Kiev. Good. Crimea. Not Good.

If this was the wire service, I would be fired for having waited nearly a week after arriving back in Ukraine to post something. Nothing like jet lag, apartment surfing and a couple overnight train rides hither and yonder to muck with one’s creative processes.

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Comprehensive musings about Crimea will have to wait for another time, except to say I have had not the time to visit this modest little structure overlooking the Black Sea  For the moment, however…

… let me say I would advise against traveling there.

As of April 1, if you otherwise would need a visa to the Russian Federation, you now need a visa to visit the newest member of the Russian Federation: the ARC, otherwise known as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (“Autonomous” is one of those adjectives that the the Soviets liked to attach to all sort of cartographic and geographic arrangements, usually with little to no practical significance, except to make future cartography highly fucked and ensure a high probability of ethnically-motivated blood letting (see Nagorno-Karabakh for further detaails). Crimea’s “autonomy” persisted past the Soviet implosion, into modern-day Ukraine, and continues to this day, except now I think the full acronym of said republic might be something quintessentially Soviet/Russia like ARCRF, an acronym that like most acronyms in this part of the world gets pronounced as if it were a stand-alone word: “arkiff” maybe? What a chihuahua says when it needs to go pee on a fire hydrant? I digress…)

I’m happy to report that, despite the announcement of the new visa regime, announced by the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, word, by the time of my arrival, had not yet reached the ears of the ever-vigilant, new members of the Border Guard Service of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea of the Russian Federation (BGSARCRF?) Nor had anything resembling official badges or emblems reached the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, rank-as-a-pig-in-shit uniforms that the BGSARCRF officers were sporting when they woke me and my coupe mates up (once going, once coming back). They had little pieces of paper that looked to have been printed with a laptop and a desk top printer, announcing they were members of the BGSARCRF. They did have cool berets though.

On the way to Crimea, the BGSARCRF kid who checked our passports couldn’t hide his amazement upon opening my passport and seeing, not a Ukrainian one, like my coupe mate, but an American one. He called his comrade over as if to say “holy shit, take a look at this” and then said to me, in English “thank you very much.” And that was that.

On the way back, however, the adults were back in charge of the BGSARCRF, as a guy I took to be senior commanding officer (who stank possibly worst of all) gave me a stern lecture, to inform me about the new visa regulations and warn me that the next time I go to Crimea, I will have to obtain a visa from an authorized agent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (MFARF!) prior to entering the ARCRF.

Me: “Yes, sir. No, sir. I wasn’t aware of the new regulations, sir. I will be sure to do that ahead of time next time I visit Crimea. Thank you for informing me of the new rules, sir Have a nice day, sir.”

My coupe mates, already in shock by the presence of a random American guy in their train compartment,  were all most amused by the passport performance.

Anyway, I’m also happy to report that, notwithstanding revolutions and annexations and jaw-dropping corruption, Kiev remains high on my list of abundantly livable cities. Ukrainian– Kievians, in particular– are abundantly and totally freakin’ nice all the time. This may not seem like a big deal but given that in this part of world, inhabitants of most big Russian-speaking cities tend to be as warm and friendly as camels (or boars), it’s quite a welcome change.

Then there’s coffee situation, which is so amazing that it deserves its own post at a later date.

And then there’s just cool architecture that warms the cockles of your heart (i.e. TFC) and makes you think “hm, maybe I should buy some real estate and open up a bed and breakfast?” (actually, don’t do this unless you have a high tolerance for continuing corruption, maddening bureaucracy and the possible recurrence of another popular uprising sometime in the medium term future).

Here’s just a random sampling and by no means should be taken as a comprehensive scientific or artistic survey of the city’s architectural landscape:

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photo 4

photo 1

photo 3

photo 5

photo 1-2

(i actually tried to find what this place might go for… Kiev fixer-upper?)

photo 3-2

(the view outside my current apartment, in fact…)

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