A Travellerspoint blog

Easter(n) Europe, a visit in Kiev, Ukraine

A complicated but beautiful travel destination in Eastern Europe.

sunny 20 °C

Welcome to my travel report from my Easter holiday in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine!

Participants: As usual I went travelling with my lovely boyfriend, Jürgen, who are having a tough time being in a relationship with a traveladdict in another country. <3
SAM_1099.jpg

Why Kiev? I miscalculated my Sweden trip, and got depressed by the thought of celebrating Easter alone in London. Both my boyfriend and myself are running out of money and were scanning the Internet for cheap airfares, and the second day of searching I found two cheap tickets to Kiev around the same time from Stockholm and London, and everything went quick. I've never been in Ukraine before, and I've heard that Kiev should be a really beautiful city, and I could also add Ukraine as country 38 to my visited countries list on De berejstes Klub.
SAM_1027.jpg

When? Easter holiday 22-25 April 2011. This was a really nice time to travel to Ukraine, the weather was very nice and sunny, around 20 degrees.

To think of before travelling: If you don't speak Russian of Ukrainian languages, at least learn a few words in advance and memorize the Cyrillic alphabet. The people in Ukraine speak very little English or none at all, but the common hands-and-feet language works fine. On the tourist map we got, the streets were written so we could read out the names, but on the street signs they were using the cyrillic alphabet, so to locate ourselves was really hard. And don't drink the tap water!!

How to get there? We were flying with Wizzair from London Luton vs Stockholm Skavsta, and the price was less than £150 during Easter holiday. Unfortunately it felt like a charter flight with people applauding when the pilot was landing the plane (he was doing his job, and not even very good!!), but my fellow flightmates also were standing up and removing their luggage from the overhead lockers before the plane were stopping. Never in my life seen anything like that and that made me think if they never flew before and what else faults did they do?

Kiev Zhuliany Airport This is a small airport in the south of Kiev that Wizzair moved all their flights to. My flight was landing 10 minutes before Jürgen's flight and I've got out of the terminal in 20 minutes but had to wait 2h for him to pass through the very slow overcrowded passport control. There is nothing really to do at the airport and it's one of the most boring ones I've visited. On my way back they didn't even sell any drinks in the gate that wasn't alcoholic. Bad! To get from the airport to Kiev should cost you 100 hryvnia. In the flight magazine it was written 200 approximately, which I thought was a quite OK price, but on my way back he only wanted 100, so definitely go for 100!

The city of Kiev
I found many similarities between Kiev and Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Both have buildings in the same style and both are built on two sides of a river. SAM_0974.jpg
However I must say that it was much easier to get around in Budapest than in Kiev because of the cyrillic alphabet (I know, I know, I should have learn more before I travelled, my bad, but still). Kiev felt super duper Christian, there are beautiful churches everywhere in the town, and I totally love the style! The most famous is the St Sophia Church, see below.

SAM_1031.jpg

To get to St Sophia Church up the hill, you can take the metro to Pochtova Ploschka in Podil and then take the Funicular (cable car) that was built in 1905 up the hill to a nice square. The view is fabulous up there and the price is only 1,50 Hryvnia (around 15p).

SAM_1008.jpgSAM_1015.jpgSAM_1020.jpg

When I was looking for information on the internet on what to see and do in Kiev, every page said: go on a river cruise! So we did, it was cheap (40 hryvnia, £4) but it was totally useless. We didn't travel very far and the boat was very slow. And no guiding or anything. I don't recommend a rivercruise to people visiting Kiev. Use the hour on something more interesting instead. But what we did see during the river cruise was this:

SAM_0995.jpg

and this:

SAM_0997.jpg

Which we decided that we had to find! We had no idea what it was or where it was, but when looking at the map we had a guess at around what area it was.

On the Sunday we took the metro to Arsenalna, which is one of the deepest metro stations in the world, and it was extremely deep, with two amazingly long escalators. But that's how it has to be when you build the exit on the top of a mountain. When we finally climbed the escalators we followed the road to the left and we had a lovely walk through a park with several monuments.

SAM_1091.jpg

After a while we found the cultural site we saw from the riverboat! It's called Kyiv-Pechersk and is a heritage site. Extremely beautiful place, especially now with the cherry blossom.

SAM_1112.jpg
SAM_1117.jpg
SAM_1120.jpg

We just continued our walk in the same direction and finally we reached the statue which happened to be the war museum that I wanted to see. There are a few small museums, both indoors and open air museums with cars, helicopters and such, but our tips to you is to not pay 5 hryvnia to go here:

SAM_1132.jpg

because it is really small and useless when you can't read Ukrainian language.
But you should definitely pay 10 hryvnia and visit the main museum in the statue:

SAM_1134.jpgSAM_1141.jpgSAM_1147.jpgSAM_1143.jpg

Yes we do love posing with this statue! :) A weird thing was that they were playing some communistic music in the area around the statue/war museum. Again, visit the museum! Even if it's only in Ukrainian language there still is an interesting collection they have. And it's only £1 in entry fee! Wehoo!

I found out via help of the Internet that this beautiful building is the Opera House in Kiev:

SAM_1040.jpg

There are many beautiful buildings and places in Kiev and here are a few:

SAM_1032.jpgSAM_1022.jpg

This is from the High Street in Kiev on the Kreshchatyk street.

SAM_1043.jpgSAM_1068.jpg

And some nice church gates:

SAM_1126.jpgSAM_1125.jpg

On the Saturday during the Easter weekend there was some kind of parade going on at Kreshchatyk street.

SAM_1062.jpg

Public transport
The public transport is really great in Kiev, but it is hard to know where to get off, and know which direction your train is leaving. The cost for the metro is 2 hryvnia (20p) for however long distance you want to travel. The metro has 49 stations and more are one it's way. The town also has buses, trolleybuses, trams and cable car.

Drink beer in Ukraine
The Ukrainian beer was quite OK I must say! And the price was between 10-25 hryvnia at the bars. But there was a beer neither me or Jürgen liked and it was this one:

SAM_1080.jpg

But otherwise it was really nice and we show our happy faces!! I also tried the Baltica beers I haven't had since I was travelling on the transibirian railway in 2008 and it was the only beer we could buy from the old ladies on the platforms. But it still taste nice!

SAM_1037.jpgSAM_1082.jpgSAM_1083.jpg

Food
oO I really liked the food! It didn't look so nice but tasted very nice! Nom nom nom! Kielbasa was extremely tasty sausage. Defintely recommended! The prices on food varied a lot from 30-225 hryvnia depending on which restaurant and what dish. Sometimes we felt it was very expensive.

Football - Dynamo Kiev
It would be sooo nice to watch a football game in Ukraine, but unfortunately we missed the opportunity and when we wanted to have a look at the arena we couldn't get in because we didn't have a ticket.

SAM_1077.jpg

What we missed but you shouldn't
I'm a quite sad panda because we were too late to find a tour group to Chernobyl. I definitely wanted to see that, but well, next time! We couldn't find the Chernobyl Museum on the map either so we missed that too. But if you visit Kiev, don't miss it, you'll be as sad as I am for missing it.

Conclusion
I liked the weather around Easter, I loved the beautiful buildings and the great walks withing the green areas with a river view! That was really remarkable. But I did think it took to much energy to sort out simple things because the Ukrainian people in general were speaking very bad English. It will definitely help if you know some Russian before visiting Ukraine. But I do recommend a visit during spring time, and you should definitely go on tour to Chernobyl if you can, even if I can't speak for myself.

Thanks for reading!
Over and out!

Clara

Posted by aggro 10:57 Archived in Ukraine Tagged church kiev ukraine spring easter sophia wizzair Comments (1)

Budapest travelreport

One of my new top 5 cities in Europe.

sunny 5 °C

Hi everyone!

I'm back from a totally amazing weekend in beautiful Budapest, the capital of Hungary, and here is my report.

Participants: my boyfriend (Jürgen, lives in Stockholm, Sweden), Per (a friend to us that lives in Vienna, Austria) and moi (Clara, lives in London, UK)
SAM_0044.jpg
Why Budapest? When you're in a long distance relationship someone needs to travel, and why not visit new places instead of Jürgen coming to London or me going to Stockholm all the time? And I'm a traveladdict and countrycollector so I need to visit new countries. I've heard so many good things about Budapest and we both found cheap flights to the beautiful capital and decided to pay it a visit.
SAM_0106.jpg
Accommodation: Cotton Huse. Found the link at a Swedish backpacker forum backpacking.se and we decided to take the advice of going there. It's a 4 star hotel, close to Nyugati (Western Station), very central and the room we got was huge with jacuzzi! Every room in the hotel is named after different celebrities, with pictures on the door and in the room. One of the funniest hotels I've staying at. Got huge charm! Recommend it deeply!
SAM_0023.jpgSAM_0024.jpg

Late start
I knew I got distracted by a sms while setting up my alarm clock on my iPhone, and now I know that I should double check. When I woke up I thought it was very bright for being around 7AM. The reason for this was that my alarm was set up on 7.30PM and I woke up at 8.10. Phew! Now I was in a hurry. I thought, but I had plenty of time to find the busstation in Brent Cross and get on the easyBus I've booked the night before! Luton next!

The flight
The flight with EasyJet was cheap and I can't complain on anything! I got what I expected. It was more of a partyflight than the regular flight, but for 2h30min flight I can live with that. Prefer youths than screaming kids! Jikes! The staff were friendly, that flight in time on the outbound travel, 30 min delayed on the inbound back to UK. Will most likely fly much more with EasyJet in the future!

The Friday
It was snowing when Jürgen and I reached Budapest on Friday afternoon and around 0 degrees. Was a bit disappointed since it was sunny and 15 degrees in London the same day. But the weather got better and we took a train from the airport (Ferihegy) to Nyugati (Western Station). Was really easy to find our amazing hotel and we were extremely pleased when we found out that our room was more like a suite than an ordinary double room. We had booked a room with jacuzzi and ordered a bottle of champagne to bring to the room. Hungarian Extra Dry was not just cheap, but tasted great aswell! Was very romantic drinking champagne in the jacuzzi, felt like a luxury tourist more than a student.
SAM_0009.jpg7SAM_0020.jpg

At around 8-ish our friend Per arrived by car from Vienna where he lives with his girlfriend since a year ago. We haven't met for long and we had a great time visiting pubs in Budapest!
SAM_0028.jpg
Around 11PM we got a tad tired and sick of the smoking of the bar guests so we went to a supermarket to buy some beer to bring up to our pink hotel room. It was 11.10 when we arrived at a supermarket and while we were watching the fridges to pick the beers we should choose, a woman put up signs which said that they weren't allowed to sell alcohol after 11. We got pissed off, since we already was in the store and it was only 10 min past, but no, they were strict. Then we went for a supermarket across the street and the boy in the store allowed us to buy how much we liked!
More Hungarian champagne for almost no money at all! Was less than £3 for a bottle! We had a quite early night. The men are getting quite old after all. ^^
SAM_0027.jpg

The Saturday
Jürgen and I woke Per up at 10 and we went for breakfast. Then Per checked out and he was driving us across Chain bridge to the Buda side. I was thrilled! Such a beautiful city! Jürgen bought me a camera as a gift for no reason at all (<3) and I was using it a lot! Love it!
SAM_0036.jpg
After having a coffee (Per) and tea (Jürgen and myself) and another chat, Per left us to go back to Vienna and work night. Was ace to see you again, man! Let's do it again soon!

When he left, we started walking from Matthias church to Buda Castle. We were going to Buda Castle Labyrinth, and we were stupid enough to not double check the map to see where it was placed. We, or hrm I thought it would be below the castle, but that was wrong. The labyrinth was placed close to Matthias church so we had to walk back again. The sun had arrived and it was a fantastic view from the top of the mountains.

SAM_0058.jpgSAM_0065.jpgSAM_0062.jpg

Buda Castle Labyrinth
Buda Castle Labyrinth was very ehrm different? I think it was interesting to see those caves which people used for such a long time. The cave became weirder and weirder. A never-ending Wine fountain was placed in one part, and some strange sculptures of a horse, a huge face half sank in the cave floor. But not until there was a piece of rock marked as a Coca Cola bottle we were thinking WTF is going on here? While back at the hotel later we understood that the last part of the cave was for imagination. Explains the weird things in it. Next time I want to visit other caves in Budapest.

SAM_0088.jpgSAM_0090.jpgSAM_0092.jpgSAM_0095.jpgSAM_0098.jpg

Tram adventure
After our visit in Buda Castle Labyrinth we decided that it was time to check out the spa. We asked a woman in the tourist information how to get to Hotel Gellert, and she said that we could take a tram from Chain Bridge. So we went down the stairs the long way down and found a tram. We bought tickets in the underground station and waited for our tram to arrive. Really nice to travel by tram by the river Danube. When we passed Chain bridge an inspector asked for our tickets. We showed them and he said they were not valid because we had to push them in a machine on the tram to make them valid. Well, then why not just tell us that we did wrong and show us how to do it so we know to next time? No, he gets us out of the tram and want to fine us 12 000 HUF for travelling on non-valid tickets! We told him that we were just stupid tourists and noone told us how to do it. But he insisted that we had to pay and that his two police friends was with him. No way I'll pay that rat any money so I took the ticket from him and told Jürgen that we should leave, and so we did. This was the only time someone tried to fool us, but I hate it when it happens. We felt that we hadn't done any big mistakes and that it's very unfair to fool tourists. When we told the receptionists at Cotton House she apologized for that happening to us (!!!). And she said there are quite a few fake inspectors in Budapest that earn money on this business. I'm just sorry that we left the tram because now we had to walk quite a long distance to Gellert Spa. Those are some of the pictures I took from our short tram journey.

SAM_0102.jpgSAM_0115.jpgSAM_0118.jpg

Gellert spa
We were quite angry about that shitty rat to fake inspector while walking to Gellert spa but it became better when we got in. Everyone with hair needed to wear a shower cap! I've always said that I'm looking great in a shower cap, what do you think? ^^

SAM_0123.jpg

This spa hotel must be fantastic during summer time. Now there were two indoor pools, one normal swimming pool and one warmer. Jürgen and I had a swimming competition and I won! Almost without cheating! OK, I admit, I had to drag him in his shorts when he was taking advantage of me, but noone said anything about that you couldn't hold someone back during the competition. VICTORY! Flawless!! :) We tried some pairswimming with swimming on each others backs. Lot of fun! Beautiful place.

SAM_0120.jpgSAM_0125.jpgSAM_0126.jpg

Evening walk by Danube river
The time was after 5PM when we thought it was time to get up from the pool and head back to the Pest side of the city. After the tram incident earlier, none of us felt like trying that again, so we decided to have a walk by the riverside. The sunset was quite quick in Budapest in February and it got dark. But it was really romantic to walk hand in hand by the river and dreaming that it would be May and 20 degrees warmer.

SAM_0132.jpgSAM_0133.jpgSAM_0137.jpgSAM_0142.jpg

When we finally got back to Cotton House we were exhausted and our feet hurt. I fell asleep in Jürgens arms.

Dinner on a conveyor belt
Close to our hotel there was a fancy japanese restaurant with conveyor belt sushi! I totally felt like sushi and we got a table at last. When we were done we had eaten around 16 plates each. I was laughing a bit over Jürgens totally failure of eating with chopsticks and fixed a fork for him to save our dinner. There usually was only one piece of sushi of the plates but some small norimaki rolls were three, so I had 18 pieces of sushi!

SAM_0168.jpgSAM_0169.jpgSAM_0170.jpg

We were rolling out from the all you can eat buffet and decided to walk away the dinner in our stomach and try to find a set of playing cards. It wasn't possible on a Saturday evening in Budapest. We also spent loads of energy asking if anyone sold stamps, and the answer was no. Not until Monday morning Jürgen could send my postcards. I need to send postcards to De Berejstes Klub when I'm visiting a new country. We had another early night (of course because Jürgen is old and tired, I'm never getting tired because I'm so young and have loads of energy ^^) and after another bottle of champagne and sushi we went to sleep. As you can see on next picture I wasn't tired at all.

SAM_0167.jpg

Sunday morning of terror
What could be a better start on a Sunday morning than House of Terror? No soft start of the day when Jürgen and I are on vacation, that's for sure! Our feet were really tired even though we been bathing so much at spa and jacuzzi that we looked like raisins. I must say, House of Terror was a fantastic museum! Really, really great. They certainly have had a rough time the poor Hungarians. Anyhow, while visiting Budapest, this museum is a must see!

SAM_0175.jpg

Sunday afternoon in the underground
After the House of Terror visit I felt that I needed a cup of tea and we went to a cafe on our way to the Underground Museum. The museum was small but nice (and cheap, only aroudn 300 forint). The underground in Budapest is the first on the continent. Started in 1896. Afterwards we felt like trying the modern underground which wasn't as modern after all.

SAM_0177.jpgSAM_0180.jpgSAM_0181.jpgSAM_0182.jpgSAM_0184.jpg

Transylvanian dinner
I talked to a Romanian guy at uni today and asked him where transylvania was and he answered, as I expected, Romania. He said that the Hungarians and the Romanians fight over who the area belong to. Well it might explain our dinner we had at a Hungarian restaurant where almost every meal was "Transylvanian delicacy". I like the food, especially the Goulash soup! Nom nom nom! Had it twice. The beer doesn't really taste anything. Must be ace on a hot summerday, but in February it was a bit tasteless.
SAM_0186.jpgSAM_0191.jpgSAM_0193.jpg
SAM_0190.jpg

Conclusion
Budapest is a very romantic city, then there is the House of Terror. There is a lot to do in the city and a weekend was definitely too short. I would say that going here in May or in the autumn would be the best time with nice temperature and leaves on the trees. But it's a capital and never sleeps and is great all year round. It's a must see and one of Europe's most beautiful cities with the river in the middle and the mountains and fantastic old buildings and an interesting history. The food is tasty aswell. I will also point out again that Cotton House is a really, really nice hotel with a lot of charm. Normally I prefer guesthouses and hostels, because hotels normally lacks of charm, but this had it all. Friendly staff aswell.

SAM_0041.jpg

Book your ticket today! Thanks for reading!
Over and out!
Clara

Posted by aggro 09:06 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest danube bridge hungary chain gulasch cityweekend Comments (0)

Cruise to Tallinn

A short trip to Estonia.

snow -7 °C

Hi again,

Since I've started writing about all my latest trip I must continue with that until next trip which is planned in the end of February. This trip was a very short one between Christmas and New Years Eve. It was snowstorm of course. My boyfriend and I had had a really nice Christmas with my family and now we wanted to do what we do best: travel!

472.jpg

The cruise itself is quite boring when you're tired and not really in a party mood. And when we get to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, it's almost impossible to walk! It's a lot of snow on the roads and sidewalks and ice below and heavy snow in our eyes! But we managed to find our hotel that was centrally located, just ten minutes (would have been five with better weather conditions) away from the Old town that was very impressive! In the middle of it, there was a wintermarket and lots of wonderful buildings! Definitely want to see that again in the summertime. Even if it was very hard and tough walking around on those streets I really enjoyed it!

465.jpg

Posted by aggro 10:58 Archived in Estonia Tagged cruise estonia tallinn Comments (0)

Chaos in Europe

The power of snowflakes

snow -8 °C

Shalom!

In early October I booked my flight back to Sweden for Christmas celebration. It was flawless. I thought. Then it happened. Europe got snow. Since I'm from Sweden I'm not really impressed of the amount of snow that fell, but it was still enough for London closing down all their airports for a couple of days just when me and everyone else wanted to travel. Splendid. My Bulgarian and American flatmates were off to Amsterdam, but got back due to cancellation, my Dutch flatmate didn't get home until three days later, my Swedish friend got stuck in London on a business trip over the weekend and thousands, and again thousands of people got stuck in London.

Personally I didn't fancy the idea of spending my Christmas in the UK, and I didn't wanted to take the risk of having Scandinavian Airlines rebooking my flight so I made a decision, I'll find an alternative day. Firstly I got stuck in Waterloo after a night out with my Swedish friend and his colleagues and had to take a cab home. I couldn't sleep because I was so nervous of not getting to Sweden in time. So one hour of sleep and beep beep I got the SMS at 9 o'clock from SAS: "Your flight is cancelled." Nothing else, nothing about how I should do now. Thanks. Not.

433.jpg

I scanned the internet and found a train to Brussels and a very expensive flight from Brussels to Stockholm via Copenhagen, but what the heck, I needed to get to Sweden! So I booked it and two hours later I was at St Pancras station waiting for my train to Belgium. By then all the train tickets until two days later was sold out (in two hours! Phew!). I waited, I waited. And waited. My train was delayed because of the snow and infrastructure problems in France. Now I got nervous again because I realised I should not reach Brussels in time to catch my flight. So I had my dad checking up how I should do while I was (very comfartable I must say) cruising from UK to Belgium via France. Then he said that my flight was cancelled and we were all so happy since it was impossible to get through to SAS! Well at least I could get my flight rebooked in the morning. Then I just needed a hotelroom, which my dad so nice booked for me. I was too tired to explore any of Brussels and very sick of rolling that suitcase in the snow.

The day after my alarm woke me up at 5.30, another night without much sleep, but what the heck, off we go. When I caught the train to the airport within one minute I felt it was my lucky day! I got to the airport by 7AM and after checking all the desks someone finally could tell me that SAS didn't have an own desk. Then I got two alternatives, fly to Sthlm around 5PM which was impossible since I had to be in Gothenburg by then, or go to Copenhagen with the 10:40 flight. Fine let's do it, and then take the train. Great! Then while at the gate in time for boarding there was a delayed Frankfurt flight that should depart before we could board and I tried to check the screen but they were all covered by delayed or cancelled flights! Oh my god, not again was my thought but we made it! Only 10 minutes delayed I got to Copenhagen and could take a train to Kungsbacka where mom picked me up.

This trip was not enjoyable at all but afterwards while reading the newspapers I was glad that I did it, because otherwise it would have been a big risk of not getting to Sweden in time for Christmas. And I wasn't delayed to Gothenburg, only that I missed out meeting my boyfriend the evening before, so he had to drive alone in the snow 500 km, but it went fine.

We celebrated Christmas with my family at my summerhouse. This picture is from the day my boyfriend and I got to the beach:

449.jpg

In the end all was good and it's something I will always remember.

Posted by aggro 10:33 Archived in Belgium Tagged snow london christmas europe belgium chaos brussels kungsbacka copenhagen heathrow gothenburg Comments (0)

Beerhalls in München

Easy to drink but hard to walk afterwards

sunny 18 °C

Hello again!

It's not all that bad to have a long distance relationship with a man that lives in another country when you are a travel addict. When we meet we can meet anywhere in Europe for lovely city weekends together. Our first one was München (Munich) in Bayern (Bavaria), Germany. We went there in the middle of November and it was 18 degrees Celsius, fabulous!

The first impression I got of München was: "Is this like Amsterdam with stripclubs everywhere?" But it was only a few but we were unlucky and passed the same few many times because we got lost. ;)

The second impression was: "Mmmm tasty beer!"

The third was: "A little bit toooo taesschty perhapsch??"

And the fourth when I woke up just a bit hangovered was: "Wow! Beautiful!"

PB130685.jpg

The shopping street between Karlplatz and Marienplatz was really nice with beerhalls, modern shops and old traditional buildings. And just a few minutes walk from Marienplatz is the famous Hofbräuhaus placed. Wow what an atmosphere!! It's extremely touristic, but who cares? I want my 1 liter of HB served by a traditional dressed frau and I want to be entertained by men in lederhosen playing bavarian folk music while drinking it!

Since this was before Christmas they even had a Glühwine bike where you could sit in front of a table drinking mulled wine with your friends while pedaling around München.

PB130683.jpg

I strongly recommend all beerlovers to travel to München! It's both beautiful and you'll have a fantastic time!

Posted by aggro 10:11 Archived in Germany Tagged germany munich deutschland tyskland münchen hofbräuhaus hb Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 11) « Page 1 [2] 3 »