Our journey to the Ukraine started with a long queue at the boarder crossing where sun heated asphalt was melting underneath our feet. By now we have left the blistering cold behind us to sit like frying meat in the hot afternoon sun. I wouldn't want it any other way.
Cars were searched elaborately but when the overwhelming chaos of Sabine's underbelly swept into the officers faces they surrendered in trying to search through every bag. And so we continued our venture to find out what a country spits out when the old east and the new west drown inside each other. We drove through villages and couldn't sate our eyes on this seemingly time capsuled place. Holes in the streets gaping open like craters in the desert made it difficult to ride faster than walking speed. Lone chicken and lost cows wandering the road sides, old neighbours having a comfortable chat on a lazy afternoon, horse carriages taking goods from A to B and old houses skinning their broken shell off the walls.
Life seemed so simple here and yet its magic mesmerised me.
Quickly we came to the decision that we wanted to see more of this country that was holding so much more in store for us. We booked an overnight train that would take us through a hot Ukrainian night and depart us into the waking hands of it's proud capital. The train ride was long and hot. Trapped air breathed in and out by hundreds of people, a late sun light covering the bunk beds with a golden sheet and finally the long awaited cool kiss of the falling night. 13 hours later we would awake to yet another hot morning filled with endless opportunities of an unknown city.
We shared the compartment with a Czech man who invited us friendly to sit with him. The heat lurred him into taking off his shirt and the blank matter of the moment exposed his figure of comfort. In a conversation lost in translation we understood that he had a house and family in Kyiv where he was born but his job would make him travel 42 hours on this rusting old train all the way to Prague every other month. There he would spend two months working before he returned to his family in Kyiv for one very short but long awaited week.
My first impression of Kyiv was different to what I expected. What exactly I expected I am not sure of but the centre, the heart of this newly reborn place had the face of a young person, energetic and modern, undergone an effort to shine. Just around the next street corner though your curious eyes would find the evident footprint of the past despite the radical effort to deminish the traces of it's communuist history. In the aftermath of the bloodful Euromaidan, more than 2000 monuments had been taken down and more than 400 cities and villages woke to find themselves with a new name. A wave of reforms washed over the country and he who didn't listen could be punished with a prison sentence reaching up to two years. You can sense they don't take it easy, the responsibility to make the winter of 2014 count, to make it so the heavenly hundered didn't die for no good.
A touching exhibition was placed on the Maidan sqaure, the once blank canvas, the silent witness, that counldn't help the blood shedding of its people who were fighting for a just leadership.
We were intreguied to find more of the old Kyiv, to see more of what was before the new generation was opening its gates to the west. So we took the train and rode to the last stop on the line. This was more like what I had seen with my imaginary eye, maybe a little bit ignorant to the county's recent past. But here I understood, this was the missing link between the peeling houses and horse carrieges in the villages and the modern centre of this city.
Here we wandered over old fashioned markets, old women peeping out underneath their faded head scarfs with their sun dried faces. Selling milk in plastic bottles sitting in the sun that would turn sour in a blink of an eye.
It was a mesmerising feel in the air, like touching history at its fingertips and putting the ends together. I loved the experience this country left me with and would return any time.