The day started out so dreary I feared a day of sight seeing would be a total wash. For entertainment I could walk across the street to the supermarket. Or go clothes shopping (local fashion is very interesting). Or play solitaire on my laptop for eight hours. Or sleep.
BUT! The sky cleared quickly. There was great improvement just during the time while we were in breakfast so Ignacio, Ash, Hafsa and myself decided to embark on sightseeing to the center of the city. We had to take the subway and then do a bit of walking to get there, but it was worth it. The subway station we got off at was MASSIVE because two different lines connected there. I think I really only made it up from the subway because I was following the crowd that poured out of the train. It was a little confusing. Also, probably it was confusing since, you know, I don’t really understand Russian. The station we stopped at, also went by two different names, I think Universitet and ALSO Gasprom.. or Darzprom, depending on if you were reading a sign printed in Russian or Ukrainian. See? You’re already confused, too! The metro station we got off at was very sci-fi/steam punk. I loved the chandeliers.
Here’s that guy, that crazy guy, Lenin. What’s he doing here anyway? I’m only making a funny face because Ignacio was also making a funny face (actually, a whole funny pose) but Hafsa zoomed in and you couldn’t see it.
Here he is again. Can you believe the nerve of this guy? Standing here for so long after communism has fallen? Though considering he’s the monument that really ties the whole square together, and there is a street named after him in the city, it would be a bit of a shame to tear him down, but they seriously could have put another statue up in his place, like, say, anyone else in the free world with a -sky at the end of their name.
This is the building way at the other end of this square. It’s probably the only building I’ve seen so far that has a tryzub on it. By the way, this is apparently the second largest public square in the world. The only one bigger is Tienneman.
Here’s Shevchenko, now this is a Ukrainian statue I can get behind. It’s really a magnificent monument. The figures around the base depict points in Ukrainian history, beginning with its birth (that’s on the right, a woman holding a small baby), and finishes with a man and woman looking forward to the future.
This is in front of the opera house. I can’t believe Ani Lorak is playing here on Tuesday. She is one of my favorites. I will not be in attendance. I’m doubly sad about this because the opera house is very impressive looking from the outside, would really love to see the inside as well. But alas, they wouldn’t let us in without a ticket.
Below is where we got to eat. There was no one here to yell at me for taking pictures. Also, the tv was playing different music videos from what music we actually heard over the sound system, which really kind of bothered me a lot. Also, this place is a chain restaurant, I went to another one of these places in Lviv. Also, ALL OF THEIR BATHROOMS WERE CLOSED which was dumb. Also, now I’m just starting my sentences with the word also on purpose.
The way this place was set up is very interesting, because it seems like they basically took over the building after it was built. You walk in and mostly it is just the buffet area. There are very few places to eat. You walk up half a level and there is a teeny dining room, then another half a level and there is a large dining room (with multiple rooms), with a second dessert and beer buffet. Then you walk up just a few steps and you end up in the room we ate in. I don’t know why my colleagues insisted on sitting as high up as possible. The food here was really great. Not SUPER remarkable, and I definitely didn’t like the stuffed cabbage (The cabbage was all wrong, I gave Hafsa a full education on the proper handling of cabbage and what kind to use and what kind you SHOULDN’T use and they totally were using the kind you shouldn’t use, but whatever, it is their restaurant, not mine), but definitely, I will go back there again in a heart beat, if for dessert alone. I had cherry varenyky, and also that wafer and condensed milk torte concoction that my mother makes and a few of the ladies from church make as well. I think I like my mom’s better though.
I don’t know what this statue is for, and why there are men here demonstrating with flags with hammer and sickles on them, but I’m pretty sure any explanation of either might make me sad. I tried to get a better picture of the flag that had the writing on it, but none came out well, and I didn’t fancy the idea of going right up to them and asking, Hey, how’s it going? What’s up!
Right behind the demonstrators, and statue, and people on horseback, and army tanks, was a monastery. We visited (glad I brought a scarf to cover my head). We went inside and I bought two candles to light for my grandmothers in the church there. I took some pictures of the outside, but obviously none of the inside. Whatever good fortune may have been bestowed on me for the lighting of candles I didn’t want taken away for the taking of pictures.
While we were here Ignacio went on a search for a Triptika, which I may be spelling wrong, but that’s how he pronounced it. On his last trip to UA, he had bought one for his father, and on this trip he wanted to buy one for himself.
He didn’t end up finding one he liked in the gift shop at the monastery, or in another religious store a few meters away, but at the gift store at this massive and very interesting looking cathedral. We got to this one after a trip through an area where lots of people were selling paintings, and there was a statute of a kozak looking guy that I made up a story about for Hafsa. I don’t even remember it all. Since I was kind of acting as the guide for everyone since I know the most about the town and can read some of the signs, she had been asking me a few random questions as we traveled (I’ll bet it was my extensive knowledge of cabbage that really impressed her, haha), and asked about the statue we were very cautiously walking past (ice plus melting conditions equals slippery ice, plus walking downhill equals either hilarity.. or pain). I made up some story about how he killed hundreds of invaders to UA with one hand while painting a delightful image of the steppes with his other hand, so that is why people sell paintings in that park. I think she bought it until I started to uncontrollably giggle.
We then went on a massive trek across the river, through a bus depot and finally made it to the central market. I thought this might be a great place to get souveniers, but it was basically a flea market, where they sold really important and indigenous things to this region of Ukraine. Like raisins. And kitchen pots. And hair dye. Basically, it was an outdoor supermarket. Or something. I was so bored with this place I decided to fall. Actually, my interest in the place has nothing to do with me falling. I just totally lost my footing and slid and fell on my right leg and arm.. into a puddle that I think was filled with disintegrating cardboard. It was kind of disgusting, but I didn’t get totally soaked.
It was at this point that we found our way out of the market and were faced with MacDonalds. I was actually kind of hoping to go, because I was really interested in the comforting taste of a double cheeseburger (or maybe the new and exotic taste of a ukrainian double cheeseburger). We didn’t go to McD’s (I SWEAR I AM GOING TO GO TO ONE BEFORE WE LEAVE), but we found the nearest metro station and headed home.
I was so glad to get out of my shoes. My Uggs were totally soaked. Of course the Aussies know nothing about waterproofing shoes (especially the kind of shoes that they never expected crazy Americans to wear outside in the snow in the first place). They’ve hardly ever seen snow before! In fact, here’s my favorite Aussie, Ash, with his first snowball.