Life in Kyiv – February and March 2018
Time for another post updating you on what we’ve been up to. We’ve combined February and March into one, because quite honestly, not a lot happened in February apart from work.
Both months were snowy. There was snow on the ground for almost the whole period. Neither of us wore any other shoes than hiking boots to try and stop from slipping over. It was cold too, rarely getting above -5 and regularly below -10.
A last-minute trip to Minsk
8th March is Women’s Day worldwide. Well, the call it ‘International Women’s Day’ but we’re not sure whether many countries actually recognise it. It seems to be a Communist thing, one day to show the hardworking women that they were appreciated. We first became aware of it when we lived in Vietnam, and it’s also a massive deal in Ukraine. In fact, it’s a public holiday here. Everyone, men and women, gets a day off work.
This year Women’s Day fell on a Thursday. A couple of weeks before, the government decided to make Friday a ‘bridging’ holiday, so we’d get a long weekend. For this, we had to do a ‘make up’ day on the Saturday before. That meant Saturday became a normal working day – a Friday basically. We had two Fridays, one after another. I suppose it’s better than two Mondays.
For our four day weekend we wanted to travel somewhere that was no more than two hours from Kyiv and not too expensive. This narrowed it down to Riga or Minsk. After getting advice from people on Facebook, we booked a flight to Minsk.
Honestly, we knew almost nothing about Minsk. When we were living in Vietnam, a lot of people rode Minsk motorbikes. Apart from that, we didn’t know what to expect. Ukrainians we told we were going were dismissive of it. Since it’s still very close relationship-wise to Russia and still has all the Soviet iconography, they kept saying it would be just like going back to the Ukraine of their childhoods. Given their current struggles with Russia, you can’t really blame them.
So, motorbikes and Soviet iconography was all we knew so we didn’t know what to expect. What we found was lots of the iconography – huge statues of Lenin, hammer and sickles everywhere and massive stone statues. As well as this, we found European style churches and coloured houses (Belarus used to be part of Lithuania), lots of cool bars – Minsk has TWO English pubs! – and some amazing street art. Kris is just writing our post on Minsk, so look out for it.
One day in Lviv
March also brought our school’s academic AGM, where the managers from the various branches of London School of English meet to discuss all things academic. This year it was in Lviv, a city in the west of Ukraine. Lviv used to be part of Poland and Austria in the past, so it looks more like an Eastern European city than Ukraine. It’s got some cute squares and cobbled streets, and is famous for coffee, chocolate and pharmacies. We’ve published a blog on how to spend a day there, so check it out: One day in Lviv in Winter.
Maslenitsa – Ukrainian Pancake Day
Just like back home, Ukraine celebrates the beginning of lent with pancakes. However, Ukraine doesn’t just have one day. Oh no. Maslenitsa, or ‘Butter Week’ is a whole 7 days. Traditionally, different things happen on each day of the week. Over the weekend, various places around Kyiv hold special events to celebrate. We headed to Expocentre. Expocentre is an interesting venue in itself. Made up of lots of different buildings, it was built in the 1950s. Many of the buildings still have signs of the Soviet era – one has a big star on top, others have hammer and sickle borders. There are various long-term exhibitions in some of the buildings, including performances in a theatre, a dinosaur display and a display of robots. Katmandu and Beyond have some great photographs of the buildings in their blog.
For Maslenitsa, the Expocentre had lots of stalls selling food and drink – as always, shashlik (kebabs), Georgian style breads and lots and lots of beer and glintwein (mulled wine). There was a huge model of a woman made of straw wearing traditional Ukrainian clothes. Apparently, this is Lady Maslenitsa and they burn her on the Sunday evening, Guy Fawkes style. There were people on stilts and people in traditional costumes dancing around. And, of course, there were pancakes for sale everywhere. We didn’t actually get to eat any because the queues were ridiculous. It isn’t like you can’t get pancakes all year round in Kyiv so we left people to it.
Kyiv Water Museum
There’s a museum of water in Kyiv, some kind of educational museum. As these things usually are, it’s basically for children, but we love a bizarre museum and so decided to check it out. It’s in an old water tower, which is cool in itself. We went inside and paid and were ushered to join a tour. You have to join a tour to go. What we didn’t realise though, was that you can actually join a tour in English. We seem to have joined one in Ukrainian.
We stood around politely as the guide started to explain things, and then wandered off when it because clear that we had no idea what was going on. Then a woman approached us and asked if we understood English. Then she asked us to wait for a minute. We stood there a bit longer, and then another woman appeared, introduced herself and said that there was an English tour going on inside, and she’d take us to find it.
Off she went, with us behind, through the museum, occasionally stopping to point out a pipe or something similar. We had our picture taken by a waterfall. We weren’t entirely sure whether this was the tour, or where the tour guide was. Almost at the end of the museum route, we finally found the tour guide and she handed us over. The guide was very nice, and decided to take us back through the museum to see all the things we’d rushed past. We saw the old pipes from Kyiv, watched some experiments with water and balloons and candles, played with giant water bubbles and sat on a giant toilet.
Totally random. Just what we like in a museum.
Where Kate and Kris Drank
A pub we spend a lot of time these days is Naturlich, mainly because it’s just around the corner from our flat. It’s a beer bar, and has a huge range of beers from different countries on offer. The real ale from the UK is actually cheaper than it is in the UK. Naturlich also has lots of Czech style food on offer, including massive share plates of sausages and other meats. We like it because it has two bars that you can sit out. We like to sit at bars. The staff are really friendly and oddly, they play rock music.
What Kate and Kris Ate
Since we were in Minsk in March, a shout out must go to draniki. Belarus is famous for potatoes and apparently the biggest producer in Europe. And they make a lot of things out of them. Every dish seems to come with some variation of potatoes. The national dish of Belarus is draniki – potato pancakes. We had them as a side dish, a main course and as the bread for a burger. They are practically the same as the Ukrainian deruny.
Blogs we published in February and March
In February we published the blogs on our trip to Morocco in January. We spent four days in Marrakesh, and then two in Essaouira, famous as a Game of Thrones location. You can read about it in our posts: Marvellous Marrakesh, Two days in Essaouira and find out about Moroccan food, and where to find alcohol in Marrakesh in this post: What to eat and drink in Marrakesh.
We’re still publishing blogs we wrote when we lived in Thailand, which seems incredible since we left nearly a year ago. We published one on the area of the city that we lived in Phra Ram 9, for anyone considering moving there: Living in Phra Ram 9, Bangkok. The second post was a food blog on the street food around where we used to work: Street food in Silom Bangkok. It makes my mouth water just looking at it now!
On the teaching English side, we put together another collection of experience from other English teachers, this time teaching English in South Korea. We also had another New Teacher Tales interview from Rheanne, who Kris used to work with in Vietnam, who told us about her experiences teaching in Japan, Vietnam, and Kazakhstan among other places: New Teacher Tales Rheanne.
Pin this for later