Some time ago, I had undertaken a trip to Lugansk, Ukraine. Why, you may ask? It is after all, a somewhat offbeat place for a Trini of all nationalities, to find himself. Well, way back in 2007, I made a Ukrainian pen friend (from some pen pal website I cannot recall now), who wanted to improve her English.
My friend is a PhD University lecturer in economics, and that reassured me a lot that I wasn’t being gypped into one of these fake ‘friendship/marriage’ sites where Russian women try to scam money out of unsuspecting Westerners. But she is a native Russian/Ukrainian speaker who, like many foreign students of English, struggles with understanding the oddness and quirks of the language.
Anyway, considering the airfare was affordable, and the trip is not so long via air (just over 4 hours) I thought I’d see what the Eastern part of the world was like… and explore what was previously behind the Iron Curtain. I felt a bit adventurous.
My friend lives in Lugansk, on the Eastern part of Ukraine. To get here, I took a flight from Birmingham, via Schiphol in Amsterdam and then to Borispol (Borispil in Ukrainian) Airport, then a train to Lugansk. It was my first experience in a ‘sleeper’ car and I immediately connected it with the train seen in the Harry Potter movies. You know, with the carriages having a corridor to walk through and enter into compartments, rather than the ‘regular’ trains.
Yes, it was marvellous fun! 15 hours on a train rocking me while I sleep… life was an exciting adventure at last… much nicer than experiencing a heart attack.
You can get hot water to make coffee, or tea on the train. I even got a souvenir cup holder engraved with the train company’s emblems.
Anyway, upon arriving next morning in Lugansk, we took a taxi to my friend’s home. Lugansk is not as well developed as the capital city of Ukraine, Kiev but definitely brought me back to some childhood memories of Trinidad.
Lugansk (or Luhansk in local spelling) has some nice places to visit. For example, I was impressed with the local BBQ stop called “Oh Barbecue” (Oh Mangal [Mangal is Russian for ‘grill]) which is a treat for the eyes and the tongue… conveniently located a mere 10 minutes walk from my friend’s flat.
The off menu dish included BBQ duck, which was a ‘had to try’ dish, merely because the close-minded Trinis only seem to know about curry duck. Boy, was I ever so pleasantly surprised. The taste, according to ‘Punks’, was like ‘heaven in my mouth’. Only downside… no hot sauce (pepper sauce) and they bled me £8 for 5 ml of flipping Tabasco sauce… but only when I saw the bill after eating and could not regurgitate to return the damn thing.
Still, it was an experience to remember, not only for the Tabasco sauce, but also for the taste… and the overall cost for 2 persons was a lot less than the same meal in England.
That little round dish you see in the photo is black currant jam served with the BBQ duck… odd combination but it was marvellous. Note to my brother… get out of that Trini curry mind-set. Many foods are damn nice!
Next… some places I visited.