Helmets on Fire (Terraced House!), Street Drinking, Absinthe and Mini Giant Kiev Island Police Station – Kiev, Ukraine (Part One).

We arrived at Kiev with the bouquet intact where we resisted the harassing offers of taxis into town (with the aid of our cunningly scribed hand dictionaries) and decided instead to make our own way on the little old rickety mini bus that took about an hour to get to the train station. From there, our hostel had given us directions of the various Metros we needed, so we (upon finally locating the underground station and having a quick beer next to it – after Lithuania’s non-street drinking/no kiosks with booze on the street corner, we were very relieved to find the streets packed with little shacks selling cheap booze for the thirsty traveler) we bought tokens for the metro and attempted to put what we thought were the tokens into the turnstile, only for it to spit them out and the security man shouted at us until we sussed out that we were actually putting our loose change into there instead of the plastic tokens. Michael Bayed that right up like! We then descended down into what seemed like the core of the earth on the massive escalators and pushed our way onto the packed Metro, trying to perfect our non-standing out, dour Eastern European demeanour of not smiling at anyone when making eye contact.

Our hostel was quite easy to locate (with the help of our old friend Google Maps) and looked far too big and impersonal for our liking, but it had a nice bar that we managed to squeeze onto a table in and ordered some beers and some nice soups (“Soups of Eastern Europe” could totally be the theme of this trip!), which came in a utterly random order and time (Susan’s soup, then 20 minutes later Jill’s soup and the potato pancakes we’d ordered to dunk in them – all very tasty though!). Dinner and a bottle of wine later, we finally headed up to our room, had a nice shower and Jill was just lolloping about in the nip when who should walk in but our new roomie from Bellendarus, Katerina, who upon being informed we were going there in May grimly replied “Do not go, is not good” and that was the beginning and end of our relationship with her as she just sat on her bed and texted the entire time. We had located a suitably dubious sounding bar to head to so set off on a rickety tram adventure across Kiev. Arrived at the red Google map dot to be confronted by vets and no pub to be seen so wandered around the grand old streets with the whelk location unit turned up to 11, following dodgy looking men through gates into an even dodgier looking pitch black courtyard, from where we thought we could hear the faint sounds of activity. After accidentally wandering onto a building site and about to give up we had one last ditch attempt at walking to an apartment door with a light on, trying to look like we knew what we were doing and ignoring the 2 men shouting Russian at us from us the street, and lo and behold we had found Palata No 6 – our new home for the evening. As promised it was a grotty looking dive bar with the bartender and servers in Doctor’s outfits and stethoscopes, serving vodka from syringes. We ordered the ubiquitous soup (mashed potato soup and green borscht) with some tasty pickled mushrooms and a bottle of wine as we still weren’t ready for vodka. Halfway through the meal we got chatting to the guy next to us and our new best friend for the evening, Andre the banker who had learned his English from Eddie Murphy and couldn’t finish a sentence without adding “sheeeeiiit nigga!” despite being a diminutive bespectacled white Ukrainian man. 

We proceeded to set the world to rights and had a good history lesson about Soviet Times and an insight into the current situation in the country. Partway through a particularly heated discussion on some political matter, we were startled by the sound of shouting and whistling at the other end of the bar and looked across to see a young couple wearing World War II helmets that were set on fire and the bartender was blowing whistles and shouting in their faces as they downed a succession of potent looking shots, before hitting them both on the head with a beer barrel. Susan immediately demanded we have one, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough cash and the combination of absinthe, betchertkelpz (that she was especially afraid to touch after the Prague incident when she vomited on Meash’s face), and whatever the fup the red stuff was was too much for our still-not-quite-recovered-from-all-the-horrific-shots-in-Riga stomaches. We were disappointed when they seemed to call time, turned all the lights on and we started to get ready to leave along with everyone else, but then the matronly landlady casually made the offer of “Absinthe?” – who are we to say no? What we didn’t bank on, is said absinthe being served “gas chamber” style, igniting the drink in a large brandy glass, pouring it into a shot glass (to be immediately downed) and then sticking a straw under to suck out the hideous vapors. We surprised ourselves managing to do this without vomiting on anything/anyone but were also surprised to find ourselves being presented with a the bill for them when we’d thought they were on the house. Since we’d ran out of cash, Jill trundled off to the nearby ATM to acquire more funds, only to return to find that they had actually been ordered and paid for by a lovely lad called Oleg, whose birthday it was that night. Despite our polite but insincere protests he then got in a round of sambucas, served in the same dangerous manner, only with the addition of coffee bean choking hazards. It really was chucking out time at this point so we tried to persuade Oleg and Andre to join us for further night caps they were adamant they were going home, probably as they had work the next day. Andre was kind enough to order us a taxi and take us to a kiosk where we could buy some street beers and as we made our way there Susan met and fell in love with a giant shaggy bear/puppy who we named Mini Giant Kiev Island Police Station who was absolutely adorable and yet again Susan started making mental arrangements for stray dog relocation, but unfortunately Andre refused to look after him for 2 weeks until Susan returned home and set the procedure in process, but did promise to feed him a kebab every time he went to that pub. After an emotional farewell Jill finally managed to get Susan into the taxi, with tears in her stars in her eyes and we sloped quietly into our room trying not to wake up Bellendarus, but probably waking up Bellendarus. Kiev Part Two – daytime to follow…

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