We had 3 different taxi drivers in Ukraine. Our first driver was nice, quiet, didn’t say much but drove quickly – I think he spoke more English than he let on but rather tame. He alternated odd and even days with our second driver. His name was Andj…something. I never could remember it and his style of driving earned him the name of Mario Andretti. Most memorable because of the fishtailing, tire screeching stop that he made when he stopped in front of our hotel to pick us up. Randy always said, in perfect Nintendo fashion, “it’s a Mario!” He spoke zero English, turned corners without slowing down and passed every thing that got in his way with a beep of his horn.
Our third driver was our most impressive. This man was tall, stout and resembled Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes --- and drove like the stuntman from the Bourne Ultimatum! He drove a van and managed to traipse the streets of Kyiv like he was on a skateboard. He cleared tunnels with less than a foot in any direction, drove the wrong way down the street, pulled around obstacles in front of him utilizing sidewalks and wicked u-turns Truly, if you ever need someone to drive a getaway vehicle – this is your man! Did I mention he was armed?
You might wonder what would ever possess a sane person to get into these vehicles, but the simple truth is that you really have no choice. I couldn’t have driven in Ukraine and I used to drive an ambulance. Taxi drivers can always find phone cards ( and will add minutes to your cell when you can’t figure out how it’s done (we tipped 5 grivna for this service) and men who will exchange your dollars for grivna ( and generally at a better rate than the local bank). Our translator was good at judging the honest ones, I think.