Hi again and welcome to the second part of my trip to Minsk with UIA.
This report covers a short flight from Kiev to Minsk after a day long stopover in the ukrainian capital. Let me begin with some bonus pics and story of my short and very intense stay in Kiev.
When you arrive to Boryspil airport, you should be aware that it is situated 35 km from the city center and the public transport let's say it clear: sucks. There is only a bus that can take you either to the main railway station (not recommended because you may loose much time in traffic jams) or to the nearest metro station Kharkivska (much better but not a perfect solution). We've chosen the second option and while it took us only about 15 minutes to get to the underground, we spent more than 35 minutes on the train to get to the center. Kiev is huge and the distances between the metro stations out of the center are terribly big ( avereage 5-6 mintues) reaching the maximum of 8 minutes when you cross the Dnipro river. That means that having even a long stopover in Kiev, you need to have 2 hours in total to get to the city and come back to the airport.
After a long metro ride we finally made it to the Golden Gate station.
The station is called after the reconstructed gate that used to lead to the old town in the middle ages. Even if it is a legend, this gate is very important to Poles as it is believed that our first king Boleslaw Chrobry chipped his sword oh this gate doors in attempt to conquer Kiev. This sword was afterwards used as a coronation sword of all Polish kings and is now kept in the royal castle in Krakow. That's of course a legend as it has been proved the sword has been made many years after the battle and the gate has also been constructed later. Anyway I like this story and couldn't miss the gate while being in Kiev.
Here is the fameous Golden Gate. No traces of the sword on the doors ;)
From the Golden Gate there are just a few steps to St Sofia Monastery that definitely is a must while being to Kiev. The huge Sofia's square with Bohdan Chmielnicki monument makes great impression.
You can visit all the monastery inside, we decided to go only to the church where - unfortunately - taking photos is not allowed and more than ten elderly ladies follow you and shout in Russian, Ukrainian and even in English not to do it.
On the second edge of the huge square is St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, fully reconstructed after being destroyed in 1934 by the communists.
We head to Andrijws'kyj uzwiz, perhaps the most poular street in the old part of Kiev, named after the beautiul church of St. Andrew
The street itself is very nice, despite becoming a tourist market with new and older souvenirs….
Some airlines never die ;)
Another place not to miss: the Independence Square or Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Ukrainian
The waitress said we had probably the best table in the city :) A cold beer is necessary when there are 35 degrees Celsius
The next attraction is the deepest underground station in the world: Arsenalna, 105 m under the ground level. You spend exactly 4:30 minutes on the escalator to go up.
Close to the deepest metro station is Pecherska Lavra - a huge complex of monasteries where you could spend a whole day and we had only an hour or so. Need to come back here one day.
View on the other side of the river
That's the end of the bonus. Let's go back to the airport and to the main flight report ;)
After a long metro and bus ride we reach Boryspil in one hour. The terminal D where all the UIA flights depart is new and modern.
What surprises me is that despite the airport being crowded, the safety and passport controls take not more than a few minutes. Good organisation is not something common here so it surprises me even more. Looking out of the window there's just an UIA land…
Some UIA souvenirs for incredibly high prices…
Time for our boarding from a gate located downstairs, on the ground level. That means a bus boarding that is very common here. It's a very messy boarding to be honest, they ask us why we don't have visas and can't understand we don't need it anymore if going for 3 days only.
The worst thing is that despite the flight being supposed to be operated by a 737-800, the bus simply turns around and opens its doors in front of an old 737-500 parked just a few meters from the terminal. The plane is 25 years old as I checked and is one of the oldest if not the oldest in the airline fleet… Today is the day of flying prehistoric planes. Should we have had another flight today, it would have been no doubt operated by a Tu-154 or IL-62, judging by the fact that every next aircraft is older than the one before.
Boarding the old lady UR-GAW, age 25, first flight in 1992
The aircraft looks old inside, even though it is quite clean, you can't hide its age. However the pitch surprises me !!!!
Looking out of the window I see an old wing and, what a surprise, some UIA aircrafts
Oh no, wait, there's one LOT tail far, far away
More UIA as we push back
And a TK A330. There must be a good demand for seats on the KBP-IST route
Sunset over the terminal
More UIA on a remote stand
and sunset with aircraft tails (like a painting title)
We take off in the meantime. To be honest I'm so tired after this very hot and intense day in Kiev, that I don't mind flying the old lady and seem not to notice much of what happens around. I'm dreaming of the hotel shower and a room with aircondition!
Not so fast! To enter Belarus we need to fill entry forms
When I open the table to do it I discover a very interesting seat interior …
Service: a cup of water
The flight lasts only 45 minutes and shortly we fly over the woods and fields of Belarus
Short finals and landing
Our neighbour: Belavia CRJ-200
Pax bus and Minsk terminal. For me it looks like a fortress or a nuclear power plant
The old lady being disembarked
I heard and read that Belarus tries to attract tourists (that's why visa is not needed anymore for a short stay) and everyone is very friendly. However our first Belarusian encounter is more than unfriendly. A young customs officer checking our passports showed us what a different reality means. To enter Belarus without visa you need an insurance for not less than 10.000 euro. Our insurance was for 40.000 euro and before our trip I made a call to the Embassy of Belarus in Warsaw to ask if this insurance (that I use all over the world) is accepted in Belarus and was assured that everything is fine. It wasn't. The young and agressive officer speaking almost no English, explained to me that the insurance must be in Russian or Belarussian or we can't enter the country. When I asked why I received an answer that "English and Polish (the languages our insurance was in) are not languages" …. Ok, despite being a filologist, I decided not to begin an argument about the meaning of the word "language" and simply asked, in Polish (Belarussian language is easy to understand to Poles, so is Polish to Belarussians. They are now forced to use Russian but most of them learn they mother tongue at home so that it is not yet completely dead), what should I do now. After a moment of hesitation she said: "you may enter now but next time I won't let you in". I said: "spasiba" (thank you in Russian) and this answer really pleased her. Howerver I don't think there will be any "next time" in the nearest future….
So…. welcome to Belarus!
Many thanks for reading!
Kiev - KBP
Minsk - MSQ
UIA is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you gonna get. It may be written "cherry in dark chocolate", then you open the box and discover a peanut in the milk one. Thank God all the chocolates fly safely ;) KBP - nice and modern, fast security and passport check but terrible access and lack of food court. MSQ - the most unpleasant passport control ever
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