Guest post from Kiev by Classic Rock Radio presenter Marilyn Michaels
Research is important, but sometimes it is also useful to arrive unblinkered so to speak, with eyes wide-open. Guidebooks don’t always make sense until you have been there, and advice on the internet can vary site to site. It helps to know some language basics, hello, and thank you but I will confess to really just having rapidly Googled ‘’Is vegetarian food available’ and the weather forecast!
I was rather miffed about the latter, as the forecast had stated rain, rain and more rain, so having mostly packed for this, I arrived into Kiev to warm, rather humid conditions!
We were on an early morning flight so I had travelled down to London the previous afternoon. It was with some excitement, and a sense of not knowing what to expect that I met up with the rest of the group, in the lounge. We made introductions over pastries, and coffee, although I stuck to water, water and more water. We were soon on-board, settled into the seats on our way to Kiev.
During the short 3 hour flight, I downed a bottle of (yes, you guessed it) water, pulled a blanket over my head and dozed most of my way to Kiev.
Once landed, we were swiftly transferred to our hotel; the Hyatt Regency, Kiev. There was time for a little walk around and discover one of the city’s most famous memorials; the monument to Bogdan Khmelnitsky*NB who headed the revolt of Ukrainian people against Rech Pospolitaya.
I quickly prepared to join the rest of the group on the hotel terrace bar, situated on the 8th floor, offering fantastic views. I didn’t do much drinking, though my first taste of a ‘Cosmopolitan’, courtesy of Joe the nice PR chap was gratefully received. Those views were special, and along with good company made for a pleasant start to the trip.
There was a full-on first day planned with a sight-seeing tour, and press conference by Group DF and the Firtash Foundation. Explaining more about the Ukraine and the Days Of Ukraine In The UK cultural festival will be launched in London on the 17th -19th of October 2013. That evening though, was relaxed, spent with some of the people from GroupDF, discussing a variety of topics including football. Yep, we would be VIP guests at the England/Ukraine match the following day; much to the joking disgust of my football loving brother!
Kiev with all it’s fabulous architecture, and golden domes is like stepping on the set of a Walt Disney movie, dinner at Pervak however, felt like a Ukrainian Alice In Wonderland. Aside from the food it is like a treasure cavern. Barstools with tails, flying pigs, live birds flying overhead, screens showing Charlie Chaplin films and all accompanied by a live band, at first, we thought the music was coming from the screens. The ladies ‘powder room’ was magnificent, and I longed to peek into the gents to see if it was as arty, but chickened out.
All the wonderful sights and hidden treasures in Pervak, almost made me forget I was there to eat.
Samples of Ukrainian cuisine were spread out across our table on arrival. This was a bit of a challenge for the two vegetarians in the group, meat features highly on Ukrainian menus. I did however, enjoy various pickles, rye breads, and salad. They prepared some vegetarian vareniki, which is a delicious form of light dumpling, stuffed with savoury or sweet fillings.
We also sampled cranberry vodka , I then switched to what become my favourite drink of that night, an apple juice like none I have tried before. It had a smoky taste and aroma, I liked it so much I managed to put away four glasses of it.
Dessert was also an art form, various choices are available, but one described as ‘something plum’ apPEARed plainly not plum. What magic they did with a simple pear, stuffed with ice-cream and nuts.
The following morning I felt guilty about the calories consumed, so I took an early walk. Breakfast pastries induced further calorie guilt, so required another quick walk before embarking on a fleeting sightseeing tour. This was enjoyable, but would have appreciated more time, there is too much to see in three hours, which passed in the blink of an eye, time flies when having fun.
There are many statues of famous Ukrainian actors around the city’; the one above recreates actor Leonid Bykov in his most famous role in “Only Old Men Are Going To Battle”. It’s dedicated to the pilots who sacrificed their lives liberating the Ukraine, it has also become a shrine to the actor who died in a car crash in Kiev in 1979.
House of Chimaeras also known as Gorodetsky House, who was a Ukrainian architect, is an Art Nouveau building. It’s covered with representations of rhino, dolphin, elephant and other wild animals, sadly not due to his love of them, but his passion for hunting. It is on Bankova Street opposite the offices of the President of the Ukraine.
Gorodensky originally constructed the House with Chimaeras for use as his own upmarket apartment building during the period of 1901–1902. However, as the years went by, Gorodetsky eventually had to sell the building due to financial troubles, after which it changed ownership several times . Since May 2005, the building has been an official presidential residence, used for official and diplomatic ceremonies.
Before this first visit to the Ukraine, friends seemed to know even less about I did; comments such as ‘’I’ve never been to Russia’’, and ‘’dress warmly, you’ll freeze!’’ were directed my way. At least I knew that it wasn’t part of Russia, and that it did not experience winter weather daily.
As a Jewish girl I knew from my mother’s interest in genealogy that there are family connections with Russia, Poland, Lithuania, possibly Germany and the Ukraine. Folk sometimes comment that I look ‘Slavic’, and I have a keen interest to explore this more. After my short time there, I’m keener still to discover more about this fascinating country.
Finally, no post about Kiev would be complete without a beautiful dome shot or two.
So if you decide ‘I wanna go there!’ here are a few Ukrainian basics:
Hello /Hi – Vitayu / Pryvit
Goodbye/Bye: Do pobachennya/Pa-pa
Yes/No – Tak/Ni
Thank you – Dyakuyu
You’re welcome – Proshu, bud’ laska it also means ‘please’ ( in a similar to way Germans use ‘bitte’)
Essential for the drinkers: Cheers! – Bud’mo!
*I admired his impressive statue, which apparently points towards Russia, but as a Jewish girl I’m mortified to learn about his oppression of my people, actually responsible for the massacre of many, many thousands.
Marilyn Michaels is a presenter & producer on Classic Rock Radio where she also writes for the station blog She started life in Canada and has lived in various countries since. She did some acting and singing in musical theatre and film, and even a spot of modelling before falling ‘quite by accident’ into radio an
d voiceovers and now finds herself writing travel articles too. .Her radio interviews include James Brown & Queen’s Brian May among many more. She is still probably the only person to have done live radio aerobics instruction from a studio roof!
Find Marilyn on Twitter @RadioGirlProds. Marilyn is proudly vegetarian and active in promoting a cruelty free lifestyle.