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Pole to Pole

Day 33: Dno to Kiev

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAt half-past five the engine's whistle reverberates through the trees, and the bathers and sunbathers and lovers and loners and berry pickers and water gatherers make their way slowly back to the train, and I feel quite a pang of regret as we jerk into motion. I search the map and locate this spot in case I should not believe all this ever happened. As I do so, I notice, less than 100 miles to the south-west, the name of the small, almost insignificant town of Chernobyl.

At 9.45 in the evening we are at Nezin, two hours late already and still no sign of Kiev. Even with the windows and doors open there is no relief from the clammy heat. The train chief has pulled off his shirt altogether and his huge white gut hangs out of the window. As happens on train journeys that have gone on long beyond their appointed time, no one seems to care any more. The layered dirt and dust gradually attaches itself to the passengers who only a few hours ago looked scrubbed and glowing. Try to read. Vadim and Roger are deep in discussion as to whether or not Lenin died of syphilis.

At a quarter to midnight we pull into Kiev, capital of the Ukraine, third-largest city of the Soviet Union. The station is packed solid. I've seen nothing like it since India. Our admirable fixers find trolleys and somehow we're out of this madhouse within an hour and driven to a tall new hotel overlooking Dynamo Kiev's football ground. No porters to be seen but the room is fine. Until I draw the curtains, when first one then the other slides slowly up to the end of the rail and off onto the floor.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 33
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Kiev
  • Book page no: 75

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