Sanatoriums of Ukraine – Kurpaty Sanatorium of Yalta, Crimea | Санаторий “Курпаты”, г. Ялта, АР Крым

Before I talk about sanatoriums, I shall make an announcement first. I haven’t updated this blog for probably 3 weeks, but I haven’t left a concluding note yet, because even though my project Explore Ukraine ended on 28 Jan 2013, I still have many aspects of Ukraine that I haven’t included yet! After my project ended in my third city, L’viv, I went on to Kharkiv and Yalta by my own, and then flew to Amsterdam. I spent a total of 6 days in Amsterdam and Paris before flying to Singapore, where I celebrated Chinese New Year just a few days after touching down. Hence it has been hectic and not too much time to write new entries :).

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I heard of the term “sanatorium” a few years before I went to Ukraine, because I was reading up about this country. At that point of time, I didn’t know much about what these places offer. While in L’viv, we took a trip to nearby Truskavets town (about 120 km, 2 hours south of L’viv), and it’s a spa, resort and sanatorium town. I remembered that the peninsula of Crimea had a high concentration of sanatoriums, and when I took a marshrutka (minibus) westwards away from Yalta, I found out I wasn’t wrong.

A few years ago, while surfing the net, reading about weird buildings, I chanced upon this:

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You might have experienced the euphoria upon seeing a building/scenery that you’ve seen in books/on the internet in real life, and when I took the marshrutka from Yalta to the west of the city, I was exhilarated to see this unique building on my right as the minibus was navigating its way down a twisting slope!

As I continued my travels on the Crimean peninsula, I saw numerous sanatoriums on the coast, but it seemed as though most of them were not opened. Actually, January is definitely the super off-peak period for travelling in Ukraine, because most places probably will expect tourists to visit only in summer. I guess that’s the case for sanatoriums, which are summer getaway resorts.

After I got back to Singapore, I checked online, and found that this building is Kurpaty Sanatorium. It is probably one of the most curious-looking buildings I’ve seen, as it resembles a giant alien saucer landed on the steep Crimean slopes. It seems almost impossible, because the central pillar is quite small, while the entire circular structure is much larger.

Here’s the official website of Kurpaty Sanatorium (Санаторий “Курпаты” in Russian). The website is Russian-only though, not in English. (Most residents of Crimea speak the Russian language instead of Ukrainian language)

Fortunately, here’s a page describing the Sanatorium in English. As seen from the very bottom of the table, the operating months of this sanatorium are March to December. No wonder they appear deserted when I went there in January.And you must be wondering, what do sanatoriums do? Which groups of people do sanatoriums target at?

From the English page, it seems that the sanatorium welcomes all age groups, including family with children. There are numerous medical services offered at this complex. People can go there for health checks, therapy, consultations, massages or simply for relaxation.

The ‘sanatoriums’ in Ukraine differ from those in western Europe and the USA. Personally I have never been to any sanatoriums anywhere in the world before, but it seems the Ukrainian sanatoriums are for short term vacations, including health vacations. However, those in western Europe and the USA are probably long-term recovery ‘hospitals’ for lung diseases, mental illnesses and other ailments. In addition, there are at least two other ways to spell the word ‘sanatorium’ in English: sanitorium and sanitarium, and there seems to be subtle nuances between them, according to the Wikipedia page (which unfortunately, does not account for the sanatoriums in Ukraine at all).

There are probably thousands of sanatoriums all across Ukraine, and probably hundreds in Crimea alone, and many in Yalta.

Indoor swimming pool. From http://www.kurpaty.com/photo/22/

Indoor swimming pool. From http://www.kurpaty.com/photo/22/

The gym. You can see the curved walls from this photo. From http://www.kurpaty.com/photo/16/

The gym. You can see the curved walls from this photo. From http://www.kurpaty.com/photo/16/

I hope to visit one of these facilities the next time if I were to visit Ukraine in summer.

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Visit to National Sports Centre Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kyiv, Ukraine on 15 Jan 2013

145 741 square metres. Capacity of 70050 people. 738 VIP seats

NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kyiv, Ukraine. The largest stadium in Ukraine, the second largest of its kind in Eastern Europe.

The exchange participants of Explore Ukraine in Kyiv were brought on a guided tour to the stadium on 15 January 2013. It was an amazing experience to walk through the interview rooms, soccer players’ rooms and be in the stadium, with our English-speaking guide explaining to us the history of the stadium, especially about the EURO 2012.

The NSC Olympic Stadium is situated about 300 metres away from the similarly-named Olimpiiska station on the 2nd line (blue line) of the Kyiv Metro.

The symbolic Olympic rings at Olimpiyskiy Metro Station

The symbolic Olympic rings at Olimpiyskiy Metro Station

The facade

The facade

The facade with the newly-built hotel extension on the right

The facade with the newly-built hotel extension on the right

Our guide brought us into the preparation area, which during the matches are not open to public. We had a view of the conference hall, changing rooms and interview rooms before entering the main arena. The stadium is the home of the famous Dynamo Kyiv soccer team.

Our guide explaining the history of the football team Dynamo Kyiv

Our guide explaining the history of the football team Dynamo Kyiv

It’s hard to believe that the stadium was built in 1923 – it looks almost totally new. But the truth is the stadium was constructed in 1923 after the Red Army of Russia secured the city of Kyiv. It has experienced many historical events, and its name has been changed numerous times. During World War II, the stadium was named unofficially the Sport Palace Stadium, while on 12 July 1942, after all battles had retreated from Kyiv, it was officially opened as the All-Ukrainian Stadium. In 1978, it was closed for reconstruction in preparation for the 1980 Summer Olympic Games hosted by the Soviet Union. The stadium was also renamed as the Republican Stadium. In 1996, the stadium gained its current name, NSC Olympic Complex, though many people from the older generation are used to calling it the Republican Stadium or Central Stadium.

Interview room for Dynamo Kyiv

Interview room for Dynamo Kyiv

In the players' changing room

In the players’ changing room

Shevchenko, one of the most prominent players in Ukraine

Shevchenko, one of the most prominent players in Ukraine

Massage chairs for the soccer players

Massage chairs for the soccer players

What a good life soccer players lead - they have jacuzzi pools for relaxing

What a good life soccer players lead – they have jacuzzi pools for relaxing

After viewing the behind-the-scene areas, we finally entered the main seating area.

Making the majestic steps from the preparation rooms to the main arena

Making the majestic steps from the preparation rooms to the main arena

Awestruck by the sheer size of the stadium

Awestruck by the sheer size of the stadium

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Finally, we visited the souvenir store which sold various designs of soccer jerseys and T-shirts.

Soccer t-shirts at the souvenir store. Each costs about UAH 380 (USD 47.50)

Soccer t-shirts at the souvenir store. Each costs about UAH 380 (USD 47.50)

Dynamo Kyiv!

Dynamo Kyiv!

Click here for the official homepage of the stadium: http://www.nsc-olimpiyskiy.com.ua/en/

Here’s a panaromic view of the interior of the stadium, with my familiar and friendly commentaries. 🙂

Музей Історії Міста Києва (Museum of Kyiv History)

This morning we had a guided tour to the Museum of Kyiv History. It is situated right next to Teatralna Metro Station and near the Taras Shevchenko Opera Theatre and the main street, Khreschatyk. I have been to the Museum of Ukrainian History (at Andrivskyy Uzviz, Andrew’s Descent), but this museum specialises in the history of the city. I have always been interested in history and politics, and this time, with our knowledgeable guide, Yulia, I have learnt even more about Kyiv.

We were even featured in an English newspaper of Ukraine, the Kyiv Post! Here’s the link: http://www.kyivpost.com/guide/about-kyiv/kyiv-history-museum-reopens-after-9-years-319016.html

You might want to check the Facebook page of the museum too: https://www.facebook.com/museyhistory

Here are some basic details of the museum, obtained from Kyiv Post’s article:

Kyiv History Museum and Exhibition Center
7 Bohdana Khmelnytskogo St.
(044) 520-28-26
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Monday)
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Tuesday-Thursday)
10 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Friday, weekend)
Hr 30 (about USD 3.75), Hr 15 for kids, students
Hr 50-100 (guided tour for a group)
Hr 120 (guided tour for a group of 20), Hr 150 for a group of 30
For reservations call (044) 223-98-92
The first Monday of the month is free of charge

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Kyiv has a long history, but unfortunately, during many parts of it, Ukraine had not been a sovereign state, and had been controlled by external powers.

One key location in the city is the Golden Gates, the Zoloti Vorota. It is the birthplace of the Slavic civilisations of the Ukrainians, the Russians and the Belorussians.

Golden Gates, Zoloti Vorota

Golden Gates, Zoloti Vorota

Being exceptionally interested in languages and scripts, I paid extra attention to texts, such as this one featured below.

A document in the Glagolitic script, which is the oldest Slavic script, and dates back to the 9th century

A document in the Glagolitic script, which is the oldest Slavic script, and dates back to the 9th century

A prototypical model of ancient Kyiv (being a student of urban design, I am amazed at the high level of details the artists have put in to create such a large scale model. It was already difficult and tedious enough for me to make small-scale detailed models for my course...)

A prototypical model of ancient Kyiv (being a student of urban design, I am amazed at the high level of details the artists have put in to create such a large scale model. It was already difficult and tedious enough for me to make small-scale detailed models for my course…)

Pharmacists and surgeons' equipments, probably from the 1930s if I'm not wrong.

Pharmacists and surgeons’ equipments, probably from the 1930s if I’m not wrong.

A Soviet communist poster from the early days of the Soviet Union. It's specially made for the Ukrainian SSR, and I'm guessing (I don't know much Russian) that it's about 5-year plans about agriculture

A Soviet communist poster from the early days of the Soviet Union. It’s specially made for the Ukrainian SSR, and I’m guessing (I don’t know much Russian) that it’s about 5-year plans about agriculture

Soviet-era propaganda posters

Soviet-era propaganda posters

Ukraine is the motherland of aviation. During the Soviet Union era, most aeroplanes such as the Tupolev, Ilyushin and Antonov models were produced in the Ukrainian SSR.

"Ruslan" plane produced in Ukraine during the Soviet era, for Aeroflot airlines

“Ruslan” plane produced in Ukraine during the Soviet era, for Aeroflot airlines

Mykola Amosov (1913-2002) was a famous Ukrainian cardiovascular surgeon who invented many new methods for curing heart defects, and was labelled a Hero of Socialist Labour (Герой Социалистического Труда). He has also written numerous books on his expertise in cardiovascular surgery.

Books on Mykola Amosov

Books by Mykola Amosov, or books about him

One of the most familiar and recent events of Ukraine is undoubtedly the Euro 2012, which Ukraine co-hosted with Poland

One of the most familiar and recent events of Ukraine is undoubtedly the Euro 2012, which Ukraine co-hosted with Poland

All of us with our guide at the museum

All of us with our guide at the museum

 

 

English Speaking Club at Denis’ School on 12 Jan 2013

Two days ago, the Exchange Participants in Kyiv had a fruitful afternoon session with the English learners at Denis’ School (official Facebook page). Adult learners of English had a chance to speak and practice English with each other and with us.

The afternoon started with us Explore Ukraine interns introducing our countries to the students. It was not easy to do an introduction of Singapore in 10 minutes, because even with just 710 sq km of land in Singapore, there is much to say. As usual, I passed my passport, driving license and Singapore dollar notes around the classroom. To me, there is nothing special about these items which I see and use everyday, but the Ukrainian students have never seen them before.

Originally, I was worried that there would be little participation and lots of awkward silences. I had thought of a few English games that could create a friendly atmosphere, but the students were much more enthusiastic than expected. They even suggested games which we played, and the rest of the time was a lively discussion on our different cultures – Ukrainian, Singaporean, Chinese, Colombian, Tajik… that’s how diverse our advanced group was!

What the travel guides don’t tell you – walking in winter

Travel guides sure are helpful and informative. They tell you where to go, where to eat, where to shop, and very importantly, how to take public transport to your destinations. But you shouldn’t forget, that the most rudimentary form of transport, is by foot.

You must be thinking – why is walking such a big issue? Walking in normal circumstances doesn’t warrant a whole blog entry, but walking in the outdoors during winter in Ukraine is not a small matter.

After spending a month in winter in Ukraine, I am certain that when walking in the outdoors, unless you pay special attention to balancing and stepping on the correct surfaces, it is not difficult to fall down.

The importance of boots

One of the first things I recommend you to do soon after reaching Ukraine is to purchase a pair of snow boots. If you come from a tropical country like me, it is not advisable to purchase snow boots before arrival, because demand for them is low, and it is likely that only the high-range boots are imported. Snow boots in Ukraine are not expensive, especially if  you buy them in smaller cities. I paid 400 UAH (about 50 USD) for a decent pair in the market in Ternopil. They are important because they are waterproof and usually cover at least a few inches above the ankle, so you can tuck your jeans into your boots. The bottom of the shoe allows better grip on the ground than normal sportshoes. Also, they are thicker and often contain a layer of fur in the interior, so it protects your feet from the cold as well.

There are many different kind of floor surfaces that you might encounter in the outdoors in urban areas:

1. dry pavements or roads

Such surfaces are rather rare in winter, but you do not need to pay too much attention to keeping your balance.

2. dry pavements with snowflakes

Such pavements are slightly slippery, and often do not appear shiny, but rather, with many specks of white snow on the surface.

3.  pavements fully covered with a thin layer of snow

Walking on these surfaces takes a bit more effort, and it feels like walking on sand. However, it is actually easy to maintain your balance on such a surface.

4. piles of snow

Piles of snow can be deceiving. They are often found on roadsides. Very often, they consist either fully of accumulated snow, or of huge chunks of ice with a layer of snow. If it’s cold (probably less than -8*C), the snow is usually softer, but the warmer it is, the harder the snow, from my experience. Be wary of sinking your entire feet (up to knee level) into soft snow.

5. ice-covered pavements

This is definitely the worst surface to walk on. Try to avoid these as far as possible – they are shiny and you should not have any problems identifying them. These surfaces are extremely slippery. They are formed mainly in places where the temperature fluctuates above and below zero (hence it might be less common in the extremely cold places in the world, such as Ulan Bator, Mongolia or Fairbanks, Alaska, where the temperature always remains below zero throughout the winter. When the temperatures are below zero, snow falls and accumulates. However, during the days with temperatures above zero, the snow melts into water (which cause entire pavements to be flooded as well – another surface to avoid). As the temperatures decrease below zero, this accumulated water freezes into ice (not snow), and forms a strong layer on the ground surface.

This might seem to be a trivial matter, but one needs to experience winter in temperate countries in order to understand that walking is not that easy.

Kyiv (Kiev) Metro

Official Kyiv metro map from http://www.metro.kiev.ua/node/101

Official Kyiv metro map from http://www.metro.kiev.ua/node/101

When in Kyiv, you’ll discover that the easiest and most convenient method of transportation is the underground metro. There are 3 lines: M1 (red), M2 (blue) and M3 (green). Interchanges between these lines are possible at 3 stations in the centre of Kyiv.

Each ride on the metro costs 2 Ukrainian hryvnias (USD 2), and is one of the cheapest form of urban rail in the world. Passengers can purchase blue plastic tokens from the cashier (who usually don’t speak English ), or from automated machines in the station.

One tip is to purchase tokens in bulk, like five or ten at a time. This saves time and doesn’t leave you with or require small change. If you’re carrying luggage, you’ll need to go through the gate manned by a metro staff instead of the turnstile, and you’ll have to pay double.

 

Station signboards are fully bilingual in English and Ukrainian

Station signboards are fully bilingual in English and Ukrainian

After the Euro 2012 held in Ukraine, every station has bilingual signboards.and maps in English and Ukrainian, so finding your train platform is not as difficult.

 

All metro stations are ornately decorated

All metro stations are ornately decorated

 

Trains depart very frequently. During evening peak hours on weekdays, you’ll probably only need to wait for less than a minute for a train, while during weekend mornings, the frequency is about 5 minutes.

Riding the long escalator up Arsenalna station, which is 105.5 metres below the ground

Riding the long escalator up Arsenalna station, which is 105.5 metres below the ground

Metro stations are mostly deep underground, and to reach the platform, you have to ride down a long escalator from ground level. Here’s a video of me as I ride up Arsenalna station, which is 105.5 metres below the ground and is the deepest metro station in the world.

And now for some history, after all the practical tips.

The Kyiv Metro first started operations on 6 November 1960, and it was the third metro system built in the Soviet Union after Moscow and St Petersburg (Kyiv was also the third largest city in the Soviet Union after these 2 cities). There are currently 50 stations in three metro lines. The four newest stations were opened in December 2010. I’ve never been to these stations, but according to a local whom I have spoken to, the new station designs feature more modern decorations instead of palacial ornaments.

Buvay Ternopil, privyt Kyiv!

Now as I am lying down on my train sleeper on the train from Ternopil to Kyiv, I’m thinking of all the amazing experiences I’ve had in Ternopil, while looking forward to exploring the capital city of Ukraine. Thanks everyone from Ternopil for making my experience so wonderful. Time to sleep now… we’ll arrive at Kyiv at the unearthly hour of 4am.

P.S. Technology is amazing. I’m actually blogging on the train on my phone in the middle of nowhere… probably farms or forests