Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Another Flying Trip to Kyiv

Tanya had to go to Kyiv to provide biometrics (finger prints and retinal scan) to get her Schengen visa so we can go to Spain next month.  Our travel agent in Dnipro had looked after the visa application and biometrics was needed to collect her passport with the visa. The biometrics are good for 5 years and maybe Ukraine will get visa free access to the EU in the meantime*.

She had to be at the visa centre at 7:40 am.  There were no berths on the night train which would get us in at 6:00 am so we had to take the evening express and get a hotel room for 7 hours.  There are a number of new mini-hotels springing up around the railway station so Tanya booked a room in one of them at $25 for the night.  It was only a 10 minute walk from the railway station but we took a taxi since it was after 11:00 pm. That cost us $10 because we went out the new entrance at the opposite end of the railway station instead of the old entrance.  The way the streets are laid out it was a good 10 minute drive to get to the hotel and the driver did not take a long route.

The hotel was the third floor of a tall block of apartments and it was new and very nice.  Furnishings consisted of a double bed, two night stands, a TV, a small closet and a three-quarter bath not quite big enough in which to change your mind.  For only $25.  These hotels will destroy the one-night flat-rental business.

We rolled out at 6:30 to find the Gulliver Mall at the Sports Palace Metro stop.  Could have waited until 7:00 but better early. The Gulliver is a multi-story shopping mall filled with expensive stuff we don't need.  By 7:30 the Rotunda was filled with people, all waiting for their particular travel agent.  Our agent from Anik Travel (??) was a teeny tiny girl with a teeny tiny voice.  There were 30 to 50 people crowded around her and the ceiling of the rotunda was several stories up.  She spoke for several minutes instructing people about applying for a visa, documents etc.  Tanya did not need any of it which was just was well as she couldn't hear much anyhow. What they needed was an old Babushka with a voice like a foghorn.

There were well over a hundred people taking the elevator up to the 8th floor which was the Schengen visa centre.  We waited about 15 to 20 minutes, Tanya's name was called and in 5 minutes she was back with all necessary documents.  Much more efficient than dealing with individual embassies.

At 9:00 we found a real restaurant and ordered breakfast. No McDonalds for me this trip.  Two omelets, tea and coffee.  Tanya's tea came in a regulation size coffee mug, about 400 ml capacity.  My Coffee Americano came in a small tea cup, all 120 ml of it. Coffee Americano for the uninitiated is a 60 ml Espresso with 60 ml hot water added. If I had wanted something to sip, I'd have ordered a double Scotch, which here is 100 ml.  I said to the waitress, why can't I get a cup of coffee that size? No problem.  By the time I finished my small cup of coffee she was back with a mug full of coffee.  THREE Coffee Americanos. It was awesome coffee, strong enough to float a horseshoe.  By the time I finished it (total coffee intake equivalent of a double double espresso) I could have threaded a needle in a running sewing machine.

We had made arrangements to meet a couple of friends for lunch about 1:00 so we had time to kill and headed for Khreshchatik Street.  So many shops closed and places for rent.  This is the high end of fashion and jewelry so it appears the economy has been hit hard enough to slow even luxury goods purchase.

Valeria met us at an Azerbaijani restaurant in the Bessarabska Rinok Building.  It was only a 10 minute walk from her office with USAID.  Lera had worked for several years with STEP including two projects I had worked on and so we know her well and try to get in a visit whenever we go to Kyiv. Natasha had farther to come but got there eventually.  Tanya and I met her on one of my STEP projects in 2006 before we were married.  She translated several documents for me which were useful to the employees and customers of a feed company she worked for.  We had lost track of her for a few years until one day she showed up on Facebook.  After pleading for a visit for 10 years she is now going to come and see us in a couple weeks.

By 3:00 we were in the railway station and I was asleep on a couch in the lounge. Tanya was in the book store next to it.  She found three books and said she would do nothing useful for the next three days. At 5:30 we caught our train home.  People watching is fun and on trains there are always one or more people that catch my eye for whatever reason.  There were two couples in their late teens sharing three seats.  The girls were dressed to the nines.  Black party dresses, black nylons (but wearing running shoes). The boys were quite respectable but in ball caps, muscle shirts and jeans.  My conclusion: they were returning home from a wedding and the boys had shucked the fancy duds.

On the way up there had been a tall not unattractive young woman wearing a faded denim western shirt, pointed yokes, pearl snap fasteners and all.  Not a usual occurrence.  In fact, first I'd seen.  I would loved to have asked her about the shirt but Tanya doesn't like me talking to strangers.

Lina house sat over night for us.  Her instructions were to feed the cats and dogs, and no more.  Yeah, right.  When we got home at 11:00 pm Tuesday, Lina had gone home and the house was spotless from top to bottom.

*I hear Canada and USA may need visas for the EU if they do not allow visa free entry to ALL EU countries, not just the more trustworthy ones.  For Canada it means allowing Romanians and Bulgarians visa free access.  For USA there are a few more countries.



10 comments:

  1. Your travelogues always provide such fascinating glimpses of life wherever you go. You two seem to be able to find fascination and amusement where so many others would only see frustration. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have fun. Life is an adventure. In the English sense of the word, not the Russian. I said to Tanya marriage was an adventure and she was insulted as adventure implies a specific event with beginning and end. OK. . .

      Delete
  2. I LOVE that lounge in the railway station!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But not the squatters in the toilet, huh?

      Delete
  3. You have the most interesting adventures, and such delightful ways of describing them.

    Blessings and Bear hugs (as usual).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Rob. Good to hear from you. Bear hugs and blessing to you too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Less than half an hour for ANY bureaucratic process? I'm shocked! And thanks for my new favourite expression: "could have threaded a needle in a running sewing machine". I'm still chuckling.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The Visa Centre is a private company, contracted by embassies to do the bull work in bureaucratic procedures. They had Tanya's documents for several days, went through them to make sure they were in order. With the biometrics, they will now send the entire package to the Spanish Embassy which will issue the visa and courier her passport to Dnipro.
    This system has been in place now for a couple of years and saves so much time and effort on the part of applicants and embassies

    ReplyDelete
  7. we need to have the finger print and eye scan for us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is that to get a passport or to get a visa for where?

      Delete