A year into the trip I’ll share some statistics about what we’ve been spending our money on. Brett, the nerd that he is, has kept track of every yen, somani, kroner, hryvnia and lei that we’ve spent. Not only that but he’s broken down our spending into various categories – accommodation, transport, food, sightseeing, visas, communication and misc. It seems like a lot of work but actually the data he’s put together is really interesting. When we were feeling a little low on cash it was good to know how long we could sustain our lifestyle given the reserves we had left. Besides, it’s just good to know where the money goes. I’ll give a quick summary of costs in this post - I know it’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested read on…
Archive for the ‘Ukraine’ Category
Seeing as I put the effort into selecting 20 photos to present at Pecha Kucha in Muenster I might as well share them with anyone reading my blog – I’m looking at you Nan! It wasn’t easy to select only 20 photos from the past 61 weeks of travel. A quick count says I’ve taken just over 11,000 since the start of 2010 alone, and I don’t want to admit how many I’ve taken in total over this trip. Let’s just assume it was many more than 20. So below are what I think are some of the best photos I’ve taken this trip, though some of them were chosen more for the story than the artistic side of things.
Seeing as we’ve been on the road for a year, I feel it’s time to write about some of the highlights. Some of these were written about when they happened, but some are little things that didn’t necessarily register as worthy of a mention at the time. In no particular order:
Before we left Kyiv we had one major sight left to see: the Kyivo-Pechers’ka Lavra, a monastery complex that draws crowds of pilgrims and tourists. It was originally founded in 1051 by a Greek monk and his follower, who dug caves where they and other monks worshipped, studied and lived. Their mummies are still visible today, preserved by the cool dry air, and this is seen as proof that they were holy men. We visited the tunnels underground but weren’t allowed to see all of them as we weren’t pilgrims, to be fair all the mummies kind of looked the same to me. They were all covered with a shroud with only the odd hand or foot poking out. Up aboveground the monastery complex was huge, an incredible 28 hectares of churches, museums and other buildings. The massive Dormition Cathedral is a year 2000 reconstruction of the original which was blown up by either the Nazis or the Soviets (nobody is really sure).
One of the museums we went in to was the museum of micro miniatures which had exhibitions of such mind boggling smallness that it only took a single room to blow our minds and change our world view forever. Well maybe not quite that extreme but there was some seriously cool stuff, all viewed through a microscope. The pieces of art are the creation of a Russian artist, N Siadristy who does this stuff in his spare time. One of the pieces was a 2mm long strand of hair which had been hollowed out until it was almost transparent (?!). Not to stop at this he then created (by hand, this is all done by hand) a miniscule rose which he placed inside the hollowed out hair. Seriously! A chess board on the head of a pin was another creation and an intricate Egyptian scene complete with pyramids, a palm tree and a chariot all placed inside the eye of a needle. There were about 20 of these creations in an otherwise relatively non-descript room.
It’s been an interesting week and I’m going to start with what we did today even though it throws out the whole chronological order of things. We headed out to visit Chernobyl, site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, which released 400 times more fallout than the bombing of Hiroshima. Scary and foolish as that sounds the levels of radiation since the disaster on April 26, 1986 have dropped so much that visiting and working in the exclusion zone is now considered safe. There are around 4,000 people working within the 30km zone (doing 4 day to 2 week stints in the contaminated area followed by time outside). Many of them work at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. These days their main job is to transform the area into a safer place but I was surprised to find out that the plant was operational until December 2000.
At the time of the disaster there were four reactors functioning and two under construction, but now rectors five and six stand unfinished. To get in to the centre of the exclusion zone we had to pass two checkpoints and on the way out were tested for radiation, as was our car. The exclusion zone was initially circular but with later testing it has been changed to more accurately reflect contamination levels. The plume of radioactive fallout was initially blown westward but then winds changed northerly and it’s estimated that 60% of the contamination fell on Belarus. Nuclear rain fell as far away as Ireland.