Lucas Weismann

Kiev Part 1 – Arrival

Traveling from Den Bosch to Riga was more of an ordeal than I expected.  Because the plan left at 10:20AM, this necessitated arriving by 8am in Amsterdam, which in turn meant that it was imperative that the 6:20am bus not be missed.  As a result, I ended up with a 5am wakeup call in order to properly be ready, with sandwiches provided in part by Katja- due to her incredible skill with the bread machine.

Some day I really need to get the recipe for Katjabroodje (Katja Bread).

I was thinking slowly, being cold and having been on the road for about 16 hours at that point, my thinking was hazy like the fog our twin-prop plane landed in.

Customs was easy as our US passports got us barely an blink before we were stamped and on our way. Not so for the college-age couple who were evening denied entry even as we spoke.

The little red haired girl kept complaining that “we have no monies” as her boyfriend talked via a helpful local, trying to explain heir situation to the unsympathetic guard.

Flew into Kiev from Riga in pea-soup thick fog and was greeted by the driver like you always see in movies. The only other time I remember experiencing something like this was when I first arrived to teach in the Netherlands at the first Crash: The Delft Blues Festival.

At that time, Daire Mac An Bhaird was waiting with a 5 foot-long banner printed on the airport’s banner machine (yes, apparently Schiphol Airport has a banner printing machine.  I was surprised to learn this too).  Of course, part of the wonderful weirdness that made the situation complete was not only the fact that at practically 6’7” tall Daire would tower over any crowd in a manner that is immediately recognizable.  No, the best part was that he was standing proudly displaying his sign holding it over a crowd that did not exist.  Really, there might have been another few people waiting, but in my mind, it was a desolate nobody-but-daire-and-me situation as if there was some other 7-foot blond, bearded giant he might be mistaken for.

I felt like a celebrity.

This was a bit different.  Not only in the quality of the sign- sharpie on notebook, but in the demeanor of the driver as well.  He was short man in his 60s who spoke a little english and was helpful and seemed like might be about to curse in impatience at any moment. This, I would later notice, seemed to be an almost congenital feature of Kievian people I would do business with, from the people at the market, to the entire hotel staff at the Yaroslav hostel, to the street merchant selling berries outside the markets.

My attempts to ask his name were rebuffed and he laughed as I gave him mine, saying “yes, I know… internet'” as he waved away my attempt at a question like some bothersome fly.

Not sure what I expected on the way into the City from the airport, but the stretch of car dealerships like those on 494 in Minneapolis certainly wouldn’t be in the top 100 sights I’d envisioned.

Birches lined the highway on either side and served to accent the fog with their gray bark and autumn yellows. Once more, I’m reminded of home. I guess something in me was hoping the vegetation would be somehow alien as we arrived. As if somehow it’s disappointing that the spectating isn’t so obviously different than where I grew up.

It’s not really of course, and if anything, it makes me feel more at home.

Every time we pass a sign in the Ukraine, this feeling is shattered. The Cyrillic alphabet is the preferred one for official things, though the Roman alphabet seems to be in use for advertisements and logos and well… there are enough of those to make any red-blooded american feel at home.

I’m not sure if it’s the fewer billboards on This stretch of highway than in used to, or possibly the fact that they aren’t lit at this time of night seems to make the road a bit more desolate. Or maybe… private is a better word.

After checking in to the Hostel and being given broken instructions on how to do things it seemed the instructions for any given thing were:

  1. (Old man) Do this thing.
  2. (Me) Pause to understand
  3. (Old man) never mind. Do it tomorrow.

This was applied to

1: filling out our passports info per legal requirements.

2: dropping off keys upon leaving (a common custom at most hostels I’ve been to)

3: paying for the hotel

Basically everything was:

Here’s the rule. Never don’t do it. Screw it, do it tomorrow.

I think I like this place.

After settling into our double room (two twins, not a double room…. common in former soviet bloc hostels) we headed down to ask his wife- whose english, he assured us, was far better than his own- for directions to food.

After taking 3 attempts to mime food, which apparently is not as universal as I thought to sign, she gave us a rapid-fire explanation of how to get to either a place with a lot of food options, or an impressive fireworks display. I’m not entirely sure which based on her gestures.

Oh and as we left to find food, I tried to give the keys to the woman at reception, per the instructions painstakingly given to us multiple times by her husband who seemed to alternate between hoarding his words and making it rain… she mimed that we should just keep them until tomorrow.

Fair enough.  IMG 9135

To the Would-Be Time Traveler

To every child who wants to go
To where the past was brighter
When men were men and lads were Heroes
Warriors and fighters

Or every girl who thinks perhaps
Austen’s England’s best
That world of balls and parties and
Talk of who’s best dress’d

A word of warning ‘fore you go
Off in your time machine
First of all your problems:
A world that’s not so clean.

You see dear reader ’s not so long
Since soap was out of fashion
Where thick-held grime and soot and mud
Kept your clothes from clashin’

That’s not to say most anything
About the germs you’ll see
You’ll have to fight off monstrous things
Like Plague and Leprosy

That ignores the problems of
your germy pedigree
For people cannot future-proof
Their immunity

All this trouble you’d have wrought
If you took this trip
To say no thing of burning ‘live
If your nature you let slip!

You see my young would-be
Time trav’ler ‘strordinaire
The danger’s far to great
To those both here and there

To be a temporal tourist
Sounds a great adventure
But there is another way
To go there I would venture.

Consider making voyages
‘cross the globe instead
Or grab a book and take a trip
Inside of your own head.

Then you’ve got a perfect chance
To go see what you’d see
Without risking loss of things like
Modern dentistry

If this sounds like a cop out
Or some unfair, unkind fate
You’re trav’ling time already
And so it’s not too late

Our time is best in many ways
Than any we’ve yet found
Finding wonder’s simple as
A taken look around

Take solace in the fact that
Time yet marches on
Changes come and changes go
And yet we linger on

The future could be so much brighter
Than the past you see
But it will take some work to shape it
Work for you and me

Our bright future not so soon
Will be some person’s past
“A simpler time,” “a better place”
But destined not to last.

And so instead of trav’ling time
I’d like to suggest
We make those future people jealous
By making our time best

Update 4/20

Heh.  Not that kind of 420 update.  Traveling with either allergies or a cold (haven’t decided which yet),  and no where to be until friday is forcing me to take it slow.  I missed two days of writing and it did NOT feel good.  Possibly one day.  I’m a bit hazy.

However, I’m slowly making my way to prague and I’m hoping I can find enough lemsip, tea, coffee and general soupy things to keep me well through the weekend.  I’m sure that once I’m around people, my pathological need to not show weakness around strangers (especially to remain professional) will cover most of this.

In the meantime I’m headed out to the Chapel of Bones on the border between Poland and the Czech Republic.  Looking forward to it.  Especially since today’s weather is perfect for this particular type of tourist attraction.  Grim, gray and threatening to rain at any moment.  This makes me happy.

I’d love to hear from anyone what strange and wonderful things they’ve encountered on their travels that was either odd, macabre or just unique to the area they visited.  What is it that made it special to you?

More updates in the hopper, talk to you soon!

Luke

Things I’ve Noticed While Traveling pt. 1

I’m taking the months of  December and January to visit my hometown of Stillwater, MN.

Some of you know that I’ve been on the road as a traveling dance instructor for the last several years.  While traveling as a dance instructor, I get to take a look at the people around me and see into their lives; see what makes them tick (a bit) and see patterns arise between the way they approach dance and the way they approach the rest of their existence.

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Feeling Posh

That’s the word right?  Posh.

Anyway, for some reason I’m being rewarded for procrastination.  Or maybe for remaining flexible.

Yes, saying I’m remaining flexible feels better than admitting it was mostly procrastination.

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I, Hipster

544150_10151455892317949_1460172853_nI’m writing this post on a three year-old MacBook Pro while waiting for the water in my friend’s electric tea kettle to finish boiling so we can have some Organic Fair-Trade Rooiboos tea.  We’ve just finished a 15km bike ride to and from her anti-squat flat in Utrect, Netherlands (It’s like Amsterdam, but smaller, less tourists and feels like city where people live) to get coffee at the StayOkay café at the StayOkay youth hostel run by Hostelling International (It’s so obscure that until today it didn’t even have one review on Yelp!) on 20 year-old 3-speed bikes to get a cup of good coffee and get into “the only think like nature you can get around here.”

It’s then that I realize, I might have become a hipster. (truth be told, I considered myself a hipster in college, when that meant something like rockabilly with the bowling shirts, dickies pants and two-toned shoes – back then we called the modern day hipsters either “Bohemian”, “Art Students” or “Homeless People”, I guess I’m saying I was a hipster before it was cool? Or is it back when it was cool?)

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Getting to Cadansa

I left Copenhagen station last night on the night train to Amsterdam.  If you’ve never taken a night train you have two main options.  I sitting car or a sleeper car (couchette), Don’t even get me started on the commuter car option (basically it’s not one, you don’t want it).  For the first few stops, I had the room to myself and thought I was a pretty lucky guy.  Somewhere in rural Denmark, I was joined by a young almost-college aged kid who was going to his first trip to Amsterdam.  His english was just good enough for me to realize that he wasn’t there to see the canals.  He was an amiable guy and after awhile I went to the shower room to charge my devices.

When you take the German trains on an overnight trip, sometimes you have modern trains and sometimes you don’t.  If you’re lucky enough to be on an old-style train, don’t be surprised if the conductors are a bit grumpy when you ask where you can find an outlet.  They’re just as tired of people asking as people are of asking the question.

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