In any case, Ukraine was quite cool. I spent my first day there just walking around the entire city from west to east. I stopped off at a hotel to pick up a map from the concierge and she suggested a path I could take that would lead me around some great sites and cool architecture. Of course my camera was close at hand so I will post pictures soon (just not right now). In fact, as I was walking down a long, winding, sloping road, I had to detour because of some movie being filmed.
Eventually I looped around and took a wonderful (and cheap!) funicular back up the hill to catch the beginning of a free walking tour. Again, something that Kiev has that Moscow and St. Petersburg never did - a tour run by locals for zero dollars. They had a clever button asking for tips which I thought was totally appropriate. At the end I had made some friends on the tour and learned a lot about Kiev. In fact, at the tourist office we stopped at, 3 others and myself booked a Jewish tour for the next day!
Fast-forward to Tuesday, then. I spent some time finding and going to the Chernobyl Museum, which has a fascinating and detailed account of what happened at the nuclear reactor in 1986. Since I've never learned in detail what the story was I was very interested. Then I hopped on the metro to get back in time for the Jewish tour we had booked. We drove and walked around for about 3 hours visiting various sites (house of golda meir, site of babi yar executions, local synagogues, etc.). It was really interesting to find out all about the Jewish history of this town.
Finally I came back to Moishe House Kiev and helped out with a wonderful event: Mojito Night! Nothing too difficult, just cutting up lots of fruit and preparing drinks. I had some great conversations with locals, including a person who turns out to be friends with someone I know in Philly! What a small world.
Thank you to Lena for taking great care of me in Kiev! My last day's breakfast was especially good!
Now I am in Budapest and am enjoying myself thoroguhly. I will update you on those stories and more soon.