Kiev Carry on

Nicholas Quirke was shocked into the realisation that he hadn’t thought about crossing borders and what might happen and was therefore astonished, in fact he thought he was dreaming, when he was woken at 00.55 to find a young man in uniform in his compartment asking for his passport. It turned out the train was leaving Hungry. Once the train started its journey again at a slow and creaking pace it crossed a iron bridge, which in the dark, as the girders loomed large and close to the window, was terrifying. He could see the icy water below and the snow and frost clinging to the banks and trees making the whole experience surreal and disturbing. It was not long before they entered Ukraine and Passport control and customs inspected him and his luggage. Of course everything was in order though the small voice of his brother in law asking if he had a Visa for the Ukraine did have him wondering if he had missed something and might be marched off the train. Good job he was sleeping in his thermals. Everything was in order, though he was alarmed to find the train had stopped and repairs to the wheel below him seemed to be taking place. It was impossible to sleep so he went back to reading. He felt so awake he did not think he would sleep. That, of course was the last thought he had as the next moment it was 6.30am and he woke to a more bleaker vista. Who knew the`Ukraine was so vast. They were already 5 hours into the country and there were still 11 hours to go. He quickly rose and started recording the view and was relieved that he would be finally able to see if he could charge his phone and iPad  and try to connect to WIFI. The carriage however was locked and he was captive in the sleeper. The guard too was fast asleep so he would have to be patient. Nicholas was alarmed. once the door was unlocked as it only opened onto a third class, third world sleeper Carriage and to cross into it he had navigated An old style carriage connection where you could see the track running below.  There seemed nowhere he could charge his  technology. He was going to have to wait till he got to Kiev. A whole day without would be good training for his Trans Siberian Express experience. It was already like sensory deprivation. They stopped for an hour in a city. But when he suggested he leave to get food they said no and laughed.  He had a bowel of his noodles. Were the others on the train in the same situatioin? The carriage was then shunted back and forth before finally being attached to a new train. His hopes were up. He could charge the tech even if WiFi was beyond. Nicholas found the towns and villages they past through extraordinary, completely from another time though the industry and its debris remain the same the world over. Pollution is real. Without WiFi he was able to enjoy the views, read and the as the heat on the train was soporific he slept quite a bit too. ~By now he had struck up quite a comradeship with the train guards, it seemed he was the only passenger making the long journey from Wien, the others had disembarked, to be replaced by other more Slavic and noisy ones. By 3pm it was starting to get dark and when he eventually arrived in Kyiv it was night. ~His first impression was lots of Neon. For the first time he felt himself to be in a truly alien place. Despair having an electronic translator he was unable to use it as it needed WiFi!. Nicholas cashed in his Euros for Hryvni and went to get a taxi. to take him to his hostel, which boasted a double room with a balcony. The driver charged him the equivalent of 40 pounds for a 10 minute journey. Demanding that it was on the metre twice what his room in the soviet style apartment block was costing him but he didn’t have the fight in him to argue it. His accommodation demanded he pay in cash and as he had barely any left he had to goi and search for a cash machine. This was frustrating and taking time, his confidence in his journey taking a blow, he had an argument in a bank, almost lost his card in a machine before eventually finding somewhere to change his 500 Czech Koruna. He bought something to eat And enjoyed a conversation with a Ukrainian English teacher who told him his accent was beautiful. Amazing how a small bit of flattery can cheer up the most disgruntled, agitated soul. He went back to his hostel, which really was like something from Krystof Kieslowski’s ‘Decalogue‘, ‘A short film about Killing’ , ate his food, connected himself to the WiFi and posted his adventures. He prepared himself to enjoy a day in Kiev before he took another train bound east the next evening.

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