Ukraine’s had an upgrade; we visit Lenin, my old apartment and the meat tree (photos)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when visiting Ukraine. When I lived here from 1993-95, the economy was spiraling; people would go months without seeing a paycheck. After the collapse of the USSR, it felt like the country wasn’t entirely sure what to do with itself. Restaurants were deserted. Buildings were left to crumble. Public fountains dried-up. Even the fire at the “Eternal Flame” monument in Donetsk was turned-off… there just wasn’t enough money to keep it going.

Things have changed quite a bit. The city has grown. Buildings with 20 floors have sprung-up, near sparkling European-style shopping malls with a multiplex cinema. Public transport runs reliably, and many people own cars. The Ukrainian currency is at its most stable level in 6 years. Things are looking-up.

Donetsk is the first city on our itinerary. It’s quite a walkable place; we enjoyed several strolls down Pushkin Park and dined on Georgian cuisine our first night.

A visit to Donetsk wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Lenin Square. I spent a lot of time at the square when I lived here previously. I also checked-out my old apartment building nearby. There’s a photo of me in front of it, here.

The old street markets have largely been replaced with supermarkets. They’re not quite as robust as those you’d find elsewhere in Europe, but they’re by-far more advanced than I’d imagined they’d be. Pre-packaged dinners, baked items and meats have replaced the old-school a la carte items, which were at times über-fresh, at other times stale and tasteless.

Donetsk has a Ramada hotel now. It was comfy, with hot showers (and lots of water pressure.) Not what I was expecting.

Looks like there’s a small chain of shish-kabob stands called “Meat Spring.” I love the logo… perhaps meat really does grow on trees.

Posted via Posterous.

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~ by Mike Y on May 17, 2012.

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