Category Archives: Ukraine

Art in the Park: Kiev’s Landscape Alley

Since Landscape Alley is situated pretty high up on a hill, it also provides some amazing views of the city.

We are back for a second look at Landscape Alley today. In the first part, I mentioned that all of the artwork and sculptures were created by Ukrainian artists. It is probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, especially when taking into account that it’s free. The perspective of an outsider is that this is some great public art.

This playground is much more colorful than the standard ones at each of the apartment complexes.

When Landscape Alley first opened to the public in Kiev, I have been told that some local residents really liked it, while others thought it was an embarrassment to the city. They would exclaim that this was not art, and the artists were just trying to make a mockery of the city. Now that Landscape Alley has had time to grown on the residents, there was a collective agreement that more sculptures should be added to Landscape Alley.

This bench is a great piece in how imaginative and functional it is.


A sort of phenomenon that tourists might notice while trekking to the various attractions, is that young Ukrainian women dress up (maybe in their new favorite dress) then they go to some premeditated destination in the city with a trusted friend and will spend a lot of time taking pictures in front of statutes or posing in new settings. I am willing to bet that within a couple of hours those photos will appear on the Russian version of Facebook. This “hobby” can add time to your minute with the statue for family photos, but more importantly you are getting a taste of modern Ukrainian culture! Ukraine is a very image conscious place, they have more than one channel dedicated to fashion/model culture, so this may play a role in why you have a twenty something hanging out with the fanny pack crowd.

Part of the lure of Landscape Alley is how family friendly it is, and having multiple playgrounds in one relatively short walk is part of that reputation.
This is a little neighborhood in Kiev, tucked into a valley which is below Landscape Alley. It’s so quiet down there!

**Note to Readers: I am not from Ukraine and I have no language skills to speak of, so if you have any details to add about Ukraine, please don’t hesitate to bring them into the conversation! Thanks. Elise




Art in the Park: Kiev’s Landscape Alley (Part 1 of 2)

This week is going to be devoted to looking at some of the urban art that Kiev has to offer. One of the more enduring and interactive exhibitions of Ukrainian urban art is Landscape Alley on the Right Bank of Kiev. To do this post, I had to get some help from Slava, who is much more knowledgeable than I about the history of this park. From the eyes of the outsider, this Landscape Alley (translated from Paysazhnaya Alleya) is a pleasant surprise that winds past some restaurants and parks. I first visited this park in October and then again this summer; during that time, Landscape Alley grew as locals embraced the park which resulted in the creation of new sculptures. Landscape Alley is almost always busy, with people of all ages taking a stroll or sitting to enjoy a beer while their children play. Most of the sculptures are made of colorful tiles and look very child friendly. The sculptures are humorous and playful, featuring references to famous children’s literature in some of the pieces. You would be hard pressed not to find a child bouncing from the playground (which functions as a piece of art itself) to a fountain or bench. Landscape Alley makes Kiev’s rather gray and neutral background pop to life. Dotted along the entrance to the park are usually young people sitting in a circle around a guitar or couples resting on a blanket.

A reference to the Princess and the Pea is what came to mind when I looked at this sculpture.
Locals posing for a picture.
There is practically a line to have your picture taken in front of most sculptures.

According to Fashion Park website Landscape Alley was a group effort, with pieces “created by Ukrainian artists: Nazar Bilyk, Zhanna Kadyrova, Konstantin Skritutskiy, Mihail Vertuozov, Alexey Vladimirov, Vasiliy Tatarskiy, Aleksander Alekseev, Vladimir Kuznetsov, Alexander Lidagovsky. There are also the unique garden benches designed from the sketches of well-known Ukrainian fashion designers: Alexey Zalevskiy, Lilia Pustovit, Andre Tan, Zinaida Lihacheva, Olga Gromova, Lilia Litkovskaya and Sergey Danchinov (for TM IDol)”. For locals, Landscape Alley can serve as a tribute to the local art community because it features artists that are native Ukrainians. These sculptures are a great family friendly destination to visit that is free in Kiev. If you notice the buildings that serve as the background for these pictures, you will notice how they contrast in spirit and character from the sculptures. The neighborhood that is home to Landscape Alley is not so pretentious, giving a tourists a peek into everyday life.

I was especially impressed by this mural, because the pictures allow the viewer to add so many details to the face, making it seem so real.

Check back on Friday for the second part of Landscape Alley and some cultural comments on how locals approach it.

**Note to readers: I am not from Ukraine, and lack language skills. In the spirit of not sounding like a know-it-all I will be happy to correct any unintended errors, feel free to contact me if you have anything to add to the conversation! Thanks, Elise

Yes, people do still throw coins in the fountain.

A Walk through Ukrainian Streets

These photo’s are from a walk taken on the Right Bank of Kiev. The oldest parts of the city were built on top of the hill, with some gorgeous buildings. In Kiev, I can confidently say that the majority of the 5 million or so residents live in buildings that look vastly different from these beauties. It seems (from my non native perspective) that the gorgeous architecture was reserved for business and government buildings. The majority of buildings that “regular folks” live in are described as ugly by residents and I wouldn’t argue with that description. They are usually buildings that look as if they are badly in need or some external love (can’t really judge the internal trappings). One important detail is that since the end of the Soviet Era, living in these uglier buildings has become more class based; as real estate moguls have erected glittering residential buildings, they are only available to those with significant resources.

This building (above) is of the Kiev Opera House it is so beautiful and it’s opulence gives credit to Kiev’s historic contributions and respect of the arts. The opera House is also close to many great restaurants, making date night easy for those who don’t have a car in the city. Another beautiful Opera House is in the city Lviv/Lvov, but I couldn’t get a quality photo of it.

The above and below photos are of the spires of historic buildings, Orthodox Catholic churches that were built long before the Soviet Era. During Christmas time I stepped into a religious service, and I was blown away by the beauty and largely female audience.One of my favorite parts of my time in Ukraine was that if you are in Kiev during a religious holiday, you can open your window to hear a choir singing in many parts of the city.

This is a picture (above) of Saint Michael’s Cathedral. It’s history goes back to the 11th century, but is still accessible to the public. Do you think that America has cathedral’s that compare visually to the one’s in Kiev? To be on the Right Bank of Kiev, is to hear tires going over the brick roads that help to keep the historic feel of the city. The brick roads can be seen in most of the photos in this post.

Make sure you come back next week because I am going to be doing a two part post, on one of the best public art installments I have seen!

Kiev’s Main Square

Kiev’s main Square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti (sometimes referred to as Maiden for short), has huge old buildings that will take your breath away. It is at the center of the main street that runs through the city, Khreschatyk. Those majestic buildings you see in the pictures were spared from World War II. On the weekends, the main street actually closes down to cars so that pedestrians can enjoy it. If you visit it regularly, you might begin to recognize some familiar faces. One of my favorites is a woman who is panhandling, but for her cat who is elaborately dressed and leads a life of extravagance. You can find her always on Khreshchatyk, but not always in the same spot. The Main Square if probably one of the more tourist friendly areas. Maidan offers some great restaurants and 24 hour coffee shops (not as good as Golden Ducat though). It is where almost everything happens in Kiev, concerts and political events.

In the midst of hosting the EuroCup 2012, you can still see the political protesters who are protesting the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenka. It was explained to me that sometimes (though not in all cases) that people are paid to protest.

Speaking of political events, the above and below pictures are a protest for Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine who most believe was wrongly jailed. In comparison to an Occupy protest, I would consider them very low in noise level and pretty tame. There are no real barricades to keep the crowds back on a Friday night.

A closer view of the Yulia Tymoshenka protest.

Khreshchatyk is a great place to find a restaurant of any persuasion. Within a block of the metro station is are Indian, Japanese, traditional Ukrainian and Latin style restaurants. After about 24 hours in Ukriane, you will realize that sushi seems to be available at virtually every restaurant, so you don’t need to limit yourself to one nationality.

These beautiful historic buildings are now home to international staples such as La Perla lingerie and nearby Gap.

One thing that may be surprising to a foreigners is the parking rules in Kiev, of which there are none. You will literally see people driving on the sidewalk, and more often than that, you will see people parking on the sidewalk. Or anywhere really. It never stopped shocking me. Maybe I will provide some pictures later. What do you think of Main Squares? Are they relevant? Would you bear the tourists to see it?

I have some exciting blog news, Airports Made Simple reblogged my post providing airport and flight advice, the post is titled Come Fly with Me: Tips for a Somewhat Comfortable Flight. Feel free to peek at the AMS website and see what else is going on!

Where to have coffee in Kiev

Happy Tuesday Everyone! Ukraine tends to be a country that has tea time and a tea aisles that resemble a shrine colored with all that nature will allowed to be steeped in water. Me, being an American with coffee running in my veins, had to stifle my panic after finding there is not a very high quality coffee scene in the Ukrainian cities I have been too.

The Golden Ducat at Arsenalna station.

There is a place I was introduced to, eventually becoming a regular, called the Golden Ducat (translated to English). It is a relatively small franchise, I was first there in January while spending Christmas in a beautiful city called Lviv or Lvov. The shop there has mirrors on the ceiling and is decorated with rich, dark wood. It is a little piece of heaven in an enchanting city.

The inside of the Arsenalna Golden Ducat.

In Kiev, there are two Golden Ducats, one is near the Arsenalna station on the tube, (pictured above). They have a parrot there with an opinion about everything. The wall near the parrot cage has hundreds of coins stuck in the crevices of the wall if you look closely. The second coffee shop is my favorite one, off of Kreschatk Station on the tube (where the main square of the city is). You exit in the opposite direction of the main square and go up two sets of huge escalators and turn right. It’s about two or three blocks directly down the street. Truth be told, the second Golden Ducat is easily walking distance from Arsenalna station as well.

The Kreschatk Golden Ducat.

Why is Golden Ducat worth coping with the potential tourists that will be milling about? First of all, it is arguably the most famous coffee shop in Ukraine for a reason. They boast no artificial ingredients and care deeply about the quality of their chocolate. Second of all, they have a friendly staff, who will smile and remember your face. Third, the environment is both romantic (candles!) and laid back enough where you can come by yourself and not be made aware of it by everyone around you. All of the shops share a narrow, dark staricase and very solid wooden furniture. They are popular with the international crowd, don’t worry they have English menu’s. Personally, I would recommend their frappe. It is a delicious mix of milk, chocolate, ice cream and coffee.

The interior looks almost medieval.

There are tons of other coffee shops in Ukraine, but none have the homey, original feel of Golden Ducat. The some of the other coffeeshops feel strangely like Starbucks or at least taste like corporate interest. On a plus side, some of my less favorite one’s are open 24 hours. If you have visited Ukraine and had a great latte, feel free in chime in and leave a recommendation!

**A note to readers. I am not from Ukraine, and have absolutely no language skills, so I am going to step out on a limb and openly admit that I may have misspelled some items. When possible I use Google to check for accuracy, but for instance, you will notice no link to the Golden Ducat website, that is because I couldn’t find one. Please bear with me and feel free to share any information that may be helpful to others! Good luck on your search for that perfect cup of Joe!

Kiev: Life on the River

This was actually a view out my kitchen window.

Ukraine. More specifically, Kiev (also spelled Kyiv), is quite a departure from America. The first thing is the Cyrillic alphabet. Yikes! It is like instantly being illiterate, but as an adult with expectations of literacy. You cannot even guess which sounds to make. Then there are the implications of a country that is struggling to carve an identity out of the nightmare that was the Soviet Union.

A view of the city on the Right Bank.

Americans have a cultural disposition to smile. Ukrainians do not, at least the urban folks. Once you come to understand the historical reasoning, don’t take it personally. To put it lightly, the Soviet Union did not focus on fostering a sense of community. Once you get past the bristle, I feel as if the people I met were some of the kindest around, going to the ends of the earth just to make you comfortable.

The Left Bank.

Kiev is spread over both sides of the Dnieper River; a city of around 3 million. It’s the largest city in Ukraine, and you can be reminded of that daily when you ride the tube. Another unique form of mass transit in Ukraine are these yellow buses called marschrutka. They are to Ukraine what the double decker bus is to London.

There is an island between the Right and Left Bank, called Hydropark, where locals go to cool off in the summer heat. Another nearby island boasts a nudist beach.

One of the more curious things about Ukraine, is that it seems most restaurants serve sushi regardless of the contents of the remaining menu. Peanut Butter is very difficult to find. And don’t even think about looking for a reliable cupcake! What food would you miss if you were in a country that had very distinct cuisine?

If you are a smoker, you only have a few more months of blissfully smoking indoors. As you read this, you might think “duh, just like New York”; the difference is EVERYBODY smokes here. I can’t imagine how restaurants and bars will change once this legislation takes effect. There are two English language newspapers in Kiev, otherwise English is not something you might expect to hear everyday unless you job demands it. I also learned that if a young person is speaking English, look at their clothing and proceed with caution because they may be an American missionary; this could cause unnecessary grief for those not looking to be saved.

Along the bridge you can see people fishing, and sometimes people jump off the bridges into the water, others try their luck with bungee jumping.
Kiev cityscape of the Right Bank.

Today is an exciting day because I am going to be making an effort to post twice a week (likely Tuesdays and Fridays), but shorter posts. Stop by earlier in the week to peek at This American Adventuress!