Scrimp 'n' Splurge

KIEV, Ukraine
June 19, 2011

Irina and I travel well together. We have a similar cycle of wake and sleep. (Both late.) We share similar interests in which attractions we want to visit while on the road. We share a similar perspective in which ways we choose to dole out our money. A balance between frugal and indulgent travel choices comes naturally to each of us when traveling. Examples of our scrimp/splurge rhythm:

Would "parsimonious decadence" be an oxymoron? I've enjoyed spending these past few weeks being out on the road together with somebody who has such a similar approach to spending, sight-seeing, and getting around.

Caves Monastery
We're both just getting to know Ukraine. This is my first visit to the country, but not Irina's: she's come to Odessa on a couple previous occasions to attend conferences held there. But, this is her first time exploring anywhere outside of Odessa. We've been pleasantly surprised by what the cities throughout Ukraine have to offer.

Much of the atmosphere around Kiev is in the same vein as what we found ourselves immersed in back down in Odessa. Late 19th-century architecture is well represented throughout Kiev, as well. As in Odessa, the hot chocolate here is also thick and good. Several nights each week theatre performances are staged in various venues around town, among them a central, grand opera hall. (I assume the performing arts are heavily state-subsidized across Ukranian cities as tickets for even the best seats are dirt-cheap.)

Irina Waits for Train
in Kiev Metro Station
Last night we bought tickets for the cheapest seats (20 UHR = $2.50 USD) to a ballet neither of us had heard of: The Lord of Borysthenes. It turned out to be a mid-20th century production by a Ukranian composer. It was well-enough staged, but we decided we didn't have to see it through to the end as we had tickets to come back to the the opera hall for a different performance the next night. So, we left after the first act to find somewhere down the street for dinner. That meal wound up being one of our thrifty choices--we ate at a generic chain called MICTEP CHEK--Cyrillic for "MISTER SNACK".

The performance we attended this evening was better. We decided to splurge on tickets for better--box seats--to a production of Carmen. Perhaps it was the better seats or perhaps the familiarity of the score that made for a more enjoyable evening. Whatever the case, we stayed through the end of tonight's show.

Though all the productions we attended were probably of a similar caliber (I'm no connoisseur) I enjoyed the performance of Swan Lake in Odessa far more than the two performances we've seen here in Kiev. Despite that Kiev is a far older and far larger city--I'm already nostalgic for Odessa. There was a crumbling, faded elegance to the architecture in that city that I don't see here in Kiev. The facade and interior of the opera hall here aren't as nice. Despite some superficial similarities, walking through Kiev feels more like walking through a 21st century city to me, while walking through Odessa felt like being somewhere at the dawn of the 20th century.

Tomorrow will be our last night in Kiev. Another overnight train will carry us on further west, to our final destination traveling together. It's a city I've wanted to visit for many years, the place I think will be perfect to cap off our time in Ukraine.

Next stop: Lviv