country that most of the shoes & fashion is exported from.

Why so much interest in the women, well of course I am a male, but they add or subtract most of the colour of most of the countries around the world.

Wednesday 7
On, on again for another 400 Kms through unchanging scenery, it becomes repetitive, I guess in Soviet times "all villages should look the same" then spies would not know where they were! E tells me there is a big difference and perhaps when I finally examine the photos I have taken I may see it, but it reminds me of Australia, there it is hard to tell one gum tree from the other, here with flat farmland, mostly no fences, fields go on to infinity, with often one man hoeing in the bottom corner, and you hope that is not going to be his life's work!

Talking of life's work it is usual when you go thro the countryside to see one or two people looking after one cow while it is grazing, when the measure of productivity from one person is measures in what one cow can produce then the country has a long way to go. The whole peasant class will have to die out and a new generation will have to come along to automate the planting of fields of potatoes by hand, tending one cow, sweeping the roads by hand, so it will be at least 50 years before any real progress is made assuming education is given No 1 priority like in India and unfortunately not in my country.

So today we drive to Vinnytsia, past the twin Atomic Power station to Chernobyl, bet the real estate values went down round there after its twin blew up, and on to another hotel with a single bed, HOT water, bathroom for 86 UAH (16.31), it is getting hot traveling in the car and I find myself falling asleep with the motion, did that today & when I woke found the camera hot with the sunshine & the battery flat, I had forgotten to switch it off, (yes I know there is a auto switch off but I prefer to know when it is on & when it is off for the snap photos)

Today going thro a city say another "Blue Lady" and snapped her thro a windscreen, it is OK, but just!

Still working on my shoe fetish! There is plenty here, hope I am over it by the time I reach Italy!!!!

Now some other comments of things that I have noticed since being here.
Religion is alive and strong, not with just the old folks but many of the young, new churches are being built right through the whole country as that shows healthy congregations, E says it is because the churches have plenty of money, the rich Mafia bosses give the church money to absolve them for the crimes they commit, so they can carry on committing them, perhaps they can do this, but the common people must be involved as well, there is no use building a church for five of six people to stand in a church designed fro a thousand.

Rubbish is a major problem in many areas with some of the landscape covered in discarded plastic bags, almost looking like civilization has gone and this is the heritage that has been left when and if people arrive again. Fortunately this has only been in two areas that I have seen, but plastic bottles and other debris litter the whole country.

Statutes of Lenin are in almost every town & city along with massive war memorials to Hitler's war, the Germans went thro Ukraine going to Russia and again on the retreat, so they were ravaged by the effects of war twice, of course so was most of Europe, but here the Soviets erected these massive statutes glorifying the Soviet forces. Guess this is where part of the big shock came from when the Soviets were removed and the people saw how prospers the losers were, all the promises of soon things will get better were worthless, now they have to go thro it all again while capitalism sorts its self out with the ordinary people again paying the price.


Ukraine Eugene Snezhkin speaks quite good English has his own car and can collect you from any port of entry and drive and guide you around the Ukraine email

Lenin of often shown holding his coat lapel, the locals say he is saying " see this is my new suit" some statutes show him pointing to the future, the locals say "and I bought it over there" if he is holding a book pointing to the future he is said to be saying " I bought this book at the printers over there". There were artists that has special permission to paint or sculpt Lenin's image, they were the only ones permitted to do this. E's mother painted portraits of Lenin all her life, every one had to look the same or conform to an acceptable look.

The roading structure is like the rest of the situation very shaky, you are often reduced to a fast speed of 5kms P.H. however having said that the economy is shaky I have seen some incredible large houses being constructed, of such a size they would be considered mansions in any country, not just one or two in odd spots but 12 to 15 in a group, in out of the way areas, no shopping close, one wonders what the thinking is, of course they may have inside knowledge and new towns may be going to be built there and if they are I can not think of why they would!!!

There were very many power transformers sitting with in touching distance instead of on top of a pole like at home, I commented to E about this and he said Why would a person touch one of those things, you know the only answer I could give is that we have to protect the fools in our society from themselves, do not ask me why!

The houses in the border town that were on the river I noticed the women did the washing of the clothes in the river….interesting!!

I noticed a lot of houses and apartments half built and obviously with no work in progress, evidently all of these were being built at the time of Perestroika and work just stopped never to start again, E is convinced someone will buy these for a song and finish them off and sell for a profit.

Still no luck connecting to the internet, no matter I soon will be back in Germany and it should work there.

Thursday 8
Stayed at a OLD Hotel in Ivano-Frankivs'k, OK, so they are almost all old this one was showing signs of wear, the elevator (which looked like if had been installed after the building was finished) would not stop on my floor, price was 112 UAH ($21.25)

Passed the geographic centre of Europe and beside this area was another war memorial and a young boy was selling wooden figures, I had looked at them in other locations and they were priced at 65-130UAH and he was asking 55 and accepted 50UAH ($9.48) for the one I wanted, later I worked out someone I had met earned 25 UAH a day so this was two days wages for this person, when I mentioned this to E he thought for a bit and asked what would one have cost in my country, well I gave him as piece of my mind telling him I was not in my country, he can not seem to grasp the concept that there a daily wage for a 12 hour day is 25UAH you can not price your services as if it was in USA or any other country.

Friday 9
Stayed in Intourist hotel at Uzhhorod B&B 68UAH ($12.90), was the best to date, there was a Rotary convention for the Poland, Belarus, Ukraine area, Introduced myself & wished them a good Conference, through E of course, they gave me a club banner, must present it to a club in Christchurch on my return.

I had been hoping to find in the mountains the back onto Romania, villages somewhat similar to those old Saxon villages in that country, but no, it was still interesting, but a very long drive to see very similar village all the way, I would not do the drive again unless it was on the way to ….who knows.

The country is one large market garden with all of the work being preformed by the family, even Granny I have seen in the fields, most of the work is done by hand, if you are lucky enough to have one or two horses and a wagon that would make your life easier as then you can plow & harrow the field by horse power instead of man power.

There were many stands selling all sorts of produce along the road, no sort of order just where the produce was, we saw several Lada's full of cabbages heading back into town I guess they (the cabbages) will be sold in the market place tomorrow.

However I would guess this may be the last generation that works the land like this as the young one now are exposed to so much from the west their children will be different people, I do hope that the strong family unit that must exist now does stay a unit.

On the side of the road E saw what I call witches brooms, those that a witch would ride, he had never seen them for sale before so bought two at 2.5 UAH each, there were three ladies sitting minding the "stall" and they had, had one other client today that is 7.5 UAH for the day……interesting!

There was also a lot of wine for sale in coke & 7 Up bottles, E stopped and asked how much, there were three people sitting there and the all started praising the wine, it was 4 UAH a bottle, it was reputed to be a dry red, we were offered a sample but E opted for just a smell, when the cap came off I could, in the passengers seat smell the yeast, perhaps you were meant to mature it yourself, we decided perhaps we were white wine people at that moment.

We so quickly forget the way we used to buy eggs, loosely, one at a time, no packing, in a paper bag, you remove the cracked one as soon as you get home to use first, I think some people call them "the good old days"!

Public transport is very good, however not quite as good as in Soviet times, but seldom do people have to wait long, most of course do not have a car or would have anywhere to keep one. Buses cost (in the city) 0.40 UAH a ride, any distance on the one bus and mini buses which are faster and are panel vans with seats, hold about 12 people cost 1 UAH be it one block or to the end of their route.

Considering the wages they get, clothes are quite expensive, so the ladies seem to take very good care of the way they look, I have seen many girls clean their shoes after going over a dusty road, brush their clothes if they think they have collected a scrap of dust, fold any coats they are carrying so they get no creases and thinking about it Asia you often saw an impeccability dresses lady emerge from a mud hut. Unfortunately you loose a lot in obtaining affluence and I am not sure we are any better for it.

Saturday 10

On the way we came across two weddings, Friday & Saturday are the big wedding days here, E says, the whole wedding party, guests and all march down the main street, with the cake being carried at the head of the parade followed by three instruments then the bride and groom and the rest of the party then the guests, I managed to photograph one but only saw the end of the other, evidentially this is a local custom as E had not seen it before either.

Drove to Luts'k booked into a hotel that had been completely renovated as clean and modern as the west but not quite all the mod cons, but by far the best yet. 100 UAH($18.97). It will be interesting to see what the hotels of Kiev charge after E has told me how much money he has been saving me at his friends.

As we arrived on the outskirts of town E pulled into get a tank full of petrol from what he calls the cleanest petrol brand, then as we pulled away it sounded like the fuel injector had dirt in it as we just got across the intersection. E open the bonnet and looked at the motor but did not have a clue what to do, glad it was not 100 Kms from anywhere, so we got a taxi to this hotel & he went back to try & get it on the road. His car is a Ford and I thought capitalism may have caught up with the local Ford agency, but no the phone just kept ringing.

Sunday 11
Oh it is wonderful to have a good shower, in a NEW bathroom, with big towels!

This is NOT my country they serve raw onions with almost EVERYTHING, if they are not raw they are cooked which to me is as bad, if you must use onions hide them in a stew!

While waiting on E to get the fuel pump changed, the filter in the tank had blocked, so the pump burnt out, I caught up with this journal, then went for a walk, returned to the hotel, checked out, put the luggage into the storeroom, walked Down a side street and chanced on the local market, it was a maze of alleys 3 meters wide, packed with people and I observed you could buy almost everything there, it was like one of out department stores spread over several acres with each department split into 100 units or more with everyone selling the same product. There was a secondhand department that was getting a good look over by a lot of people quite well dressed.

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