This is a country of paradox! The greatest of all being that it is in fact two countries. There is the Ukraine, Ukraine and there is the Russian Ukraine! How is this? In the east of the country the spoken language is Ukrainian. If you are not so interested in making friends try communicating in Russian… In this part of the Ukraine Russia seems to be viewed as less of a big brother and more as a “big bully”.
In the east and south of the country the language is predominately Russian and just to make it more interesting many of these Ukrainians claim not to know the Ukraine language! It seems very similar to me and I really do not think it would take too much effort for these guys to learn Ukrainian, or conversely, Russian!
This divide is actually a big problem for this country and needs to Invest in Ukraine be resolved by their government (if they have one right now, that is) quickly. Why? How these divisions? During the 70%2B years of the Soviet Occupation, no Sorry Union Many Russian families moved into southern and western areas of The Ukraine and when this system collapsed many remained, you could say like beached whales.
From the perspective of an outsider these distinctions are minor, insignificant, but actually they are holding back what is a beautiful country of so much potential. Come on guys, be a duo language country! Many countries are so, move on!
OK let’s travel! I will share my experiences of travelling from Kiev down to Odessa. On arrival at “Kiev International airport”. (It is very small) in the early evening and collecting my rent a car the only option was an overnight in Kiev. Interesting hotel (no names) room ok. Now breakfast, quite a culture shock. I was placed in a shared table and given my breakfast…..but, but. No menu, no questions, and here it is, take it or leave it! Not all hotels are so, ok, but many are.
So I need to find the road to Odessa, sounds simple enough yes? Being smart I asked the local taxi drivers directions out of Kiev and towards Odessa. It actually took me 3 hours to find my way out of Kiev and I speak, understand some Russian! Good and helpful road signs are not a big priority right now in The Ukraine.
Once I found the road it was very easy, some 500 km’s of dual carriageway straight to Odessa and I mean straight, if there was a bend, or even a small curve in the road I missed it. The country side? Mostly flat and I’m sure one upon a time incredibly productive farmland, (for the gardeners reading this we are talking deep rich loam, the stuff we dream about.) now it is mostly pasture, or less, with the odd very contented cow grazing.
Odessa as with many Ukraine cities is big, maybe 1, 5 million inhabitants and as with many Ukraine cities is both beautiful and ugly. Dusk was setting and I needed to find a hotel. I found one and being rather tired checked in. As I mentioned in my previous article there are really two types of Hotel in The Ukraine. The modern, comfortable, efficient and well priced ones and the old style, untouched, since the soviet era hotels. You guessed it, it was the latter, though this time I was not subjected to an obligatory pre set breakfast, no this time there was no breakfast, well actually no restaurant, or dining room either! I will pause here, the people trying to run this hotel were extremely friendly and very nice, almost apologetic at trying to run a hotel that maybe has not seen $1 investment, or a lick of paint since the Soviets left.
The centre, the old heart of Odessa is beautiful, enchanting. Quite clearly once this was an affluent and successful port and judging from the architecture that was 100%2B years ago. Now? It is atypical of The Ukraine, a few obviously wealthy people and the rest? Scrabbling for a living. For me my time whilst brief was enjoyable only I am aware of a highly cultured and intelligent population trying to make, from very little a life for themselves and maybe more importantly a future for their children. They deserve better and with luck and some leadership life must become easier.