Travel / Ukraine

Strolling Kyiv: Gray Skies Smiling at Me

We’ve found that one of the best times to visit Europe is in the Fall. Cool, erratic weather, and persistent rain convince many visitors to stay home … but not us.

The past few days have kept us well soaked, and provided a reminder of the price to be paid for having the city to ourselves. But with the right attitude and rain gear, even gloomy skies and unpredictable rain can’t wash the color and fun out of a trip to Kyiv.

For most tourists, their best color memory will be the beautiful churches. Kyivites are serious about their religion, but that doesn’t mean their churches are conservative, somber affairs. In fact, the iconic cathedrals are the most popular sights for visitors, and for good reason. From deep, rich hues to delicate pastels, topped by gleaming gold domes, color is the rule rather than the exception, and the results are stunning.

A population of 3 million residents guarantees diversity – particularly in post-Soviet Kyiv. You don’t have to look far to see splashes of color, whimsy, and fun. A beautiful, blue mosaic cat, a floral clock in Independence Square, and a color-coordinated pickled food display – all grab the eye.

And then there’s the food – Chicken Kyiv of course, varenyky in all varieties, and frosty beer to wash it all down. But restaurant menus and grocery shopping present a challenge. Most people speak Ukrainian or Russian, and English is in short supply. In addition, the alphabet is Cyrillic, which bears little resemblance to English.

The photo of the white bottle illustrates the problem. I just wanted milk for coffee. White bottle, grazing cow on the label … must be milk. Luckily, I tasted this bottle of yoghurt before I poured it into my coffee.

Then I went back out and bought the milk pyramid.

Happy Trails,

35 thoughts on “Strolling Kyiv: Gray Skies Smiling at Me

  1. Love that cat! But ain’t it grand that beer is a universal food? It does my heart good to see a man who’s not ashamed to pose with a beer in hand, no matter where he may be.

  2. Your yogurt story reminds me of the time in China when we bought toothpaste and it was terrible. Then we bought another tube with a green leaf on it. “This has to be MINT,” I declared. False! It was green tea flavored which we confirmed by using our handy dictionary. A more exhaustive search led to mint flavored for the third tube.

    I’ll take the cool weather and rain over crowds most any day. Enjoy.

    • I hear you brother. I learned the taste it first lesson the hard way. In Florence I poured a couple of tablespoons of alfredo sauce (which I thought was cream) in my coffee. You can imagine how that tasted. But on the upside, we used the sauce on pasta later. ~ James

  3. Beautiful churches and milk pyramids! What more could you want?! Thanks for all your tidbits of info – I think Eastern Europe may be on the agenda for next summer.

    • I think you would enjoy E Europe. We’ve covered quite a lot of it now, and it’s been interesting. The combination of old Europe and the Soviet influence makes for different cultures and ideas. Also, we enjoy that the distances between countries aren’t so long. ~James

  4. Sorry about the weather! (ours has been rather nice really- I know, rub it in!) No doubting that the architecture is stunning though. I was sure you’d be in the churches keeping dry James, but I must have the wrong impression. (smile) 🙂

    • Jo, these past few days have reminded me of winter days in London. No matter what type of coat or brolly I had, I ended up wet. Also, there was a service in the yellow church (St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral) and I did listen to a bit of it. Orthodox services, are interesting to observe. ~James

    • Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog Marcia. I loved this church as well. When I visited, an informal service was going on, and it was very cool. The Orthodox Church holds their services standing up. ~James

      • The Orthodox services I’ve seen can go on for a while. But interestingly, it seems that’s it’s just fine to come and go as you please. Most people come in, stay a while, maybe make a candle offering, and then drift out. I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but that’s how it looks to me. ~ James

  5. I love how the blue domes of the churches are gilded, which make them even more strikingly beautiful against the white sky. And the colors are also quintessentially Ukrainian. Beautiful pictures James!

    • Thanks Bama. The domes on these cathedrals, and the bright colors are beautiful, and make them unique. The architects at the time were influenced by the Byzantine style (not sure why), but the results are great. ~ James

    • Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. The rain in Kyiv was a bit of a trial, but we were prepared. We travel in Europe frequently in the autumn, and expect it to be cool and rainy. We really enjoyed Kyiv, and are so glad we finally visited. We’ve moved on to Wroclaw, Poland, but still have a few posts to do on interesting Kyiv. ~ James

    • Thanks Sally. The liquid yoghurt wasn’t bad … just not in my coffee. As I told Jeff above, once in Florence I poured alfredo sauce into my coffee. YECH! But we had pasta later. I haven’t been to Korea. Do they have a “milk” culture? ~James

      • They don’t really understand milk or how to properly use it, no. But they’re really excellent at inventing things made with rice! (Rice ice cream [R-ice cream?!], rice cakes, rice-flour based pancakes, rice alcohol…)

    • Thanks very much Laurie. Much of the architecture in Kyiv is massive, Soviet-era construction. The buildings have ornate facades, and are quite imposing. The cathedrals are altogether different. I love the unique combination of colors and the Byzantine influences. ~James

    • Thanks Naomi. I would love to hear your grandfather’s stories about his life in Kyiv. All of Ukraine, and Kyiv in particular has had it pretty tough in the past. Did you grandfather ever talk about it? ~James

      • I know he had a rough time. He came over around 1910 to escape being pressed into the Tzar’s army. He had a huge family that he kept in close contact with until the war, and now they are all buried at Babi Yar. He died the year after I was born, and my dad died when I was eight, so I didn’t really have anyone to ask about it. But I would love to go there to learn what I can.

  6. Hi guys. As you know, Leslie and I are well traveled, much like your great selves. But…we are definitely wannabe “Gallivancers.” Meaning, we aim and hope to still be doing what you guys are doing when we reach, shall we say, a more advanced age. We’re about twenty odd years behind you, but with no real plans to stop our nomadic wanderings, I think we can and will do it. One of my life’s goals is to have visited more countries than my age when I die; for example, if I live until I’m 80, I want to have visited 90 countries, and so on. I’m 9 ahead right now on 48,and Leslie 1 ahead at 32, so we are doing well.
    Love your passion guys,

    • Hey Steve. Interesting comment. We share more than you know. On November 8, I turn 60. On October 3, when our train enters Slovakia, my country odometer hits 60 – fully one month ahead of my birthday. It’s pretty funny that we didn’t really plan 60 in 60, but it’s fun that it happened. And BTW, if you’re like us, you’re always looking for post ideas. While we were on our last RTW, we hit 50 countries, so we did a couple of fun posts on our major memories from each (and some photos of us as pups). As much as you guys have traveled, there must be a few good tales from your collective countries. Feel free to use the idea on you blog.

      All the best,

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