What Kate and Kris Did in November 2017
November started with my birthday. For us, getting a year old is definitely a cause for a celebration and we usually try and go away for birthdays. My last birthday was spent by the pool at Khao Lak in Thailand with my parents, after a tour around Thailand with them including visiting temples and history in Kanchanaburi, taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai, wildlife watching in Khao Sok national park. Kris’ last birthday was spent in Mandalay, Myanmar at the end of a two week tour of the country (blog posts on this to follow).
This year, we had to work on my birthday. In fact, Kris had to get up at 4.30am to travel to another city in Ukraine to give a talk to local teachers. At least I got a lie in. We celebrated at the weekend though. We had cocktails in the rooftop bar of the Intercontinental Hotel – B-Hush. The view is stunning, looking over St Michael’s and St Sophia’s cathedrals and the city beyond. Not as high as Cloud 9 on the 87th floor of the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai where we had Kate’s birthday drinks when we lived in Shanghai, the view was perhaps better, because it wasn’t so high.
We did go out on the balcony to take photos, but it was a bit cold to sit outside. I’d imagine it’s beautiful in summer, and busy…..
As it was, at 6pm in November, it was empty when we arrived so we had the bar to ourselves. Later it’s a nightclub, but that’s really not our sort of thing, so we stayed for one drink. The drink was, as a birthday tradition, a rather pricey cocktail, which did come with a side of giant olives, prawn crackers, and mixed nuts.
Drinks were followed by dinner at Kapape on Andriyivsʹkyy Descent. It’s part of Dmytro Borisov’s family of restaurants, which also includes Chicken Kyiv, that we wrote about last month. We chose it because it’s not only in our Pink Guide to the best restaurants in Kyiv, but it’s also recommended quite strongly on Tripadvisor.
Kapape is described as ‘modern Ukrainian cuisine’ because it takes traditional Ukrainian recipes and flavours and uses modern gastronomic techniques on them. Most, if not all, of the food and drink is locally sourced. You can get borsh, but served in a hollowed out cabbage, for example. We ordered a plate of local meats, including salo, and it came with molecular horseradish, pate that came served in a tin you had to open, and galician style potato dumplings filled with rabbit and black pudding, covered in ‘cheese snow’.
To drink, the restaurant makes nettle beer and dried cherry beer, so we tried one of each. Bread was served to the table and the waiter lit the candle, telling us that we could eat it. The candle was made of garlic butter, so when it melted, you dipped your bread in the melted ‘wax’.
It was really cool and since this is Ukraine, not particularly expensive. Dinner was probably cheaper than the pre-dinner cocktails! Come visit and we’ll take you.
On the way to the Perchersk Lavra monastery complex, we found the Holodomor Memorial, built to commemorate the people who died in two devastating famines in Ukraine. The main one, between 1932 and 1933 resulted in the deaths of upwards of 7-10 million people. Soviet Collectivism meant confiscation of crops from farms, foodstuffs, animals and houses, which led to mass starvation. What seemed so pertinent to us was that this then happened again, in China under Mao and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.
The memorial is a tall tower, above an underground museum. The museum is small, with images of 1930s farming around the edge and traditional farming machines. In the middle are huge books. Each represents a region of Ukraine and contains the names of people who died there during the famine. It’s tragic. A colleague told us that when she went with her husband, they found the names of family members in the books.
The museum is in Ukrainian, but there is an interactive panel that tells the story in English. It’s less than 20 grivna to get in and worth it just to learn some more about the terrible history of the country and to give some thought to those who died.
What Kate and Kris Ate
Apart from eating a candle, we’ve eaten a lot more Ukrainian food this month. This month’s focus is pickles. Pickles are really popular in Ukraine. Think about it, it’s a agricultural country, called the ‘breadbasket’ of Europe, but has quite harsh winters. The solution is to pickle everything in the autumn to enjoy through the winter. You can easily buy pickled shredded carrot, cabbage, gherkins, pickled tomatos….you name it. They even pickle watermelon. Our neighbours in Odessa introduced us to it, as they loved it. The first taste is vinegar, and then it’s sweet. Odd. I’m sure it an acquired taste.
Our fridge is full of tubs of pickled veg to eat in sandwiches and as salad. You can also order a plate of mixed pickles in restaurants, as we did in O’Panas restaurant, in Taras Shevchenko park near our flat.
Where Kate and Kris Drank
This month we have discovered several branches of the Sunduk pub around the city. I think there are three. One is just a bit further up the hill from Kupidon Art Pub, that we talked about last month, towards the Golden Gate. Sunduk means ‘chest’, but there isn’t a particular pirate theme. It looks quite like a Czech or German style pub with wooden fixtures and lots of booths. Each pub has several floors and there is often live music. There’s food and cheap beer. In the branch on Mykhailivska St, just up from Maidan, opposite O’Brien’s Irish pub, they serve their own craft beer too.
No Metro Monday blog this month. Sorry. There’s one coming through, with some cool statues, so keep your eye out.
Blog Posts we published in November
This month we had a guest post from a teacher who works in South Africa, telling us all about Teaching English in South Africa. We visited South Africa a few years ago for Kris to go cage diving with great white sharks, and to do a safari in Kruger national park, so it was interesting to read about teaching English there: Teaching English in South Africa.
We are still publishing posts we wrote back in Thailand. While we were there, I got a bit obsessed with the strange beauty products you could buy in normal convenience stores like 7-11. Snail face cream, bee venom, there were loads so I wrote a blog about it Intriguing Asian Beauty Products
Websites we appeared on in November
We did do an interview for the website Expat Focus. They are a great resource for expats worldwide and have interviews from expats all over the world. Check out what we said about Being an expat in Kyiv (yes, I know they spelt it wrong).
Our Plans for December
December is, of course, Christmas. Well, Christmas for many countries. Actually, here in Ukraine, it’s Orthadox, and followed the Orthadox calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, so Christmas is on 7th January. This year is the first year that Ukrainians get the 25th December off work. This doesn’t affect us though, since our school closes for two weeks on the 22nd December.
We are heading to the UK to celebrate Christmas with family before flying to Marrakesh, Morocco for a week on New Year’s Eve. Looking forward to exploring the souks (don’t tell Kris they are markets. He hates markets), eating lots of tagine and drinking lots of mint tea. Follow our Facebook page for pictures of Marrakesh, because at our current rate of writing, we won’t manage blogs about it for a while!