09 December, 2007

Night Train to Kiev

We just returned to Russia from a forced vacation to a place not of our choosing, for the sole purpose of getting a piece of paper that tells us we could stay longer where we already were...in Russia! I'm talking about the process we had to go through to get new visas. What was originally supposed to be something that could be taken care of in one day became a two week experience for us.

I'm sure Kiev, a very large city in the Ukraine, would be a lot more fun in warmer weather. We are not cold weather fanaticos, and tend to stay more and more "holed-up" as the mercury drops. But after awhile cabin fever started to get to us and we began leaving our hotel for the purpose of preserving our sanity, which relates closely to the practice of not killing each other. Even a TV that had stations from Italy, Turkey, Korea, Germany, France, Russia, and of course the Ukraine, was not enough to hold our boredom to a manageable level. Playing 500 Rummy offered only temporary relief. Visiting the casino would have been interesting, but why risk making this unwanted adventure even more expensive than it already was.

It was a big challenge to find an American-style breakfast, which we were craving, and ultimately did find in an Irish pup in downtown Kiev. (By the way, in the Slavic nations it is pronounced "Keev," so don't go trying to stick an extra syllable in there, okay?). The pub advertized as having the best breakfasts available in Kiev, and who were we to argue. Two very hungry people that's who.

Our all night train rides from Moscow to Kiev and return were interesting. I just hope it is quite awhile longer before I'm wakened again by somebody who wants to sell me a teddy bear, a flashlight, or potato chips. The Ukrainian and Russian border agents were very nice though. They come right to your berth to collect your documents. The same for the railroad attendant on our coach, who even brought us coffee. For our return trip we had become seasoned night train riders and were packing our own chips, candy bars, and a couple gin and tonics in a can (Probably our favorite snack time beverage that I'm sure is available in the states, but we didn't discover till we came to Russia.).

Much to our dismay, when we arrived back in Moscow early Saturday morning, the first restaurant we went to only serves breakfast on Monday and Tuesday, and not until eight o'clock. That is from our understanding of the Russian that was spoken to us at the time. Being travel weary didn't enhance our ability to understand I'm sure. Anyhow, rather than have sushi for breakfast, we went across the street to McDonalds!

Though now we are armed with fresh visas, the jumping through hoops action has not stopped, so we have more paperwork to take care of to get actual working visas. I think both the United States and Russia are working very hard to see that various bureaucratic processes, such as in granting visas, will never become endangered species. And it seems if one country makes things harder the other responds in kind. And who suffers the most? People like you and me. Of course the lady hawking teddy bears on the night train to Kiev is happy. (No, we didn't buy a teddy bear......chips though.).



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