I once read that the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag are meant to represent endless fertile fields of corn or wheat stretching out to meet the clear blue horizon. I have no idea if this is true, but I do think that it makes an excellent story.
I had the pleasure of traveling to Ukraine last week. I really do adore Ukraine. The countryside is as beautiful as the flag story implies: boundless green and yellow fields where everything grows. Black black earth. Fantastically filling food. And Kyiv, one of Europe’s most charming cities.
I last visited Ukraine about a year ago, back in my unaided life. I enjoyed myself, but I was grumpy. Really grumpy. Partly because even though it was June, the weather was terrible. It rained almost every single day. And partly because Kyiv was built on a cluster of hills, and its streets are paved with smooth cobble stones. Or to put it another way, last year, I had a lot of trouble getting around Kyiv on foot. I tried my best anyway, dutifully stifling any and every thought about the fact that walking was kind of hard. I blamed my shoes (Worn out surely! (They were two months old.)) I blamed the rain. I tried not to think about it and press on, mostly unsuccessfully. I stopped for a lot of coffee (ahem, sitting/rest) breaks. Fortunately, for me in this respect, Ukrainians (Sorry Moscow, I do love you, but coffee is NOT your strong suit.) know how to brew an excellent cup of coffee. Still. I didn’t feel like I really saw Kyiv or enjoyed what the city had to offer, because I was distracted by poor mobility, anxious thoughts about poor mobility, and pain. But not this time. No. This time I was actually excited (Yes. You heard that right.) about traveling to Kyiv with the Evil Aid, because I knew that I’d be better equipped (literally) and better able to do and see the things that I really wanted to do. And was this correct? You bet it was. 150% Yet another example of how mobility aids EMPOWER their users. Anyway. Moving on.
No trip with aid is ever without a few awkward encounters. And, as I learned on this trip, there may even be one or two that pleasantly surprise you. For example, the passport line at Kyiv’s Borispyl airport. When I arrived at KBP that was an insanely loooooooong snake-like, chaotic, post-Soviet line at passport control. And I was in the last row of seats (yeah, the ones next to the toilet) on the flight from Moscow, I was one of the last people to fall into line. Our flight was also late, of course, so my taxi driver was waiting impatiently just beyond customs. It was not a good scene, as my experience with such snake-like chaotic lines in the Former Soviet Union has taught me that they do not move very quickly. I was not thrilled about an hour or more of painful standing and scuffling in place, but as the Russians say, rhetorically, “What can you do?” But then, something entirely unexpected happened. The Ukrainian border guard who was attempting to contain the tail end of the line and direct people to the correct passport windows said tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” she said politely. “You don’t have to wait in this line. See that line over there, the short one? Go there.” I gladly did as I was told. It turns out that at Borispyl, the expedited line is not only for diplomatic and official passport holders, it is also for families with very young children and visitors with disabilities. That’s right; they had even affixed a sizable sticker with the universal ‘disabled’ figure on the passport control window. I made it through in fifteen minutes, without the additional pain and loss of function from standing in place for an hour to more in the general line. That was definitely worth a big Hooray! Why can’t all border control posts have this option, especially, ahem, the one in Midwestern Megapolis, where the line, even for American citizens, often stretches to the disembarkation zone? One does wonder…
Here a a few shots of some of the fabulous things Kyiv has to offer. By the way, unlike many other post-Soviet countries Ukraine has abolished its visa regime for Europeans and Americans. That is, tourists can visit visa free for up to ninety days. Go!