Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Europe Trip 2016 ~ Ukraine (Kiev for 1 week), Greece (Athens for 1 week), Ukraine (Chernivtsi for 4 days)

This blog was originally going to be just the one week of Kiev but the three hours I'd scheduled to write the entry proved incapable to use for that purpose. The week I spent in Greece I barely slept, let alone had time to ponder my thoughts and travels in my blog. Upon returning from Greece my previous plans were pushed forward abruptly leaving me again without time to do anything but barely catch a ride to the next location.

NOW.... I finally have three hours, to myself, with wifi, and my computer, and a power outlet, and I'm half awake (which at this point is a bonus).

I'll do what I can to condense, yet not leave out exciting parts of what has been a crazy whirlwind of September.

Kiev first :)  My new friend, Melissa, whom I met in Prague when she accompanied a friend of mine from India to come dancing with me, flew to Kiev to visit! I absolutely love it when friends fly to me and I can play tour guide in a new city. Melissa is so much fun and full of life and verve it is a treat to dance and sing our way down the streets together. I invited other Ukrainian friends of mine to join us in Kiev and two of them got to come and experience the dynamic energy of Melissa and Ronda together!! lol

Before anyone joined us thought, Melissa and I visited a sculpture garden and tore the place apart with our laughter, enthusiasm, and creativity! Picking just a couple of pictures was really really hard!

That day was magical and fun beyond compare. We partied the whole night long and didn't even know it until it was daylight when we opened the door outside! Those are the best nights :)

One evening we went to the opera, The Barber of Seville. They sang it in Ukrainian without subtitles in English so even though I know the story, it wasn't really fun. Still, it was an absolute delight to go with all my friends!

Then we got to go sightseeing in the Motherland Statue. I'd been inside before but hadn't been all the way to the top! Turns out, you have to get in a harness and climb up crazy ladders and through tiny manholes and clip and unclip like you're rock climbing up a mountain! It was awesome!!!!

Obligatory Vibram picture :) before I climb down into the tunnel.

Literally got to stick my head entirely out of the top of the statue! At the top of KIEV!
We also spent a day goofing off around a mall, playing air hockey, ping pong, getting a Dr. Fish treatment, experiencing a bus ride local style, and the world's deepest subway station. It was all in a all a very very full week! One very memorable note that put a damper on the high spirits was while we waited to get on the bus. Melissa was sitting on my lap and we were looking away from the side my purse was on. Even though it was zipped, a young gypsy kid took my wallet and got on a bus. Now this story would have probably ended poorly almost any other time as everything about me, my money and my identity were in my wallet. However, a Ukrainian lady sitting on the bench just a pillar away watched the kid take the wallet and when we didn't do anything, she asked us to check. We saw my wallet was missing and my Ukrainian friend Anton stopped the bus, the lady identified the gypsy child and my wallet was returned with just a few dollars missing that had paid for the bus. What struck me about this was that the lady was so kind to first speak up to us, and then to become involved and get on the bus to help us identify the kid. Then how the packed bus wasn't upset at us for holding them up, especially since it was obvious Melissa and I were foreigners. Everyone was very helpful, kind and patient, bus driver included. Afterward I found out the locals had encouraged Anton to take the kid out and "teach him a lesson" even though he didn't. Outside of this one experience (and even as a part of this experience), I have had nothing but the best of times with the people in Ukraine. No matter the city, the occupation, the circumstances, the language barrier, I've had overwhelming love shown to me here and I am so grateful! <3<3<3

After Melissa left, Anton and I and another friend I hadn't met yet hung out in Kiev. I introduced Anton to bowling and for the first time in my life I can remember I actually won a game of bowling!!

We also went to see the symphony play Beethoven 9 and went zip lining across the Dneiper River!!

Kiev was truly a week of feeling alive, whether through joy, fear, agony, or inspiration. It flew by and I didn't hardly realize it as I boarded the plane to Greece, that it was over.

Athens was waiting for me though. Adding another country to my list :) I've now been to Athens. Plans were to go further abroad a bit but sickness ruled the household for most of the week unfortunately. Despite coughs, colds, and a bunch of kleenex, a good time was had. The food in Athens is incredible. Most of those who spend much time with me know I eat "like a bird". But I gorged myself in Athens. I couldn't believe how much I ate and drank. Wow!! The city fit me well that way. Also, because dinner time starts around 9. If you get to a restaurant at 9p.m. there's a good chance you'll be the first there and it will up as the night continues. Now that is a schedule I can thrive on for sure!

Trying all the different kinds of Baklava!!!!!  None of them were bad lol  ;-)

Calamari cooked to perfection.

Eating authentic gyros in Greece for the first time. YUM

Unbelievable meal and this picture doesn't even have all the food that was served. I ate enough in one week in Athens to last me for a month haha!!!
I did go sightseeing one day when it wasn't raining and had enough energy. Here are a few of the pictures of the Acropolis.

Panorama of Athens with the Acropolis on the right.

Posing at an entrance.

An amphitheater (Roman I'm told), just outside the Acropolis. Looks like there was going to be an all guitar rehearsal or concert but I didn't stay .

Athens seems like a dream. It flew by so fast I remember it but it almost doesn't seem real. So many wonderful days and nights despite being sick. I'll never ever forget my first trip to Greece (Yes, I'm assuming there will be more) !!!  <3<3<3

At the end of the week in Greece I learned I needed to go to Chernivtsi Ukraine faster than planned by a day. Lucky for me I have the most amazing Ukrainian sister :) and she packed a bag for me and brought my violin to me in Kiev. After spending the day trying to book me train tickets, bus tickets, blabla car rides, and every other form of transportation other than flying for me while I spent the day flying from Greece, I ended up being shown wonderful hospitality by another Ukrainian family because nothing was available. I still remember that night/day and I'll never forget it (drinks all night/morning)! Not sure if I should hope it to be once in a life time or not haha!!  Since I couldn't get to Chernivtsi the day I needed to I lost one recording day, but when I arrived, the people were kind and flexible and we easily recorded two demos in 8 hours and had a fabulous time doing so. My quick trip to Chernivtsi was so delightful and even though I only packed for 2 days and ended up staying four so I didn't have enough clothes and the weather is getting cold so they're not warm enough, I still had such fun. I didn't go sightseeing except for a couple of hours to the University that is an UNESCO site. The people made the trip! Recording, video editing, and just enjoying laughing over bad English and Russian was a good time to have for all :)

I planned to stay in Chernivtsi even longer so I could see the town a bit, but plans have changed again :) Finally, after a year hiatus, I've been offered a job on a cruise ship. It's only a one week contract (the shortest ever in my career), but I'll take it! A new company and a new agent and a new musical partner to start a new journey! Now I travel fast back to Kiev, Malyn, Kiev, and off to NYC to catch the ship. Afterwards I will try to write another entry of my time onboard :)  My plans now are to return to Ukraine after the cruise. Yes, it's almost like I enjoy it here ;-) But who knows what will actually happen so just keep reading and enjoy the adventure along with me!