This is my third trip report about 2 weeks of traveling around Ukraine and Moldova.
Even though creating travel reports, like Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2019 ,takes a lot of time and at the same time brings little to no traffic to my blog, I would like to set a new habit of documenting all of my travel experiences.
Because every time I return to reality and grind 9 to 5 every day, I forget all the juicy details from my travels. The only thing left is several thousand blurred photos, that are left forgotten on my hard drive.
This way, I will be able to relive the whole experience again.
Why is it worth and safe to visit Ukraine
Ukraine was on my bucket list since 2017, when the country became popular in the pick-up artist community, because Ukraine is dirt cheap and Ukrainian women are famous for their modelesque beauty. Moreover, I was always fond of Eastern European countries, but Ukraine was never in my top ten, mainly due to the language barrier and the Annexation of Crimea.
Having had a positive reception in Romania and memorable relationship with a Bulgarian ex, I thought I should visit Bulgaria first, which I did in 2017. Then my wanderlust for Eastern European countries went away. I sacrificed 2018 for a month-long Southeast Asia trip with my family.
Finally, in 2019, I convinced my colleagues, that it would be awesome to take a trip to Ukraine. We needed a vacation after a long depressing winter. And no one has ever been there yet. Moreover, my colleague just graduated from university and celebrating graduation in Ukraine seemed to be a good idea. We didn’t plan to visit Eastern Ukrainian borders, so it should be safe too.
Tips on how to buy flight ticket to Ukraine
As always, I hesitated to buy flight tickets in the beginning. My initial search 3 months before departure yielded direct flight tickets, that costs about 200 USD.
I was convinced I can find cheaper tickets later. But life happened and I waited for too long before committing. Another search attempt a month before departure returned 20% more expensive connection flights.
Finally, three weeks before departure, we couldn’t wait any longer and booked plane tickets through polish airlines Lot, that costs about 240 USD.
Airlines have a dynamic pricing system, that move price up and down based on actual demand and the departure date. The closer is the departure, the more volatile is the price.
Initially you get a quote offering tickets for 100 USD, the second later, the same tickets cost 10-20% more. Price stays the same for few days before resetting to original levels.
The trick here is to always use a different proxy for each plane tickets search. Airlines are so smart, they remember your searches attempts by tracking your IP address and web browser cookies. When they see, that you are speculating on a price decline, they will surge the price up to make you buy tickets now.
Another trick is to connect to their website from another country. Airlines might have different price buckets for different countries. E.g. they might sell cheaper tickets to German customers. I know it is unfair, but once you know how it works, you can exploit the system.
Our two weeks in Ukraine itinerary
Missing the opportunity to buy direct flight tickets forced us to be creative when planning our route across Ukraine.
Originally, we wanted to start in Kyiv and travel around by train to the South and then back up north. Ukraine is a big country and such a return trip would take two full days.
Since return flight to Kyiv was not available anymore, we considered an option to return from another city or vice versa. I made an assumption, that we should visit seaside first and leave Kyiv as our last stop.
In the beginning of the trip, you want to slow. You chill at the beach, you get some tan, you learn a few Ukrainian words and get used to local customs. Then you can go crazy toward the end of the trip and party hard in Kyiv. My assumptions proved me correct.
Therefore, we bought a departure ticket to Odessa and return ticket from Kyiv.
My tip on travel insurance when visiting Ukraine
Do you need insurance when traveling to Ukraine? Yes, definitely!
Ukraine is known for its horrible healthcare system, so get your insurance in check. As always, I bought medium-tier travel insurance, that covers accidents, responsibility, and loss of baggage.
Money and budget for two weeks in Ukraine
Should I bring some cash to Ukraine? Cash is king in underdeveloped countries. My experience in Romania and Bulgaria taught me, that there won’t be many opportunities to pay with debit card.
The reality, fortunately, proved me wrong. Almost all restaurants and grocery stores accept card payments. The only time you need spare change is when you to tip a waiter or pay for a taxi.
Anyway, I brought about 400 EUR in cash with me. In the end, I spent only half of it. In Ukraine, Exchange points are almost at every corner so don’t worry. The chance of being scammed is quite small because Currency exchange is tightly regulated by the government. Just avoid exchanges near tourist spots and you will get fair rates.
Ukraine national currency is called Hryvnia. For the illustration, a meal at a fancy restaurant will cost you anywhere from 300 to 400 UAH or 10-15 USD. Drink at the club will cost you about 60 UAH.
Because of a weak currency, you will carry a lot of UAH bills, so bring a fanny pack or something.
How to pack for a Ukrainian trip
What to pack to Ukraine? This time, I packed too many clothes for two weeks trip. Blazer, spare shorts, pants, and shoes…
I thought dressing classy would be beneficial when going to Ukrainian clubs. But I forgot, how I dislike upscale clubs and prefer more laid back underground clubs.
Other than that I brought the usual stuff. Clothes, cables, power bank, phone, tripod, passport…All packed into cabin luggage.
My colleague, who never traveled extensively before, bought a suitcase on my advice. He pretty much regretted it later. I don’t mind walking long distances while carrying a suitcase, but he was not used to it and complained about it all the time. It made me thinking about buying a backpack suitable for nomads for my next trips.
How to book accommodation In Ukraine
Usually, when I travel solo, I book a single bed in a hostel dormitory room. This time, I was not sure if I can persuade others to lower their comfort zone and try the hostel at least once.
Since we are a group of 3 dudes, who we want to meet new girls, I thought staying in a hostel will give us many opportunities to mingle with other female travelers. I was wrong again.
The hostel we booked in Lviv, Capsule hostel, is owned by a guy, who selectively places all good looking girls into his dormitory room while putting others into a different room. On top of that, the Capsule hostel in Lviv was not comfortable nor clean.
I was curious about trying capsule hostels since it is a popular and cheap type of accommodation in Japan. After my experience in Lviv, I will book capsule hostels only in emergency cases.
Beds or capsules are stacked next to each other in 2 rows of 4. The whole bed construction was hand made and probably was not well tested. Every time someone made a move or scratched his butt, you felt a little earthquake.
Also, capsule beds are known for having bad airflow as there is no air conditioning inside and are not recommended to people who suffer claustrophobia.
While booking hostel in Lviv was a one time experiment, we were sure about getting a hotel in Odessa. To book one in Odessa, I wanted to try hotwire.com. I heard positive references from people, who were able to book a 4-star accommodation in hot places like New York for half of the price.
The trick is that your hotel is not known beforehand. You won’t know where you stay until check-in day. The only guarantee you get the number of stars and the approximate location.
I initially aimed for a 5-star hotel, but I hesitated again and at the time of booking, the price surged to 150 USD a night. I had to accept a 4-star deal for 90 USD a night and hope for the best.
The hotel turned out to be fine. Black sea hotel Otrada was close to the beach and was clean. For your imagination, a 4-star hotel in Ukraine can be compared to a 3-star hotel in Western Europe. The only difference is the service. Four-star hotel in Ukraine has more staff, who will take care of your needs.
Also, beware of the local tourist tax you have to pay during check-in. Hotwire does not include tourist tax into its price. I ended up paying 15 USD for a group of three.
As for accommodation in Kyiv, we went with booking.com. We knew that last-minute deals on Hotwire will be way too overpriced. On booking.com, we found a pretty good deal Hotel Lukyanovski. A 3-star hotel near subway, 24 h reception, and a free coffee for as much as 150 USD for 3 nights.
My conclusion about getting accommodation in Ukraine is simple. If you plan to stay for more than one-two nights in any city and want to increase the chance of pulling her home, then book an apartment or a hook up friendly hotel. When the girl is interested, she will always ask about your place and how close it is to her home. She is probing, if it will be safe and comfortable to stay with you overnight. She doesn’t want to do it in the hostel’s kitchen or bathroom.
An epic Ukraine trip report
Landing in Odessa
We had crazy high expectations before landing in Odessa. Most travel guides describe Odessa as a number one choice for beaches and party. A place, where Russian elites go in Summer to show off their devushkas. We imagined it would be a clean, modern beach town comparable to other popular destinations in Eastern Europe, such as Varna.
Rough landing at Odessa airport raised our concerns, that it might not be what we imagined. The whole landing strip was covered with road cracks and the size of Odessa’s Airport was equal to a central bus station in an average mid-size city in the West.
It became obvious, that Odessa is not a popular destination for solo tourist or backpacker groups. There were no English signs, that would lead you from airport to connecting bus/tram station.
We had to follow google map directions and had to wait more than 25 minutes for a bus. At one moment, we were doubting ourselves if we are waiting at the right spot.
My advice is to install Uber and just call a taxi. If you are the person, who always want to try the local transportation system, then, by all means, do it, just be patient.
Odessa Day 1 – Wining and dining
We landed at the airport, went through passport check-in, somehow managed to get to the city center by bus and walked 2,5 km to the hotel, while carrying luggage.
As I pointed out, Odessa streets are not built for dragging your luggage around. There are holes and bumps everywhere. The taxi will save you nerves and luggage wheels.
We checked into our hotel and took a 2-hour nap. We were so tired of having to wake up early in the morning. Like, I had to wake up at 3 am after getting a 2-hour sleep.
When we woke up, it was 5pm. Time for dinner. I looked at Tripadvisor and the best local restaurant, that popped out on top was Kumanets. We wanted to try authentic Ukrainian borscht and vodka and Kumanets was a perfect place for borscht tasting.
To get there quick, we grabbed an Uber. One ride cost us 52 UAH, so about 17 UAH each person. Pretty cheap.
At Kumanets, I ordered borscht, a juice and a meal I don’t remember. I was pretty satisfied and felt full just by having soup.
I never tried Ukrainian borscht before and the difference between Borscht in Ukraine and one served in the Czech republic is night and day. Ukraine Borscht has more ingredients. Apart from red beetroot, soup is made of pork rib broth, pork meat and cream served with a plate of buttered buns. It was delicious.
The service at Kumanets was also fine. I was worried, that we would have trouble communicating in English, but our waiter knew a few English words, enough for taking our order.
One thing I noticed was, that Ukrainian waiters don’t smile. Either they don’t enjoy doing it, or they don’t get tips from customers here.
For a top-rated local restaurant for tourist in town, the price was very good. I paid 20 USD for the meal and drinks.
After dinner, we decided to walk back to the hotel to help the metabolism and to explore the city a bit. One thing I noticed about the architecture in Odessa are building entrances, that is built as enclosed porches, that leads to the basement.
It looks very sketchy from the outside at night because you have to open the doors and take the stairs down to the basement to enter the building. We joked about how are all porches used to cover the entrance to nightclubs and slaughterhouses.
One particular entrance caught our attention. There was a big invitation sign with quotes about love and peace. I was suspicious and hesitated to enter, but my mate was curious and went in. In the worst-case scenario, it turns out to be a nightclub in which case you are always free to walk away.
Well, surprisingly we entered into a tiny cozy hipsterish pub managed by two shy young barely legal bartenders, who were surprised, that a group tourist dared to enter their pub. We tried to engage them in the conversation but failed due to the language barrier.
Luckily my mate knew a few Russian words and managed to get some insights. They were a group of liberal students, who own the pub and use the place to express their free-minded thoughts.
Also the pub will be closed the next day because it is a national holiday. Almost everyone will be on the beach picnicking and celebrating Victory day. Closing time was approaching so we finished our drinks and went back to the hotel.
Odessa Day 2 – Exploring beaches and avoiding Ukrainian scams
Next morning we decided to try breakfast served at our hotel.
For over 10 USD, we got a pretty basic breakfast. Mashed eggs, one bun, butter, and some vegetable. I would say it was overpriced for Ukrainian standards.
After breakfast, we went to the beach. We went up north until we found the main local attraction, Odessa’s Dolphinarium.
Too tired from walking, we stopped by a bistro on the hill above Dolphinarium with a terrace and a nice view over the sea.
Moments like this are what I enjoy the most. Sitting at the terrace with a nice view over the beach, sunbathing, watching the waves over the horizon, while having a beer.
Two cute girls were sitting at a table next to us. They ordered strange-looking dumplings. I thought about opening them with an indirect question about their meal, but I chickened out and took no action.
The con about traveling with friends is that you tend to stay in your comfort zone. You would rather stick with your friends than risk a public embarrassment. When I travel alone, I have nothing to lose. I either take an action or regret myself for the rest of my life not doing it.
After a few beers, we went to explore the southern part of the seaside. There are is a huge park with a bike trail and multiple picnic areas, but no public beaches. We explored only 2 km before it started to rain.
On the way to the park, two girls approached us. I thought “damn, finally we got approached by curious local girls, who can speak English”! Two-seconds in, I knew we have been baited.
After saying hello, she immediately jumped into selling mode, offering some incredibly valuable discount coupons, that gives you second order for free. Imagine Pizza 1+1, one hour of VR gaming or a taxi ride.
I could tell it was a total rip off, but my mate played along and tried to flirt with the girl. Unfortunately, she was a pro and always changed the topic back to her product and was quite persistent with it.
Well, my mate couldn’t resist and buy one coupon book “as a souvenir”. The moment girls got money in their hands, they happily departed and went to find another customer. I felt we have been just scammed. Later we found out this is not the case, fortunately.
When going through the park, we understood what bartender said last night about the Ukrainian tradition of spending holidays doing a picnic. The whole park was crowded with groups sitting, eating and grilling. It was nice to see tight-knit groups, that spend time together.
The moment we saw rainclouds on the horizon. We decided to make a u-turn and go back to the hotel, just in case. Our assumptions were correct. Few minutes after our return, it started to rain hard.
When it stopped hours later, after some grocery shopping and doing nada, we went out to the city center. To our surprise streets were almost empty. There was no nightlife what so ever. My mates couldn’t believe me, that Ukrainians don’t celebrate holidays on the streets, but privately at home. I was right again.
Then someone suggested we could go to an Irish bar to watch football. It turned out to be a terrible idea. There was no good place to sit and drink were expensive. I paid 5 euros for a glass of wine. Sports/Irish bars are usually a sausage fest full of thirsty dudes, who know no better than to drink beers all night. We left the Irish pub after a few drinks and went home.
On our way back to the hotel, we thought about visiting Palladium as a last resort. It is a club, that was promoted by every taxi driver or stranger we met in Odessa.
When everyone uniformly suggests the same place without any other alternative option, it is usually a red flag. Either it must be really good or the place is a tourist trap. When we walked towards the club, I got a hunch it will be the latter.
Usually, good clubs are packed with locals inside and more importantly outside. It is a good sign, that this place is popular and trusted by locals. Instead, Palladium looked shady right from the bat.
The entry to the club was heavily guarded by 6-7 bodyguards, who watched every movement inside and outside of the club. I felt they tried to make sure, that no one leaves the club. There was no door between the club entrance and the dance floor, so we could take a sneak peek.
The dance floor was totally empty. One single dude was dancing alone and few sharply dressed girls on high heels were going from one side of the dance floor to another.
We thought it would be a waste of time and money to go inside, so we went back to the hotel. Later on, I looked up Palladium on the internet and was relieved we avoided that place. Reviews on Tripadvisor were horrifying.
The scam works like this. You enter the club, sit at the table and suddenly a hot babe appears and sits next to you. You won’t say no because she is hot.
She starts a conversation and after a few polite words, she orders a drink. You think it is ok, as she will pay for her drink later.
Nope. She sits at your table so the drink goes to your bill.
But it is not all.
She doesn’t order any ordinary drink. She orders really fancy stuff like Don Perignon. Later when bills are due, you discover a mysterious item on your bill, that costs thousands of dollars.
If you refuse to pay, they will beat you until you give up. They even escort you to your hotel, so you can collect your credit card and withdraw cash.
If you try to call the police, they will gladly hand you back to bodyguards saying, that they can do nothing. You see, everything is rigged in Odessa.
Odessa Day 3 – Visiting dolphinarium and losing my passport
The next morning I decided to go to the beach to finally do my morning workout. It has been three days without any exercise and I am getting annoyed.
It is my thing you know, to do a workout on every beach I visit. The sun and sea breeze lift up the whole experience to a whole new level. I feel like every time I inhale and exhale, I get much younger.
Having explored the beachside the day before I went directly to the pier next to Odessa dolphinarium. The place is big enough and not so crowded in the morning.
I did a quick stretching routine followed by usual handstand practice. Shot a few photos of me doing a handstand and headed back to the hotel.
Then we brainstormed a bit about our plans for today and someone suggested visiting Dolphinarium. I have never seen a Dolphin show before. The last time I considered going there was in Mallorca, but ticket prices turned me off.
So we went there having nothing better to do. At the ticket counter, they told us that the next show will start at 15pm.
We had plenty of time, so we walk all the way to famous Potemkin Stairs, explored nearby the city center and then grabbed an Uber to make it back in time.
The show alone was breathtaking. On one hand, you admire how clever and agile dolphins are. I was in awe every time they jumped 10 meters high. On the other hand, I realize how much they had to suffer to learn those tricks.
My sense for justice told me this is not right. This feeling grew stronger with every minute of the show. I almost became a militant animal activist at the end of the show. Luckily, my burning passion for freeing every dolphin on the planet quickly passed afterward.
After the show, we returned back to the hotel to recoup ourselves after a long day of walking. Then someone suggested to order pizza and apply discount coupons my mate bought earlier, just for fun.
We were hungry so there were no expectations regarding quality, but we never imagined waiting 3 hours for delivery. The first hour, I was totally convinced we have been scammed because there is no such thing as free pizza in Ukraine. But we waited for another hour out of curiosity.
While waiting, my mate opened a map to check the best route to Lviv and he was like: “Hey, what is this little s***h*le next to Ukraine?” And I was like: “Yo man, it is Moldova. My Romanian ex had ancestors from Moldova, so shut up. But wait, its Capital is really close to Odessa, only 250 km far away. Let’s make a detour”.
So an idea to Chisinau was born. You could immediately feel the excitement over the new adventure. With a new plan in mind, we didn’t mind waiting for another two hours.
Eventually, pizza was delivered and it tasted like an adventure. It was not good at all. The dough was cold and thick, but the excitement made the taste better tenfold.
In conclusion, never order pizza in Odessa during the afternoon, because of heavy traffic jams. You might die from starving while waiting.
In the evening, we wanted to try the best steak restaurant in Odessa, BarnDoor Steakhouse. Location was nice and the service was top notch. They let you choose your meat by bringing it right to your table. You point to the cheapest one and after a while, steak is done. Then you enjoy your steak until it is time for paying the bill.
I think we paid like 25USD each for steak, a bowl of grilled vegetables and glass of wine. The price was almost comparable to medium-priced Czech’s restaurants. But it was worth it. I never had such a good steak in my life.
After the meal, we had to go to the bus station 8 km far from the city center to buy bus tickets to Chisinau. Retrospectively, we could buy them online, but websites are not in English and we were afraid to be scammed. No one wanted to use their debit card for paying.
At the bus station, when it came to paying for tickers, I realized I don’t have my passport with me. Usually, I carry my passport in my backpack, but when traveling in a group, I am carrying it in my jacket pocket. And as I opened and closed pocket many times during the day to withdraw money, it might fell off.
I started to panic and insisted to trackback to places we have been and search for my passport. We went back to Steakhouse but no luck. Another places, that came to my mind, were dolphinarium or the beach walk. If it fell off there, then I am screwed.
Luckily my colleague was supportive and objectively insisted, that it could fell off in our hotel room. And even if I lost my passport, I would just visit the Czech embassy in Kyiv and fix it there. Nothing terrible.
Still, the idea of the worst-case scenario totally killed the mood. It was past midnight and passport was nowhere to be found. We gave up searching and went back to hotel anticipating the worst, but also hoping it was just my dumb mistake.
And guess what. A passport was laying on my suitcase as it might fell off when I threw my jacket around. Fully relieved I went to sleep excited to wake up the next day.
Odessa Day 4 – Our last impressions on Odessa
The next morning we had to check out and go directly to the bus station.
There was no time to say goodbye and to reflect our thoughts on Odessa. First, four days passed really quickly and it was hard to objectively point out what we liked or disliked.
We were disappointed, that the nightlife was not what we imagined to be for a premium beach town. But it was understandable considering being here offseason. I bet June is when it is starting to be wild.
Trip to Moldova – Almost stucked at Moldovan borders
When you travel to Moldova, be open-minded. This attitude helped me to overcome common stereotypes and I could enjoy the whole experience more as a result.
For example, when it comes to traveling by bus, I can tolerate a certain amount of discomfort. In Vietnam, I used to travel by Mercedes van, that is at least 35 years old. At that time car engineers didn’t care about travel comfort and used every free millimeter to put as many seats as possible. Imagine flying with Ryanair, while sitting in the middle of the three-seat row. No room for legs, no room for hands.
My mates, on the other hand, are used to travel with modern luxurious couches with entertainment center, air conditioning, and adjustable seats.
Guess what. That same old Mercedes Van, that I experienced in Vietnam, was waiting for us at the bus station. Tickets were cheap so I can’t complain. I just hoped at that time, that driver will drive safely and fast.
To make our experience worse, other Moldavians, who visited Odessa for business, carried a lot of baggage, plants and various agriculture supplies. And because the bus trunk is tiny and there is no room for anything, they will put their stuff next to you. You will then be barricaded from both sides.
If you didn’t know, Moldova economy is 80% agriculture. The rest comes from the shadow economy and crime. No wonder they had to buy plants in Ukraine.
Anyway, everything was fine until we arrived at Moldavian borders. This was the first time I crossed borders between countries, that are out of the Schengen area, by bus.
Since I was so used to travel inside Eurozone without border checks, I totally forgot about my experience from 2012, when I crossed borders from Hungary to Romania by train. Back then, Romania was not part of the Schengen area yet and I didn’t have Czech citizenship, so I had to get Visa to enter Romania. In short, I had minor troubles with border check officers. It took them an hour to valid my Visa and permanent residency ID.
In the case of traveling to Moldova, there is no visa requirement, so I didn’t expect any troubles. Unfortunately, the whole checking process was anything but smooth.
First, we had to go through a strict security check-in. We had to open our baggage and show them we don’t carry any illegally imported items. Then they set us aside because we were looking like tourists and that is when troubles began.
The officer started with interrogation and asked if we have any bookings. We didn’t, because I hesitated and thought I can do it after arrival in Chisinau. Officer then threatened, that it’s Law, that without booking we have to go back to Odessa and book it there.
I was like, why I can’t book it right now, there is wifi in the lobby. He insisted and was repeating the same sentence over and over again.
Fortunately, my mate, who speaks a little Russian saved the day. He told the officer about how we always wanted to visit Moldova because of its beautiful nature and that we will stay only for a couple days.
Officer, hearing Russian, changed the tone and asked if we have enough money. My mate pulled his wallet and tried to show him we had enough Euros for survival. At that moment someone called the officer, he got nervous and stormed out saying we are free to go. I was relieved we don’t have to call a taxi to return back to Odessa.
In conclusion before crossing Moldavian borders, have a booking and return tickets prepared together with enough cash and you will be out of troubles.
This was a great life lesson. Next time, I will thoroughly research about entry requirements long before I even consider buying tickets.
Chisinau Day 1 – Wild nightlife in Chisinau
When you first arrive at the bus station, don’t fall into despair. There is no wifi, there is no ATM and no one speaks English.
We spent a good amount of time trying to find wifi to book a hostel and to find a way out of the bus station, but without luck. We even considered buying a local SIM card with a data plan, but there is a stupid law, that only Moldavian citizen is allowed to buy SIM cards. Luckily the guy at Orange store helped us by sharing his mobile data. I used that opportunity and quickly booked a hostel for the next 2 nights.
We had a tight schedule and I was afraid of spending too much time in Chisinau at the expense of shorter stay in Lviv. But it is just common sense to spend full Friday and Saturday night at one place and not to hop from one city to another and waste precious time on the road.
After booking, we struggled to find a way to get to the hostel. The bus station was 3 km far away from the city center and my colleagues refused to walk all the way with luggage. So we made a decision to take a taxi. We knew taking a taxi at the bus station is not a good idea, but we were desperate.
The first driver we asked tried to scam us offering 150 MDL for a ride. My estimate was 50 MDL so a negotiated hard. When I tried to push down the price to 80 MDL, he gave up and stormed away. There were another taxi few meters further, that looked legit. So I start negotiation with an offer for 100 MDL.
The second later my colleague lost his nerve and jumped into the car giving the driver 100 MDL. I think I could negotiate the price down to 80 MDL, but we will never know. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind paying such amounts when visiting poor countries like Moldova. I just want a fair deal and not be screwed by default.
The taxi took us straight to the hostel Tapyok, a really cozy guesthouse subtly hidden in the backyard of the local childcare clinic. At the reception, we were welcomed by a kind and beautiful Moldavian blonde, who restored our faith in Moldavia after our horrifying experience at the border and bus station.
After check-in, we went to explore the nearby area looking for a restaurant. By a random chance, we bumped into the Kozlovna, a popular Czech restaurant. We were surprised to see a Czech restaurant in Chisinau, so we went in. To our surprise, no one spoke a word in Czech. We found out that the owner was only franchising the brand and beer supply, nothing more.
The restaurant had a cozy patio and a good vibe, so we decided to stay and order a beer. There was even a promotional offer of 3 beers for the price of 2, how convenient.
The biggest surprise of the night was a live band, that lit the whole restaurant up. They played all the good stuff, like jazz, blues or pop. The lead singer, a beautiful blue-haired blonde, did a really good job singing anything from most modern pop covers to classics like Ray Charles. Too bad I was still too shy to approach her after the concert. I think I would have a great interaction with her considering our intense eye contact during her concert.
After the concert, we were ready for Friday nightlife in Chisinau. The only club I found worth mentioning was Kira’s club. We had troubles finding the entrance because the club was hidden in a dark backyard with no street lights around. Fortunately, we saw a lot of teenagers hanging out outside, which is a good sign.
We paid 50 MDL for the entrance and went in. It turned out to be a pretty crowded hip hop party with a DJ, who did a good job mixing bouncy groovy hip hop classics.
My first impression was “wow, Moldavians party like there is no tomorrow”. I never felt such a positive vibe in a club in a long time. The girls in the club were outstanding, probably nine out of ten. Most of them were in mixed groups and due to loud music, it was hard to approach them.
I made and eye contact with multiple girls, who showed interest, but was afraid to step out of my comfort zone. I ended up dancing at DJ Booth with my mates standing still and watching the crowd while holding a drink like an average chump.
One girl even requested a group photo with me. She had a hot girlfriend who jumped into a group photo and put an arm around my back. I was stupid enough not to follow up and stick with my friends.
After the third drink, my mates, who obviously didn’t enjoy either music or environment, wanted to go home. On the way out I saw this little cute girl and we smiled at each other. Another opportunity lost. I would stay until morning, but I didn’t want to break the party so I went home too.
In retrospect, I should have stayed in the club and roll solo. But as I said, it takes two weeks of solo traveling to be truly fear-free.
Chisinau day 2 – Hammered from Moldavian wine
The second day, we almost lost our friend.
Seriously, he woke up early in the morning and didn’t want to wait for us, so he texted us, that he will be around the neighborhood while leaving his cellphone at the hostel.
When I woke up I said OK, this is weird. It has been 2 hours since the text was sent and he is nowhere to be found. I shrugged my shoulders and start doing my usual morning stretching and handstand routine.
Another hour passed by and we started to worry, that he got lost. Being in a foreign city and going out without a cellphone is not a smart move. I wouldn’t know myself how to get back to the hostel. Hell, I wouldn’t even know the address, just the name of the accommodation.
In the meantime, we managed to have breakfast at McDonald’s in the city center and go back to the hostel. Four hours after the text, my friend walked into the hostel’s backyard out of nowhere. We were happy, that we won’t have to call the police and report a missing person.
It turns out he explored the nearby area, looking for a grocery store, but lost his track. At least he wandered further in the right direction, that leads to the city center and not outside to the suburbs. In the city center, he recognized the main avenue, that we went by yesterday, so it was then easy for him to backtrack back to the hostel. If this was a multi-million resident city like Rio de Janeiro or Ho Chi Minh City, he would never come back.
Another lesson learned is to always remember the address or keep it on some paper in your pocket and always bring a cell phone. You never know when you will need it.
After this confusing episode, we wanted to see Chisinau in broad daylight, so we went to the city center.
Chisinau is a small town with about half a million residents. There is an ancient church, the main sightseeing attraction located in the middle of the city, surrounded by two huge parks and one main avenue, that leads all the way from the city center to train station in the southern area of the city.
On our way toward the park, I met the most beautiful Jehovah witness I have ever seen. She was standing in the middle of the street like an innocent doll. Her feminine traits, big eyes, and an innocent smile won me over. I think I fell in love.
I went by multiple times. Each time we were looking and smiling at each other, but I was afraid to approach as she was standing there with another older Jehovah lady.
Anyway, the city center was pretty small and it took us two hours to walk through all the sightseeing places. Then it was up to our imagination what to do next.
Weather was really good, so we decided to buy some wine and snacks and chill in the park. After two bottles, we had to walk back to the grocery store to buy some more. On our way back, I saw a cute Moldavian girl with sunglasses and yoga mat, who was walking towards me.
Supercharged by Moldavian wine I found the courage and approached her indirectly. I asked, where she is coming from because I noticed she was carrying a yoga mat. We immediately clicked and I suggested an instant date.
She agreed even though she was going in the opposite direction. I informed my group, that it will take about half an hour and they should not wait for me. Then we walked around until we found a cozy coffee shop nearby. There we sat outside on the patio and spent almost two hours together.
While talking, I realized she was older than I thought, maybe in the mid-thirties. It was a let down when comparing her with all those young Moldavian chicks in their primes I saw on the streets. She was probably single but well-traveled. She even visited India and has a thing for Asian culture. All yoga chicks do. But there was no sign of deeper attraction apart from general curiosity.
I think I would have a chance if I stayed for longer than two weeks and set up a day 2 date. They always ask why I am here and for how long. After giving them a short answer, that I am a tourist, who is leaving tomorrow, they always go cold Turkey. In the end, we only switched contacts with the promise, that we will meet again someday in the future.
I was pretty exhausted afterward because I had to force myself into the conversation. I always need at least 5 approaches and 3 dates to be fully myself and talk like James Bond. But I felt great. My first approach and it has been a success.
In the meantime, my friends were bored with the city center and went back to the hostel. There they were drinking some local wine so I joined them and we chilled until evening. Since we had a good time so far and initially booked only one night in Chisinau, we agreed to extend our stay for two more nights.
After a few drinks, our best drinker was so hammered from Moldavian wine, he had to go to bed really early. We left him in the hostel and went for dinner.
We then realized that finding a restaurant in Chisinau is a tough task. Moldovan people are generally poor, so they cook and eat at home and the only tourist you see in Chisinau are frugal backpackers. There are just not enough wealthy customers to support a restaurant business. We were glad we found any true local restaurant at all.
After a good meal, we went back to the hostel to prepare ourselves for Saturday night. Right at the moment, we were about to go out, a group of cute Ukrainian girls from Dnipro arrived at the hostel.
All of them were young and beautiful. One of them, a redhead, even gave me shy looks, which is a pretty reliable indicator of interest. Since they were busy with check-in, there was no chance to talk to them in private, so we went out.
The first place we visited was a club called BarBar. It supposed to be the biggest and most popular music club in Chisinau. While the patio outside was crowded with young people sitting at tables, the dance floor inside was pretty empty and the music was trash.
It was already past midnight so we bounced and went to city center hoping we will find another source of the local nightlife. My mate has this theory, that every capital city has to have a street, that is full of bars and we should either follow big groups, who are walking through the city or search by google map for points of interest.
Well, neither worked out. We wasted an hour walking back and forth and following random groups that went nowhere. The only bigger club we found was located in the park, but it was above our pay grade.
The club was crowded with Chisinau high society and everyone was wearing a suit or a nightdress. I was wearing sweatpants and was face scanned by a bodyguard. Since he gave me a no-look, we went away. If I had a suit, I would go in.
Kira’s club was our last resort. I had high hopes because I had a blast on Friday night. But to our disappointment, Kira’s club was also empty. We gave up and went back to the hostel.
Chisinau day 3 – Kart racing and celebrating my birthday
The next day I woke up really early. It was my birthday after all.
I never imagined I would be celebrating my 33rd birthday in Chisinau, Moldova. In fact, I never celebrated my birthday at all as a kid. Only in recent years, I kept a tradition of having a family dinner at home with a birthday cake. That’s it. Celebrating birthday just reminds me how time goes by so fast. It is better not to think about it.
Anyway, I saw that everyone was still sleeping, so I started the day with my morning workout routine. After a coffee, a mate woke up and since we didn’t know when the other one is gonna wake up too, we went to McDonald’s for breakfast.
When we returned, our mate was awake and was talking with girls from Dnipro. The redhead started to ask me to question the moment I went into the room. I politely responded, but didn’t follow up with the conversation. I was not expecting such attention and ran out of thing to say. Damn, another opportunity lost.
The plan for today was to get train tickets to Lviv. On the way south we found an area with 3 shopping malls sitting next to each other. We decided to explore it before continuing further. Malls in Chisinau are not so interesting, there are mainly tiny shops selling clothes and jewellery inside.
What s funny though are the no firearms signs on the entrance doors. I cannot imagine what could go wrong when a bunch of Moldavians enters the mall with a gun. That might be actually a catchy set up for some dumb joke.
Outside the mall, there was a small kart circuit. Since we had plenty of time and were bored, kart driving seemed to be a refreshing idea. For as little as 12 USD, they let you drive for as long as 5 mins.
I love driving karts. Because of the kart construction, you feel every bump, every break, every acceleration. It is then such a thrill to race for time. I think I could be a good race driver, after some training. Yeah, I should put another challenge into my bucket-list – become a race driver.
Now, driving was fun, but my mate ruined everything. First he was drunk as hell, second, he wanted to be the fastest no matter what. So he bumped into everything, including me and another mate. The track rules were clear, don’t bump into things or you get kicked out of the track.
Well, that’s what happened. We had still 2 minutes left, but the owner lost his patience, of course after many warnings, and singled us to stop. I got so mad I just told him directly what an f******d he is. We then went silent until we walked into the train station.
There, we found out that taking a bus was a better option. It went to Lviv directly and the ticket was a lot cheaper. We bought the tickets and returned back to the city center.
It was already pretty late so we stopped by Andy’s restaurant, a local restaurant chain, that servers pretty tasty food. If you want delicious meals with great service, you cannot go wrong with Andy’s.
As I was still feeling cranky, my mate wanted to make up for his mess. To my surprise, he arranged a birthday cake with a tiny candle. Damn, I was really moved. During moments like this, you realize that friends don’t become friends by talking, but by actions. A good friend will support you when you least expect it. You know that you can count on them regardless of their bad traits.
After dinner, we went back to the hostel and bought wine for the night. We spent the rest of the night outside drinking and talking.
Sometime before midnight, Dnipro girls returned to the hostel. I wanted to start convo again by asking them if they want a birthday drink, but I chicken out again. Was a little tired from all the talking and mind-numbed from all the alcohol? Another missed opportunity.
Chisinau Day 4 – Taking a bus to Lviv
The last day in Chisinau was about checking out, getting quick lunch at Andy’s and rushing to the bus station. We didn’t want to miss the bus to Lviv, because Chisinau started to be boring.
It was 14 hours long overnight trip. There was a cute girl on the bus, but she traveled to her boyfriend. We were looking at each other at the bus stop, but I didn’t take any action. You know the feeling when some random girl fit all your preferences without you even knowing her? This was the case. She could be the one but in another life.
Later her boyfriend opened me asking if we were from Czech. It turns out he is also from Czech and was visiting East Ukraine with his Ukrainian girlfriend. He told us that they are still fighting at the eastern borders and how is it dangerous to be there.
One thing you will notice when taking the overnight bus is how underdeveloped the countryside in Moldova is. There were literally no lights along the roads. It was so dark outside, you could see the stars.
After a short passport check at Ukrainian borders, I went to sleep with a hope, that Lviv will be as awesome as all tour guides claim it to be.
Short break in Lviv Day 1 – A polish outpost with no character
We arrived early in the morning and the first impression was not the best. It was raining hard and the weather sucked. The temperature dropped below 12 degrees. Quite a difference comparing to summer temperatures of 25 degrees in Chisinau.
The number one plan was to quickly book a hostel so we can get proper sleep in a warm bed. Luckily we found wifi at the bus station on the third floor, so we booked a Capsule hostel and called an Uber.
I chose this hostel because it had capsule-like beds instead of classic bunk beds. This type of accommodation is appearing quite frequently in Japan, Korea or in despotic sci-fi movies. I wanted to experience sleeping in a claustrophobically enclosed space.
We were totally exhausted from a long overnight bus trip and bad weather, so we went to sleep immediately after check-in. Two hours later we woke up fully rested and ready to explore the city.
But the first thing that came to our minds was to find a restaurant with local cuisine and good reviews. All restaurants are concentrated around the main square and the hostel was located nearby so it was not a hard task.
It was still raining so we quickly chose the most traditional looking restaurant on the main square. We were disappointed, that it was not a Ukrainian, but a Polish restaurant. But it didn’t matter, we just wanted to wait for the rain and drink something hot. As always, I ordered Borscht and a hot coffee. The food quality was fine, but would not recommend it due to the higher price.
The rest of the day was pretty hasty, without any memorable highlights. I pretty much cannot recall any details of what happened.
We ended up in local McDonalds to check train schedules to Kyiv. By this time, we were pretty sure we don’t want to stay in Lviv for another night. Btw, McDonald’s is always crowded with young and beautiful Ukrainian chicks. I don’t understand how they can keep their slim figures that way.
While sitting in McDonald’s, a plain-looking girl in hoodie sat by our table. I looked at her and noticed she looks like a fashion model if she would leave her hoodie at home and wear a dress instead.
I opened her with a question if she talks English and can help us with train schedules. She was receptive and even offered me her cheese fries, but the conversation felt forced as she was not following up after my questions. The good news is I am more confident and can step out of my comfort zone more often after a week of traveling.
In the evening, we went to the Steampunk pub for dinner. The pub was well rated on Tripadvisor, but the food was below average. We were so exhausted we stayed only for two beers and decided to go to sleep instead of clubbing afterward.
At the hostel, we met a really beautiful Ukrainian girl, who was sharing a room with us and who was sleeping under my mate’s capsule. He tried to start a convo with her, but she seems to be shy and hide in her capsule.
She was probably a university student, studying in Lviv and sleeping in hostels to keep the costs low. This was the first time I met more locals in hostels than foreign tourists. In western countries, only locals never stay for more than one night, otherwise, it is not cost-effective.
If you are a local student and have to spend 4 days at university, you pay for three nights a week. It’s 30USD a week or 120USD a month not counting traveling costs. Yeah, I guess living in a hostel is still cheaper than renting an apartment.
Short break in Lviv Day 2 – A true origin of Masochism
The next day was all about enjoying the last minutes in Lviv and preparing ourselves for a departure to Kyiv.
The best way to travel from Lviv to Kyiv is by taking a strain. McDonald’s chick assured us yesterday, that there is no need to buy tickets in advance since there are so many trains going to Kyiv each hour.
We decided to take an overnight sleeper train so we can save as much day time as possible. That left us with almost 12 hours of free time, so we did a checkout and left baggage at the hostel.
The first thing we planned to do was to join our first free walking tour ever. There were none in Odessa and Chisinau due to lack of tourists in general, but Lviv was another story. The city is so crowded with tourist I almost forgot how I hate crowds.
The tour was guided by a cute smiling Ukrainian chick, who was not so proficient in English, but she was able to convey important facts about Lviv history and culture.
The only highlight I remember from the tour was how we got wasted with cherry liqueur, that they sell on the main square.
A little bit of alcohol helped us to overcome depressive weather in Lviv.
Another interesting fact about Lviv is the origin of the masochism. It was invented by a Ukrainian named Masochs. There is even a restaurant named after him so definitely check it out. Legends say that you can negotiate a discount on every meal if you get beaten by a whip. One whip equals to 1% discount.
We didn’t dare to try it out. But someone allegedly got a whopping 20% discount. He could not sleep by laying his back for a month! Crazy.
At the end of the tour, we gave a 25 UAH tip, it was worth it. Then we decided to go to the ribs restaurant we passed by during the tour. It took us a good 15 minutes to backtrack our way back until we found the most demanded local restaurant in Lviv, Arsenal ribs restaurant.
The restaurant was so popular because one kg of baked BBQ ribs costs about 3 USD. Pretty cheap right? But to get in, we had wait in line with 30 people in front of us. Luckily they had an old school reservation system, that speeded the process up. A guy was standing in front of the restaurant, who was equipped with a big board and megaphone.
You come in, you tell the guy your name or nickname and the number of persons in the group. He will then write your name on the board. Once the waitress tells him about freed spots, he will shout your name with a megaphone.
If you happened to miss-hear it or went elsewhere in the meantime, he will erase your name from the list. I must admit it was quite an effective and entertaining reservation system.
There were people, who signed in, went elsewhere and magically came back just in time. I don’t know how they did it. Finally, after 40 minutes, we got in. The food was top notch for a Ukraine restaurant. I ordered borscht, ribs and potato plates.
After the meal, we were so stuffed, we needed to walk it out. So we hiked to the highest sightseeing spot in Lviv. The place was crowded with young couples, who were there on romantic dates.
On the way down we bought a local wine and camped at a tram station. We chilled there until it was time to get luggage and go to the train station.
At the hostel, I got questioned about our experience with the Hostel by the owner. I could not tell him the truth. Apparently, he invested a lot into his hostel and was really passionate about the business. Next time, no capsule beds.
At the train station, we bought overnight tickets, that costs like 15USD a person, and then we had like 2 hours of free time before departure.
We got hungry in the meantime so we went to find a place where we could buy a tasty pastry or something similar. To our surprise, it was an impossible task to do. There were few grocery stores and cafes outside the station, but they were not well supplied and overpriced at the same time. A sandwich with a tiny piece of dried up schnitzel costs about 45 UAH. I was so glad I still had a pack of peanuts in my backpack.
We gave up and went inside the train station to find a place to camp for the next two hours. Another impossible task, Lviv train station just need a major overhaul to meet the basic needs of a western traveler.
There was a public waiting room, that was fully crowded and it smelled like sewage. I could not understand how locals were able to stay there, but I guess if you don’t have money, then everything is possible.
Luckily, there was also a paid waiting room, where you pay like 15 UAH for one hour stay. At least it was not stinky and was relatively clean.
In the train, we made our bed and went to sleep.
Kyiv Day 1 – Fell in love with Khreshchatyk
We arrived at 7 am in the morning. From the first moment in Kyiv, I had the feeling, that we will have a big-time in this city.
We planned to find McDonald’s, grab breakfast and coffee, use free restrooms, connect to free wifi and find accommodation for tonight. Luckily there was one just outside Kyiv train station.
When looking for accommodation, we decided to book a hotel. We suffered enough in a capsule hostel and we deserved something better. We found a nice apartment hotel near the subway station for a really good price of 15USD a night. At the hotel, we did check-in and went to sleep shortly after.
In the afternoon we went to the city center and instead of taking an Uber, we took a subway. It is worth mentioning, that subway in Kyiv has an interesting ticketing system.
First, it’s really cheap. One ride costs about half a dollar. Second, they use plastic coins instead of paper tickets. Third, you can buy only one coin at a time. You cannot buy more in advance, which was really weird. Fortunately, there is always one turnstile in each station that accepts contactless debit cards so there is no need to hassle with coins.
In the city center, we went to the most popular sightseeing places, mainly cathedrals. Few hours passed by and it started to rain hard. Kyiv is quite a depressive city when it’s raining so we went back to the hotel. There we waited until it stopped raining.
In the evening, we went again to the city center, but this time we went directly to the most famous street in Kyiv, Khreshchatyk. The moment I stepped my foot on Khreshchatyk, I instantly fell in love. It is a very lively street crowded with young people walking back and forth. Imagine Champs Elyse, but three times wider and two times longer, without tourist, only with locals, who like to hang out on the street.
Our first stop there was a cheap sports bar, Porter Pub, that my mate discovered by watching some traveling youtube videos. We were hungry so I ordered borscht, vodka and a pork knuckle, which is not a typical Ukrainian meal, but a German one.
When you order something exotic from the menu, you can expect to wait for it for ages. First, supplies are usually low in the kitchen, because it is not the best selling item. Second, for the same reason, the cooking process is not streamlined so it takes longer for kitchen staff to figure out, how they should cook the meal.
In short, I had to wait for almost an hour. I was surprised when the waiter delivered a one-kilogram heavy pork knuckle or probably 400 grams worth of meat to my table. This was too much meat even for me.
After heavy dinner, we went for walk down the Khreshchatyk and we found an outdoor bar, crowded with young people drinking outside and having fun, and selling really cheap sangria. I loved that place.
After a few drinks, my mate got an idea to visit a strip club. You know, just for fun. Another mate was against the idea because he was not comfortable in strip clubs and felt it’s a total waste of money. I similarly dislike strip clubs, but I didn’t care.
This was our epic Ukrainian adventure, so I went with the flow. You visit Kyiv only once in your life, so there is no point in holding back. My mate started to ask around for the best clubs in town. Some shady taxi drivers saw this as an opportunity and offered us a drive to the club, but once we saw the wreck he was driving, we refused.
After some googling, we found the address of the street, where all the clubs are located. At the entrance, my friend asked a bodyguard if there were nice ladies. He nodded. So we followed him into the club.
Once inside, they told us, that we have to pay 20 USD for an entrance fee. Only watching was allowed, no drinks or lap dances were included. My mate was shocked by the steep price. He was used to going to clubs with free entrance, so he politely excused himself and we exited the club.
This almost ruined the night. He was so hyped to visit a local strip club and there was none around, that meets his criteria. We then argued a bit, because another mate had remarks of how this was a waste of time.
Our moods dropped below zero, so we decided to go back to the hotel. But the night was still young and we didn’t want to waste it in the hotel room so we walked around the hotel looking for bars that are still open.
Luckily there was one called Bender bar, that was themed after Futurama tv show series. The place was so cheap I suspected, they were selling home-distilled alcohol.
We had troubles with finishing our drinks as it tasted as Mr. Clean and wanted to complain, but the bartender was a kind hard-working girl, so we were well-behaved, finished whatever we could drink and went to sleep.
Kyiv Day 2 – Being scammed at Khreshchatyk and partying hard at Closer
The weather on day 2 was much better. The sun woke me up earlier and because there was a calisthenics park right outside the hotel, I went out to do my morning workout.
I really needed it, since the last time I did any calisthenics exercise was 4 days ago in Chisinau, when I did 10 minute set of pullovers and chin-ups. This time I did a whole body push-pull calisthenics drop sets to completely exhaust my body. After the workout, I was ready to conquer the city.
Today we had only one goal. Find a ticket office, that sells Chernobyl tours. We are leaving Ukraine in two days, so we must buy tickets today and go to Chernobyl tomorrow.
Luckily the office was located in the city center near parks, that we have not explored yet. At the office, we bought a complete one day package, which included a guided trip to Chernobyl and an all-day dosimeter rental. It cost us about 149 USD each. Before you can buy tickets, you have to provide a photocopy of your passport so don’t forget your passport when visiting the agency.
After, we went for lunch to a pretty decent local restaurant we saw on our way to the office. There was a really beautiful waitress, who was checking us all the time, but this was a family business and we were served by her father, so I didn’t approach her because of that.
The rest of the day was spent walking through local parks. I pretty much don’t recall anything interesting apart from one cute girl at the coffee stand, who was smiling ear to ear. I wanted to approach her, but I chickened out again because my mates were bored and walked fast to get out of park asap. If I went solo, I would totally go in.
We then somehow ended up at the Northside of Khreshchatyk near Maidan Square. We were so thirsty from walking all day long we decided to go to the best-reviewed restaurant in Kyiv called The Last Barricade.
The restaurant is so well hidden, we had to ask around multiple times. It is located inside a shopping mall and there were two ways to get inside. One way was to enter the door, that looked like an entrance to a service maintenance room. The other way was to take a special elevator in the middle of a shopping mall.
Once there, we had to tell the bodyguard a secret code in Ukrainian language or they would not let us in. Obviously, it was just for entertaining purposes, but I was pretty nervous because the secret code was difficult to spell and remember.
Inside the lobby, we had to put our names on a list and wait till they call us in. There was a minibar with a nice view over the mall, so we ordered a drink to make the wait feel shorter. Unlike ribs restaurant in Lviv, we waited only for 15 minutes.
The restaurant was really nice for local standards. There was a live jazz band and each table had it owns waiter. I felt a bit underdressed in my sweat pants and worn down shoes with holes when I saw other guests, who apparently belonged to Kyiv’s high society.
After dinner, we just hung out at Khreshchatyk. This place is so amazing, I could spend the whole day sitting on the bench and never get bored.
There were two carnival scams, that caught our attention, Jacob’s ladder and a rotating pull-up bar.
Jacob’s ladder scam is, in a nutshell, a rope ladder, that is positioned at 45-degree angle above the ground and is attached from top to bottom with a metal chain. This construction causes the ladder to rotate itself if you overweight either side of the ladder.
The rule of the scam is simple, you have to climb up and stay on the top for five seconds. Each try costs about 2 USD and If you win, you get 10 times more as a reward. It sounds easy, but it is not.
I saw many drunk tourists having their egos hammered after they tried to wing it without any preparations. Most people did it wrong by holding and stepping on middle rungs and pushing it down. This will cause an imbalance and the ladder will rotate no matter what. It is just impossible to hit the exact center of a ladder mass.
The correct approach is to hold the rails and put one leg on each side of the rail at a time. While stepping on the rail, slowly counterbalance by increasing the force of your opposite arm. Once you find the balance, you can climb up by putting another leg on the rail above and shift the force with arms accordingly.
The truth is, knowing the proper technique is not enough. A strong core and muscle mind connection is required to keep the balance.
The second carnival scam, rotating pull up bar looked less scam-my. Each try costs about 1 USD and if you hang on it for two minutes straight, you get five times as much.
The trick here is that you don’t know beforehand, that pull up bar is not stationary, but can rotate itself. My mate thought it can be done since I have been doing calisthenics for a year and a half and I can do 6 pull-ups in one set, so he paid the fee.
I was not sure. I never hang on a pull-up bar for longer than 50 seconds. But I knew it is all about having a strong overhand grip and being still at all costs.
Sad to say I lasted only one minute and 15 seconds. At 45 seconds mark, I made a mistake of moving with my head and shifting my weight around.
Because the support leg of a pull-up bar was not stable, my micro-movements caused the whole construction to shake itself and pull up bar started to rotate as a result. I lose my grip and could not hang any longer.
It was an embarrassing defeat. Even If I knew beforehand about the rotation and shaky construction, I would have to train my forearms endurance for months. Because the more you squeeze your fingers, the faster you will fatigue your forearms.
After the debacle, we went to sangria bar to fix our moods. There I saw a cute feminine Ukrainian girl at the bar, that looked almost like Gal Gadot.
She was starring at me the whole time. I noticed it and made intense eye contact. In response, she looked down with an innocent smile.
When a girl makes such submissive feminine move, I am caught off guard. I froze and missed my chance to approach her. Another opportunity lost. We grabbed our drinks and went outside the bar to watch the Khreshchatyk nightlife.
After a while, I noticed with my periphery view, that she left the bar with her girlfriend, returned back, went into the bar again and suddenly approached us out of nowhere.
I tried to keep cool and said Hi. She then handed us some leaflets and started pitching some local night club. I was so disappointed, but because of our chemistry, I played along and started qualifying her hard.
But then my drunk mate cockblocked me and told her to show her b***s first. That triggered something in her and she responded, that she won’t show her b***s unless my mate shows his d*** first.
He took it as a challenge and put his junk out. She covered her eyes in disgust and started to yell, that our friend is a mentally sick man how he is a disgusting pig.
My mate got scared of public humiliation and pushed us away to another bar. She was left there standing like a goddess on fire.
I should have intervened, but I was speechless by what was happening. In my head, I wanted to go back and apologize for his behavior, but alcohol hindered my judgment. I will regret this for the rest of my life.
I didn’t expect to be ultimately cockblocked like that. This is why I hate doing pick up with friends. Sometimes your friends will cockblock you on purpose to put you down.
So we went to another outdoor bar nearby. The area outside the bar was so crowded there was no free table to put down our drinks and hotdogs.
I was looking around and saw a table with only two girls. Other tables were already occupied by big groups, so we approached the girls and asked if we can join.
To my surprise, they said yes with a big grin. I didn’t expect such a warm response. I was still in shock and embarrassed at the same time and was not in the talkative mood.
After a few secs, my drunk friend started his usual routine about how he learned Russian. This got them engaged as they were probably from one of the former Soviet Union countries. My other mate joined the conversation and asked them in English about their origins. They willingly switched to English and mumbled something in response.
I didn’t talk, I was focused on eating my hotdog and just listened, but when I found out they are from Belarus, I was really excited and told them, that I plan to go to Belarus this year to see The European Games.
One of the girls took the bait and revealed, that she will be volunteering. This was a sign from the universe telling me, this is it, go to Belarus man.
Drinks were flowing and when my mates saw how the girls got more and drunker, they started to pick them up hard. Both girls loved the attention, but not equally. The other non-volunteering girl was more silent and was less tipsy. I felt she was the alpha female in this group.
At one moment, the alpha-girl was joking about her name and pivoted herself between me and my other mate. She started to bump into both of us to prove her point. Since I know better, that girls never openly reveal their attraction, but indirectly tests your interest, I took it as a signal and put my arm behind her back.
Since that moment, we were glued to each other for the rest of the night. I wish I knew this move years ago, there were so many lost opportunities because I was oblivious about my environment.
Sometimes girls bump into me accidentally multiple times with their body, sometimes they innocently touch my hand or even massage my crotch by shaking their assess.
Anyway, they were pretty tipsy and wanted to party hard. We planned to visit the Closer club, the best underground house music club in Kyiv, anyway, so we decided to bounce and take a taxi to the club. It was almost impossible to catch a taxi at midnight, but after 20 minutes of waiting and hugging, we were on our way. It was not a comfortable ride as they both had to sit on our laps, but I didn’t complain.
When is something going too smoothly, there will be always a twist you won’t see coming. About one km before the club, one of the girls got insane and started screaming, that she needs to get out of the taxi.
I didn’t know what was going on, but we stopped. She stood on the sidewalk for 5 minutes and then returned back to the taxi. I thought everything was ok, but a few minutes later, she insisted, that she can’t continue and has to get out.
Ok, we paid the taxi driver and waited. She went with her girlfriend around the corner and there, I finally understood the situation. She probably drunk too much and had to throw up.
The situation was not good. We were in the middle of nowhere, Closer was one km far away, their hostel even further, so I pushed the button and told them to go to the club with us. They hesitated but agreed as they had no other option.
We went through dark alleys in silence and I sensed, that they might not feel safe. They were constantly asking how far do we go. So I told my drunk mate to talk just about anything, that comes into his mind. He is really good at talking nonsense, so this helped them feel more comfortable. I grabbed my girl and when she complied, I knew everything was ok again.
We arrived at the Closer club sometime around 1am. The place was not what I initially expected. Imagine an industrial zone with a former factory building in the middle, that houses multiple clubs, each on its own floor, each playing its own music style and having a separate entrance fee.
For instance, the entrance to techno club costs 5 USD. The Closer club was twice as much expensive. We paid about 10 USD each.
Before the entrance, there was a bodyguard, who was face-scanning everyone who wanted to enter the club. I was face scanned in Italy, Germany, but I never expected to experience it in Ukraine.
According to my experience, the best tactic is to go with a moderate-sized mixed group, possibly with at least one beautiful girl. We matched exactly that criteria. I was tightly holding my girl and another mate was accompanied by another girl. They let us in with no issues.
When we were waiting in line, my drunk mate made a mistake by going to the toilet, because this was the last time we saw him that night. He totally disappeared.
When it came to paying the entrance fee, my girl tricked me by pushing my hand forward to let me know, that I should handle it. It was not a big deal to pay for her, but I started to be suspicious, that she is way smarter than she seems. I knew Belarus is a pretty poor country and it was my idea to go to Closer and we wanted to dance to quality house music so I went with it.
The dance floor was pretty empty when we entered and it started to fill up sometime after 2am. In the meantime, we ordered drinks for ourselves. The prices were almost as high as in Czech. For example, Cuba Libre costs us 7 USD.
When it comes to the crowd, I noticed, that everyone there know each other. There were also a few rich Turks and Indians who played table service game to get local girls. I am not sure if they were successful, but some gold diggers seemed to enjoy free drinks.
House music was pretty good. DJ played groovy tech house, that never disappoints. We danced like there was no tomorrow.
From time to time, I was worried about my drunk mate and went outside the club multiple times to check the waiting line, but he was nowhere to be found. There was no internet and he didn’t respond to my text messages.
Later when we got back to our hotel, he said he was face scanned out, they wouldn’t let him in because he was alone, so he somehow went back to the hotel. A pretty impressive achievement considering being drunk in a foreign city without mobile internet. We were glad he is okay.
We had to go back to the hotel soon because we booked our trip to Chernobyl tomorrow morning so we had to wake up really early to arrive at the meeting point at the train station at 7 am.
Chernobyl tour – A tourist attraction profiting from a tragic event
Next morning was really painful. I was hungry from dancing all night long and sleep-deprived. I was so tired and pissed we could not stay in the club until closing hours, but that’s just life and the only thing we can do is to squeeze the maximum out of every situation. We already booked the trip so I have no regrets.
The meeting point was at 7am in the morning at the train station, which is half an hour ride by subway from our hotel. We quickly packed essential things like water and some clothes, nothing unnecessary. I was truly afraid, that the stuff I bring with me to Chernobyl zone will be radiated and radioactive items cannot leave Chernobyl area you know.
Instructions from Chernobyl agency were very clear about it. They let you sign a form with a very strict set of rules, that have a high penalty if you break them.
For instance, you cannot grab random things from the Chernobyl zone or you cannot sit or lay around on the ground. You are only allowed to do what tour guide tells you to do. The rules were a bit exaggerated and the main purpose was to cover in the case when something goes wrong during the trip.
At the train station, I was surprised to see a colony of buses going to Chernobyl. For instance, Americans had their own dedicated double-decker bus. I was not expecting it to be such a mainstream thing. This was the proof, that organization of Chernobyl trips is a goldmine for local companies.
We were assigned to a minibus that was dedicated to European tourists. They were mainly couples from France, UK, Spain, and Belgium.
There was one French couple, that not only came late, but they didn’t even bring cash as they were instructed. They had to go find ATM to pay for the trip, which caused a 30 minutes delay.
This got me so mad I almost wanted to say something to their face. Since that moment, I am officially not fond of French people. What was worse, the guy was clearly a beta male, who was dating a much older fat male looking female, who was nagging him all the time. I wanted to slap him to get his s**t together and man up.
Once on the road, I fell quickly asleep. It took the bus almost an hour to get to the first Chernobyl zone checkpoint. There, we had to wait for almost an hour before the border patrol gets our paperwork done. There is not much to do besides spending tons of money in souvenir shops.
The first stop we have visited after a check was an abandoned village, that was devastated by looters and wild nature. It was not like going through the Amazon jungle as I expected, they made all points of interest easily accessible on foot. We hop off the bus and had 10 minutes to look around the area.
There were just a couple of ruins to explore, nothing really exciting. Just imagine playing a Fallout game without mutants.
I don’t know if those ruined were artificially “remodeled” or their condition degraded naturally because there were many details that stood out. Take for example an oddly placed broken doll next to the bush. It doesn’t make much sense to me how it ended up there.
Interestingly, it was really hard to take a photo, that would describe what this place went through because the sun was shining and everything was covered with colorful flora.
The next stop was at Pripyat, a utopian city where everything was awesome until it wasn’t. Ukrainian government tried really hard to build a utopian paradise for new settlers. As a result, Pripyat had multiple kindergarten schools, cinemas, its own amusement park, and modern architecture.
Moving to Pripyat was an attractive alternative for many people, who were waiting in line for a government-subsidized apartment. They could ditch their position in the queue and move into Pripyat without in a matter of days, not knowing it won’t last long.
Nowadays you wouldn’t recognize the city if you compare its scenery to historic pictures. Nature was ruthless and destroyed all that was man built.
We also visited a famous Ferris wheel inside a local amusement park. There you can take some nice pictures.
After going through the Pripyat, we had lunch at a local canteen. It is part of a tour and the main purpose is not to fill your belly, but to taste authentic food, that everyone eats during Soviet Union era. You will get hungry, so pack some additional food, trust me on this.
We got a little piece of meshed meat, a scoop of mashed potatoes, a bun, bland watery soup, and a sweetened tea. It really tasted like 90th. I remember that food well when I was in primary school.
After lunch, we droved around the Red forest, that was totally burned by radiation. As we were passing by, Dosimeters went crazy from all that radiation and for a brief time, I felt a little adrenaline spike.
We also visited a newly sealed reactor. It looked pretty safe from the outside, and there was no sign of higher radiation. Of course, they won’t let you go anywhere close, you will stand pretty far from the Chernobyl reactor.
The next stop was at secret radar base. A huge metal construction, that was built for monitoring missiles and military aircraft.
Radar base was not as secret as the Soviet government claimed it to be. Once they turned it on, it made such an annoying noise thanks to its monstrous metal wires, locals started to be suspicious. They knew what was going on, but decided to keep their mouth shut. Unfortunately, after the Chernobyl accident, radar was turned off, abandoned and later partially torn apart by scraper hunters.
The last stop worth mentioning was at robot graveyard. A place where all automated robots, that Western European countries sent to Ukraine to help with cleaning up the roof from radioactive debris after the explosion, rest in peace.
The funny thing was, that most robots died only a few seconds after they entered the radioactive zone. The reason was, that they were calibrated and build based on misleading radiation reports from the Russian government, who purposely faked the numbers. Such a waste of talent and resources.
At the end of the trip, the bus took us back to Kyiv. We were so exhausted we went straight back to the Hotel. There, I suggested to go out and enjoy our last night in Kyiv, but my mate was tired and wanted to stay in the Hotel.
I didn’t want to waste my last night in Kyiv so I went with my other mate to Khreshchatyk to our favorite bar. We grabbed some food, sangria and chilled outside the bar. We were hoping to go to Closer again, but I was so tired I was not able to approach anyone, so went back to Hotel shortly after midnight instead.
Kyiv Day 4 – Got hammered with Lviv Cherry Liqueur
The last day was about checking out and enjoying the last moments in Ukraine. Our flight was at four pm so we had plenty of time. We left luggage at the hotel and went to Maidan to chill there for the last time.
Unlike a few past days, it was a sunny day today, which made our last day even more enjoyable. We went to the bistro near sangria bar at Khreshchatyk, where we ordered some seafood and a bottle of champagne. Then after dozens of sangrias, it was time to go back to the hotel, take our luggage and grab a taxi to the airport.
Kyiv national Airport is surprisingly far from the city, so the taxi will cost you a lot, but it is the fastest way. In a cab, we opened a bottle of cherry liqueur my mate bought in Lviv and got wasted as hell. Liqueur was so good we even came up with a business plan to conquer the world with this tasty cherry alcohol. It was a fun brainstorming session.
At the airport, I realized, that I fell in love with Kyiv and was really sad to leave Ukraine.
Final remarks on two week trip to Ukraine and Moldova
The trip was not so bad as I expected and it taught me a lot.
Even though I didn’t come out of my comfort zone that often as I wished, the moments spent with my friends created plenty of unforgettable memories and experiences, that may lead to other opportunities in the future.
After visiting Ukraine, I lost my fear from traveling alone to unknown underdeveloped countries and in the future, I will definitely visit unpopular countries like Belarus or finally make a Balkan trip, I dreamed about for a long time, but never committed to doing it.
I would definitely return to Kyiv sometimes in the future and even consider dating a Ukrainian lady, but I just need more assurance about their attitude and how badly they age after reaching their prime at age of 25.
Thanks for reading and see you at the next trip report.