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15 June 2019Ukraine trip, Summer 2019

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Ukraine trip, Summer 2019
Saturday 15 June 2019

Thirty-nine of us flew from Birmingham Airport on the 15th June to Kiev via Istanbul. The change of planes was straightforward according to the travel agent, but due to a late departure, two drives round Istanbul airport and a mistake on the electronic ticket, we were stranded for the night at the airport. Half a night in Yotel revitalised us and we flew out at seven am to Kiev.

The ships crew worked very hard to get us back on schedule; an early lunch and we were off on our city tour. Ignoring our early start we all coped very well seeing the austere blocks of flats, the delapidated parks and squares. Everything was damaged, neglected or not cared for. The trip to St Sophia Cathedral  lifted the spirits. and we returned to the ship to recover from a very long day. By the second day we were settling into our shabby-chic cabins, we had found the bars and open decks, we had taken on the management over fixed seating in the dining room and won, however we had to survive guerilla tactics from the Maitre D to sabotage the win.

Day three was really good; we visited a working monastery set in forests. As it was a special time of the year, services were in full swing. The service seem to be between the priests and the choir both on high and the congregation mill round below (no seats) lighting candles, confessing mistakes, kissing lots of ikons and eating. The services go on for hours. The richness of the interiors, the robes and the singing plus the fervour of the congregation was very dramatic.

We walked through the monastery grounds to the underground labyrinths where the monks were buried. Quite an experience, creeping into the catacombes with a small lit candle. In contrast our evening visit to the Ukrainian all male National Choir, set in a large comfy 50s style theatre was fun and very good.  

We set sail as light was failing but we were all on desk to watch the sky line of Kiev pass. The river is already very wide in Kiev, but when we woke the next day we could not even see the shoreline. Much of the river has been made into reservoirs. We had a leisurely day, learning how to make borscht soup, language lessons and watching the world go by.

Day 5 We arrived at the Cossack Town of Zaporizhia, here we learnt about the Cossacks, who seem rather like mercenaries, they would fight for any side providing they got paid. We visited their island learnt about their lifestyle and had a lively demonstration of their fighting skills. All this was washed down with generous tots of vodka and a plate of food. 

The next couple of days were rather like wind in the willows sailing downstream stopping to investigate rural life, which always meant eating a plate of food washed down with liberal tots of Vodka.

Day 8 we arrived in Odessa and moored at the bottom of the Potemkin Steps; a hundred and ninety-two steps to the top plus about another fifty to get from the port across the road to the base of the steps. It is a beautiful city, however the inhabitants are a little light fingered, especially on those steps. The buildings are well proportioned, graceful and the city layout is linear, tree lined boulevards, leading to large squares with fountains, statues or parks. It was a beautiful city and we took a walking tour and visited the Fine Art Gallery.    

Our final day was a Sunday and we went on a church crawl; Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, a Mosque and finally a Synagogue. It was one of the best tours we did. Still being Pentacost all the churches were celebrating so at the first three we witnessed, packed services with beautiful singing and all the grandeur of high church. The mosque was empty but beautiful integrated decor. The synagogue made all the men wear the little skull caps and we ladies had to cover out heads. It was a most thought provoking tour.

The final icing on the cake was the trip to the Opera House in the evening to see Swan Lake. It was enchanting, the dancing excellent, the building rather like a large tiered cake fully decorated with huge chandeliers.

So we had no rain, lots of sunshine, quite high temperatures, just a few minor accidents and thirty-nine very happy tourists. We managed the return flight with out a problem.

Where too next I hear you ask?  I am investigating part of the Silk Road, which looks like it will have to be in September So if you want an adventure in 2020 watch out for my flyer

Rebecca Dale