Updated. Europe (Amsterdam, The Netherlands / Kiev, Ukraine / Paris, France)
This is an update for “Number 36: Visit Every Country/Continent” for Europe.
Europe is a big place, and I touched a few different places while I was there, so I'll give a brief overview of where I went, what I thought, and how long I was there.
My first stop in Europe, and although it has a reputation for certain activities, there would be none of that for me. I was only there for a little over six hours, enough time to get out of the airport, and explore the city for a little bit, but not enough time to indulge. The first thing I noticed when I arrived, coming from the desert, was how incredibly cold it was. 8°C to be precise when I arrived, although it warmed up to a lovely 10°C by the time I left. To give some context the temperature in my location the previous day was 34°C, so you can imagine how I was feeling.
I arrived early in the morning and got myself out of the airport, found the trains that went to the city - although I have to thank Google Translate and it's camera feature, it came in very useful when trying to work out what platform and what train to get onto - and eventually ended up in central Amsterdam.
The first priority on my agenda for the day was coffee, hot coffee. I wandered for a bit before finding a coffee shop where I could sit and set up my camera gear while warming up.
After that, I wandered for a few hours, exploring the city and seeing the sights. With most things still closed due to how early it was, I didn't get to go on any tours or anything too exciting although it was still enjoyable to see a classic European city. Then it was back on the train, back to the airport, and on to my next destination.
Kiev, Ukraine - 14-20 October 2016
My second stop was pretty much as far east as you could go in Eastern Europe before moving into Russia/Eurasia. I arrived in Kiev in the late afternoon, around 5pm, and proceeded to go through security and immigration. An issue became apparent when I advised the immigration officer that I would be applying for a "VISA on arrival" a special agreement that only a few countries have with Ukraine, Australia being one of them.
The immigration officer held up my passport and flagged security who came over after a short wait. At this point, I should point out that all staff on the immigration desks and security were all in full military garb, so it was rather intimidating. But after a few sentences in Ukrainian I was escorted to a small room nearby where I was quizzed as to who I was, my purpose in the country and if I had any money on me.
It was quite hostile until it became apparent that I was just a tourist, and had no nefarious purpose in Ukraine. Then, like a switch was thrown, they became really friendly and interested in why I was there, and happy to have a chat. After waiting around for half an hour or so, I was taken to a new desk, filled out some forms, paid $20 euro and got my VISA.
I took a couple of days downtime to recover from all the travelling I had done, then headed off for the main reason I was in Ukraine, visiting Chernobyl. I'll go into details in a separate post for that, but I spent three days a few hours north of Kiev before heading back.
When I got back to Kiev I had booked a six hour one-on-one walking tour with a local guide, but that wasn’t until late afternoon, around 4-5pm onwards, so I had the day to explore on my own. I chose to wander around a bit of the CBD, chat to some locals and caught up on some washing and domestic chores.
By the time the afternoon rolled around, I was ready to head out, see the city and have a few drinks. I met my guide, the wonderful Eliza and we started wandering.
Learning about the rich and eventful history of Kiev and Ukraine was fascinating; hearing about the political upheaval it’s undergone over the last 10 years was amazing, and seeing all the memorials from recent conflicts - as well as the ancient history of buildings that are older than the colonial settlement of Australia.
But that wasn’t all that made my tour amazing, Eliza did. She didn’t just walk around spouting facts and dates, it was much more conversational than that. We talked about life in general as we walked, about how I was a photographer and she liked to dance. It made it a much more memorable experience.
My one goal for the afternoon was to see and photograph the Rodia Mat at sunset. A huge soviet statue watching over Kiev with a sword and shield, larger than the Statue of Liberty. After that, it was seeing things like the amazing Kiev Metro, a beautiful art deco station and one of the deepest metro stations in the world.
Then it was on to food and drinks, we went to a restaurant that was known for a modern take on traditional Ukrainian cuisine and, well, I’ll let the photo speak for how that was. Drinks were also amazing, and learning the toasts/cheers was fun as well.
Not to mention, the total for dinner for two, as well as several rounds of drinks came to a total of around $15AUD.
Paris, France - 20 October 2016
Paris, unfortunately, was just a blur of a stopover. I technically got the stamp on my passport as I left and re-entered the airport, however in terms of seeing the country there was no time, as I had to run to make my connecting flight.
So we are over halfway through number 36, although some would say we have done all the easy ones :D
36. Visit Every Continent
✓ North America ✓ Europe ✓ Australasia
- South America
Not marking it as complete yet as there is a still more to visit.