Kyiv’s quirky side is perhaps one of its most endearing traits. Like a good meal and wine pairing, the city’s wacky features go well with my idiosyncrasies. For example: Do you have the urge to be weighed? Just head to the main artery on Khreshchatyk Street, drop Hr 2 (less than $0.20), step on the scale and listen to the vendor provide self-evident weight-loss advice like, “you need to walk more and stop eating fast food.”
But should a marshrutka ride substitute that advice, visitors to Kyiv will soon discover the “honor code” that exists inside these compact mini-buses. I especially marvel at the large banknotes being passed from the back to the front, and then watch the driver with one hand negotiate the steering wheel and gear box while breaking a Hr 100 note with the other for a fare of Hr 2.50, followed by the same 10 people passing the change back to the patiently waiting passenger.
Speaking of marshrutkas and their larger cousins, buses, take notice of the “interior decorating”inside some of these moving gems. They often include violet-colored or soiled curtains that I believe were once cotton white, statuettes with bobbing heads carefully placed on furry dashboards, lewd signs in Russian for one’s reading pleasure, and Orthodox icons that are supposed to potect the bus. The soundtrack to this beauty is defined by the driver’s unvaried musical tastes that either fall into the Russian chanson or ethnic-folk categories, intermingled with radio news and weather reports.During normal business hours, a couple that is split between wanting pizza and sushi can easily settle on both at any number of pizza-sushi combo joints in the center. After hours, head to McDonald’s, even if it’s closed. Their drive-thrus serve pedestrians, bicyclists and rollerbladers as well, if one could handle the fume intake from the idly standing cars.