Trip highlights: Yalta, Odessa Philharmonic, and the catacombs in Kiev

The adventures continue.

I think Yalta has been my favorite part of the trip so far. It’s gorgeous! Dramatic mountains and picturesque beaches. We’ve been calling it “The Yosemite of Ukraine.” (Well, Yosemite plus a beach, I guess.) The water is so clean and blue! Check-out some of the photos here. We had a lovely evening in Yalta, and the tours around Simferopol and Sevastopol were just awesome.

Todd and I stumbled-upon the Philharmonic Hall in Odessa, and as luck would have it, there were a few tickets left. $8 each! Score!!! I love live music, and hearing a symphony orchestra is always a real treat! I’m certain that my old friends Peter and Alisa have been to this hall. They were big fans of symphonic music, and spent a lot of time in Odessa.

Kiev was cool, though our time here has been short. It was cool to walk around Kreschatik Boulevard (the main artery) during a big street fair, on a delightful summery evening. Live music, beer, and celebration. Yay.

The tour guide at the Monastery of the Cave was a trip. She was local, knowledgeable, fluent in English, and got really animated when she told stories of the monastery grounds. I’m not sure if my fellow travelers were into it, but I enjoyed it.

The catacomb tour itself has been cut short over the years, and frankly was a bit underwhelming. I’m glad I got to see the catacombs 18 years ago. Back then, you could wander as you pleased. The sick and afflicted would go to a special section of the caves to be healed by a priest. (When I visited, the priest was performing an exorcism. That was quite a surreal experience.)

The overnight trains in Ukraine are almost exactly like they were 20 years ago. The compartments are grubby; the toilets empty-out right onto the track. The trains are actually exactly the same trains as back then, except now some compartments have something resembling air-conditioning. Kinda.

We’re walking a lot. We’re tired a lot. It’ll be nice when we get to St. Petersburg, because we’re spending 4 days there. We’ll get to enjoy a slower pace.

The Ukraine leg of the tour is about to end. It’s been good to be back. It’s kind of weird to see grocery stores full of quality food, and to see restaurants full of customers. But it’s certainly a good thing. Ukraine is moving forward, and its people just seem happier these days.

Next-up: Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Here, have a bunch of photos.

Posted via Posterous.

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~ by Mike Y on May 22, 2012.

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