From Odessa to Kiev the bus goes through Ukraine's great wheat field plains that made it the bread basket of the Russian and later the soviet empires.
I was leaving Odessa with regret but with joyful anticipation of that great node in the history of mankind which is Kiev.
Kiev's main commercial boulevard, Vulitsya Khreshchatyk, is a busy thoroughfare crossable only by underground passages.
For me, the pleasures of travel are terribly dependent on the people I meet on the way. I was lucky in many places but not in Kiev where the god of chance decided that he needed to put me on bread and water after spoiling me too much in the past. So had decided the god of chance and so it was, I just did not meet those people who could have made my visit to Kiev a beautiful experience.
Looking north on Maydan Nezalezhnosti filled with joyful people celebrating the 6th anniversary of Ukraine independence from Russia and the soviet empire.
Not only did I not meet people who could feed my soul, the only people I did meet were obtuse, petty bureaucrats for whom I represented only one more occasion to assuage their mediocrity by boosting their ego at the expense of the people they are paid to serve. I lost hours negotiating a visa for Belarus and all I was able to get was a 48 hour transit visa! Then, I spent the rest of the day running between three widely separated offices to try to get a train ticket for Minsk. In the end I had to deal with a scalper at the station who charged me three times the official rate.
Maydan Nezalezhnosti looking south towards Hotel Moskva towering over Cafe Pasazh.
It would be unfair to judge Kiev on this four day visit, maybe I was just in a bad mood when I got here. I'll have to visit this place again someday with the hope of seeing it in another light for I know this is a fascinating city where so much was decided that altered the course of history for all of us.
I cannot convey the enthusiasm I did not feel but I do have some good photos to show you. Here is the Shevchenko Opera and Ballet Theatre on vulitsya Volodimyrska.
Below, St Sophia Cathedral's Belfry and mendicant playing the national instrument, the bandura, at the entrance to the Cathedral.
Andriyivisky uzviz street curving down from Volodimyrska vulitsya in the upper town to Kontractova ploshcha in lower town Podil. This "Montmartre" of Kiev, lined with cafes, art galleries and restaurants was jammed with vendors and a happy crowd celebrating independence day.
Below, St Andrew's Church on Andriyivisky uzviz and more of the celebrating crowd. This is the kind of occasion where I would normally have struck an acquaintanceship with someone. This time, I felt like an outsider and did not meet anyone.
Church of St Anthony and Theodosius on the main square of the upper monastery.
Below, the Trinity Gate at the main entrance and nearby St Nicholas Church and exhibition hall.
Further below, in the lower monastery, the Bell Tower of the Nearer Caves and the gate to the Church of the Raising of the Cross next to the entrance of the Nearer Caves.
I felt cheated when I took the night train out of Kiev in this station. I had been cheated by a scalper on the previous day but I had forgotten about that. I did not feel cheated by Kiev but by my inability to reach out and make the contacts that I needed to enjoy this great, historical city.
Actually, my down feelings were due not only to the meanness of the god of chance, to my bad humour and to my inability to reach out but perhaps also to my frustration at failing to meet Irina, a beautiful 45 year old woman with whom I had exchanged e-mail but who was untraceable when I got there...