School’s out for summer! Time for travelling. First stop – a country swamped with blue and yellow, in spite of its Orange Revolution in late 2004. Hello Ukraine!
Though Kazakhstan has a border with Europe, it is a world away from being back on the Continent. The capital, Kyiv (Kiev), has been our first port of call on this latest adventure, and has pleasantly surprised due to its European charm. I expected quite a strong Russian influence from the Soviet era to be still lingering over this large city, but its cobbled streets, green parks and rickety trams are very reminiscent of many central European bastions.
Many more people are in the Ukraine and paying attention to it than usual due to the country’s co-hosting of the Euro 2012 football championships along with Poland. The influx of visitors should help to bring tourists to this part of the world and experience a fairly unique cultural clash between past and present.
The first day in the searing heat was spent doing what you arguably shouldn’t do in sweltering temperatures – wandering aimlessly. It allowed us to develop a feel for and learn about the largest city in Southeastern Europe. The main thing that I learnt is that it is a very hilly city and that, after months in the flat steppe of Kazakhstan, I was very much unprepared for walking with an incline. Gruelling.
What made our walk easier were some of the sights that we saw. Kyiv seems to be a bastion of religion, for you can find a chapel or cathedral on just about every corner. One of the largest and most famous is St. Sophia’ Cathedral, a green-topped complex that is incredibly almost 1000 years old. You can climb the tower – take your time – presents you with a view over the city.
The following day we headed slightly outside of the city to a farm. Within that farm is a barn. Within that barn are some of the most powerful instruments I have ever held.
We had booked ourselves onto a shooting trip. The trip seemed brief, but the maxim clearly states that, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. I have to say that it is difficult to top the thrill of firing a sleek, strong AK-47. Mr. Kaleshnikov should be proud of his work.
We fired two different weapons. The AK-47 was much easier to control than the smaller pistol, mainly due to the former having a laser sight on it. The recoil, though light, is breathtaking on both weapons. We were allowed to keep the target sheets and some bullets as souvenirs. I am at pains to point out that, though at a farm, we did not shoot at animals. RSPCA readers need not respond.
So, our time in Ukraine started with a bang! We have blast-off in Kiev! We are gunning for more adventures! Any more cheesy pistol-related punchlines will make most people reach for their own weapon of choice. Yet it has been an absorbing and exhilarating first 24 hours in the Ukraine. The day was to only get more fun – after all, there is a football tournament on show here…
Love you all