On 05.05.2008 I had my first day at my project in Kiev. I still had my apartment in Bratislava and my polo was at the car repair at this time. So I had no choice than using to public transport. At 5:15 the postal bus went from the Bratislava bus station to the Vienna airport. Of course, in BA you cannot rely on public buses… At 4:48 actually a bus from my home should have gone to the Autobusova Stanica … Well, actually … Well, I had 5 taxi numbers as a backup… 2 of those were not able to speak German or English, 2 more had no free car. Then finally I got a lady taxi.
My flight to Kiev was at 7:10.. There were 6 other colleagues on the plane.
My colleague explaned me the entry procedures and gave me some tips for surviving (no raw food due to radiation levels and no tap water).
Our driver was aiting at Kiev Boryspil airport to take us to the bank. This was, of course, very noble to have a driver with a VW bus for the whole team in Kiev.
For me Kiev was not much different than Bratislava. Broken footpaths, prefabricated buildings, shabby cars, women with cheap viscose / polyester clothing …
I used my first evening of work for a stroll through the city. During this time Kiev prepared for the mayor’s elections. Also the one Klitschko was nominated a candidate. Kiev was wallpapered over and over with election posters.
Here are some (crazy) facts about Kiev:
• In the Ukraine, it is customary to stop private cars and to be transported for a fee. For safety reasons, however, this is not recommended.
• In Ukraine, there is a strict prohibition of alcohol in road traffic. If a traffic offense has been committed under the influence of alcohol, this constitutes a major element of the penal sanctions. Even in the case of minor personal injury, a criminal imprisonment must be expected in this case.
• When visiting mosques, monasteries and Orthodox churches, do not wear short trousers or women’s shoulder-free tops (Strictly speaking, women in orthodox churches should wear a headscarf and do not wear any pants)
• Do not drink tap water
• If possible, sensitive persons should not buy fish and meat (for example stuffed pirogues) on the road markets
• Foreign movies are often translated simultaneously and often only by a single speaker for all voices
• There are towers of pure gold and dismal buildings from the Soviet era
• Very many people have very little and very few have quite a lot (The normal average rents is 100 hryvnia, which are less than 20 EUR, child benefit: 1,50 EUR per month).
• Because of inflation, instead of numbers, only stamps that symbolize the tariff are printed on the stamps
• In the hotels tourists are asked for a lot of money for relatively little comfort. One reason for this is the corruption that reaches into politics: it is not yet possible for most foreign hotel chains to settle in Kiev so that the local monopolists of the hotel sector do not consider it’s necessary to improve the level of their offers.
• Many people mainly buy what the farmers offer along the roads and paths (but you should be aware that the Chernobyl area offers perfect conditions for orchards
• The tap water is so well chlorinated that you do not need to take any antiseptic solution for contact lenses anymore, a few drops of it will kill everything…
• According to Transparency International, Ukraine is the most corrupt country in Europe
Afterwards, we went for a walk and explored the city: Golden Gate, St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery,the municipal cableway down the mountain, foot bridge over the Dnepr, Olympiastation, Independence Square, Khrshatik … On Sundays the main shopping street is only open for pedestrians. We felt like 30 years back in time … because everything was still so soviet (the buildings, the department stores and the planned economy, the streets, the lanterns, …).
In June 2008 already 3 pages of my passport were completely stamped. All weeks went according to the same scheme: On Mondays morning, various colleagues at the various Austrian banks in Kiev met at the different gates at Vienna Airport. At 7:10 prepare for take off into another world… On the plane you received your powder egg, tomato and unsweetened yogurt for breakfast. Shortly before landing, visa sheets had to be filled out and we all hoped for a fast lane for immigration.