Donetsk

My plane touched down heavy rain late at night. The rain seemed torrential. Tanya told me that she was surprised the flight had went ahead and I am surprised too. It was OK as the plane left but I am not sure the plane of my delayed flight would have been allowed permission to land in what seemed torrential rain if my flight had been in the UK. As I arrived in the departure desk, tired and reunited with my luggage that had been split open along the back in what I could only guess to be an attempted theft, I approached the taxi desk in side the Airport. “100 hryvnas OK?”, “Yes. Err… No”.
I remember Tanya had told me pay no more than 50. I chose to call Tanya. She arranged for a taxi to come. I can’t remember the amount but it was no more than 40. Waiting outside the tiny airport I waited before another taxi ordered finally turned up. Every minute waiting I was approached by taxi drivers. The sole identifiable foreigner, I guess I was seen as their bonus.
My opinion of taxi drivers as leeches seems to hold universally true. Of course there are good taxi drivers but I find them so rare indeed.
The Taxi took me to the apartment I booked. Afterwards the driver asked for more money (It could be a tip for non existent service (He didn’t even point out the building)). If he hadn’t asked (as soon as we arrived) a tip may have been forthcoming. Instead I portrayed the confused foreigner mode (after all I don’t understand Russian even if I understand what he is aiming for) I paid no more. And went to my apartment.

The only city I visited in Eastern Ukraine during my trip of 2011 Donetsk is famous for its many coal mines. The mines run underneath the city which means that trains arriving must go at a crawl to avoid causing any cave ins. When I mentioned I was going to Donetsk some friends from central and western Ukraine were curious. Ay least one felt there was not going to be anything worth seeing. I had chosen Donetsk to meet my good friend Tanya who had kindly offered to show me around her city.
It was of course great to meet her, and Donetsk was a pleasant surprise as well.
Days of reading my guidebook had given me the idea that there was nothing worth seeing. Tanya herself had mentioned there was little but I was content in meeting my friend.
Donetsk though was a more clean city than one might imagine for the centre of the cola industry. There were wide streets, many green parks, a nice river, a spectacular war memorial.
Donetsk is actual a nice city to be in.
True it doesn’t have the architecture of Chernivtsi, Lviv or Chernihiv. Or the many things to do of Kiev but it is pleasant none the less. In good weather it is a nice place to spend time.
Service ranged from good to the ex-soviet style lethargic apathy.
Put any objections to one side and you have a nice place to be.

Tanya guided me around the city for all 2 1/2 days I was there. On Victory Day there wasn’t the pomp of Moscow or Kiev. In fact if there was a celebration we missed it. But I had a great time.

Oh, on a side note Donetsk was formed by a Welsh businessman John Hughes in 1869 and is the city of Shakhter Donetsk. Visit the stadium on a match day and (I may have been lucky) there was a sea of black and orange and a good atmosphere as families gathered for the game.
It was a match against their rivals. only that I never saw a rival supporter. If I interpreted my TV correctly, later, Shaktar won 2-0.

In Donetsk I came across friendly people, including one (like in Chernivtsi as well) wanted to take a photo with me. I had expected my trip to Donetsk to be nice, however I didn’t expect Donetsk to be nice.. it was.