Home-Baltia-Chernobyl-Auschwitz-Home: Part VII

Evening in Kiev

After we got back to the city I immediately rushed to the local camera shops and grabbed my friends with me. The famous fisheye lens "MC Zenitar" is manufactured in the region and I was sure that I would get a good deal on this nice piece of glass.

In the third camera shop I realized that Ukrainian photographers had migrated to the same boring Western lenses that are sold all over the world and the Zenitar could no be found. Also the prices for lenses where as high as in German web stores so I did not have the urge to buy anything. The trip to the shops was not completely wasted, however, since on the way we met a nice local photographer that we had a chat and drank some beer with.

The city of Kiev is a nice one and I took some street photos in the evening.

Our hotel was located in the middle of the city on the Indepence Square. It was a very convinient place to be and in the evening we went for another walk in the city. I was setting up my equipment to capture a shot but thought at the same time that the scene might be a bit boring. Two seconds later a watering truck enters from the right and wets the pavement little by little, turning the dull night scene into something interesting.

We didn't continue the night too long. The Chernobyl area had depressed us quite a bit and the constant travelling was also getting to us.

Beginning the way home

Our first stop after checking out was the Kiev zoo, famous for its elephant and wide variety of animals. I would also add "infamous for the terrible conditions the animals are kept in", but for some reason this fact is neglected. Even though seeing the animals was nice I still felt bad about the really small cages and habitats they had. Even the cages at the Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki seem like luxury compared to these prison cells. We had to leave the place rather quickly.

Our next stop was to fill up the car with gas. We were a bit unsure about which brand was unleaded but luckily the German word "Bleifrei" was displayed at the pump. Getting the car filled up was harder than we though, as rather than allowing us to fuel ourselves the attendant insisted on doing it himself. Communicating the idea of "Fill it up" proved to be impossible for some reason and we had to instead estimate the amount we wished to fuel with. We wrote "100 Hryvnia" (local money, worth about 16 EUR) to a piece of paper and that did the trick.

The picture below was not taken by me but by Laura. By looking closely you might see me and Sami being interrogated inside the police station. How did we end up there... that's an interesting story.

On our way to Kiev we had driven rather carefully, but on our way out we decided to "drive like the locals do". It was a good plan until we passed the only traffic sign local drivers seemed to react to, the 50 km/hour speed limit at the border of Kiev. We did not slow down but kept driving at 130 km/h - the standard way in Ukraine.

Suddenly Sami noticed a police with a radar and started to slow down. He caught us with 107 km/h in the speedometer and signalled us to stop. Driving to the side of the road we were quite full of fear. In Finland you could kiss your driver's licence goodbye after driving over double the speed limit and we were afraid we might be in really serious trouble.

Sami was told to leave the car and follow the officer. As our group unofficial "issue-handler" I joined in. We were lead to the police station where the officer showed us the speed limit and how fast we had driven. We did not share a common language so I tried to use sign language to tell that we had not seen the sign, everyone else is driving over 50 km/hour, we were really sorry, and the other usual excuses.

The policeman was quite strict and unhappy at first. We tried to find a common language and I kept being very polite. We managed to tell our country of origin and another policeman laughed at my dreadlocks. Slowly the situation was getting more and more informal.

I tried to communicate with a pen and a writing pad as well. I had writted the text "100 Hryvnia" earlier when filling the tank and the police started pointing at it. At this point I was relieved - instead of wanting to confiscate the car or imprison Sami it was going to be something rather small, and negotiable.

Instead of giving the 100 Hryvnia to the police I insisted that he must give an official receipt or fine in return. I'd heard that sometimes the policemen try to just take money to themselves and wanted to make sure they would do a proper job.

The police tried to show a 2-sided form and complain how arduous it would be to fill it, but quickly realized that I would not just give the money away. He had a quick chat with the other officer and then gave us back our papers.

The other officer spoke some German and said to us "Auf Wiedersehen", which means goodbye. A bit surprised by the favourable turn of events we quickly exited the station and continued our journey. Quite a scary experience with a happy ending. Moral of story: dont drive like locals unless you know what you are doing.

After the police interlude the rest of the day was just plain vanilla driving. We got to the border at 8pm and hoped it would be quick to enter Poland. Unfortunately it took four hours and our plan of finding a nice place to sleep the night could no longer be executed as it was so late and we also had to drive a bit closer to Auschwitz so that we would have time to visit the concentration camp the next day.

At this point we decided that a night in the car would not be a bad idea. While the others slept in the car I drove from the border to Auschwitz. It was early morning when we arrived to the parking place of the concentration camp museum so I had a chance to catch a couple hours of sleep before the museum opened and we could go in.

Part eight