Search: Advanced | Preference
Traveling Boy means the travel adventures of the Traveiling Boitanos
Travel adventures of Eric Anderson Boitano
Travel adventures of John Clayton
Travel adventures of Deb Roskamp
Travel adventures of Fyllis Hockman
Travel adventures of Brom Wikstrom
Travel adventures of Jim Friend
Travel adventures of Timothy Mattox
Travel adventures of Corinna Lothar
Travel adventures of Roger Fallihee
Travel adventures of Tamara Lelie
Travel adventures of Beverly Cohn
Travel adventures of Raoul Pascual
Travel adventures of Ringo Boitano
Travel adventures of Herb Chase
Travel adventures of Terry Cassel
Travel adventures of Dette Pascual
Travel adventures of Gary Singh
Travel adventures of John Blanchette
Travel adventures of Tom Weber
Travel adventures of James Thomas
Travel adventures of Richard Carroll
Travel adventures of Richard Frisbie
Travel adventures of Masada Siegel
Travel adventures of Greg Aragon
Travel adventures of Skip Kaltenheuser
Travel adventures of Ruth J. Katz
Travel adventures of Traveling Boy's guest contributors

Ketchikan Bed and Breakfast Service

Panguitch Utah, your destination for outdoor discovery

Alaska Sea Adventures - Alaska Yacht Charter and Cruises

Colorado ad

Sorrel ad

Polar Cruises ad

About Skip   write me    Feeds provide updated website content        

Kyiv Kaleidoscope:
Viktor Yanukovych, We Hardly Knew Ye!
But We Knew Enough, Good Riddance

Story & Photographs by Skip Kaltenheuser
(Courtesy of Natural Traveler)

World War 2 Soviet artillery on display in Kiev

couple years ago I was on an assignment that had me a couple weeks in Kyiv to explore Ukraine's economic potentials, for reports of possible interest to investors. We hear "economic basket case" from pundits ten times a day now, but that's a reflection of the kleptocracy that ran the country. It's not indicative of the people who were stuck beneath the kleptocratic thumb. The country actually has a great deal going for it, from some of the richest and deepest topsoil on earth – even after the Third Reich and the Soviets plundered it trainload after trainload – to a well-educated, highly cultured and talented young labor force, missing only jobs. The disciplined restraint shown by the opposition once it had the upper hand wasn't a shock, the younger crowd is an impressive bunch.

One day I might write more extensively about the experience, which was fascinating but also had ample elements of farce, primarily when crossing government intersections. But the main lesson learned was that what has happened these past few months was always a coming attraction. Just a matter of when, if frustration could be suppressed until the election. And fear went somewhere into the equation. The more I encountered young people, the sadder it was to hear their growing despair. Their excellent education system was falling apart as was everything touched by the kleptocracy. There were no prospects for them, because everywhere the fix was in. Younger people were eager to align more with the EU, on the chance it might bring more opportunities and perhaps a reordering of their society.

Taras Shevchenko statue, Kiev

How bad is it? Here's one instance. A German bank was fleeced by a local outfit. When the Germans sued, the locals paid the bureaucracy to change the name of street where the local company's office was, allowing a judge on the take to throw out the case for improper service, etc... Getting nowhere, the Germans hired some local Russians. At a restaurant where the officials of the local company often lunched, a small explosion was arranged under the dinner table. Not powerful enough to kill or permanently maim, just big enough to deliver a potent message. The Germans got their money back, but what a hassle of a way to conduct business.

People are guarded when asked about problems dealing with the government, they worry about where their replies might end up going. But if people trust your motives and discretion, frustrations pour out. Small business folk can't get things off the ground because if an enterprise looks promising, government fees/bribes start increasing. If one defies the odds and gets something rolling, some official's cousin comes along to offer his skills as a partner. Running a pub or restaurant? Be prepared for government inspectors to take an active interest in your success, and to come with their buddies to drink up your profits while discovering all manner of license fees. Complaints to government, as if government would snap to action, are frowned on. Frowns can have rough consequences. Sometimes even foreign companies and their lawyers will level about their frustrations, trying to get large projects underway while dodging local moguls who want in on everything.

Soviet-era monument in Kiev

So local would-be entrepreneurs without political connections or the means for bribes just stay home. For many young folk, their main strategy has become an exit strategy, to go elsewhere. Long shots at beauty contests, and rock bands. Very skilled computer hackers. Cruise ship crews, anywhere. That's where the economic basket case comes from. The young see no future in a kleptocracy.

In Kyiv there's a small but elegant department store that caters to oligarchs. I wandered around under the watchful eye of security, having the place mostly to myself. Just a couple of oligarchs shopping, while their girlfriends relaxed at a very expensive restaurant on top, next to a a fancy art gallery. I wouldn't have been shocked to find a plastic surgeon on call. The small parking lot outside was occupied by private security types, with their own pricey cars, though not as pricey as their bosses' rides. It's a source of local amusement during rush hour, spotting oligarchs and/or high government officials and their bodyguards, their fleets of luxury cars jamming things up at intersections. After seeing what neckties were selling for in the store, I was tempted to run to my hotel and return with my own ties, a few of which could've been contenders, to see if I might start up a quick discount business selling my favorites to the bored bodyguards in the parking lot.

The whole scene is in high contrast to the reality behind many of the attractive women dressed to the nines one sees walking down the street. Their clothing ensembles are often put together by a half dozen or so girlfriends pooling parts of their limited wardrobes so a chum with a special date or an interview can look her best.

I could digress into tales of communists turned oligarchs. A few are now billionaires, some are on the lam after their and Vladimir Putin's pet president fled the country. The point is that a handful of characters have held most of the country's cookies. With few exceptions, they bottleneck the gates of opportunity for anyone not playing ball by their rules. But I'm going to digress instead to something I recently came across, a professor trying to make the case that too many people in the West are reflexively critical of Russia's Vladimir Putin and his motivations. We need to stand in Putin's shoes to see where he's coming from. Really. I can't recall exactly when I got the notion that Putin might be a poisoner, with radiation, of dissidents, or an assassin of journalists. The whole thing is probably just a misunderstanding of an unfortunate series of coincidences involving people with a different world view than Putin's. But I will be watching with interest to see if any of the Ukrainian government's records dumped in the drink or elsewhere, when Yanukovych and his minions beat their hasty retreat, reveal money trails to Putin's gang. Or if evidence surfaces that encouragement for using snipers against Kyiv protesters came out of Russia. In any case, Putin's ringing endorsement of Yanukovych will continue to leave a ringing in many Ukrainian ears.

Related Articles:
Russia: Moscow & St, Petersburg; Yaroslavl, Russia: Now One Thousand Years Old; Exploring the Baltic Sea Nations; Polish Salt Mine; Europe's Statues

Name: Required
E-mail: Required
City: Required

Let Skip know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Eugene Chaplin Introduces Chaplin's World Museum in Vevey, Switzerland

Charlie Chaplin and the Chaplin Museum
Lake Geneva/ Matterhorn Region and Switzerland Tourism recently blew into Los Angeles with the most esteemed guest, Eugene Chaplin. A man of remarkable lineage, he is the fifth child of Oona O'Neill and Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, the grandson of playwright Eugene O'Neill, the brother of Geraldine Chaplin and father of actress/model Kiera Chaplin.

Go There

Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: Piped Inside Ashford Castle (Dispatch #16)

sunset at Galway Bay

The Palladian Traveler enters into a world of regal elegance wrapped in Irish charm as he files his latest dispatch from inside one of the Emerald Isle's most storied fortresses.

Go There

John Clayton's travel blog/review
Chuuk + Wrecks = Scuba Divers' Paradise

WW2 Japanese tank at the bottom of Chuuk Lagoon
As we dropped down to 25,000 feet I saw one of the most extraordinary panoramas I'd ever been lucky enough to witness. The majesty of it all and the stunning vistas that lay below and before me were spectacular. It was as beautiful as spring's first rose, and it made me understand why so many pilots on commercial jetliners love their job; they get to see so many awe-inspiring sights from the cockpit. My view was that of a vast vista of the Pacific.

go there

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

go there

Eric Anderson's travel blog/review
Lake Charles’ Family-Size Low-Key Mardi Gras

dressed-up for the Mardi Gras
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their children’s eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from last year’s Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already fed and are rubbing their stomachs.

go there

Fyllis Hockman's travel blog/review
Cedar Hill: Frederick Douglass' Home is as Imposing as the Man who Lived There

Cedar Hill, Washington DC
Having recently received a misguided shout-out from the president during Black History Month – Frederick Douglass has done an amazing job... – it seems a good time to revisit the cultural icon's legitimate place in history. And a visit to his home in Washington, DC – surely a place the current president might want to consider visiting himself – would be a good place to start.

Go There

Greg Aragon's travel blog/review
Discovering Art, Culture and Cuisine in Lancaster

Prime Desert Woodland Preserve, Lancaster

Lancaster has always been one of those cities that I pass through on the way to some other destination. But last week was different. I finally took the time to explore the place and wow, was I surprised! I discovered a downtown full of charm, culture, cuisine and community spirit. My recent getaway began when a friend and I drove about 60 miles north of Los Angeles toward the Mojave Desert and checked into the Towneplace Suites Lancaster.

Go There

Bev Cohn's travel blog
Film Review: "My Hero Brother" – A Tribute to the Human Spirit

a scene from the documentary 'My Hero Brother'

I just spent five days attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival and for the most part, the features, animated shorts, and documentaries were quite professional and compelling. That said, "My Hero Brother," a documentary that was particularly outstanding, told the remarkable and inspiring story about a group of Down syndrome young men and women who go on a two-week trek through the Himalayas with their non-Down syndrome siblings.

Go There

© All Rights Reserved. 2015.
This site is designed and maintained by WYNK Marketing. Send all technical issues to:
Friendly Planet Travel

Lovin Life After 50

Big Sur ad

Herzerl Tours ad

Tara Tours ad

Alaska Cruises & Vacations ad

Dude Ranchers' Assoc. ad

Cuna Law Yacht ad

Cruise One ad

Global Exchange Reality Tours ad

Global Exchange Reality Tours ad

Global Exchange Reality Tours ad

Park City ad

Visit Norway ad

Sitka, Alaska ad

Montreal tourism site

Visit Berlin ad

official website of the Netherlands

Cruise Copenhagen ad

Sun Valley ad

Philippine Department of Tourism portal

Quebec City tourism ad

AlaskaFerry ad

Zurich official website

Zuiderzee Museum ad