Monday, May 28, 2007

Notes from the Kiev Underground

The Kiev metro system is a fabulous mix of Soviet glory and Ukrainian patriotism.

The system consists of about four lines, which are distinguished by start/end names, much like BART in the Bay Area. Of course, all the station names are in Ukrainian cyrillic writing, so a little difficult to distinguish station names and directions. Better than that, certain metro stations are connected underground, with each metro line belonging to a different station, but connected by tunnels. Distinguishing which way tunnel/escalator is out, and which ones takes you to the adjoining station/lines is difficult. And even with a fluent Ukrainian translator (ie, my mother), one can spend a good ten minutes walking from tunnel to escalator to tunnel, and finding one has just gone in a giant circle through multiple stations. The winning moment during our Kruschatyk station escapade was getting to the top of an escalator and finding oneself faced with three identical white-tiled tunnels leading in different directions with no signs whatsoever, and masses of people going in and out of each of them.

But once one figures out the system, it's quite fun. For 50 kopeks, you can go all over the city, getting views over the Dnipro river and samplings of all the different stations. One station has fancy chandeliers all down it, while another is a hommage to Lenin, with dark brown marble columns and bronze statuary down the middle of the two underground platforms, enscribed with famous quotes. In contrast, the metro cars are painted sky blue and yellow (Ukrainian colours - for the sky and the wheat).

The best part of the metro is the people. Last night was a May day celebration of Kiev, consisting of a giant street party. When it rained, one notable group of older middle-aged people retreated to the metro to continue their party. They were all dressed up in their embroidered blouses, and a man was playing the accordion. They stood in a circle and danced in the traditional folk style. I'm sure much vodka was being drunk...

Earlier in the day, the two rival football teams apparently played each other - unlike the calm and peaceful protestors the day before, the sports fans were rowdier than the noisiest Bay Area fans - chants, jeers and drum-banging from rival fans echoed through all the metro stations throughout the day!

Tomorrow is our last day in Kiev before returning to L'viv in the evening. All the best,

(Sorry for no photos - I keep getting an error message in cyrillic/Ukrainian, so I can't figure out how to fix it!)


Maria said...

Hey Delphine. I thought I would check out your blog. The metro system sounds like a maze. I'm totally directionally challenged so I would be lost if I was there. Especially not being able to speak Ukraine either. Wishing you safe travels for you and ure mom! Maria Tam nee Lee

M said...

Happy Travels, and fun blog writing. Thanks for sharing Delphine. Colette just happened to mention your blog when I passed her the newly arrived Moldova postcard. So much fun, I'm passing it along to a few folks who don't even know you. :) Enjoy, and thanks for sharing all the little bits. Megan

scotjack said...

We, (myself, my wife and our son)spent three wonderful weeks in Kiev in the summer of 2005 while my son attended violin master classes at the Horowitz Academy. Kiev is a wonderful city! And the metro system is about the best I have ever traveled on - much, much better than London, Paris or New York. The Ukrainians are very friendly and the flat rate fare is designed to encourage people to leave their cars at home. Currently its 1/20 of what they charge in London - where I used to live. The stations and cars are much cleaner too. True you might get a little confused at first, but persevere -- its worth it!