Go West, Young Man

I’m a lucky man.  I sit in a nice hotel, sipping a beer, with a train ticket for a ride back home scheduled for just over 24 hours from now.  Granted, I won’t get there for another 36 hours after that but I’m still lucky.  Considering the week of volcanoes, earthquakes and flights that didn’t make it that has just passed – I’m doing alright.

It has been a pretty amazing 36 hours, or so.  My original flight was on until I was about 30 minutes from leaving for the airport.  After that, I called every rental car company in Ukraine and they either weren’t open, didn’t have cars, or wouldn’t rent one going to the Czech Republic.  So, I shifted plans and trotted over to the travel agency this afternoon with our (beloved) local contractor.  After about an hour in line and the requisite Eastern European cutting in line and deal making, I got a ticket.  $200.  Cash.  Sleeper car.  No transfers. 36 hours.  Now, you may understand why I’m one of the lucky ones.

With lines for train tickets in Western Europe stretching into 5 and 6 hours, my day was an easy one.  I’m a little bit apprehensive about the journey, but at least I have plans to go west.  I just hit the supermarket and bought water, crackers, granola, jamón serrano (!) and some pistachios.  I’m hoping they’ll have some booze on the train or maybe I’ll get a chance to get a flask of something tomorrow before departure.

I hope it all works out as planned.  If I’m lucky, I’ll arrive a somewhat young man.  What could possibly go wrong?

Etno Cafe – Kyiv or Kiev

You’re the best damned little cafe/restaurant just 1/2 block from the Premier Palace.  Your prices are oh, so reasonable.  I had veal carpaccio, duck breast, Belgian beer, excellent service and creative decor for under $30?  How do you manage that?  I’d have to pawn my first born for the same in the Czech Republic.

Cafe Etno, Bravo.  Prague, take note.  Etno is on the prowl.  Headed west.  And it has African art…

Perfect Weather to Fly

kreschyatik nightIt’s been a year since I was in this city the last time.  20-some years since I was in this city for the first time.  Every visit, I come as a different person.  Something about this town makes me take stock of where I am.  Here?  Kyiv of all places.  Why not, I suppose.

This time I’m nothing but thankful.  Especially so.   The only reason I write it here is because I don’t write anywhere else these days.  To those of you reading or looking over – thanks.

See you next year.

“Snakes” in Kyiv

No, it’s not the normal place that comes to mind when you think of snakes.  But they’re here.  Really.  Just look on the 3rd page of the Belle-Vue restaurant menu.  You’ll see it there plain as day.  “Snakes.”  Oh, maybe they meant “snacks.”  Hmmm…  Then I guess the “rise” was just rice?  Ok, ok, I know I shouldn’t make fun but it’s just too obvious.

The other thing that strikes me about this town is the amount of (expensive) cars parked on the sidewalk.  Most often they have a big light on the dash that they can light up when the oligarch going gets rough.

Truth be told, I love this town.  The weather is great.  Dinner was excellent, the people are tolerant and even the experience of buying a water and a beer from a corner Kiosk in awful Russian was fun.  Cheers to the lady who sold it to me and tolerated my horrible accent.  Hopefully she’s laughing with her family at the silly American.

All I can say is, I should have bought some “snakes.”

Arrival in Ukraine

Ukrainian Coat of Arms
Ukrainian Coat of Arms

I have arrived in Kyiv and am just getting settled in my room.  The weather outside is mild and sunny and there is definitely a walk in my very near future.  For those of you wondering, the apples at the hotel are still plentiful and I’ll find out soon if they’re as delicious.

As CNN International plays ads for tourist hotspots, I’m incredibly glad to be fortunate enough to have a trip with the family to Spain planned for next week.  I’m lucky and I know it.

The rest of the week is trade show time so posts will be few during the daytime.  But nights might be good to talk a little bit about some of the great food had this past weekend.  Watch this space!