Saturday, October 30, 2010

My First Trip to Kyiv!

Last Sunday, I traveled to Kyiv with Monica, Nathan, Jakob and Laura (from my Peace Corps training cluster). It was an interesting experience, especially since we traveled without our Language Facilitator and none of us are fluent in Russian (yet). Monica’s Peer Advisor was in Kyiv, so we met up with her and she showed us around the city. I was really thankful for a tour guide that was another Peace Corps Volunteer, she saved us the hassle of having to try to navigate the Kyiv metro train system by ourselves and find places from our Lonely Planet guidebooks.

The view from the steps of St. Andrew's Church
We left our town at 8am on Sunday morning by electric train, and arrived in Kyiv around 11am. The train station in Kyiv is especially large and confusing since it is a hub for a lot of domestic and international trains

escalators! Haven’t seen those in a while.
We were so excited to see our first McDonalds in Ukraine at the train station. Fun fact: when I was practicing my Russian food vocabulary with my host mom and sister, they both said that the one food that they did not like was McDonalds! This McDonalds was almost exactly like the ones from home, meaning that all the menu items were exactly the same but just written in Russian. 
and check out McFoxy!
     We took the metro train to the central part of Kyiv. I think it is interesting how inner-city subway maps all look similar. Well, I guess this is only judging from the New York City, Atlanta, Singapore and Beijing subway maps. The Kyiv subway uses little blue plastic tokens about the size of a quarter, instead of a magnetized ticket (old school!) and you simply use 1 token per ride. Fun nerd fact: the Singapore subway and city bus system both charge fares based on distance traveled instead of per ride. 

These apartment buildings and the cable wires above the street remind me of downtown San Francisco!

From a glance, would you be able to tell that this photo was taken in Ukraine?
Our first stop was this theater. When I showed this photo to my host mom, she was pleasantly surprised and informed me that her restaurant is just down the street. Maybe next time we can go visit her restaurant!

 I just thought the two towers on this building looked interesting, they remind me a little of the twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Monica’s peer advisor pointed out this 4-story department store, apparently it was famous during Soviet times and is still a huge shopping center today.

We walked past a Lexus car with an Illinois license plate! This is would be extremely unusual in my little town, but it didn’t seem that out of place in Kyiv since there were so many ex-pats around the city.

Our next stop was the capital area of the city, called the Maidan. If you’ve ever looked up Kyiv on Wikipedia, chances are high that you’ve seen pictures of these exact same landmarks!
I wanted to climb up on the horse but everyone was already judging me for standing up on the statue.
Here is Monica with her peer advisor Megan and Megan’s friend Kelsey! Kelsey actually roomed with my peer advisor Sasha at their Staging! I love the Peace Corps Ukraine network. They are standing in front of the famous Kyiv Opera house.

Our group is standing in front of the celebration statue. This statue is apparently one of the newer landmarks in this area.
We miss you Heather!

We ran into some of our fellow Peace Corps Trainees from Obhuhov! Of course Warren and I are doing the token asian pose.

Warren and I are token PCV asians.
Monica and I are also great at the token asian pose.
 After taking lots of pictures in the Maidan area, we went into the Globos shopping center. It is a crazy intense mall, I would compare it to Lenox in Atlanta, Fashion Square in Scottsdale, or the Macy’s in Union Square (downtown San Francisco). They sell regular things inside the mall from regular stores like Hallmark, shoe stores, underwear like Victoria’s Secret, department stores, etc.
they even have a Sanrio store with Hello Kitty!!
The mall even had an international food court, including a Chinese food stand! I ordered some steamed pork buns there, it was a huge relief to speak Chinese and not have to worry about my pronunciation or conjugating verbs correctly in Russian. We left the mall after grabbing a snack at the food court and walked around to where the famous churches were.
standing in front of St. Sophia’s bell tower
one of Ukraine’s famous Cossack military leaders
This was a super touristy area of Kyiv, we were surrounded by groups of kids clearly on a school field trip and other ex-pats.
I love this picture, it would be perfect except Jakob isn’t doing the asian pose correctly and we are missing Heather
We walked behind the baby blue church down to St. Andrew’s church and the famous street bazaar. This was a serious cobblestone road, literally built out of chunks of rocks and mortar. I have no idea how Ukrainian women walk everywhere in stilettos, the cobblestone hurt my feet and I was wearing my relatively flat footed boots!
this was my favorite church, because it is teal and gold!
This photo is for my old roommate Annie, who got me into House. Ukrainians love the House tv show, they call it ???? and apparently they sell little touristy magnets of Dr. House!
my favorite is the one in the upper right hand corner that says “Only Salo can help.”
The street bazaar had a lot of stereotypical Ukrainian items like the traditional Russian dolls, furry hats, old Soviet memorabilia and painted eggs.

Touristy items like this are really common, I'm waiting until right before I come home to do any shopping though.

a view of another castle-like building and the street bazaar
We walked down the street, to the bottom of a big hill. The street bazaar must have been a solid half-mile long and had tons of stands that were all exactly the same, pretty much like Chinatown. Do you like how I compare everything here to Chinatown? I guess that is probably because I spent last summer in Beijing and Singapore and I miss it.
Nathan bought a Kyivsky Tort cake for his host family!
They have a Domino’s Pizza in Kyiv! I wonder if they still have the 5-5-5 deal.
At least they deliver pizzas!

We ended up walking around Kyiv from about 12noon until 5 pm, but it was fun to be back in a big city and see the sights. We will be heading back to Kyiv next Monday for “bank day” – hooray for payday and new ATM cards. I hope the ATMs here have English (another fun fact from last summer: ATMs in Beijing all had an English language option on the home screen).


Toni Tralala said...

Ukraine is so beautiful! :) I would most definitely love to visit someday. The architecture is undoubtedly breathtaking!

I can't believe they just got their first McDonalds as well! It's so prevalent in the States that I think people tend to avoid it due to overconsumption over the years. :))

I found you on 20 Something Bloggers. You have a lovely blog! I've always wondered about how it's like to be in the Peace Corps!

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