Welcome back to another post from our recent journey to Ukraine. This week we spend the day with Yuri who takes us to an open air folk life museum located about an hour + southeast of Kyiv and a visit to a working farm to learn more about Ukrainian agriculture. I introduced Yuri to you a couple posts back but here’s a bit of a recap. The Eldest connected with Yuri through the website Tours by Locals, click here for a description of the services Yuri provides. Yuri has three things going for him, he’s an experienced tour guide, an excellent translator (self taught in English), and provides transportation if needed. So after a meeting on Saturday to verify that we four Americans of varying sizes could fit in his car, we agreed to meet him at 7 AM Wednesday morning for our day long trip to the countryside.
Tuesday was a long day for all of us that included some revelry and a short night, so morning came quick but we (my traveling partner, The Eldest, the Son-In-Law, and myself) managed to drag ourselves out of bed ready for our adventure with Yuri. He want to leave at this early hour because the traffic in Kyiv can be and is often horrific. He promised to stop for breakfast and coffee as soon as we left the city. After our nourishment stop and especially the coffee, we were ready to continue on.
Along the way, we made a little detour to stop by a man-made lake, the name which escapes me. It reminded me of Lake Sakakawea, the big reservoir just a few miles from where I grew up in western North Dakota.
Back on the road, we soon arrived at the Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskiy Folk Musuem, also known as the Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukrainians. It’s kind of like our local Old World Wisconsin without the living history feature. After paying the small entrance fee, we were quickly taken back in time to the “old” world, to a place similar from whence came my traveling partner’s ancestors.
Our first stops were to admire the ancient grave markers, now protected from the elements and the lodge pole like structure with the dirt floor and fireplace.
As we walked on, the lodgings became a little larger, more secure from the elements, and more decorative. Note the small doors on all these dwellings, either the peoples were very short or the door was small as not to let in the cold during winter. Or maybe some other reason!
Soon we came to some houses that ancestors may have lived in just prior to immigrating to the US. All of them had thatched roofs and vegetable and flower gardens planted right up to the house, no waste of productive land.
Thank goodness Yuri was our guide as he patiently answered our questions and interpreted the signs and placards on the territory trails.
One interesting aspect of this outdoor museum is there are additional thematic museums within the museum, some that require a small additional entrance fee, usually 20 or 30 Hyrvinia, or about one US dollar. There were a few churches where one could imagine the peasants standing in the nave, there are no pews, following the service, genuflecting and crossing themselves at the appropriate times.
There was also the Museum of Bread, honoring the importance of the cultivation of wheat and other grains used to make bread. In Ukraine, the “Bread Basket of Europe, bread is the symbol of life with it almost taking on holy properties, a gift from God. Thus the harvest of wheat was an important event with the first sheave being esteemed and often used to make a special bread usually during a holiday such as Christmas or Easter. Bread is also a symbol of friendship and peace between family, friends, and neighbors. So with that we entered the “bread” museum so see the veneration of wheat, bread and tools used to grow and make bread.
There was also a museum of tools and transportation. My Dad would have really enjoyed looking at the collection of old tools some of them, hand made and one of a kind.
We imagined this wagon as the camping trailer of it’s day!
Outside there was a display of larger and more modern farm machinery. Much of this equipment was used during the collective farming phase of Ukrainian history.
This wood threshing machine sitting under cover really intrigued me. From my background in agriculture, I knew wooden threshers existed but I’d never seen one before. On close inspection, at least some of the metal parts were manufactured in England.
One of the most interesting museums was the Museum of Space located inside this old church.
This museum is said to contain the actual parachute that safely brought the first human to journey into outer space back to earth, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Note the sculpture of Gagarin behind the round capsule. It was on April 12, 1961 that Yuri Gagarin made one complete orbit around the earth. This feat brought him international fame and made him an instant celebrity. It also gave the Soviet Union bragging rights in the space race that was occurring at that time in history. After working in the Soviet space program for a few years as a high level official, he went back to flying aircraft, dying in a plane crash in 1968 at age 34. And yes, our guide Yuri was named after the cosmonaut!
Of great interest to me and my traveling partner, was the Sputnik hanging from the ceiling. The Soviet Sputnik was the first satellite launched to orbit the earth. This happened in 1957 and got the attention of the Americans, launching what became known as the Space Race and the dawning of a new era of technological development. I recall as a kid, Dad would take us out at dusk and point out the little moving speck in the sky, the Sputnik, it’s orbit was that low and could be seen with the naked eye. It was also a time where paranoia was rampant with people afraid the “Roosians” were going to drop a bomb on us thus setting off the Cold War. That little ball in that old church with it’s peeling paint in the middle of Ukraine sure did bring back a lot of memories.
This was how the control room looked like in the early days of space exploration. The reel to reel computer tapes that had to be changed manually and probably held a couple of kb of data!
The following are some additional photos I took at the museum. Yes, they did have Dutch like windmills in Ukraine!
These were part of the bee museum. Bees were and are critical to the pollination of agricultural crops, orchards and vineyards. Honey from the hives was their primary sweetener and often used in the baking of bread.
This house likely belonged to an upper class/income family, certainly more ornate than the “peasant” houses. I can’t recall the story behind the headless soldier with his coat of armor but I thought the photo was cool!
As we were preparing to leave, I noticed this lady wearing her babushka tidying up the walking path. There were several employees working on the grounds to keep things clean and staff some of the exhibits.
As we left, Yuri took a group photo in front of one of the early dwellings. Note that my traveling partner can walk through the doorway without hitting her head!
After a few hours of exploring the museum and imagining what life was like for the Ukrainian peasants from whence my traveling partner came from, it was time for more nourishment before making the farm visit. Yuri took us to a nearby roadside restaurant where we lunched on, what else, borsch and varenyky (pierogies, dumplings with a filling)! When in Ukraine, eat like an Ukrainian! On our departure from the restaurant we had to step over this small barrier, we didn’t notice it when we arrived. Apparently, it’s a test on how much beer or horilka (vodka or other strong drink) one had to drink, if you clear the hurdle, you are good to go! Fall flat on your face, you’re too drunk to drive!
Meet Sasha, the farmer son of a friend of Yuri’s. He’s the guy in the dark blue shirt explaining his farming practices to The Eldest and the Son-in-Law (both work in agriculture) with Yuri translating. Sasha took us to see his wheat, barley and sunflower fields, he farms about 200 hectares of land or about 500 acres. The land is mostly leased, remember that it wasn’t long ago when virtually all agriculture production was collective with little or no private ownership of land. Land leases are anywhere from five to fifty years. One of the challenges of farming in Ukraine is access to credit, we heard interest rates charged as high as 50%! Wow, hard to expand and improve with those kinds of usury.Like typical farmers, Sasha talked about prices, markets, weather, pests, and equipment. He indicated that the equipment is older but usable. His farm shop and granaries were once part of a collective farm that is now privately owned.
It was a fun day with Yuri seeing the outdoor museum, visiting Sasha on the farm, and learning more about life in Ukraine. If you find yourself in the Kyiv area and are in the need of a guide or translator or driver, click here to contact Yuri.
On our way back to Kyiv, we noticed the sign advertising the area and finally after a lot of traffic, entering the city of Kyiv in the late afternoon.
That will do it for this week, next week join me and my fellow travelers when Yuri takes us to Uman, a few hours south of Kyiv, to meet up with Oleg and his family.
Until then, happy travels!