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Найбільш розумний курс дій 28/01/2012

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
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Last Morning

Double espresso! Double espresso! But there was no coffee jerk chasing crumbs on this morning. In the category Not Waking Up Sans Kidneys in a Bathtub Filled with Ice Hostel Yaroslav wins a gold star. In the category Not Returning to Find Expensive Electronics Stolen they take the cake. In the competition for Best Breakfast Buffet Deal someone entered a double-burner hotplate before passing out backstage. Janice hoisted me from the tangled remains of my bed and hauled me through the early morning sounds of Podil to the nearest cafe.

Podil

Some voluntary vagabond had taken residence in the shower stall, leaving us to wring the sweat from our clothes before packing. Through the darkened hallway then down flights of concrete stairs to pass the key to a different receptionist than we’d met the day before. Janice found a corner in the barren kitchen where the meager complimentary wifi could be harnessed and double-checked that we knew what we were doing.

What we were doing was leaving Kyiv.

Bloated westerners such as ourselves have options. A taxi could be hired, although this required that the fare be negotiated before departure and then arguing with the driver upon arrival all in Ukrainian. Across the Dnieper lays a remote metro station where you can cross your fingers that a bus will stop and then be blessed with drunkards rolling onto the sidewalk to offer a free ride. The sanest course of action was to backtrack to Kyiv-Passazhyrskyi and argue over which of the double-parked minivans seemed most likely to carry us and our possessions without roadside violence and abandonment.

Goodbye cracked streets and worn tram tracks. Goodbye beer kiosks and fluorescent subterranean wonderland with your designer cell phone dealers, junk hawkers and stench of stale industrial lubricant. A bored child soldier watched a machine eat our plastic tokens before the escalator swallowed us whole.

Kyiv-Passzhyrskyi

One of the easiest missions accomplished in all of Kyiv is finding the airport shuttle. It proudly wears a number and someone went so far as to embellish unintelligible Cyrillic with a picture of an airplane. Should your eyes fail you a rather well-fed Ukrainian can be heard bellowing ‘airport!’ from the curb, although you should really try and see because he’s also waving his arms and gesturing. He suggested that we leave our bags on the curb and step inside, conjuring images of stolen luggage and probably the aforementioned violence without abandonment. We promised to return than scurried inside the train station to hide until the bus left.

Killing Time

It was the exact same terminal which had greeted us a week before, yet somehow the throngs of travelers less overwhelming and the structured chaos less confounding. Holding hours hostage we wandered aimlessly until we found a hole in the wall selling shitty coffee. The harried babushka overseeing operations scrutinized our Polish, plucked Ukrainian from the reversed accents, and nearly cracked a smile. Quite an effort in a town where we had been hung up on, yelled at, abandoned, flaked on and eyed with great suspicion, but perhaps not quite enough hospitality for the expected hordes of football maniacs set to descend on the 2012 Euro Cup.

We sat choking on little cups of steaming bilge water, surveying the hustle and bustle. Giant schedule boards littered with garbled foreign. Mustachioed men jangling keys and jabbering ‘taxi’ over and over again. Machine-gun cradling boys with uniforms hanging off their pubescent frames. Hamster-ball emporiums stocked with cheap consumer goods. Suspect ATMs. Ticket agents yelling ‘No!’. The official tourism board had their work cut out if they expected a good reputation to follow their half of the soccer tournament. Even the Chinese practiced queuing for buses and minimizing their public expectorating before the Olympics.

Goodbye Kyiv

Standing three feet from your luggage and chain smoking until the driver is ready to close the doors might seem rude, but really it’s just common sense. We loaded our own bags and exchanged monopoly money with the driver’s assistant whose sole purpose in life was to hand out limp receipts. Yellow marshrutka tear through city streets with old women flying out windows and extended families searing single seats, but our ride was larger and blessedly unpopular. Pampered kulaks all, we flung open windows and lashed the curtains, blasted Ukrainian pop and gaped at the passing scenery. The familiar byzantine architecture of downtown dissolved dissolved into high-density slums as soon as the river was crossed, baby blues and powdered yellow becoming grey. The few denizens lurking on street corners didn’t smile and would never dance in the fountains of Maidan Nezalezhnosti, whatever the temperature.

Boryspil International

Far from even that hostile hotbed of civilization a parking lot is born. Our shuttle straddled three parking spots to deliver us safely next to a BNP Parabis monument and left us to ford the lawless lands of un-policed driving space. Gasoline and grit evaporated in brilliant sunshine to choke our throats and burn our eyes. Hundreds of weary and defeated travelers clung to the shrinking pockets of shade provided by the glorified hanger serving as an international airport.

We went to join them. There was nowhere else to go.

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