|The Great Gate of Kiev|
I’m staying back from activities again this evening – this time the Moscow Circus, which I saw the last time I was in Moscow in 1992, and for which my strongest emotion was pity for the bears. Hopefully I’ll have better luck this time catching up with the trip journal. I’ll begin with the Kiev pre-trip to the Russian River Cruise with Grand Circle Travel.
On the flight from Heathrow to Kiev I scanned the plane, looking for likely GCT travelers but didn’t see anyone who looked promising. I was near the back of the plane, and when I deplaned, the customs lines were very long. We had to fill out an entry form, which we hadn’t been told about on the plane prior to landing. I filled out a form while waiting in line, but when I got to the immigration counter, the man told me I had to fill out the exit side of the form as well; this had essentially identical information on it. He did, however, let me back up to the counter after I had filled it out without having to wait in line again. I had visions of losing my bag in this foreign airport, with no one here to pick me up, and not knowing what hotel I was supposed to go to. I was annoyed with my stupidity at not getting that information out of the bag at Heathrow. I didn’t remember the name of the hotel we were staying at and hoped I'd copied it in folder that I kept in an outside pocket of the large suitcase.
When I finally got to the baggage pick-up section, the only carousel rotating carried luggage of a plane from Paris. Fortunately, the airport was small, and I wandered to the last, empty carousel in the back of the room--which had already stopped--and I spied my bag near the wall beside it. I was relieved and delighted, opened the bag, got out the trip folder, tore out the page where I had written the name of the hotel, and proceeded out of the baggage area. Sure enough, no one was there to pick me up. So I asked about a taxi, for which I received two estimates: 300 and 400 grivnas (the Ukrainian unit of exchange). I got 1,000 grivnas out of a money machine, paid 400 of them to a taxi kiosk, got a receipt, and gave it to a driver who appeared from somewhere. He drove me the several (I would say at least 15 – 20) miles into downtown Kiev to the Radisson Blu.
|The city of Kiev, across the Dnieper|
When the taxi stopped in front of the hotel, a bell hop scurried out the door and took my bags up the steps and into the hotel lobby. I felt so relieved, all I could think was, ‘No more lugging those bags through endless corridors of train and metro stations on my own. Hallelujah!’
Inside the hotel I saw a desk with a GCT sign over it and a large, pleasant-looking woman with very blond hair sitting behind it. I went up to her and introduced myself. Her name is Natasha.
“So, you have arrived already. You obviously made it here on your own,” she said, and I nodded. I got the key to my room and, when I went in, found my assigned roommate, Joan Brown, a very good-natured and pleasant woman from Texas--though originally from Missouri, I believe.