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


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




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


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


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

Chocolates in Ukraine

Before I came to Ukraine, I had never expected to have so much chocolates. However, they are sold everywhere, and in supermarkets and markets, there are large sections or shops specialising in chocolates and candies. Ukraine is famous for chocolates, especially Lviv chocolates which I’ve never tasted before. Most of the chocolates are really cheap, so I can never resist buying them!

Just when I thought I already had lots of chocolate in the dorm, I bought even more this morning. Simply irresistable!

Just when I thought I already had lots of chocolate in the dorm, I bought even more this morning. Simply irresistable!

Simple joys of riding down a snowy hill in Ternopil

Sometimes, the greatest joys in life are free and simple. Today, we went to a snow-covered hill in a suburb in Ternopil and experienced how it feels to ride down the slope on just a large, tough piece of paper.

No one needs to go to skiing resorts when we could just play in the snow in a small Ukrainian city

The slope was neither too steep nor gentle. From there, we could see lots of old, high-rise residential buildings which are my absolute favourite. Instead of snowboards, sleighs or tobaggans, we simply had many pieces of really tough paper that could seat one person each. We sat on the top of the slope and gently moved ourselves down, leaving gravity to do the job.

In the beginning, I was hesitant to start. I sat on the paper cautiously and edged towards the starting point of the slope. And soon, I was halfway down the slope. My feet kicked the snow, which eventually landed all over my face and body. I thought that by stretching out my legs, I could maintain my forward direction, but I still did spin around. And with lots of snow, I found myself at the bottom of the slope, all ready to go for another round. The only dreadful part was having to climb the same distance uphill. And while it was only about 5 storeys high, trekking in soft snow makes that a few times more difficult.

All of us at the hill! It was about 8pm

All of us at the hill! It was about 8pm

We also experimented with other ‘vehicles’. Do you know the lids of the recycling bins or rubbish bins that are placed outdoors? There happened to be one of those lids/covers there, so three of us sat on it, and slid downhill.

Forget about your skiing expedition in the Alps. Do it the simple way in Ukraine.

Not on Lonely Planet, not on Discovery Channel, not on Wikitravel – locals’ recommendations

How did we manage to find such a location, that is definitely not on Lonely Planet or Wikitravel?

Of course it was with help from a local!

We experienced Ukrainian hospitality first hand. A few days ago, we had dinner at a restaurant in central Ternopil, and while paying for our food, I thought that it was time to exercise my limited Russian and Ukrainian and use sign language to speak to the cashier (from our experience, most cashiers speak limited English). However, this time we met a really enthusiastic staff, who spoke good English and Portuguese! We began talking about what we were doing here, and she invited us to look for her on a weekday so that she could bring us to a spot where we could ride down a snow-covered hill.

Hospitality – unrivalled

Therefore, we met her this evening, and she also invited us to her house. It was my first time visiting a high-rise Ukrainian apartment, and it was a really special experience. I’ve seen the exteriors of such buildings for numerous times in real life for the past week and in photos for many years, and I was really happy to be able to visit one. Her home was really comfortable and warm, but she and her family’s hospitality was even warmer.

She met us at a central location in the city, and took us onto the bus. And oh boy, taking the miniature buses in Ukrainian cities is another experience in itself. It redefines ‘packed like sardines’. Singapore’s MRTs are nowhere as packed as the buses here. They contain 19 seats and expect 40 standing passengers, but 40 really seems too many.

Riding the buses – another adventure itself

Very often we squeeze onto a bus, and can’t even reach for our wallets in our pockets. This is especially true during winter, when everyone is puffed up with thick jackets. And the bus fares are really low – UAH 2 for bus rides (less than USD 0.25 per trip), and UAH 1.50 for trolleybuses (they run on electricity, and only on some routes, but they feel like buses anyway). There is no such thing as a ‘tourist daily pass’ because the fares simply can’t go lower! (this reminds me of how expensive transport in Western Europe is… probably EUR 2 per trip without daily passes!)

Before riding down the slope, we had a first taste of warmth when we visited her house, and she hurriedly brought out some snacks and tea, and her brother lent one of us his snowboarding gears.

Ukraine, where the locals put in every single effort to make sure the guests feel at home

A typical residential neighbourhood in Ternopil (Dan Skorbach/The Epoch Times)

She and her brother brought us to the slope, which is just beside the residential neighbourhood. After the fun, we went back to her apartment, where the whole family was greatly involved in making us feel as warm as possible. It was about -8*C outside, and her mother was really concerned that we were cold even in the heated room, so she lent us some warm clothing. They made tea, fruits and literally filled the table with Ukrainian snacks and chocolates. Just when I thought that the table was full of food that even 20 people couldn’t finish, they put down even more food. The language barrier was also broken, because the lady and her brother spoke English, while the whole family could speak Portuguese. They communicated with the Brazilian interns fluently.

This isn’t a photo of the toilet in the apartment we visited, but just a standard Ukrainian toiilet with the metal rods on the right for heating. We placed our wet socks and hats on it to dry them

In addition, the mother really wanted to welcome us and did not want to stop her hospitality tonight. She invited us to a dinner next week, which we were at first hesitant to agree to. Therefore, we’ll be expecting lots of Ukrainian food, filling up an entire table, and like the Ukrainian tradition of making guests feel more at home than they are in their own homes, I think there will be so much food that we cannot finish :).

We must count ourselves lucky that we met such kind and friendly people randomly. It was unplanned and coincidental. I guess that’s the fun and joy of travelling – it’s difficult to plan ahead. Just leave it to luck to decide whom we shall meet and what we shall do.

One week in Ukraine – nothing short of an eye-opener

How cliche it is to say that time flies, but that’s exactly what happens when you’re having great fun in a new country with awesome new friends from different parts of the world – there are lots of Brazilian delegates, and others hail from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Australia, the Netherlands, China, New Zealand and South Africa.

This shall just be a quick post; I’ll update in greater detail when I have the time.

We had an International Training Camp from 10 to 13 December, where we discussed lots of things about our countries and Ukraine. On the evening to night of 13 Dec, the delegates split into 6 groups, each heading to a different city in Ukraine. Some stayed in Kyiv, while I took the overnight train to the western city of Ternopil, and the train ride was an adventure itself.

Being in Ternopil, a city which isn’t touristy like Kyiv, Odesa or Lviv, is an experience like no other. It’s my third day in Ternopil, and every single detail of this small city of normal, humble locals is interesting. We walked around the city centre, went to an English learning club (where the Brazilians presented their culture and where the Mexicans and I will have a chance to do the same next week), had lots of borshch and I ice-skated for the first time, not without numerous falls and slips.

Got to go out soon. Heading to the city centre, where the Christmas tree will be lit this evening.

Do pobachennya (goodbye!)

My first 2 days in Kyiv, Ukraine

Half a year ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I would be going to Europe for a second time in 2012, after my Spain-Portugal trip in June. But here I am, right now, in the capital of Ukraine, as an exchange participant with AIESEC on the project Explore Ukraine. Yes, I learnt Russian in May after I had ORDed, but at that time I had absolutely no plans of going to any Russian-speaking country. As I walk through the almost-magical palace-like metro stations of Kyiv, a part of me still could not believe that I’m really in this country that I’ve wanted to visit for so long.

I took the 1.25am KLM flight from Singapore to Amsterdam, which was longer than 12 hours. After a 5-hour stopover at Amsterdam, I hopped on the Ukrainian Airline flight that brought me to Kyiv within 3 hours, arriving there at 5pm.

The runway was snow-free, but everywhere else was accumulated with snow. Snow is really special to people like us who stay in a place where snow is only found in Snow City and in desserts.

One thing about Ukraine is that there are really very few foreigners and tourists. I expected that, and was not surprised when most of the people queuing for the flight at Amsterdam airport to Kyiv were Ukrainians, and I was the only Asian on the flight. After arriving in Kyiv, I’ve seen just one other Asian on the streets. Being Chinese, I think I stick out like a sore thumb, but I guess anyone who doesn’t speak Ukrainian or Russian on the streets sticks out too.

I had never expected snow to be that slippery. I’ve not been to many snow-filled places before, and in 2010 when I toured South Korea in winter, the snow was thin and there were no layers of ice formed on the roads.

The borshch I tasted here is somewhat different from the Russian borshch I ate in the Russian restaurant in Little India, Singapore.

The metro is one of the most attractive features of the city. It’s deep underground, and the long escalators give a dreamy kind of feeling. As you reach the bottom, you’re welcomed into another underground palace with intricate designs on the walls, floor and ceilings.

Tomorrow will be the start of the conference, so I should get some sleep now. I’ll see Ukraine, and all the other interns, tomorrow 🙂