"The Ukraine" Kiev by MrBill
Kiev Travel Guide: 1,676 reviews and 4,088 photos
I lived in Kyiv in 1998-99 during the Russian currency crisis. The currency crisis had a profound effect on the development of the Ukraine. It still has not recovered.
I arrived in Kyiv in June 1998 to start up the treasury operations of an Austrian bank. We opened for business in the middle of July. By the middle of August we had the Russian currency crisis.
Basically, Russia defaulted on their debt obligatioins. The Ukraine could of continued to pay on theirs, as Poland did, but chose instead to follow Russia's lead, and default as well, through a mandatory rescheduling of their debt obligations. This killed the domestic market, and further discouraged much needed foreign investment.
Five years later, Russia has recovered due to its size, importance, and oil & gas revenues. Poland has joined the EU accession process and is doing nicely. While the Ukraine remains one of the laggards of the former CIS countries.
Why do I tell you this? As you travel through CEE, you will visit the winners and losers from the break-up of the former USSR. Some countries have made a clean break, made tough decisions, and have reformed themselves. Others have not swallowed thier bitter medicine, and continue to lag behind in terms of growth and prosperity.
Please do not blame this on capitalism or globalization. This is a matter of domestic politics and good governance.
The Ukraine may have many nice churches, but their domestic development has been stunted by poor government and populist politics.
My favorite memories of Kyiv are my good friends there, the Chestnut trees in bloom in May, and skiing down St. Andrivivska street, atter a snow storm had deposited a good foot of new snow. It was almost midnight, I carried my skiis over and skied down the middle of the street. When I got to the bottom, I took a taxi around and back up the hill. I think the locals thought I was truly crazy? Crazy Canuck that is.
I would reccommend people to visit Kyiv, but a few days is more than enough.
I did not find it safe or convenient to venture outside the city on my own. So the chances to see the countryside were few. I enjoyed going out to my frriend's baba's dacha and digging potatoes and then having a huge dinner accompanied by copious amounts of samagon, the locally made over-proof vodka. After one such trip to the countryside, and many samagons, I inherited a kitty-kat. One of the sweetest, and dare I say, dog-like, people loving cats, I have ever had.
I did go with friends for picnics along the Dnipro river and to many fine lakes surrounding the city. I was very disappointed that the Ukraine people do not take good care of their environment. Without exception, every pretty picnic spot was literally covered in garbage - bottles, cans, paper and plastic - that people had carried in, but not out. Even in a poorer, developing country there is no excuse to deface the natural beauty of a country well indowed with lakes, rivers, beaches and forests.
Yalta and the Black Sea were great. I never made it to the Carpathian mountains in the Ukraine, due to the poor state of the roads, although I did ski on the Romanian side of these mountains while I lived there, but that is another travelogue.
One year in the Ukraine was enough. I had problems with the Russian mafia, the police, the customs agents, etc. and it was time to get the heck out of Dodge before I ended up floating in the Dnipro or shot on the steps of my apartment. No exaggeration.
Take a short flight from Kyiv to Yalta and the Black Sea ports. Would have loved to have spent more time there. I did not even get the chance to visit Odessa!
- Pros:beautiful wide, tree lined boulevards
- Cons:isolated, no chance to get out of the city
- In a nutshell:great place to visit, you don't want to live there
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