Getting around Kiev by rail is a great adventure. I have found that using Kiev’s efficient underground Metro system, rather than the trolley or bus, is the best way for me to experience the city without getting lost. Alternately, for the fun of it and for the view, I occasionally take the Kiev Funicular between the waterfront area and the higher ground of Old Town. The price of each of these forms of transportation can’t be beat at 7uah (US$.30) per ride.
Cyrillic script is the basis of alphabets used in languages of Slavic origin, such as Ukrainian. Fortunately for me, the lists of Metro stops on electric signs and on the walls of platforms at Metro stations are written in Latin text in addition to Ukrainian Cyrillic script. Studying these translations while waiting for a train has been helpful to familiarize me with the language while on the go. I understand these translations were added in the Metro stations when the World Cup was held in Kiev in 2012 to help international guests get around the city. Thank you, World Cup!
One day when arriving at a Metro platform, I was confused as to which train to take to get to my next destination (this was not unusual!). A young man who heard me asking for help in English came over to see if he could help. That was the day I met Alex, a young professional Ukrainian whose enthusiasm for the English language was immediately apparent.
After getting me going in the right direction, he invited me to join him and some of his friends Saturday evening at a pub where they gather regularly to practice their English. Recalling the great experience I had years ago in China interacting in English with the locals at various “English Corners,” I immediately agreed to come.
Several days later I got together with Alex and his friends at their favorite ruin pub (an abandoned building turned into a pop-up bar). They expressed their various reasons for wanting to learn English. It basically came down to the promise of a brighter future.
In Kiev, underground passageways are great for accessing a Metro station, getting across a street, or for shopping. An infinite variety of goods and services are available in underground passageways (shopping arcades) which are generally accessed by entrances to Metro stations. Some rustic underground passageways have packed, open stalls. Others are more sophisticated.
Once when I was downtown, my desire to purchase eyeliner led me to a Metro station entrance where I found an underground shopping arcade of mammoth proportions. A labyrinth of corridors with low ceilings offered an infinite variety of goods and services. Well-heeled professionals were scurrying in all directions. Despite the fact I was thoroughly lost down there, I eventually found what I was looking for. Whenever I felt a bit claustrophobic, there was always a street exit nearby where I was able to come up for air.
Adjusting to the prevailing winds at the doors that access the Kiev Metro stations was an interesting learning experience. Courtesy in other parts of the world commands that you hold a door open for the person behind you so it doesn’t slam in their face. But alas, not at the Kiev Metro stations when the wind is blowing!
At the Metro entrances swinging doors often catch the wind. I learned that people entering or leaving a Metro station often stop briefly to determine which way the doors are swinging, then manage to proceed through a door without touching it. A masterful move!
If you try to counter a prevailing wind at a Kiev Metro station by holding a door for someone, you could break the flow of foot traffic, as I did the first time. I learned to watch which way the wind was blowing through the doors, proceed quickly through a door when the prevailing winds dictated it, and then keep moving without looking back.
When going to the opera or ballet, which I often do, I have learned to leave the event quickly. If not, I must bear the consequences of trying to get through the turnstiles at the local Metro station with hundreds of others at the same time.
Riding the rails of Kiev is an experience not to be missed – the trolleys for fun, the Kiev Funicular for the experience and view, and the Metro for the swinging doors!
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