There’s lots going on around the world at the moment, and it brought back memories of my first visit to Kiev.

Its difficult to imagine what I was expecting from my visit to Ukraine. Since a boy in the early 80’s, I’ve been fascinated by the mysteries of Eastern Europe, of the Soviet Union and everything the Cold War brought; other children of the 80’s will understand what I mean. Threads, Protect and Survive, Bronski Beat and for some the leftist Gay Rights Movement. These are all my memories, and all my imaginings of for my first visit to Eastern Europe.

Flying into Kiev showed hot springs all around, amazing to see and I never imagined this would be the case. Borispol was very modern, not what I expected and then the drive to Kiev, wow! I’ve never been at nearly 100 miles per hour in a Fiat Doblo – sightly unnerving, fasten the seat belt…..

First impression of Kiev were as I hoped, large tower blocks, bridges as proud feats of engineering and awe-inspiring monuments. The more modern with Soviet influencing and the older ones, cathedrals and churches reflecting in my mind, the Golden Gates of Kiev.

The view of Union Square from my hotel room balcony was stark. No real crowds of tourists to be seen anywhere. Not what you imagine from one of the Worlds major cities, especially one so large. A small walk later to discover the National Opera House showed me this was a city whilst proud, definitely in crisis, but now real evidence of poverty. That was to come later on my journey to Chernobyl. I spent the night at the ballet, a half full house but a stunning and World-class performance by the National Ballet Company.

My second day was spent walking the city, with no ambition to see particular things. As I always enjoy most, I follow my nose.

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