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Pole to Pole

Day 36: Kiev to Cerkassy

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleOn the bridge there is a big and handsome ship's wheel and a book of river charts painted in watercolours. So much of the image of the Soviet Union is of vast institutional spaces and faceless buildings that it comes as a constant surprise to find warm, intimate, friendly corners of life like the Katun. We progress at an unhurried ten knots beneath the bridges of Kiev, leaving behind the remarkable prospect of Baroque church towers, whitewashed walls, malachite-green roofs, and spires crowned always with gold. Roger is leaning over the side, examining the water.

'Have you ever been to a sewage treatment plant?' he asks me after close study of the Dnieper. 'Well, this is what it looks like before it goes in.'

It's a pleasantly lazy day, which I think is what we all need. Basil sleeps, Irena sits at the desk with a copy of Longman's Dictionary of Common Errors. Her English is fluent but she's desperately keen to polish up her Cockney rhyming slang.

We pass through a network of small islands and beaches busy with holidaymakers. Hydrofoils, scuttling along the surface like great white cockroaches, drone past at frequent intervals. Barges pass, mostly carrying coal. The captain says that the Dnieper is navigable as far north as Mogilov, about 300 miles from Moscow. Since the Chernobyl catastrophe (as he describes it) he doesn't go north of Kiev. There's nothing to bring down any more.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 36
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Dnieper River
  • Book page no: 81

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