Dateline: Kiev, Day 2 – The Ballet

Kiev, Ukraine
19 June 2009

I really only came to Ukraine for one reason: I wanted to see Chernobyl. However, I figured that since I was spending all this time and money getting here, I might as well see some sights, too.

Last night, Phil mentioned that he was interested in seeing a ballet today. I said that I’d join him and we got some other people to come as well, Johnathan and Lucy. Phil woke up well before I did and was gracious enough to get tickets for the both of us (which supprisingly only cost 60 UAH1).

The ballet wasn’t until the evening, so I made by way north to the Chernobbyl Museum. It’s an errie combination of history and art that is well executed in both regards.

DSC_0256
34.0 mm || 1/100 || f/4.2 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Kyiv, Kyiv City Municipality, Ukraine

I made my way back to the hostel, in time to put my feet up for a few. We had a couple of new hostel guests, Liz and Emily. Emily had just graduated from high school in Australia in December2 and was taking a gap year to travel. Liz is from Wisconsin and is spending over a month in Ukraine doing a study abroad program that involved visiting several communities affected by the Chernobyl incident.

I asked if either of them was interested in coming to the ballet with us, and Liz was.

Phil and I, dressed in our best (which didn’t really amount to much), and Liz, headed out to the ballet. We were pretty sure that Liz could still get a ticket, but not 100%. Since Phil and I already had our tickets, the more difficult task was going to be conveying fact that Liz needed a ticket next to us. The jury rigged solution was to write the section and seat number of the ticket that we wanted to buy, then show the ticket lady our tickets, and hope she pieced it all together.

It worked, more or less. The seat on either side of Phil and I was taken, however, the seat directly behind us was not; Liz got that one.

With only moments until the opening curtain, we made our way up, up, up and found our seats.

The ballet was “Bayaderka,” which is a Russian word for the French word “La Bayadère,” which means “The Temple Dancer,” in English. Although the it’s originally a Russian play (I think), so I don’t know why it has a French name as well.

I won’t bother recounting what actually happening as it’s really not that important. What is important is that we had a pretty good time. This was my first time at a professional ballet (I’ve seen my cousins perform before) and it was very impressive! Phil took some photos and has graciously allowed me to post them:


Click to embiggen.
Photos © 2009 Phil Bannon. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

After the ballet was over, we headed back to the hostel. I decided to call it an early night so I could get enough rest for my full day of excitement tomorrow.


  1. US$8 

  2. southern-hemisphere schools still have the summer off 

Ukraine and Itinerary v0.3

Now that I have my plans to Russia finalized, I’ve started to plan out other parts of my trip. It also sounds like Charlie and Quinn are both seriously considering coming along for at least part of my adventure. Quinn has a prior engagement that will tie him up until the first part of July, but he’s considering joining me then. Charlie has a bit more flexibility and I’m trying to convince him to join me for the second part of June.

In talking with Charlie, he encouraged me to do a little bit of route optimization. I’ve come up with Itinerary v0.3, which is essentially a reorganization of v0.2; I’ve also dropped France from the list…although I could put it back later. I’ve also, tentatively, added a stop in Greece.

Trip Path
Trip Path

As for Ukraine, I started looking and there are tours of Chernobyl! This is both incredibly exciting and scary1. There are a handful of companies that provide tours, each of them seem to have equal pricing and offerings, starting at $150/person or so. A bit more than I want to pay, but could be worth it I think, especially since it’s an all day adventure and includes lunch2. Pictures are also allowed, so I would definitely be a happy camper there.

TourKiev is the leading contender for the tour, they’re also recommended by The Lonely Planet and seem to be pretty professional.

Other travel companies include UkrainianWeb and SAM Travel Company.

In doing some research, I found this interesting slide show from the EPA, Chernobyl: An Inside Tour. I also found an obituary for Constantin Rudy, who’s mentioned extensively in the EPA slide show and who seemed like a pretty cool guy.

Interesting side note, part of Call of Duty 43 is set in Prypiat, Ukraine, which is just 2km from Chernobyl. When I was looking at the pictures from the tour companies, I immediately recognized them as from the game…creepy.

Itinerary v0.3:

  • Day 1:
    Seattle, Washington
    Dulles, Washington, DC
  • Day 2: Moscow, Russia
  • Day 8: St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Day 14: Tallin, Estonia
  • Day 16: Ukraine
    • Kiev
    • Chernobyl
  • Day 18: Turkey
    • Istanbul
    • Antalya
    • Ephesus
    • Cappadocia
  • Day 24: Greece
  • Day 26: Italy:
    • Rome
    • Venice
    • Agnone
  • Day 36: Switzerland
    • Arbon
    • Interlaken
  • Day 40: Austria
  • Day 44: Budapest, Hungary
  • Day 50: Prague, Czech Republic
  • Day 53: Warsaw, Poland
  • Day 57: Germany
  • Day 62: Seattle

  1. “According to our guide the radiation dose you get from a day at Chernobyl is less than from a transatlantic flight. In other words, it’s supposed to be safe.” 

  2. brought in from outside the exclusion zone 

  3. a video game I play on occasion 

Updated Itinerary

Progess is being made! I’m calling this Itinerary v0.2. It appears that the only country that will need a visa is Russia. Thus, I’m going to going to start my travels there since it will have to be the most planned part of this trip. I talked with Jeff last night, as he had traveled to Russia several years ago, and got some good information on places to go. I’m hoping to have trip start and end dates locked down and reserved by the end of March, along with all the Russian parts locked down and reserved. 

I also talked with Quinn and Charlie, both of whom have indicated they would at least be interested in doing some traveling with me as well. I have calls in to Katelyn and Erin, both of whom have been and are currently in Turkey, respecitvely.

Below is a list of places that I think I would like to visit, in roughtly the order that I would visit them. I’ve also added notes (mostly to myself) about things I’d like to do there. I think this seems like a more managable list than previously. I’m also trying to setup a framework of things to do, however still allow the trip to progress organically.

  • Day 1: 
    Seattle, Washington 
    Dulles, Washington, DC
  • Airplane/10 hrs/UA964
  • Day 2: Moscow, Russia12
    • Red Square
    • The Kremlin
    • GUM
  • Airplane/1.25 hrs/$60 USD/Rossiya – Russian Airlines3
  • Day 6: St. Petersburg, Russia45
  • Bus/6 hrs/€30 ($40 USD)/EuroLines
  • Day 10: Tallin, Estonia6
  • France:
    • Paris, France (Paris Air Show – 15 to 21 June 2009)
    • Toulouse, France7
    • La Barre, France8
    • Vélizy, France9
    • Bidos, France ((787 Production Stop: Messier-Dowty))
  • Italy:
    • Rome, Italy
    • Venice, Italy
    • Grottaglie, Italy10
    • Agnone, Italy11
  • Switzerland
    • Arbon, Switzerland
    • Interlaken, Switzerland12
  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • Poland
  • Ukraine
    • I’ve heard you can visit Chernobyl…could be cool.
  • Hungary
  • Turkey
  • Germany -> Seattle (UA8718)

Alternates:

  • Sweden13
  • Denmark->Seattle (UA9394)
  • Romania
  • Macedonia

  1. http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/east/moscow.htm 

  2. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/russia/moscow/sights 

  3. http://www.anywayanyday.ru/en/ 

  4. http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/east/petersbu.htm 

  5. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/russia/st-petersburg/sights 

  6. http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/scan/tallinn.htm 

  7. 787 Production Stop: Groupe Latécoère 

  8. Birthplace of Jean-Luc Picard 

  9. 787 Production Stop: Messier-Dowty 

  10. 787 Production Stop: http://www.seattlepi.com/business/275606_italy28.html 

  11. We visited Agnone a couple of years, it’s where my maternal great-grandfather was born, and  I’ve wanted to return here to just spend a few days hanging out 

  12. I’ve heard this is a must 

  13. 787 Production Stop: Saab 

Possible Itinerary

After months of plotting, I think I have a possible itinerary. I’m going to call it Itinerary v0.1. It’s basically a version of The Lonely Planet’s Behind The Old Iron Curtain in reverse.

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Paris, France
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Moscow, Russia
  • St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Tallinn, Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Belarus
  • Ukraine
  • Poland
  • Hungry
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria
  • Macedonia
  • Albania
  • Serbia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Croatia
  • Slovenia
  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Seattle, Washington

A quick glance at the math yields 21 countries in 60 days, or about three days per a country. I still think this is a little fast, so I will be whittling this down to hopefully 15 countries or less (4 days per a country is a bit better, I think). The entire Behind The Old Iron Curtain trip is supposed to take 2-3 months, according to The Lonely Planet, with a budget of €30-50 per day. Currently, this would be $38-63 per day. Or up to $3,800 for 60 days. This is definitely within my budget. Although I don’t think that includes transportation. Still, I think things are looking pretty good.

I also checked United and A) I definitely have enough frequent flier miles; and B) it will only cost about $60 to book the US to Europe part of the flight.

Now, at this point you may be wondering why I want to tour former Eastern Bloc countries. Two words: Cold. War.

A little know fact about me, if I had to be a history major, my area of expertise (I’m assuming history majors have these) would be the Cold War. I think the Cold War was amazing for a variety of reasons. Two super powers on the brink of self-annihilation. Covert operations. Incredible leaps in technology that we’re still taking advantage of today. The list goes on.

There’s a still a lot to figure out though, including, but not limited, to: A shorter list of countries I’d like to visit. Medical Insurance. Theft Insurance. Visa for Russia (and possibly other countries). A travel partner (for at least some of the trip).