And no I haven't eaten Chicken Kiev!
Unfortunately it's been a rather rain affected three days here in Kiev but nevertheless it's not deterred me from enjoying myself and for the first time in a long time I feel like I've actually been able to unwind.
It's funny that when you get to a new place your first instinct is to get out and see as much as possible. I'm not sure how other cyclists feel but more often that not my first instinct these days is to get the kettle on a do some serious relaxing. In many respects you could say that the bad weather has been something of a blessing in disguise. If the sun was shining all day long there be a certain part of my brain that would feel incredibly guilty at not doing anything but as it is I've been excused as it were from conventional tourist duties.
That's not to say that I'm not interested in what Kiev has to offer, far from it, it's just that sometimes one needs a break from all that running around.
I spent the first afternoon catching up with this very blog that you are so kindly taking the time and interest to read. I went into the city with Natalie and Derek and to the Web design company they run called Bold Endeavours http://www.boldendeavours.com/ Derek had asked me to go along as he was meeting with a guy named Boris who runs another company called http://extremeparty.ua/ and whose company offer all number of adventure holidays from Trekking in Africa to Kayaking in Siberia. It was fascinating to hear his stories and how his company works and I once again found myself making mental notes of other places I need to go as I listened intently.
Natalie and Derek and true British spirit
It was nice to be able to catch up on some 'quality' Internet time and get some blogs and emails written as well as looking at some road routes further west.
Refreshed from my leisurely day I was ready on Tuesday morning to get my sightseeing hat on and head into the city. Us Brits aren't afraid of a spot of rain and thankfully this was the case as I stepped out of Natalie's apartment in the morning to be greeted with near winter like conditions. Natalie assured me that this is very uncommon for this time of the year and that one can expect some pretty nice weather well into early October.
We'd taken a short drive around the city the night before and I was shown most of the cities sights from the front seat of a car with both Natalie and Derek giving me my very own personal guided tour. It was also great to witness the city at night, free from the crowds of the day and brightly illuminated.
When they dropped me off in the city centre the next morning I had a good idea of what I wanted to see. Despite a seriously cold chill in the air I decided to give the locals of Kiev a good look at my legs as I braved the cold in my shorts, it's still summer after all!
Kiev really is a stunningly beautiful city and I'd seen pictures prior to arriving but they really didn't do it justice. It is like many major cities in this part of the world covered in churches all of which are spectacular both on the inside and outside.
I've been reliably informed that one can see Neogothic, Neorenaissance, Neobaroque, Neoclassic, Neo all kinds of buildings here as well as New Russian and of course Art Juneau architecture. Even to an untrained eye like mine it's quite evident that there are some real masterpieces of construction in the city.
As much as I like walking around beautiful buildings I was after a very special piece of architecture in it's own right that of the Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo Stadium. It's very uncommon these days to find football stadiums slap bang in the centre of the city but this stadium is just that. Situated in the very heart of the city it is home to the all powerful Dyanmo Kyiv. It was renamed back in 2002 in honour of its legendary former coach Valeriy Lobanovskiy who also coached the USSR national team.
It was just a pity that a) there was no game on and b) the closest I was able to get to the stadium itself was peering through the gates leading up to it It turns out that the stadium was closed and no amount of pleading was going to get past the rather hard shaven headed security guards and up closer to the stadium.
I was a little disappointed not to be able to get closer to the stadium if I'm being completely honest but any walking tour around the outside of it would have had to have been pretty quick as by this point the rain was lashing down.
I consoled myself with donuts and a coffee in a nearby café overlooking the main square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti or Independence Square. However there is only so long that one can spend in a café and besides I still had plenty to see and snap. A drop of rain wasn't going to put this tourist off. I manged to take in most of what I wanted to see in the city. Of course in such a limited time it's impossible to see everything but I got a good feel for Kiev and I was more than a little pleased, as were my feet when Natalie and Derek picked me up later that evening.
Natalie's mother and father had returned home the previous day from a train tour of Russia and I'd been told her mother was something of a dab hand in the kitchen; not for the first (or last time I hope) I wasn't to be disappointed. It struck me once again just how incredibly lucky I've been in the way that people have wanted to feed me along the way. It seems as soon as my journey is explained in their native tongue an extra helping of food is heaped upon my plate.
The arch signifying unity between Ukraine and Russia
We waved off Derek on Wednesday morning as he finishes up the final part of his motorbike journey and heads back to England. It's rather strange seeing someone else off especially someone using a similar mode of transport. I felt a certain element of sympathy for him as he attached his various panniers and bags to his bike all while the rain drizzled down upon him. This was not a day for riding but he's on a schedule and needed to leave. I just hope that the weather picks up in the next 24 hours and I'm not repeating the very same process tomorrow morning.
Like I said though the poor weather has given me the excuse to slob out to a certain extent. It's really quite strange doing nothing, I say nothing I've been writing, uploading pictures and of course pouring over the newspaper in anticipation of the upcoming football season.
Depending on the weather I may leave tomorrow, the forecast isn't great but in my mind I've already prepared myself for riding tomorrow and sometimes changing that mindset is hard. I'll probably try to take in a little bit of the city as I leave but I leave Kiev with fond memories and a desire to come back another day as a, how should I say 'more conventional tourist'
My next destination is Lviv which is well over 500 kilometers away near the Polish border. I've been told the countryside gets more beautiful the further West I go but I'm just hoping and praying that the weather improves. I don't much fancy the prospect of camping in the rain although I do hear that the West also has a rather nice line in 4 star tunnels!