Hope you had a good week. The hot weather and high humidity we had here in the Midwest last week finally moved off to the east leaving us with warm but more pleasant temperatures. I read that most of Europe is under a high heat warning with temps in the 100-109° F so I checked out the weather in Ukraine and was pleasantly surprised that it’s been pretty mild. I understand it can get very hot and humid and be quite oppressive in Kyiv but now looks very nice. We had great weather during our stay in Kyiv, it got up into the lower 80’s a couple of days but was mostly in the 70’s and down into the 50’s at night. There were rain showers a couple of days but not one of those all day types so didn’t stop us from making our way around to the sites and activities.
This week we continue our exploration of the Kyiv, we spent seven nights there so had time to check out most the sites of interest. We did miss a few that we’ve added to our list for the next visit. The guide on our walking tour on our first day in Kyiv pointed out the nearby National Museum of the History of Ukraine. One morning, after a 15-20 minute walk from our apartment hotel we arrived at the museum and were greeted (in English) by a museum employee. He told us “today the entrance to the museum was free” and told us that a couple of the floors had descriptions of items in both Ukrainian and English. We were in!
This museum illustrates the history of Ukraine from ancient times to the present. We skipped over a special exhibit of jewelry and walked quickly through the ancient times to the displays from the 17th century to more recent history.
Our purpose for visiting this museum was because of the previously mentioned Ukrainian ancestry of my traveling partner and The Eldest. Also, some of my German ancestors moved in the late 1700’s from what was then Prussia (modern day Germany) to near the Black Sea in Ukraine close to the borders of Moldova and Romania. They started coming to the US in the 1880’s so we were interested in that time period around the time people were leaving Europe in large numbers.
We learned there were too many people for the available farm land as well as a lack of basic education and oppressive regimes were harassing the people both for tax payments and serving in the military. We did get a glimpse at what their life might have been like before and up to the time they immigrated to the US. We saw how important horses were in the daily lives of the mostly peasant population along with wagons and farm implements. Embroidery and weaving were important culturally as most regions/tribes had their own unique styles. To be honest we weren’t sure if this stop would be worth the time but it sure was, we enjoyed.
There were a couple of exhibits of more modern times such as one about the 2013-14 Euromaidan uprising. As I mentioned in an earlier post, over 100 people lost their lives in these mostly non-violent protests against the government corruption and too much friendliness with Russia. It was a sobering experience to see some of the photos and artifacts collected during this difficult time in recent Ukrainian history.
We took note of the newspaper clipping of former Presidents Barack Obama and Petro Poroshenko (more on him in next weeks post) with Secretary of State John Kerry in the background.
We ended our museum visit by walking down the stairs to the first floor when I saw this scene with objects/artifacts hanging in the air!
Our last stop was at the museum bookstore where I looked for a book about the museum and it’s exhibits. While I didn’t find a book in English, I noticed a place where visitors could write out a postcard provided free by the museum. So I wrote out a card to my Mom, addressed it and dropped it in a box for mailing. The English instructions were a little unclear so using my best body language communication skills with one of the staff, I found out that the museum buys the stamps and gets it to the post office. Guess what, Mom got the card here in the US a few weeks later! A nice, unexpected gesture to promote the museum.
After that experience, I couldn’t help but stop and take a photo of this lady sweeping the sidewalk. I’m sure someone’s Mom and/or granny!
After a few hours in the museum, we were ready for some nourishment. I wanted to stop at this restaurant but I was outvoted!
So we ended up here with was advertised as authentic Ukrainian cuisine.
We lunched on traditional foods such as this bread bowl dish with what I recall is a cream based mushroom soup. It was really delicious and filling. The bread was good too.
I had to wash it down with something so it was my second favorite drink (after water), beer! I verify that the beer in Ukraine is pretty good.
While we were staying in an apartment hotel that had a small fridge, hot plate, kettle and utensils, food was reasonable and readily available so we ate almost all our meals out. We tried a variety of places such as this very modern bakery that served a great breakfast, we went there a couple of times for the great food and good service. Besides they had a menu in English!
After the Son-in-Law arrived Kyiv, we took him to one our favorite restaurants on his first night in town, the Spotykach. Before having the tradition borsch, he ordered a flight of what I think is translated as aromatic bitters, apparently a speciality of the house.
It was fun watching him try these out especially when he didn’t enjoy the taste!
He chased with something much more palatable in my view!
The borsch was really good here and isn’t it beautiful? A work of art! I’ve been told art is in the eye of the beholder, you decide.
While we are on the topic of food, one day my traveling partner and I had a late breakfast so decided to have just a dessert for lunch. We never expected this but sure did enjoy this meal! Now these are works of art!
The same day, we were exploring a new part of Kyiv, not too far from our lodgings. We walked past the beautiful National Opera House of Ukraine where operas, ballets, and concerts are held. This is a very busy hall with several performances each week. The ticket prices are kept low so as to attract people from all socioeconomic classes, not just the wealthy patrons.
As we continued walking, we came across this scene, a McDonald’s that occupied a historic building. This proves they are every where! I’m happy to report to you that we never darkened the door of any US based fast food joint while traveling abroad. Ok, maybe once when I was in the need of some American coffee!
One day we were walking past St. Sophia’s Square and noticed these police officers and their patrol cars lined up. There was a stage being constructed so we postulated that some type of ceremony was going to happen and maybe we could observe on our return trip. No such luck, when we returned everything was gone, even the stage, like nothing happened. We never did learn what was going on but we sure were curious.
As we made our way around Kyiv, there were lots of things to see and experience. The central part of the city is very walkable with a few places requiring public transport such a bus or the subway. Uber was also an option.
Towards the end of our stay in Kyiv, we made one last visit to Andrew’s Descent where there are lots of souvenir stands. Meet Boggan, one of the seller’s. He was a very friendly guy with good English. He told us that he’s originally from Russia but has been in Ukraine a long time trying to make a living. It was a fun interaction with a funny guy!
That will do it for this week. Next week stay tuned to meet some our local Kyivian friends and see a few more sites. Then I’ll take you to the Ukrainian countryside to visit a open air historical museum, a farm and a botanical garden.
Until then, happy travels!