One thing I discovered online while researching things to do on the final spare day in Kiev is the possibility to visit a shooting range outside of the city. I’m far from being a gun enthusiast, and in fact I’m proud that I live in a country where people don’t have access to guns, but I’m the sort of person that likes to experience everything. So when a couple of other people in the group said that they were interested in visiting the range we decided it would be an experience.
It took some time to organise the trip to the shooting range. Before going to Chernobyl a few days ago we tried to book but couldn’t get through to them on the phone. The concierge at the hotel offered to try for us again and book while we were in Chernobyl but when we returned we found they hadn’t booked it – all they had done was call to find prices for us. So we called them back again and it seems we interrupted the guy when he was “busy” with a woman and were asked to call back later. When we finally managed to get through to him we arranged to be picked up from the hotel after breakfast.
The trip out to the range only took half an hour or so and we spent most of the time talking about the last couple of days exploring the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The minibus we had was a luxury executive seater which would have been great to have over the last couple of days. I think the general consensus between the group, except for the disagreement yesterday, is that the discomfort of the minibus was the only bad point of our visit.
When we arrived at the shooting range there was a short delay while the group ahead of us finished their turn on the range. It seems that the range isn’t just used by amateurs as it was being used by bank security guards. We took the time to sit and relax while confirming which weapons we were interested in firing. We had booked AK-47, Dragunov Sniper Rifle and Shotgun but decided to swap the shotgun for a pistol and we found out the Dragunov was unavailable so would be swapped for an M4 Assault Rifle. This change wasn’t too much of an issue for any of us as the main thing we were interested in was the AK-47.
We spent maybe an hour or so firing the various weapons. During my time on the M-4 it kept jamming so we it was swapped out for an M-16 which was fine by me as it meant I was able to try out more guns for the same price. A few of us decided to pay a little extra to take a turn on the pump-action shotgun anyway though as we were given the option to have 10 shots on any other weapon for a set price. I have to say it was a little scary how big the adrenaline surge that the shotgun gave us was – all of us found it the same and were rather jumpy at the end of our 10 shots. I am glad I chose to have a turn on it but I don’t hope to be using one again any time soon!
On the way back the minibus driver dropped us in the city so we could have lunch and stock up on souvenirs (or ‘tat’ as most of the group had started to call it). We decided that the area around St Andrew’s Church would be a good place to start as we saw loads of souvenir stands there the other day and it was close to the old town that we also wanted to visit.
We spent some time checking out all of the souvenir stalls before slowly making our way down towards the old town. The road down the hill was still lined with stalls but the majority of the better ones were up the top where we started. We were all starting to get pretty hungry by this point so decided to grab something to eat at a restaurant half way down the hill which had a nice terrace overlooking the street. A bit stereotypical but I decided to have Chicken Kiev and while it was very different to what we have back in The UK it was really nice.
When we got to the bottom of the hill we spent a little time exploring the old town but it was starting to get a little late in the afternoon so we made our way towards the Funicular that travels from the old town up to the top of the hill. We spent a long time trying to find it as it was further away than we thought but a couple of locals helped point us in the right direction. It’s right on the main road though so if you plan to use this to get back to the city centre just head up the hill out of the old town along the main road and it’s on your right you can’t miss it.
The views from the Funicular weren’t as spectacular as we hoped as the trees were in the way but it was incredibly cheap (the equivalent of 15p) and took us back up to the back of St Michael’s in no time. We relaxed up in the park taking photos for a little while before deciding to head back to the hotel ready for our night on the town. There were 5 of us so it would have been too many for one taxi so I decided to make my own way back on foot as I was in the mood for exploring on my own anyway.
I said my goodbyes to the group and made my way back to the hotel via St Sofia’s Cathedral and then some of the back roads that ran parallel to the Khreshchatyk street to get a sense of what Kiev is like away from the main roads that tourists use. I took some great photos along the way and eventually got back to regular surroundings in the vicinity of the Lenin statue.
Time for a quick refresh in my room before meeting the others down in the hotel bar. We had found a Ukraininan restaurant down the road from the hotel that served traditional foods with live music and homemade drinks so decided this would be a great place for a final group meal. We were right in some aspects, but how wrong we were in others.
The restaurant, called Shinok, had a great atmosphere. We were greeted with homemade flavoured vodka when we arrived before being shown to our seats. There was a live folk band playing in the room next door which helped the atmosphere and the staff were really friendly. We couldn’t decide what to have as a starter so the waiter persuaded us to try some sharing plates in the centre of the table. The sharers were really nice, as was my veal main course, but we had a nasty surprise when the bill arrived. What we didn’t realise was how expensive the sharers or homemade drinks we were served at regular intervals were and several of us didn’t have enough money to cover our share. Luckily between us we had enough, and I had just enough to cover everything, but it meant that we had to walk the 2km back to the hotel. It provided a great chance to see more of the city and get away from a couple of people who kicked up over the price of the meal plus a few other things.
I’m back in my room now and have just finished packing for the flight back to London tomorrow. We need to leave fairly early so I’m not able to do my usual last minute panic packing that tends to happen every time. Sometimes I even surprise myself!