Thursday, 6 December 2012

Exploring Kyiv

Initially Kiev was only on the list of cities we were visiting because it was a way to take the trip across Europe to London bypassing Belarus where a visa (even for a straight through transit) costs £100. While doing research and planning for our trip I noted down a post on Travel belles with a recommended tour for the city. After reading this I was more enthusiastic about our visit. Our first day didn't pan out too well, after our train arrived very early in the morning I followed the hostel directions, which were at first very good. Until we couldn't find the correct road to turn down, and then walked past the hostel entrance at least 3 times ('You'll see our sign' - no we won't because it's incredibly small!) The rest of our first day had terrible weather so this gave us time to relax and catch up on reading, sleeping and blogging

Day two was a lot more productive. We followed the travel belles advice, but in reverse as we were staying on Andrew's Decent. In Kiev we saw so many weddings! Every place we visited (even the War Memorial) had bridal parties taking photos. At one place there were four weddings all next to each other! We could have seen this as a sign, but then we're both single so no wedding bells for us in the near future!
Image by: Wolfgang Woessner/MAK
During the Travel Belles tour we made a stop, as suggested, at the Pinchuk Art Gallery (we also had some lunch here which was delicious!) The main exhibitor when we visited was Anish Kapoor. I have since discovered he is the artist/architect behind the big Bean in Chicago and the ugly construction outside the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. His show in Kiev was weird. The piece that most affected me was called 'Shooting into a Corner' and was a whole room, filled mostly with a huge cannon that has shot out vibrant red thick paint (which looks like blood) The image here doesn't show exactly what we saw as we were in a small room with a low ceiling so the paint was closer and more splattered. Most of Anish Kapoor's pieces were a little too wacky for me. But further into the gallery were other displays from various artists. Our very own Damien Hirst made an appearance and his was quite thought provoking. A balloon floating over a fan above sharp knives 'A History of Pain'. The last sculpture I can remember (As I write this three months after visiting) were (bordering on pornographic) sculptures from Japanese Artist; Takashi Murakami (Image Below). Overall Pinchuk was a worthwhile visit. It was free and whether you enjoy the art on display or not, it certainly makes you think and leave a lasting impression.

Takashi Murakami
Damien Hirst. Images from: Pinchuk Art Gallery

 Kiev city was a great place to walk around, easily accessible on foot (although there are a few hills and lots of steps). Andrew's Decent and the surrounding streets have some great stalls, I bought some of my favourite souvenirs from Kiev (a photo of St Andrew's Church from an elderly man standing away from the rest of the stalls and wearing milk bottle glasses and an etching of Lenin in London). The hostel -Dream House Hostel and Bar- was great; perfectly set up for backpackers - just look out for a small sign on A4 paper. It was not somewhere I was desperate to visit, but it is now on my list of cities (and countries) to re-visit!

St Andrew's Church

This was only the second couple we saw at our first destination of the day; Andrew's Decent.

The entrance to St Michael's Cathedral

St Michael's Cathedral. You can buy Cherry Honey Mead outside, but I wouldn't recommend it!

St Sophia's Church

Hundreds of steps to the top of St Sophia's Bell Tower.

Kiev University
And our video with all the weddings;

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Eating and Drinking in Eastern Europe

When I'm travelling I'm constantly taking pictures of what I'm eating. When my meal is put in front of me my first instinct is always that I want to remember it. Now I'm home, I cook most nights for my family and I'm really enjoying being able to cook again; my kitchen in Korea was so tiny and it was difficult going shopping as a lot of ingredients either weren't available, or were really expensive. 

I've really enjoyed putting this post together, and remembering all the wonderful food I ate while making my way home through Europe. Looking at these pictures, I am transported to the city I was in, the moment Mary and I had sat down to eat, and usually took in our surroundings to people watch and just enjoy the limited time we had to experience each place. Food in Eastern Europe was really good, and generally pretty cheap, and for me so fantastic to get back to European flavours and dishes. Definitely a gastronomic good time!

Prawn Tacos. Warsaw, Poland.

Breakfast Omelette. Kiev, Ukraine. 

Hot Chocolate in Russia is so amazingly thick you need a spoon to eat it!

Bread and Dips at Pinchuk Art Gallery. Kiev, Ukraine.

Cheesy, Buttery, Georgian Bread. Moscow, Russia.

AhMAzing Almond Macaroons. Kiev, Ukraine.

Ice Cream in the City Square. Warsaw, Poland.

Meat dumplings with dill. St Petersburg, Russia.

Grilled Fish. St Petersburg, Russia.

Beef Ribs. Warsaw, Poland.

The Best Drink I've ever had; Non-Alcoholic Strawberry Mojito. @Pinchuk Art Gallery, Kiev, Ukraine.

Sushi Takeout. St Petersburg, Russia.

Our entire hoard at the Hot Chocolate Cafe. Kiev, Ukraine.

Smoked Salmon Bagel. Warsaw, Poland.

Chicken Pancake, Potato Rosti and meringue. A breakfast of Champions in St Petersburg, Russia,

Simply Delicious, Even if I don't remember what this dessert was... Pinchuk Art Gallery, Kiev, Ukraine.

Pear Soda. St Petersburg, Russia.

Mexican Fare at Frida's. Warsaw, Poland.

Some more lush Georgian Bread. St Petersburg, Russia.

Orange Hot Chocolate. Kiev, Ukraine.

Cheesecake and Iced Tea. Warsaw, Poland.

Russian Tea. St Petersburg, Russia.

Radioactive looking Apple Juice. Kiev, Ukraine.

Cheese Toastie and Tea. Warsaw, Poland.

Garlicy Chicken Kiev. St Petersburg, Russia.

This way home! Warsaw, Poland.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A night cruise on the Neva

I had read that a great way to see all the sights in St Petersburg was by boat, as the buildings were designed to be approached by the river. We'd just missed the white nights tours, but decided to still take a tour by night and see all the buildings lit up. Although it was cold and damp, we stayed up until 1am for the beginning of our tour. Unfortunately we had to share our boat with three drunken louts. It was a reminder of annoying idiots from back home, something I'd been away from for two years. At first they weren't bothering us too much, just swigging from their pre-mixed bottle on the back of the boat. Then I caught a glimpse of one urinating off the side. Disgusting, but still not bothering anyone but his mate who likely got splashed as the boat sped along. Finally they came over and started harassing us. Annoyingly they kept talking to us in Russian and then telling us they couldn't speak English. That's ok mate, now bugger off and leave me alone. They didn't, even whilst we ignored them. We waited until the boat made it to the sparkling TV tower and turned to make it's way back to shore, and then we got up and went inside the boat. Thankfully they didn't try and talk to us again, although one decided to try and hang off the side. Unfortunately he didn't fall in. The tour was nice, even though it was cold, late at night and a bit longer than it needed to be. Regrettably the drunken halfwits really didn't make it worth it for me. And to top it all off, we didn't agree a fare before getting into the cab and again got stung by the St Petersburg taxi drivers. Please take my advice if you're ever in the city AGREE A PRICE BEFORE YOU GET IN!! 

Here are a few of the decent pictures I took, mainly from the beginning of the tour.

Watching one of the many bridges opening

The Winter Palace

St Peter and St Paul Fortress

The Aurora, where the first shot was first for the October Revolution.

As soon as I'd taken this picture we ducked inside away from the Drunkards.