Ukraine has been a surprisingly pleasant place! After visiting both Lviv and Kyiv, it is definitely on my list of places to come back to. We thought that 4 days, 5 nights in Kyiv would be relaxing, but there is so much to do here that we are having to seek out opportunities for rest. The food has been excellent, the accommodations very comfortable, and the prices incredibly low. Sightseeing highlights have been a self-guided walking tour through the city, the monasteries around Lavra, and various museums including the Aviation Museum, the Chernobyl museum, and the Pirogovo Open Air museum.
Kyiv is quite different than Lviv. First, Lviv is small and the architecture is a lot more similar to Vienna. Kyiv is huge and has a mix of old world architecture, Soviet-style concrete buildings, and modern high rises. Second, there is a lot to do in Kyiv. In Lviv, we mostly just enjoyed the feel of the city, occasionally popping into a tiny museum or coffee shop. It was peaceful. Kyiv also has coffee shops, but the museums are bigger, there are more of them, and the distances are further. Fortunately, Kyiv has a nice public transportation system, so the distances can be easily mitigated. And if the subway stop is simply too far away, Uber is easy and cheap.
Next is the language. For the Americans reading this, you will probably think I have misspelled the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. But this is because Americans have historically used the transliteration of the Russian spelling: Kiev, but transliterated from Ukrainian, it is Kyiv. Similarly, what we know as Chernobyl is Chornobyl in Ukrainian. Sometimes there can be three different names for the same street: the Ukrainian name, the Russian name, and the Soviet name. It is a bit bewildering, but we are trying hard not to make the local people upset by our choices in names. In Lviv, we were a bit nervous to use the Russian language and mostly tried to stick to hello, please, and thank you in Ukrainian, in addition to our English. In Kyiv, at least half of the time we have been greeted in Russian. I found a fairly interesting post about a Ukrainian couple’s experience with language issues when visiting Kyiv. So far we are taking our cue from the speaker. If we are greeted in Russian, we will use our very limited Russian language skills, but otherwise we stick to English unless we really need to try to communicate something important. (e.g. numbers while shopping – though these seem to be very similar between Russian and Ukrainian) The good thing is that the language barrier hasn’t been too bad. People tend to know a few words in English and the rest can be accomplished by pointing and hand waving. See my post on Lviv to read about the importance of learning the Cyrillic alphabet.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Today we started our morning by checking out of our Lviv apartment and taking a 6 hour train ride to Kyiv. The boys were mad that I took the opportunity to catch them up on their summer math worksheets, but they need the review or they forget everything. They also have a daily assignment of writing in their journals, but most days they tend to enjoy that one.
We were disappointed to find out that this particular train did not have a real dining car, but the attendant on our car did have a small section of snacks. I picked out some meat flavored crackers, James got the sour cream and onion ones, John got some peanut things that were coated in some sort of meat flavoring, and Jeremy got some cookies. All were much better than we expected and we went back and got a few other things to tide us over until our arrival in Kyiv.
The train was a little delayed and we didn’t arrive until after 5:00. We debated taking the subway vs. an Uber, but since the wheels on one of our suitcases are about to fall off and we are hoping to avoid purchasing a new bag until we got home, we opted for Uber. It took a loooong time for the app to load, but once it did, the taxi came within a couple of minutes. With the traffic, we probably should have taken the subway, which would in retrospect have been somewhat faster (two stops on the subway or maybe 10 minutes, vs. 30 minutes in the Uber). But our suitcases’ condition gave us pause. Transit costs are very cheap either way here (30 minute Uber ride was $6, vs. $0.20 each for the subway).
On arrival at our checkin point, we found out that we needed to take another cab for 15 minutes. Somewhat annoying, but fine. We arrived at our 2 bedroom apartment around 6:30. It isn’t as nice as the Lviv one, but is still more than adequate, and much better than a hotel room would have been. The downside is that it is 2 subway stops away from the center, and there isn’t as much to do right next to us. We were all tired, so we went to the grocery store next to the subway station and bought bread, cheese, and a variety of cookies for dinner. My jam filled sugar cookies were delicious. Jeremy’s cream filled chocolate cookies were a bit gross. The boys’ macaroons turned out to be marshmallows filled with jam, which surprisingly, the boys did not like, maybe they were too homemade tasting. Odd, since they usually love both marshmallows and pure sugar, but probably healthier for them to skip.
I did a load of laundry, got situated in the apartment, and we all got a really good night sleep. Jeremy is happy that this bed doesn’t have a footboard. As much as we loved the apartment in Lviv, Jeremy really did not fit in the bed and had a hard time sleeping there.
Thursday, July 5, 2018
Today we slept in a bit and didn’t make it out of the apartment until 10. We weren’t sure when we were going to find breakfast, so we ate a few of our leftovers from last night, then hopped on the subway for Maydan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square. James spotted his favorite muffin (coffee) shop from Lviv, Aroma Kava, so we stopped for cappuccinos for me and Jeremy and muffins and tea for the boys. The boys really love the elephant and zebra logos. Add in super cute chocolate muffins with faces, and you have two happy boys. Make sure you ask for the cappuccino “strong,” and you will end up with something similar to weak American cappuccino.
We wandered around the square a bit, reflecting that this is the second place we have been to on this trip where a government has recently been overthrown (the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution). One stop during this trip was Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt (2011 Egypt Revolution). Several of our trips have taken us to politically interesting locations. We spent a night in Athens during the Greek financial crisis. In Istanbul, we missed the airport bombing by three days, then we said it was unlikely that anything would happen there again, kept our return flight through Istanbul, and missed the attempted coup by 5 days. The best part of that particular experience was that during our 17 hour layover, we had all of the best sights completely to ourselves and the locals were genuinely happy to have us there, or maybe they were just happy we were spending our money.
The good thing about traveling to politically interesting places is that unfortunate events are highly unlikely to happen in the exact location where you happen to be at the moment. For example, while traveling in Switzerland, we saw an avalanche happen from one mountaintop over, but the day before, we had been hiking not far from the exact location where the snow fell. Bad things happen, but there is usually some space between you and whatever the event may be. You are much more likely to get in a car crash while riding in an Istanbul taxi then to be at a terrorist event. Travelers should keep this in mind when considering traveling to places where there have been in news headlines (and keep in mind that the safety-related news headlines from home aren’t always flattering). That said, it’s also important to weigh the official government travel advice; we usually look at the travel warnings from both the US Department of State and from the British FCO (which are similar, but sometimes have different nuances).
We continued on Lonely Planet’s walking tour of the city, and arrived at the House of Chimeras, which is covered with stone animals, apparently replications of the architects hunting trophies. A playground sat next to the building, so the boys enjoyed spinning on the very rickety merry-go-round until they were too dizzy to walk in a straight line. Ukrainian playgrounds seem to be a bit more fun than the average American playground, but they definitely don’t meet American safety standards.
At this point, our 4 year old guide book failed us, and the police had the path we were supposed to take blocked off, so we found another route up to Verkhova Rada, the Parliament buildings. At this point, we encountered streets filled with police, then we came to a protest, and not knowing exactly what was going on, we kept our distance a bit.
The flags the protesters were carrying had 2 hammers on it, so our guess is that it was a labor union wanting something, but not knowing the language has its drawbacks. After skirting around the protest, we encountered tons of busses of policemen who were sitting around and waiting for something exciting to happen. Luckily nothing did.
Our walk continued past the Italian styled Mariyinsky Palace, then into a very large but beautiful park. It had very nice views of the city while walking through a mix of forrest and nicely manicured trees. There was an ice cream stand, so we each picked something out since we weren’t sure how long it was going to be until we found lunch.
The boys had a really good day today, and spent most of it enjoying each other’s company and walking peacefully. Other days, the spend the whole day bickering, which drives Jeremy and me crazy. Or James spends his time telling “Alpaca and Maria” stories, which I love, but Jeremy can only take so much of. Or James talks about airplanes, which Jeremy loves, but I can only take so much of. John is a bit quieter, and the two of us enjoy just walking silently every now and then.
We eventually came to the Water Museum, which we opted not to go into since we would have had to wait for the next tour time. There was a very nice Georgian (as in Republic of Georgia) restaurant next to a beautiful fountain with very pretty music playing, so we decided to stop for lunch. Just like America has a ton of Mexican or Italian restaurants, Ukraine seems to have a ton of Georgian restaurants.
We started with some delicious fresh Georgian bread that ended up coming with a wonderful roasted eggplant side. Since I am the only one who likes eggplant, I ate way too much of it. James ordered some stew-like thing and Jeremy got a veal and potato dish, both of which were very flavorful and tasty. I decided to try the quail, since that is something that is hard to find at home. It was very flavorful and tender, but I was a bit jealous of the saucier dishes that Jeremy and James had.
Before leaving the park, we had some more nice viewpoints of the city.
This park ended at the Friendship of Nations Monument arch, which represents when Russia and Ukraine unified in 1654. I wonder what the local people think about this monument now. There were also some Soviet era statues there.
The Statue of Volodymyr (Vladimir) the Great was inside the next park, and the boys became super excited when they thought it was a statue of Voldemort. Umm, maybe some similarities in that they both wanted more power than they had, but still, a bit different. Volodymyr was a ruler who converted to Christianity, and brought all of Kyiv with him in a mass baptism.
The monument was near the river, where we could see a nice looking beach that looked like it had sand. I wonder if it really was sand, and if so, how good of quality it was. Rivers and sand don’t really seem to go together.
Having left the string of various parks behind, we continued to St. Michael’s Monastery, which was quite beautiful, both inside and out.
Around the back, we found a nice gazebo.
We made a slight detour to go to St. Andrew’s, which has been converted to a museum, but is currently undergoing renovations and everything except the observation deck is closed.
At this point, we came across our third playground of the day, the second being behind St. Michael’s Monastery. We enjoyed a coffee, and the boys were really happy to get so much play time. Once again, they spent way too much time on the merry go rounds. Do they ever get sick of becoming incredibly dizzy? When it was time to go, the boys were getting tired and asked where our next stop would be. We responded, “Another church!” They were not impressed and started to tantrum a bit, but we ignored it and continued on. The orthodox churches are amazingly beautiful, both inside and out, but most of them do not allow photography. Hopefully one day the boys will appreciate that they have seen them.
St. Sophia’s Cathedral was my favorite stop of the day. It is the oldest church in Kyiv, and was both named for and resembles the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.
Having been to both, I was a bit awed to see the similarities, particularly the mosaics in the interior. St. Sophia’s was smaller, but was in much better condition. The Hagia Sofia has tons of missing parts to the mosaics and paintings, plus it has been converted into a mosque and has muslim additions to the original design, so it was really interesting to extrapolate what the Hagia Sofia may have looked like when it was first built.
Our next stop was the Zoloti Vorota, or Golden Gate. By this point, the boys were really exhausted and John told us that he has seen the Golden Gate Bridge, he knows about the Golden State Warriors, so he had no need to see this Golden Gate. We debated going into the very inexpensive museum, but figured it would be quick, so decided to go ahead. There was nothing particularly exciting, unless you count a skeleton in a tiny cave that was lit by a black light. Climbing to the top, we had some nice views, where James tempted fate when starting to sit on a ledge that closely resembled a slide off the top of the roof, but otherwise not particularly notable.
Outside the museum was a statue of Yaroslav. On seeing it, we suddenly understood the nickname: Monument to the Kyiv Cake.
We continued past the Taras Shevchenko National Opera Theatre to St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral. There was a choral group singing, and the boys got a flavor of what an Ukrainian or Russian Orthodox church service may look like. Everyone was standing, the women wore head scarves, there were lots of candles, and the music was beautiful. If I wouldn’t have been so tired, or if there would have been seating, I would have been happy to stay a lot longer than we did.
We continued on to Shevchenko Park, where the last statue of Lenin in Kyiv was removed in 2014. With the exception of one in Chernobyl, There are no longer any statues of Lenin in all of the Ukraine. On a related note, you can even buy toilet paper with Putin’s face on it. We have seen several vendors near various train stations.
The boys found another park and we let them play until dinner time. Why oh why do they enjoy spinning so much? They spent most of their time on the merry go round again! For dinner, we weren’t particularly hungry, so we stopped by another cafeteria style restaurant. I was sad that my cherry/cheese filled pancakes were not as good as in Lviv.
After dinner, we took the subway back to the apartment. I had always thought the subway stations in Moscow were deep, they used them as bomb shelters, but the ones in Kyiv are even deeper. In fact, Kyiv has the deepest subway station in the world, although we have not been to that particular station. The boys love riding the extremely long, and somewhat fast, escalators. I can’t help but think about what would happen if the power went out, or the escalators suddenly stopped working. It would be a long walk up.
Friday, July 6, 2018
Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra, or the Caves Monastary, is usually very crowded on the weekends, so we decided that today would be a good day to go there. Women should be careful in their choice of clothing, as they are technically required to wear a knee length or longer skirt, and need to wear a head scarf inside all religious buildings. Depending on how strict the door guard is, you may or may not be able to get inside if you wear pants or fail on the other requirements. Men may be bounced for either t-shirts or shorts.
We had a choice between a 25 minute walk, or three changes on the train plus a 15 minute walk, or an Uber. Uber was definitely the way to go. On arrival, we purchased a ticket for a fairly inexpensive self guided tour.
The Dormition Cathedral was originally built in the 11th century, had the gold decorations added during the Baroque period, was destroyed during WWII, but was rebuilt and consecrated just 18 years ago, so you can imagine that it was in amazing condition. The interior was very beautiful with tons of gleaming gold and nice paintings. There was a service going on, so we just peeked inside.
At this point, we got overwhelmed by the size of the place, confused about which sites were the important ones, uncertain which were included with our ticket, and felt a bit lost, so we decided to look into the 2 hour tours. They were expensive by Ukrainian standards, but since we haven’t been spending a lot of money here, we decided to splurge.
Our tour started with the refectory, or dinning room, with an attached chapel where the monks would pray after mealtime. Beautiful! We learned that most functioning Soviet era churches were blown up; the ones that weren’t, were turned into museums. If you are standing inside a very old church in Kyiv, most likely it is or was a museum during Soviet times.
We continued back to the Dormition Cathedral, where we learned that Ukrainian Orthodox church services usually last 4 hours. According to our guide, they are often ran as a story, often times telling the story of Jesus’ birth to his death, or telling the story of creation to another point, or something else. Everyone stands and can wander around the church with no expectation of needing to stay the entire 4 hours, so people tend to come and go. There is also no instrumental music, only vocal, so the cathedrals tend to be built with acoustics that work well with the human voice. Certain spots are better than others for the best results. Here is an interesting article that explains some of this.
Next, we walked down to the “Nearer Caves,” which are basically the catacombs inside the Church of the Raising of the Cross. On the way, the guide explained a bit about the Motherland Monument, which is very controversial since the emblem of the Soviet Union has not been removed. There is a law banning this emblem on all statues except ones related to WWII. The guide had some muttering about Russia that I didn’t completely understand at the time, but conveyed dissatisfaction about ways Russia has tried to control Ukraine, and for him, this statue seemed to highlight all that was wrong with Ukrainian and Russian relations.
Before going into the caves, our guide had us buy some candles, then told us to hold them with a flat hand, palm up, gripped between the fingers so that any wax that fell would land on our hands. John got very excited and really wanted to be our guinea pig, but we were told that it was “forbidden” for children to hold the candles. Good answer! I didn’t particularly want hot wax on my hand, but I could see the kids burning down the building or lighting someone’s hair on fire if some of the wax fell on their skin.
Legend has it that some of the monks that were buried here went through a natural, yet miraculous, mummification process. The bodies that were discovered perfectly preserved were declared saints, and now have homes in glass cases for everyone to look at. For the most part, all you see is the beautiful cloth covering them, but here and there you can see a hand or a foot peeking out.
One interesting moment was when another couple asked our guide if a certain body was the body of Ilya Muromets (it was, sort of). Our guide then told us how Ilya Muromets was a fairy tale that the Russians made up and used to control the people, etc. The mutterings from earlier turned into all out vocalization of his political views. The rest of our tour was mostly spent with our guide telling us what bad people the Russians were and all the things that the Russians have done to control the Ukrainians. According to our guide, the Romanticism time period was where the Russians particularly went out of their way to use mythology to control the peasants. Then he gave us a long list of Russians that he considered evil. It reminded us a bit of our experience between the Israelites and Palestinians the day we went to Bethlehem. It seems that when two nations are at odds, many of the locals want to make sure their guests hear the “correct” side of the story.
Next we went into a few of the minor museums. There was a small armory, and an even smaller museum with some old books. At this point, our guide ditched us a bit early and told us the rest of the sites were best seen on our own. To be fair, he did describe them a bit as we passed us and told us which ones he thought were worthwhile. Annoying given the cost of the tour, but we probably had seen most of the major stuff. First we went to the museum on women’s clothing, then we decided to go to the Microminiature Museum, which ended up being quite good! We were able to look through some microscopes and see the world smallest book, a very tiny sheet of music with over 600 notes, a chess board painted onto the head of a very small nail, a rose painted onto a strand of hair, and more. It was only one room, but all of us really enjoyed it.
We decided to get lunch at the only food place we saw, the Pilgrim’s Cafe. The dumplings were quite good and John enjoyed the meatballs. We also tried a salad that ended up being 3 kinds of bell peppers, marinated in a sweet and sour sauce. The bread roll we bought was stuffed with mashed potatoes. The kids thought it was weird and wouldn’t touch it even though they love both bread and mashed potatoes. We asked for the borscht and pointed at it, but they said it was a fruit compote. Sad, but in retrospect, I think I would have loved it and should have tried it.
We continued back down to the caves to see if we missed anything, then followed a path that led to a sign with the word “Iconostasis” and an arrow into a building. We went down a looong passageway and came out by the “Further Caves.” Unfortunately we only found the prayer entrance, so we weren’t able to go inside since we didn’t look or sound like Ukrainian Orthodox pilgrims.
Our next stop was the National Museum of History of Ukraine in the Second World War, previously known as the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which was directly over the gigantic fence behind the Further Caves. Jeremy tried to find a way out of the fence, but none of the shortcuts worked and the boys and I started to get frustrated. We finally gave up, followed the Google Maps directions, and exited out the lower entrance to Larva, and started climbing hundreds of steps. Until we ran into a closed gate. Sealed with barbed wire! Fail! Bad Google Maps!
We really should have counted the steps as we walked back down the mountain. There were a lot of them. We took the road this time, until we encountered another set of stairs. I confess, I was very reluctant to go up them and pestered Jeremy a bit about whether he was sure that this was the right path. Well, we went up until we encountered a ticket booth.
We showed them where we were going on the map, and they told us that the shortcut through the park was the fastest way, but we had to pay admission. A couple of dollars later and we were enjoying the beautiful flower exhibitions in Spivoche Pole. Maybe the locked gate wasn’t so bad after all.
My annoyance with our long, hot walk started to melt away. The boys got some ice cream, and all seemed right in the world again.
Towards the top of the park, the controversial Motherland Monument came into view again. Success! The museum we had been chasing for all day was finally in sight and did not appear to have a fence in the way! Oh what joy! Our dreadfully frustrating walk was coming to a close.
John’s eyes lit up as he saw all the military vehicles lined up. I think he was as happy with this area as I was with Spivoche Pole.
We continued towards the National Museum of History of Ukraine in the Second World War. The museum was fairly interesting and had some good exhibits. Each room had a single page in English, but most of the signs were in Ukrainian. We enjoyed it, then went to the basement to enjoy some soda and ice cream in air conditioning. On exiting we paid about 50 cents to go see a fairly impressive selection of tanks, missiles, and fighter jets. John loved it!
We continued to the exit onto the street, decided we were done walking, and called an Uber. After resting a bit, the kids decided they were tired of Ukrainian food and wanted McDonald’s, so we took the subway one stop and they enjoyed their food. I thought I might like the McChicken, thinking that it was the closest thing to Chicken Kyiv, but alas, even for McDonald’s, it was poor quality.
Saturday, July 7, 2018
Today, I decided that I just wanted to spend the morning at the apartment, rest, read, and do some writing. The boys, however, really wanted to go to the State Aviation Museum. Ever energetic Jeremy decided to take them himself while I got my much needed down time. I think everyone was very happy with the plan.
The boys really enjoyed their time and came back with glowing reports of the museum. James, our passenger airplane expert, was particularly excited about the Soviet planes that he had never seen and told me all about the Ilyushin IN-86 and the Tupolev TU-154.
Jeremy spotted an Antonov AN-24 – this was a plane type that we had flown on while in Russia about a decade ago (very rickety flight), but I’m not sure how I feel about having airplanes we have actually flown in inside a museum. As of 2014, only 13% of the manufactured AN-24 planes were still in service.
John was more into the MiG’s and other military planes, but both boys enjoyed that there was an active airport next door where they could watch airplanes take off and land. They also really enjoyed getting to climb aboard a few of the planes.
They returned to the apartment via Uber, and picked me up for lunch. We hopped on the subway and headed towards the Ukrainian National Chornobyl (Chernobyl) Museum. Jeremy was disappointed that I wouldn’t let him go on one of the organized day trip tours to Chornobyl (note: they’re set up so that one gets less radiation than from a transatlantic flight), so this was our compromise. For family members reading this, children under 18 aren’t allowed (for good reason), so there is no way that your grandkids would have been able to go in any case.
There was our favorite cafeteria style Ukrainian restaurant a few blocks away, Puzata Hata, so we stopped there for a quick lunch. I thought I had ordered the Chicken Kyiv, but alas, it was a ground chicken patty, and the real thing was at the next stand over. Still delicious, but I still haven’t had real Chicken Kyiv while in Kyiv. John loves the mashed potatoes and meatballs and told us we should eat there every day.
We continued on to the Chornobyl museum, which was really well done. It had a temporary Fukushima exhibit near the entrance, then continued to the main Chornobyl exhibits. The boys got a lot more out of it than I expected. There were some well done videos showing what happened, plus various artifacts that we encouraged them to keep their distance from. One example was the 8-legged pig that was enclosed in protective glass. No, it’s not an alien or an octopus.
Seeing the pictures, the boys asked why the cities didn’t look destroyed. Between the pictures and the mutant pig, they were able to comprehend that a destroyed city doesn’t necessarily mean that the city is in rubble. Sometimes it simply means that the residue has a destructive quality that causes really awful results when you are exposed to it. One of the first exhibits really highlighted how far the radiation extended, with crossed out names of cities that are no longer inhabitable.
We continued on to a really creepy room that highlighted cleanup efforts and had some details on what happened in Japan during WWII. This prompted some further conversation about nuclear power. For example, the atomic bomb created a lot of rubble, but as far as these things go, fairly minimal radiation. On the other hand, the Chornobyl meltdown caused a lot of radiation, but fairly minimal rubble. Both had the same source, similar horrific problems, but very different effects. (Note: Hiroshima is a vibrant city again, with over a million people, while Chernobyl will be uninhabitable for at least hundreds of years).
We had to steer the kids away from a couple of really grotesque pictures, and a few videos, but most of it seemed to be appropriate for older elementary or middle school aged kids. We took them to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Japan a couple of years ago – given their ages at the time, after the first room we knew it was a bit much, made them look at the ground, and exited fairly quickly. This museum was much more age appropriate.
When we were done, we spent some time enjoying a bench outside the museum.
Then we wandered around the Podil neighborhood a bit, enjoying some live music that was being performed, browsing a few markets, and popping in a few churches. We stopped by the Florivisky Monastery, and enjoyed both the church and the gardens.
We thought about going to the National Museum of the History of Ukraine, but the boys were museumed out, and I didn’t feel like repeating an uphill walk like we had yesterday, so we hopped on the funicular up the mountain.
The boys were delighted when it dropped us off in front of their favorite park, which was just behind St. Michael’s Monastery. They played a bit, we ate some cotton candy, then they played a bit more. It was delightful!
We took a stroll down the mountain to Maydan Nezalezhnosti, where we explored the vendors in the square, enjoyed some music, and sat on a bench admiring some of the statues. We spotted a Georgian (the country, not the state) restaurant chain, Khachapuri & Vino, that we had seen earlier in the day, and decided to try it. Delicious! I need to remember to look up a recipe for the veal, tomato, and onion stew that I had, and a recipe for the soup dumplings that James had. The “pot pie” was more of a pizza, but the flavors in the meat one were quite unusual and very tasty.
Sunday, July 8, 2018
Sleeping in has become a pattern. I think we are all exhausted, but some of us (mostly Jeremy) don’t want to admit it. We made it out of the apartment at 10:30 and stopped by the Magic Snail for cappuccinos and walked around a bit.
We then hopped on an Uber to go to the 11:30 service at the International Christian Assembly (ICA Kyiv). The service was wonderful! The singing was nice, the sermon was one of the best sermons I have heard in a long time, and from a presentation they had on one of their ministries, they seem very dedicated to needs-based outreach in Ukraine. If we were here for any length of time, this church would be high on my list of churches to call home.
After church we were having trouble finding a nearby restaurant, but we did find a delicious take away bakery, so picked up a few things from there. Very tasty!
We called another Uber and took a ride to the Pirogovo Open-Air Museum. After missing the one in Lviv, this was high on my list of places to visit.
If I wouldn’t have been wearing a long skirt, we would have considered renting one of the bikes at the entrance, although it may have made it more difficult to see a few of the exhibits.
The museum is quite big, and has little villages from different regions and time periods in Ukraine’s history. If you like looking back on history with a little nostalgia for the good old days, this is definitely a place for you. Although, the realization that the barn and the house were not necessarily separate buildings might make a little realism settle in.
In the center of the museum was a bunch of food stands. Lunch was a little light, so we picked up a few things that looked good. We really should have waited and ate here. John got a pinwheel sausage that he said was the best he has every had. James said his hotdog was the best he ever had. I got some sort of cheese thing that was quite tasty, and later thought about getting some grilled eggplant, but I really wasn’t hungry, so I just admired all of the other grilled items.
The churches were quite impressive. They look like little huts from the outside, but have some really nice icons on the inside. One in particular (not the one pictured) had a lot of unexpected gold work.
We were getting a bit tired, so we wrapped things up and headed back to the entrance to get an Uber back to our apartment. We are still in awe that you can take a 10 mile, 30 minute ride, and only pay $5.
On the way back, Jeremy was looking at Google Maps and saw that our apartment was just a few blocks from the Toilet Museum. The boys were delighted with the idea, so we made a quick stop there. They give guided tours in English, plus most of the signs have English translations, and we had a lot of fun exploring the history of toilets. The boys also enjoyed the video, and now John wants to go to Switzerland and try out the ones enclosed in 1-way glass. You can see out, but no one can see you, unless you happen to turn on a light. They also really liked the Tuba Toilets in Germany.
We rested for a bit, then took the subway to Maydan Nezalezhnosti for dinner. I finally got my Chicken Kyiv in Kyiv! It didn’t seem to be any better than at home, but it was one of my checkbox goals. One thing I forgot to do was buy a Ukrainian cookbook, but hopefully I can find one at the airport, and hopefully we have enough local currency left to get it. After dinner, we wandered the square a bit, got the boys some cotton candy and headed back to pack up.
It was a fun last day in Ukraine! I definitely want to come back. Tomorrow we head out for Germany.
Keep reading our travel blog for more posts from our Gap Year!
Here are some more posts from this trip to Europe:
[…] whatever reason, I really liked the playgrounds in Kiev. Even though the equipment tended to be a bit old, the visual appeal was still quite […]
[…] In Kiev, we spotted a Georgian restaurant chain, Khachapuri & Vino, that looked good and decided to try it. Delicious! The veal, tomato, and onion stew that I had was amazing. James got some soup dumplings that he liked so much that he found a recipe when we got home and made some. Not quite as good as the restaurant, but still tasty. The “pot pie” that John ordered was more of a pizza, but the flavors in the meat one were quite unusual and again, very tasty. […]
I am going to Kijiv in September
‘There are no longer any statues of Lenin in all of the Ukraine.’
There is one still – right outside the Chornobyl plant?
Thanks! I think you are right and have updated the post to reflect this.
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I would be happy to be corrected.