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. 🙂

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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!

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

Souvenirs from Ukraine

Ukraine is a land of surprises and hidden mysteries, and I hope to bring at least bits and pieces of this amazing, ginormous mosaic back home. Hence, here’s my plan for shopping for souvenirs:

1. Ushanka

The legen---dary ushanka!

The legen—dary ushanka!

This is the choice of hat for many elderly Ukrainians, but I’m still getting one.

2. Postcards from each city

3. Matryoshka

Matryoshka

Matryoshka

Photo and information from http://ukraine.pacsys.com/souvenirs.htm

Surely, you have seen these cute, wooden, stackable dolls before, and here in Ukraine, every souvenir shop has them. There is always a huge range of designs, colours and sizes.

There is a difference between Ukrainian and Russian matryoshka. Both are stackable, but dolls in each set of the Russian version are identical, while the dolls in each set of the Ukrainian version represent a family, probably with the father, mother, son, daughter, pet dog, chicken in the farm in descending sizes.

4. Traditional Ukrainian costume

Ukrainian men's hutsul

Ukrainian men’s hutsul

It would be awesome to own one of these, but it’s not that cheap. Because of the intricate handmade embroidery, it costs about 1000 to 2000 UAH (from my observations from the souvenir shops; 125 to 250 USD). Perhaps I’ll have to give this traditional costume a miss…

5. Flag of Ukraine

The distinctive blue and yellow flag of Ukraine

The distinctive blue and yellow flag of Ukraine

6. Chocolates

I can’t live without chocolates, especially when in Ukraine, when there are whole shelves in supermarkets dedicated to local Ukrainian chocolates, chocolate biscuits and eclairs etc., and when it’s relatively cheap compared to Singapore, and even Australia, which is a large dairy and chocolate producer and where chocolates are already cheap.

It didn’t take me long to find out that one big producer of chocolates is Roshen.

Just one of the many types of Roshen chocolates! I think there are more varieties than Cadbury of Australia and UK.

Just one of the many types of Roshen chocolates! I think there are more varieties than Cadbury of Australia and UK.

We absolutely love this kind of chocolate truffle candies

We absolutely love this kind of chocolate truffle candies

7. Ukrainian-English English-Ukrainian dictionary

It was not easy to find such a dictionary in Singapore, even though I’m sure Collins or Oxford publishing produces it. But I hope to find one in a local bookshop (probably it’s much easier to find a bookshop with foreign language books in Kyiv), and I’m looking for one such book produced by a Ukrainian publisher.

8. Maps of every city

I already have a map of Ternopil. Maps of Kyiv should be easier to obtain.

9. Metro tokens of Kyiv Metro

The Kyiv metro map

The Kyiv metro map

Standard Kyiv metro tokens

Standard Kyiv metro tokens

A special token, probably commemorating an event in 1960? Image from http://planestrainsmarshrutkas.blogspot.com/2011/01/back-to-scene-of-crime.html

A special token, probably commemorating an event in 1960?

This image above is from http://planestrainsmarshrutkas.blogspot.com/2011/01/back-to-scene-of-crime.html , which is a blog about a traveller who toured Lviv and Kyiv, that I chanced upon.

Kyiv’s underground metro is one of the most splendid beauties of the Ukraine. Each station is a masterpiece, a deep underground palace, and a haven for architecture and transport system enthusiasts like me. Of course you can’t own a piece of it, but you can own the iconic blue, plastic coin tokens you need to purchase to enter the system. When in Kyiv for a few days, I’ve observed the tokens. Most of them are of a standard design, but some of them are commemorative tokens for certain sporting events.

And they’re probably the cheapest and most easily available souvenirs in Kyiv – just 2 UAH (0.25 USD) each – that’s also how much it costs to ride on the metro once.

In addition, bus and tram tickets are worth keeping too!

Tram ticket for Kyiv's trams

Tram ticket for Kyiv’s trams

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Here is my list of souvenirs I hope to buy before I leave Ukraine, or the respective cities! If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment here or on Facebook.

Introduction and basic words in Українська мова/ Ukrainian Language

As a foreigner, you can’t explore the real Ukraine without knowing the basics of the language. In Kyiv, there is a higher chance that the staff will speak English, and all over Ukraine, the young people are likely to know some English (because students have to take a foreign language in school, and students often choose English over French or German). However, most of the people you meet will not speak English, and you should grab the opportunity to learn some Ukrainian language while in Ukraine.

The western part of the country prefers Ukrainian language, even though from my experience, many Ukrainian speakers also understand Russian (but might not like to speak Russian). One of my Ukrainian friends told me that in Kyiv, the ratio of Russian to Ukrainian speakers is 60:40. In Kyiv, I’ve seen some shops entirely with only Russian or only Ukrainian signage. As far as I know, the eastern part of the country speaks more Russian that Ukrainian, and in Crimea, Crimean Tatar is also spoken. If I’m not wrong, many singers from Ukraine sing in Russian language, which I think is somewhat a wise choice, because the Russian music market is bigger, with many former Soviet Union nations still speaking Russian (eg. Belarus’ official languages are Russian and Byelorussian, with more than 80% of students learning in Russian). However, it is also good for Ukrainian singers to sing in Ukrainian language, to promote their own language and pride :).

Tak, that’s enough of the background info. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

In my opinion, the most important phrase you should know, is one that calls for others’ attention, similar to English ‘excuse me‘.

excuse me – вибачте | vybachte

It’s always important to be polite, and it doesn’t hurt to be excessively polite, so do say ‘thank you‘, whatever happens!

thank you – дякую | dyakuyu

If you’re visiting Ukraine in the future, like me, I hope you’ll have the chance to meet and speak to locals, and not just visit the touristy areas! To greet them, ‘good day’ is a good phrase for formal social occasions.

good day – добрий день | dobry den

A more friendly way of saying hello would be…

hello – привіт | pryvit

The most important number you should know is one. It’s really necessary to know it in order to make purchases. Here is the list of numbers, extracted from http://www.ielanguages.com/ukrainian.html . This page by Ivan Karmin is excellent background info on Ukrainian, and contains some basic words, but also contains some grammatical terms which interest me but maybe not you :).

1 – Один | odyn

2 – Два | dva

3 – Три | try

4 – Чотири | chotyry

5 – П’ять  | p| jat’

6 – Шість | shist’

7  – Сім | sim

8 – Вісім | visim

9 – Дев’ять | dev|jat’

10 – Десять | desjat’

11 – Одинадцять | odynadtsjat’

12 – Дванадцять | dvanadtsjat’

13 – Тринадцять | trynadtsjat’

14 – Чотирнадцять | chotyrnadtsjat’

20 – Двадцять | dvadtsjat’

30 – Тридцять | trydtsjat’

40 – Сорок | sorok

50 – П’ятдесят | pjatdesjat

60 – Шістдесят | shistdesjat

70 – Сімдесят | simdesjat

100 – Сто | sto

And here’s the Ukrainian alphabet and pronunciation, from http://www.ukraine.com/forums/language/11949-ukrainian-alphabet.html :

ukraine alphabet

A few letters are written like letters in the English alphabet but are not the same.

For example, the Ukrainian “B b” is English /v/

Ukrainian “H” is English /n/

Ukrainian “C c” is English /s/

Ukrainian “P p” is a rhotic sound, somewhat different from the English /r/

Ukrainian “У у” is English /u/

Ukrainian “X x” is /x/ (International Phonetic Alphabet; this sound is not found in English; it’s often written as “kh” as in Khan)

Also, these few letters might be confusing, so do pay extra attention:

И и
І і
Ї ї
Й й

That’s all for the language class. If y0u’re a Portuguese speaker, you can read my fellow intern (and roommate)’s blog posts on the basics of Ukrainian language, which he has written in both Portuguese and English:

Idioma Ucraniano + Aula básica I/ Ukranian Language + Basic class I

http://guyofthehat.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/idioma-ucraniano-aula-basica-i/

Aula Básica II (Comércio) / Basic Class II (Commerce)

http://guyofthehat.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/aula-basica-ii-comercio-basic-class-ii-commerce/

Now, buvay / do pobachennya / papa! (Goodbye!)