Short Escape to Ukraine. Day 2: The War Zone and the Sleeper down to Crimea

16h23, 22.03.2014: A cafe just off Tarasa Shevchenka Boulevard. Big old walk around town. Legs feel well utilised. Tried to follow a map, failed but meandered about enough to get an ok feel for the place. Nothing amazing but a nice enough place. Quite a bit of wealth, quite a bit of poverty, nice buildings, everybody seems happy and friendly. Some bloke tried to pull a scam on me that started off with him making out that he’s just found a roll of hundred dollar bills. Pull the other one Vlad.

Nothing abnormal looking about the town so was thinking that would be that, then turned the corner into what looked like ‘Main Street’ and came across The Barricades. The whole length was occupied with large tentage; loads of soldiers hanging about; shed loads of tyres piled up as some kind of defence; yoofs hanging around playing ball games in the street, thousands (no exaggeration) of Ukraine flags giving it the Blue and Yellow; bricks and mortar strewn around the place; people chopping wood to throw on the makeshift fires; merchandise trestle tables selling more flags, ribbons, caps, badges; and then what I think is a water cannon truck which must have been involved in the goings on weeks back, left there smashed in from the front at a jaunty angle like it’s going nowhere soon. But surrounding all of this, daily life and shopkeeping continues as normal. I snapped away happy that I’d come across a bit of what I was looking for and went away to find an overdose of caffeine. Two nights in a row on about 4-5 hours isn’t ideal.

18h30, Right, this stuff I didn’t see enough of on the news (BBC pictures from 19.02.2014). And I just didn’t expect that the aftermath would still be all around. I came back to where the action had been and explored further down into and around Independence Square, the part I originally found was only the start. Parts of the city are a war zone. The vibe is like the calm after the storm before the storm. I’ve left my main bag at the hostel but have no concern for any of the camera kit I’m carrying (famous last words) as with such shit having gone down, there seems to be a collective feeling of peace and good will hanging around the air. The soldiers are mostly sans weapons, they just chill, waiting. There’s a lot of people on their soap boxes telling others how it is and everybody seems to be in agreement: it’s not good. There’s a large pro-EU bit. There’s Christian leaders who seem to be rallying to keep others happy. There are thousands of flowers all around, where people have fallen. Sometimes there’s an outline of stones where a body would have been. There’s a large building headed ‘TicketsUA’ that’s been blown to fuck. There’s a tent city within the city as people stand by, unprepared for the next move. It seems as if people haven’t cleared up perhaps because they see it’s not over so why do a job twice. This city isn’t how it wants to be. Why can’t people just get along. I have another coffee and walk away from it all to go retrieve my main bag just as it becomes dark.

19h44, My sleeper is due to leave in 15 minutes. Found an outlet to catch a quick blast of power for the phone and laptop before I board. Quick look through my camera at the day’s phot. I think there’s some good ones in there. Shame I can’t get any uploaded until home (cleverly didn’t bring my CF card adapter, amateur). Really pleased with the day’s discoveries.

The train is due to arrive in Crimea at 09h42. I love long train journies. I guess I need to look ahead already to how/when I get back here if Simferopol Airport is on lock down. First thing I need to do as soon as I’m in tomorrow morning is to locate a car. Once I’ve got that I should be at liberty to be at liberty.

20h34, Boarded the train hassle free. Clean, tidy and the 3 others in my compartment seem fine and are behaving themselves, so far. I’ve ordered a coffee and a beer. Time for a read then sleep.

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