On the 28th April, there was a public holiday in Ukraine to celebrate Orthodox Easter. Then two working days, then holidays on Thursday and Friday, May 1st and 2nd, for Labour Days. I’m not really sure what happened exactly, but it seems the government gave business the all clear to make it a whole week of holidays, with the non-public holiday days off to be worked in lieu on Saturdays in the future.
Mr Moi and I seized the opportunity to take a holiday and booked a flight to Italy. Except, half of Ukraine was also booking flights out of the country too, so we had to scrabble around to get a good deal on the ticket. The choices were Alitalia (losing about a million euros a day, we weren’t sure it would exist by the time we took the flight), and KLM (via Amsterdam). We took the latter option.
The Saturday of departure rolled around, and it was one of those days where you don’t want to leave the country – 25 degrees, sunny, very quiet (I guess most of Kyiv had defected to their dacha to plant veges for the summer).
Off we flew to Italy via Amsterdam (I saw the famed but expensive Schipol airport), landing in Milan at 10:15pm. After quarrelling with baggage services about my newly broken bag and Mr Moi’s missing bag, we headed to our dodgy one-star hotel near Central Station in Milan (the linen was at least clean, if the walls were not).
On Sunday, we decided to explore Milan (luckily, I’d booked two nights in the dodgy hotel, so hopefully our bag would catch up with us before we left town). We were completely underwhelmed by the city – being a Sunday, many of the shops were shut, but what really put a downer on the mood in the centre was the number of people – mostly poor immigrants – selling really shitty goods (remote control cars and helicopters, stuffed toys, umbrellas – run of the mill useless stuff that will break as soon as you’ve paid for it), and they were everywhere.
At the metro station, we were trying to decide what ticket to buy when a gypsy came up and started pressing all the buttons for us, then put her hand out for money (uh, no thanks). On the metro, we were accosted by people begging. Once in the centre, we were being harrassed by people trying to sell us umbrellas. Their tactic was to come up to our face and open and shut the umbrella, making an annoying clicking noise. This was all within 20 minutes of leaving the hotel – it didn’t augur well for the rest of Milan.
Walking out of the centre, as in any town, there were less tat-and-souvenir sellers, and Milan looked nice enough. Disappointingly, being there on a Sunday, all the boutique/small shops were shut so we didn’t have much of a chance to browse any stores except the big ones. We did pass a couple of Russian and Greek Orthodox churches and saw people celebrating Paskha. We particularly liked the area of Brera, where were sat outdoors and had a drink, before moving onto a nice place for dinner. But again, there were people pretty much taking up whole footpaths selling dodgy rip-off Louis Vuitton handbags and the like – lots of them all laid out on sheets on the ground and no one really caring that it brings down the mood when you have to pick through them just to get past.
After an infuriating day of trying to call baggage services to find out when our lost bag would be delivered (no one ever answered the phone), it materialised at the hotel at 1am (we’d been told the night before it would come in on the first flight of the day from Amsterdam. If bags could talk). We were well positioned to move on with our trip, next destination being the Cinque Terre, but I think that’s another post.