My cousin Pat travels frequently to the praries and badlands of the U.S. West, and usually finds great bargains. One recent find is the historic Ortman Hotel in Canistota SD (firstname.lastname@example.org) where a single room costs $25 without television, $30.50 with television.
The beauty of the Dnepr River was one of the surprises of Ukraine. I had expected the Dnepr would be similar ro large rivers in Western Europe, crowded with freighters and barges and its banks lined with port facilities, factories and other eyesores. Instead, in many places the Dnepr resembled the peaceful river of Wind in the Willows--banks lined with cattails and grasses, a few small fishing boats, nothing visible ashore except trees or the occasional house.
The Viking ship Mikhail Lomonosov is a reconditioned river boat from the Soviet era (I heard she was commissioned in 1970.) Unfortunately the ship is showing her age in some ways. My tiny cell-like cabin had a mildly unpleasant odor.
When I checked into the Rus Hotel, they told me the rate I was paying entitled me to return transfer to the airport. I said that was great, except that I would be going to the river port when I left. They agreed to provide a transfer there as a substitute.
When you're travelling in Ukraine, it's likely that a lot of the middleaged men you see are there not on business or as regular tourists, but as sex tourists. Ukraine and Russia are both major destinations for this. Marriage agencies flourish across the country--there was one just down the block from the Rus hotel. I suppose some are legitimate, but many are covers for prostitution or other scams. Even the Bradt guide to Ukraine warns about them.
Kiev is a great walking city, with lots of tree-lined streets and pretty churches. There are some of the infamous perekhod's (underground passageways) found in many ex-Soviet cities, but the traffic is a lot less frenetic than in Moscow or Petersburg.
One important thing I learned was that the Ukranian capital city is pronounced Keev, not Kee-ev as most Westerners pronounce it. It is a very hilly city, and my hotel the Rus was atop a fairly steep hill. Not a problem in summer, but I wouldn't like to try it in winter.
These are random jottings from a journal I kept on the trip:
I stayed at the Hotel Rus in Kiev for four days, and found it to be a decent, well-located place for the price of around $75 a night. The room was quiet and adequate, the breakfast buffet was enormous, and it is within walking distance of the main square in Kiev, though it is a fairly long walk. Front desk personnel speak English. As a former Soviet hotel, it is an enormous tower block on top of a hill and lacks that gemutlich quality. But for a first time visitor like me, it was a fine choice at a reasonable price.