Year in Review
What a Year 2020
So 2020 is finally over, but it’s not all been bad considering the endless lockdowns and travel restrictions. Here’s my story of 2020 whilst attempting not to mention the C-word.
January – Vilnius
A great start to the year with a long weekend trip to Vilnius in Lithuania. Although there was no snow, the Christmas lights and cosy restaurants provided a lovely winter atmosphere.
To coincide with the start of the Chinese New Year on the 25th January, we decided to make a card of wishes for the next year. Here’s mine, and despite all that’s happened, I still managed to fulfil most of them in some way or another.
February – Amsterdam
Unknown at the time, but this would be my last trip home for around 10 months. I enjoyed time with my family and a quick business trip to London, before starting my last real international holiday in Amsterdam with Jamie for a weekend of music and culture.
Returning to Kyiv for my birthday, I was welcomed back with a karaoke taxi from the airport and a flight simulator treat in a Tupolev plane at the National Aviation University.
March – Lucky Escape
This is where things started to get interesting. Very enthusiastically we set off to Belgium on our way to Tomorrowland Winter in the French alps. At that time we knew about the virus and the actual festival had been cancelled, but the tour operator said we could still go for the skiing and some smaller music events.
However, whilst staying the night in Belgium waiting for our flight to Lyon the next day, Ukraine said they were closing the borders within days so we had to cancel everything an return quickly. The holiday was still on officially, so we had to make a decision whether to lose the 4,000 Euros we spent on the holiday or risk going and getting stuck there. After much debate and flight searching, I managed to secure a flight back via Amsterdam using airmiles I’d collected over the previous years so save on the extortionate prices of last minute flights.
A day after we got back and feeling sad, France went into lockdown and everything closed, so we were lucky to make the correct decision at the right time. Due to this, the holiday was cancelled anyway and the company promised to refund 6/7ths of the cost which we are still waiting to receive.
The day after we returned back, we went to check on the progress of our new apartment and were very lucky to be given the keys right there and then before Ukraine also went in to lockdown. Something positive after our failed attempt to ski!
April – Lockdown
April was pretty uneventful due to the lockdown, except making Ukrainian Paskas for the first time which is a type of slightly sweet Easter bread. It was also the start of a series of weekend trips to the Dacha (house in the village) to relieve some boredom.
May – World’s Largest Plane
The weather was starting to get better now, so we could do more outdoor activities in comfort. The world was still trying to make sense of what was happening and cargo planes were busy ferrying medical supplies from China to Europe and beyond.
Antonov, a Ukrainian aerospace company who made two of the world’s largest planes was called upon to assit with plenty of heavy weight cargo lifters at their disposal. Antonov’s home airport, Gostomel is just outside Kyiv and we heard on Facebook that the world’s largest plane, AN225 – Mriya (meaning dream) was on it’s way back to Kyiv. We tracked the flight on Flightradar24 and rushed to borrow Yuliya’s father car and drive the hour’s journey to watch her land. We followed several other cars and ended up in a farmer’s field at the very tip of the runway just in time to enjoy a very close up view of her flying over us. A little scary, but a very wonderful experience.
June – Up in the Air
Life goes on as much as can be normal with a few fairly local weekend trips to Myrhorod and to Zhytomyr to visit the national space museum, a bear sanctuary and also a calming balloon ride across nature.
Due to spending more and more time in Ukraine, we decided to invest in a car so we could travel safely in our own little bubble without the need to sit cramped next to people on buses, trains and planes.
July – Ukrainian Road Trip
We met a fellow Englishman who had opened a Scooter rental business in the middle of a pandemic who offered us a free trip out for promotion on our local web site Kyiv Guide.
With the new car we planned a 2 week Ukrainian mega road trip taking in Rivne, Bukovel in the Carpathian Mountains, Rakiv, the geographical centre of Europe, Kamianets Podilsky, Uman and Zatoka, near Odessa.
I also completed my new year’s aim on the trip to learn to riffle shuffle cards as I always struggled with shuffling.
August – Monument to the Pickle
Back to work after our trip, we decided to make our own summer gin and visit a not very well socially-distanced air show in Zhytomyr. We also had a fun trip to Chernihiv for a traditional sauna which involved jumping in the river to cool down.
At the end of the month, we took another small road trip to Nizhyn to see the momentum to the pickle and Brech were there is a Japanese style tourist complex with horse riding and spa facilities.
September – Retro Cars
September brought back the biannual old car land show in the aviation museum in Kyiv. Old retro cars are parked amongst the planes along with barbecues and music. A nice end to the summer.
October – Castles Galore
A cancelled work conference in Lviv with a non-refundable hotel gave us a nice excuse to take a road trip to Lviv for a long weekend. On the way we planned to visit Dubno castle, but also spotted Olekso castle perched upon a hill a few kilometres from the main highway that we decided to spontaneously visit.
In Lviv, we stayed in the Citadel hotel and visited the house of scientists with it’s unique wooden staircase, a brewery and also a restaurant where you need to prepare your own meal with bear claws.
November – Winter is Coming
I woke up with news from home that someone had crashed into my car back in the UK in the middle of the night. The car was a total write-off and the insurance company quickly paid out. Except from the fright my parents experienced in the middle of the night, it worked out quite well as I was thinking of selling it anyway.
Winter season began in Ukraine and for the first time I had to purchase winter tyres due to the cold temperatures and the mandated law. As I’m writing this, the snow has finally come and temperatures are approaching -18 degrees C, so they’ve come in very useful.
December – Christmas Travels
I had booked a flight last month to go home in December for Christmas, but I was debating right up until the last minute whether to take the risk and travel home or not. I decided to take a test first (very uncomfortable, but very quick) which came back negative so off I went back to the UK and quarantined for 10 days without leaving home.
When I left home to venture out in to the town, it was a surreal experience compared to Ukraine. People actively avoid you on the street choosing to walk on the road as to not get too close and a traffic light systems in shops to control social distancing.
In contrast, in Ukraine, life largely goes on as before with the exception of masks in shops and public transport. Social distancing is non-existent, but the case/death numbers still are lower than most other countries so it’s difficult to make a conclusion about the effectiveness of restrictions or not.
I celebrated Christmas with my family at home, then had to quickly re-organise my flight back to Kyiv as all countries started to ban flights to the UK due to the new strain. I swapped for a direct flight out of Manchester which was delayed 4 hours due to snow on the runway and when I finally got back to Kyiv, I took the required test in the airport and the next day I was free to enjoy everyday life again.
It’s been a different year, but actually quite good for me. I now have an apartment here along with my own car and have discovered much more of Ukraine. Come and visit when things calm down, it’s a nice place!
Work has continued well and I continue to invest in Convert Case to help with my passive income strategy. I also hope to improve my work/life balance in 2021 so I can spend more time on side projects of love like Kyiv Guide and Ukraine Guide and spend more time learning the video side of things.
Next month, in February, it’ll mark 10 years since I first visited Ukraine and the start of this life adventure. I’m also planning to apply for a 10 year residence permit as an IT specialist this year, so here’s to the decade to come! Let’s see where it takes us!
Published on January 23, 2021 in Travel by Jason and tagged with 2020, an225, antonov, ASOT, asot 950, cars, Christmas, covid, Featured, Kyiv, lockdown, social distancing, Travel, Ukraine, vilnius, Year in Review.