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Escaping the 16-days 'hard lockdown' in Ukraine

Escaping the 16-days 'hard lockdown' in Ukraine

Old Jan 10, 21, 7:20 am
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Escaping the 16-days 'hard lockdown' in Ukraine

Escaping the 16-day ‚hard lockdown' in Ukraine

Since my return from Thailand there hasn’t been any serious travel, except many inner-Ukrainian flights between Odessa and Kiev. Honestly, after more than 3 months in Asia I even haven’t been keen on traveling.

This trip only will take place since our government has, even non-growing numbers of infections, decided to perform a hard lockdown between Jan. 8th and 24th, 2021.

Since Ukraine for may of you might be a place ‘on another planet’, I’ll start this trip report with a review to what between my return from Thailand on June, 1st and now:

When we returned to Ukraine, we had to undergo a 14-day home-quarantine. Since I had been away for quite a while, I decided to stay in Kiev for business purpose,

Valentyna drove on to Odessa to shape up our apartment for summer.

Luckily the hard lockdown in Ukraine ended just after our return, restrictions where lifted, shops, shopping malls, restaurants

and gyms reopened.

(this is what you should not do after gym!)

Officially everything had to be closed 10 pm – but as I found out the very first weekend – nobody cared and so clubbing was possible from the very first Friday after my return.

On the end it turned out that I couldn’t finish my business within 2 weeks, instead I stayed in Kiev until middle of July, then returned to Valentyna in Odessa. Unfortunately, after 3 months of being together 24/7 and 1 ½ months being separated our relationship never returned to its previous level.

Odessa is a holiday resort, and since many foreigners couldn’t enter Ukraine, the city in summer 2020 didn’t get as active and cosmopolitan as during the previous years. There weren’t too many tourists, but there were actually many long-term tourists who wanted to escape the lockdown and high infection rates at their home, mainly from the US and France.

When watching international news about lockdowns, extremely high infection rates, I really thought I’m watching news from another planet. In Ukraine live went on as usual, everything open, bars and clubs extremely crowded, no distance restrictions in restaurants, sitting shoulder by shoulder, no masks to be seen except in bigger supermarkets, public transport and aircrafts (well, approx. 80% were using masks).

Infection numbers were low, by summer you hardly knew somebody who got infected.

By late summer the government introduced new quarantine rules according to zones, green, yellow, orange and red. Odessa was yellow, later orange – but nobody followed the restrictions, nobody controlled them.

Since I had renovation of apartments going on, I drove or flew every second weekend with my bodyguard to Kiev, which was ‘orange’. Despite the restrictions also clubs were open in Kiev, but the police controlled harder than in Odessa. But Ukrainian ‘control’ slightly differs from Europe or the US. When the police arrived, the music was shut down – until they left. And the party went on until sunrise. Only once during all summer police entered the club and tried to close, which didn’t actually work. Finally, after more than one hour, they left and there was business as usual.

By September it became clear that my 8-years-relationship with Valentyna was going to fail, I decided to make a cut and by beginning of October left Odessa towards Kiev, together with my dog, my housekeeper and my bodyguard.

Kiev turned out to be a different scenario than Odessa, which became quite by middle of September. The capitol with its more than 4 million people was active, crowded and, as usual, packed of traffic.

Clubs returned from outdoor to indoor and a ‘weekend quarantine’ came in place, all restaurants, shops, bars and clubs had to be closed between Saturday 00:00 and Monday 00:00. So instead of entering through the main entrance we had to enter these establishments ‘through the kitchen’. And, as usual, everything forbitten becomes even more interesting, which resulted in extremely crowded clubs and bars, sometimes it was difficult to stand.

First my bodyguard lost taste and smell, funnily not me who was always together with him.

By end of October, I wanted to fly to Istanbul and, for security matters, made a test. When I received the result the evening before the flight, I’ve been shocked: I’ve been positive ! Only now I understood why I had terrible migraine for 4 days, followed by 3 days of back pain and 12 hours of 37.8 temperature. Therefore, I cancelled my trip, stayed a week at home, until I made a new test which showed that I was negative again, but had antibodies.

Since I’ve been single, I started dating, which in Ukraine is mainly performed via Instagram. A girl sees you in a club or restaurant, searches you and connects. Easy as that.

By middle of November, I’ve not been single anymore, but luckily found a partner who shares identical interests, loves clubbing as much as me.

End of November the government announced a hard lockdown from beginning of December over New Year and Christmas (7th of January) and protests started in Kiev, the traffic was partly blocked. After some days of protests the government made a new announcement: no lockdown, not even during weekends, until January 8th, 2021.

You’ve to understand that in Ukraine New Year is much more important than Christmas, even presents are given on NYE instead of Christmas.

(my 'daughter under the NY-tree)

Since the government officially allowed clubs to be open until 7am on January 1st, there were big parties, we, with friends, also had a table in one of our clubs.

January 1st we had the classic New Year lunch at home, 250 g of Malosol caviar,

eaten with traditional buckwheat blinis

and more modern, as the ‘20-Euro-Sandwich’.

From Thursday, January 7th, everything was supposed to close, even our (official) infection- and dead rates are still very low. But reality turned out a bit different, the ‘through-the-kitchen-scheme’ started to be in place again.

On Jan. 8th we went to make a Covid-Test, which is necessary to fly to Dubai.

Of course (also Marina has been infected already) it was negative and so we knew we were able to fly.

Jan. 9th, Saturday, hard lockdown, we were informed by Telegram messenger, which clubs would be operational, and so we spent the night clubbing, before packing for our trip on Sunday.

You might ask ‘why the people are so careless and go clubbing ?’. Honestly, meanwhile 90% of our friends in Kiev and Odessa had been infected, so nobody, at the moment, is afraid to be infected again.
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Old Jan 10, 21, 8:08 am
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Old Jan 10, 21, 8:41 am
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I'm intrigued by a look at your life. Why do you have a bodyguard?
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Old Jan 10, 21, 3:52 pm
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I love your TRs and am so happy to see a new thread. I definitely hoped to see something about cigarettes, gym, and Valyntina. Sorry that things ended but yay for Marina. I knew that there would be another for you.
glad that you recovered from Covid. I look forward to more. The Thailand TR with the lovely meals (including European cuisine!) and photos.
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Old Jan 10, 21, 4:51 pm
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Since your epic Thailand report, I was hoping for a continuation of some sorts. Being into clubbing myself, I find myself in a European county which polices their restrictions, a situation I accept.
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Old Jan 10, 21, 10:00 pm
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I am very envious. Looking forward to the TR!
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Old Jan 11, 21, 1:17 am
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Really intriguing, have been following your exploits as well through Instagram, fascinating indeed. Now i get it why you keep posting when clubbing
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Old Jan 11, 21, 8:13 am
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What is your insta account?
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Old Jan 11, 21, 11:44 am
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Monday, Jan. 11th, 2021

Boarding was announced already 45 minutes before departure time and when we arrived at gate D03 boarding has been already in process. No Business Class boarding, so we were waiting in line to enter the Boeing 787.

Business Class was packed, TK’s 787 offering a nice 1-2-1 layout, a bit ‘boxy’ for my taste.

We were seated 1K and 2K, and it took us a while until we found the buttons for adjusting the seat: they’re on the side, integrated in a black glass panel, which shows its function only when you touch it.

Hygiene sets were given out, including 2 masks, some wet tissues and a hand sanitizer.

In time we were up in the air, I selected ‘Ocean’s 8’, knowing I’ll not be able to watch it until the end during this flight – but had the IST – DXB flight to continue.

The problem with TKs IFE is, that the movie was stopped 8 times because of announcements and advertisement, a bit annoying.

Dinner was served,

the biggest joke I’ve ever seen.

Even in Economy Class previously they served better than that. Of course, the reason is Covid – an argument for everything you normally can’t explain. Can anyone explain why during the pandemic food has to be bad ?

At 23:30 we arrived at the new IST airport, long ways towards international transfer,

up to the Transfer Hall,

where they missed to indicate the entrance to the business class lounge (the normal entrance is closed). After we found it we went up, registered and found a table overlooking the Transfer Hall.

Food selection, due to Covid, was very limited, anyway we didn’t have to much time, just drank a Coke Zero.

No signs of a smoking room, nowhere – so we asked and were told that there’s a possibility to smoke on the terrace. Since, again, there’s no sign for the terrace we asked our way

and had a quick smoke outside before walking towards gate B01.

Before boarding our Covid certificates were checked again, temperature measured.

The T7 (Thunderbird) was quite old, with a ‘stone age’ 2-3-2 layout in Business Class, at least not as boxy as the newer versions. We were seated in a middle block, by luck the 3rd seat stayed empty.

Interestingly the middle- as well as the right-side block were filled with Russians and Ukrainians, while the left was European.

With a delay of 15 minutes, we were up in the sky. The dinner menu was handed out, Hummus, Salad and a Caesar-Chicken-Wrap.

But reality was different: fruits, yoghurt and a disgusting soft roll with a little bit of Feta and a slice of tomatoes.

Honestly, this made me really angry, since I was hungry. I asked the purser for the food offered on the menu – but he just gave me a smile and said, ‘Sorry, due to Covid’… To say it polite, I gave him this rubbish back. TK is an airline I’ll not book anymore for future travel.

I decided to finish the movie I was starting to watch on the previous flight – but it wasn’t available on the T7. Fantastic.

So, I had time to get some sleep – if there would have been a pillow. But due to Covid TK doesn’t give pillows. The only possibility was to use my jacket and a (thin) blanket.

Shortly before touchdown I woke up, 40 minutes early Marina and me touched Dubai ground.

An interesting fact about the flights: On the KBP – IST leg in Business Class nobody was wearing the mask while seated – and nobody complained. On the IST – DXB leg left-side was wearing masks at all time, while the middle- and right-side block weren’t.

After arrival at T3 we walked towards immigration. On the way we did the Arrival-Covid-Test, were given a number and a sticker on the back of the passport. Nobody told us we would have to stay in our hotel room until we would get the negative result.

Passport control was quite quick,

our luggage already on the belt, so we left the terminal building 55 minutes after touchdown. I expected worse.

Over to the car park where the car rental offices are located.

I wanted to make a reservation with SIXT, but the prices were too high. Instead I booked with Europcar, which offered prices well below half of SIXT.

The friendly lady informed that there’s no car of the category I reserved, that she would give me a smaller SUV, charge less. But I didn’t want a 2-wheel-drive KIA Spoartage, and so she offered me a big Infiniti SUV at a surcharge of US$ 20/day.

Still much cheaper than a KIA Sportage with SIXT.

After the car has been disinfected to drove off, used Google Offline maps to make our way to our hotel for the next 6 nights, the Le Royal Meridien.

While the hotel from the outside doesn’t look impressive, the interior is nicely made.

At check-in we were offered an upgrade to a sea view room, a Suite wouldn’t be available.

Yes, of course, we all know this. I opened the Bonvoy App and found availability for many different Suites for our dates. After showing this to the receptionist she surprisingly found a Suite for us, but without sea view. Since only the Suites do have balconies (important for smokers as us), we happily accepted city-view. Again, nobody told us that we would have to stay inside the room until we would get the test result.

The Suite on 2nd floor is pretty nice, spacious and in perfect condition,

with the fantastic ‘smokers-Lounge’, the balcony.

Thanks to TK we were very hungry, went to the Club-Lounge,

were a quite good breakfast is served,

even with a balcony looking towards the pool.

After some Hummus and omelet,

we were ready to take a quick nap, a nap that turned out to be until 1500.

When we had brought ourselves ‘in shape’, we drove off to Marina Mall, to exchange some money and get a local SIM card.

Back to the hotel around 1800, straight up to the Lounge to have a quick bite, an Espresso and some ice-cold Coke Zero.

The offer at the Club Lounge was quite amazing, some Arabic items, Tempura Shrimps with Wasabi-Mayo, Shrimp-Salat and many more.


But never forget, as soon as you stand up you need to wear the mask. It’s a bit strange when you’re coming from a country where basically you’re wearing a mask once per week.

We weren’t hungry at dinner time, so instead we walked to ‘Marina Walk’, underwhelming at its best.

After making a round we returned to the hotel and decided to rest.
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Old Jan 11, 21, 2:42 pm
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Sorry to hear about you & Valentyna breaking up, I kinda got used to your trip reports together over the years. But hey - at least you got to keep the dog and the AMG (hope the latter doesn't still break down on a weekly basis).
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Old Jan 11, 21, 9:48 pm
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
What is your insta account?
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Old Jan 12, 21, 1:11 pm
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Tuesday, Jan. 12th, 2021

I’m German – so my routine doesn’t really change…

At sharply 0900 we were down for breakfast, choosing the main restaurant ‘Brasserie’ instead of the more intimate Club Lounge, to check out the wider selection

The choice, especially the Indian section made my morning, the noise level of the many children not. But I got what I wanted, Plain Dosa with Sambar and Chutney,

as well as Masala Omelet with Mango pickles and Paratha.

For Marina it was the first ‘Indian breakfast’, she enjoyed the Dosa, didn’t really like the quite salty Mango pickles.

When having a smoke at our private ‘smoking lounge’, in the far distance we can see ‘Atlantis’ at The Palm. When doing my research for this trip I took it under consideration – but when reading the reviews, I decided ‘that’s not my cup of tea’, even they offered very interesting rates.

After breakfast we quickly changed to ‘beach dress’, walked towards the beach, quite a long way passing 3 pools.

The beach was pretty empty, no problem to find a sunbed. But you need to select wisely, because the many skyscrapers right in front of the beach create shadow, especially before 1100.

In the sun it was warm enough to get hot, so we walked to the sea – but the water was too cold. Anyway, Dubai isn’t about the beach, it’s quite ugly, no charm, no atmosphere.

In addition, between the beach of our hotel and ‘The Palm’ there’s the airstrip of the Sky jumping company, the aircrafts during takeoff quite disturbing. Luckily there is another beach club nearby, playing some good techno music, loud enough so we could enjoy the music, too.

From Thailand I’m used to get free cold water at the beach – of course not in Dubai. So we ordered a bottle of Italian Sparking water, served ice cold.

Until noon the beach area got more crowded, I would guess 75% Russians and Ukrainians, mostly families with children.

After nearly 3 hours at the beach we left back our hotel room, quickly changed and went to the Gym.

Yes, ‘Gym’ is the main reason I decided to leave Ukraine during lockdown, don’t want to be 2 ½ weeks without training.

At 1345 we arrived at the Gym and were informed that, due to disinfection, it’s closed until 1400. So we waited for some minutes, then started our program,

me doing ‘arms’, Marina ‘...’ plus running for an hour, with a nice view towards pools and beach.

For us a bit uncommon to wear a mask inside the Gym, only taking it slightly down when taking heavy weights or running.

After 1 ½ hours we left, had a quick shower, inspected our meanwhile arrived welcome present,

went to the Club Lounge where ‘High Tea’ is served from 1530 to 1700. As you may know, I’m normally not a big fan of Club Lounges – but the one at the Le Royal Meridien I really like, the layout, the view and the snacks,

including the scones with whipped cream and strawberry jam.

A big problem in Dubai is, that you can’t make calls via Telegram, Viber, WhatsApp and even Facetime. That’s not good for business, so I need to handle everything via voice messages.

I’m dreaming myself back to the deserted beaches of Khao Lak end of March 2020, trying not to see the ugly skyline of Dubai when at the beach. I hardly can understand why people are making a holiday in Dubai under normal circumstances.

After we rested for a while and I did some business via voice messages we left the hotel around 1930, driving towards ‘Mall of Emirates’.

No, we didn’t go for shopping but for a nearby restaurant, recommended by the Indian concierge of our hotel.

The Mall isn’t impressive. Yes, it’s quite big, but old, nothing to be compared to Malls in Thailand or Singapore. Also prices in Dubai are quite high, higher than in Ukraine or Europe. No reason for shopping.

We stepped outside, made our way, saw a lot of advertisement laying on the sidewalk:

I wanted Indian food, Pani Puri and stuff like that. The concierge recommended ‘Bikanervala’, a very simple kind of restaurant, but serving all I was asking for plus a big selection of Indian sweets.

We first checked the available items,

ordered at the counter, took a seat.

First Pani Puri and Kachori with lentils were served,

then the Veg Tandoori Platter, comprising of Paneer, Aloo and mushrooms arrived.

Well, yes, I had better Pani Puri and Kachori in India, but the Tandoor was pretty good.

Then arrived our desserts, wow, fantastic, the taste of India. I even forgot to make a photo.

We selected some items to take back to the hotel – Indian Sweets are the best !

We picked up out car, drove towards Burj Khalifa

and back to the hotel.

Writing the trip report is a bit of a pain, because upload speed is maximum 20 kB/s. I called the IT staff – but they told ‘it’s normal’. What ??? Even in the desert of Namibia I had better WiFi internet.
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Old Jan 12, 21, 2:37 pm
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Gorgeous Indian food & sweets! I love those desserts so much :-)
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Old Jan 12, 21, 6:47 pm
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Yay! Another epic TR from Christian!
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Old Jan 13, 21, 1:28 pm
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Wednesday, Jan. 13th, 2021

After the usual Indian-style breakfast containing of plain Dosa with Sambar, Masala-Omelet with Mango Pickles we waited for the IT-Manager to inspect our internet problem. For us a stable and fast internet is not only necessary to upload photos for the trip report, Marina has online seminars and test for her studies.

A while he was unsuccessfully trying to get a higher speed, then he decided to install a new hardware in our room. Funny, nobody criticized this earlier ?

Since the water in the sea is too cold for swimming, we decided to search for some sunbeds near one of the pools.

But due to the location is nearer to the surrounding skyscrapers, we had a problem with the sun… it was constantly disappearing behind some high-rise buildings and we had to change our location.

While the interior of the Le Royal Meridien is newly renovated, the pools aren’t, show some wear and tear, missing tiles, everything aging – but not nicely.

At 1400 we headed for the Gym, me doing ‘shoulders’, Marina running for an hour. Luckily nobody complains when you’re, while in the nearly empty Gym, wear the mask ‘under the mouth’.

While working out I saw the Dubai version of ‘dinner in the sky’… Just imagine you urgently need to visit the washroom…

A bit hungry at 1600 we arrived at the Club Lounge for a Crab-Sandwich and a lemon-cheesecake, pretty nice.

After resting a bit we took our monster and drove to ‘Koko Bay’, a newly opened beach bar/restaurant located at The Palm.

Luckily we found a huge parking spot, walked towards the beach and got a table in the sand.

We enjoyed the chilly breeze and the skyline, dank a Coke Light & Tea, returned to our car, drove north and entered the premises of the Four Seasons Hotel.

Even to enter was a pain, such a traffic jam in front and inside the hotel area.

Now people knowing Dubai might think: he went to the biggest tourist trap in town, ‘Nusr-Et Steakhouse’, where the Turkish Owner puts a breeze of salt over the steak wrapped in gold paper…

But people knowing me already understand that there must be something else.

We handed the monster to valet parking, made our way to the restaurant section. Wow, there were so many people waiting,

a waiter standing on a pillar, shouting the name of people who finally got the honor to receive a free table at Nusr-Et. Marina saw this ‘show’ and already understood I would have left immediately.

But instead of turning right towards the tourist trap, we went straight to one of the best restaurants in town, COYA, serving Peruvian food.

We were a bit early, so we were seated next to the DJ, were served a free drink and after just 10 minutes guided to our table.

The menu was typical Peruvian, such as expected.

We ordered some starters, Seabass- and spicy Tuna Ceviche as well as Salmon Tacos,

followed by chicken-heart skewers,

Empanadas with oxtail filling as well as a roll with octopus.

The best by far: Empanadas; the most unimpressive: the chicken heart skewers.

We really enjoyed the interior, the good service and the music playing at the exactly right volume.

One of our desserts was especially amazing: creamy corn ice-crème with fruit coulis and salted caramel popcorn – Wow !

The bill, including two Coke Zero, came to US$ 200 (including 10% service charge), not cheap, but also not too much for such a fantastic dinner.

Of course there was a small photo shooting in front of the restaurant… you all know how stressful it is for us men when asked to make a nice pic.

Back to the hotel, I had to work a bit.
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