Like most Slavic people, Ukrainians have a deeply held belief that cold drafts can cause all kinds of serious illness, up-to and including death. Or worse. They also have ‘proven’ information to suggest that sitting on a cold hard seat can lead to infertility.
Feeling brave I decided to risk both and to head off on a Ukrainian tram mission.
A few months ago my manager told me about a spa resort outside of Kiev which you could reach by tram, and that the tram itself was pretty cool because it goes through a forest. I knew then that I had to check this out and despite the freezing weather, now was that time. I didn’t know the name of the place or which tram to take, but I wanted out of the city and a quick google search for ‘Kiev’, ‘tram’ and ‘forest’ provided the answers. I was set.
The town/spa resort is called Pushcha-Voditsa, and the tram line is number 12. It leaves from Kontractova Ploscha – next to the metro station. Luckily, that’s only a 15 minute walk from my home.
If you’re unfamiliar with the trams in Kiev, let me explain…
Built in Czechoslovakia in the bronze age, they are almost always driven by tough looking women, they are cold, they are uncomfortable and they are slow. However, this just adds to the experience. They are also super-cheap at just 10p a ride. So, if I didn’t go crazy, I could do the whole day out on less than 50p!
The tram was waiting to leave when I arrived, so I jumped on, paid the woman driver my 10p fare and settled my arse down on a rock-solid, ice-cold plastic seat. I was expecting it to be uncomfortable and I wasn’t disappointed.
For the most part, the tram chugs along through some average Kiev districts, some suburbs and past a few strange roadside markets. I shifted around in my seat to keep the blood flowing to my legs, I watched two school kids playing wraps (a game which involves punching your opponents knuckles until you miss) and I thought about life. What else can you do on a tram? Anyway, after 45 minutes boredom (and pain) gave way to a sense of adventure as the tram stopped on the edge of the city and then rolled off into the forest.
This is what I paid my 10p for, but to be honest, there wasn’t a lot to see, just tall autumnal trees and a rusty looking tram line weaving off into the future and back into the past. However, that’s why its cool. Within minutes you’re in a woodland corridor and could be a million miles from anywhere …but you’re there on a bloody-old tram, going very slowly with a bunch of locals and their shopping.
Anyway, the woodland voyage ends after about 15 minutes when you arrive in the perfectly peaceful town (village?) of Pushcha-Voditsa. I didn’t know where to got off so I decided I’d stay until the driver kicked me off. This was about 6 stops later at the end of the line and next to a small kiosk where I bought a Mars bar.
Then I realised that I had no idea about anything in P-Voditsa and no plan, so I started walking in the opposite direction of the town, up the road to a small lake and into the forest. The place is definitely sleepy, but it’s also beautiful, quiet and, like many towns in Ukraine, it feels like its stuck in a time gone by. Personally, I love this feeling but it did occur to me that this would also be the perfect setting for a low-budget horror film with kids camping and crazy people with chainsaws etc…
I’ll save you the rambling details of the rest of the day. You can see the beauty of the place in the pictures below. If the Ukrainians are right about cold seats – I may never have any kids (my buttocks get cold just thinking about those plastic tram seats), but it’s still a nice day out. Oh, and with the cost of a Mars bar the whole shebang cost me a pocket warming 55p!