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Kiev is the Russian spelling of 'the mother of all Russian cities', but it's the capitol of Ukraine, so officially ought to be spelt, & pronounced - "Kyiv"...
Now that Ukrainian is the first language of 'the new Ukraine', all road & direction signs around the capitol are bi-lingual Cyrillic, with Kyiv printed above, or before, Kiev...
However, everywhere but L'vov, Russian is still the language on the street, & when waiting at public transport terminals, you'll hear the taxi & minibus drivers announcing to potential customers, "Ki-ev, Ki-ev, any1 for Ki-ev?"
The difference in pronunciation between the 2 languages is subtle, but nonetheless, & despite what you might be told by people, Russian & Ukrainian are NOT the same 'yizik'...
Ukrainian is much more Slavic, & alike Polish, with many fundamental words, such as those for days of the week, & months, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to their Russian equivalent...
Also, Ukrainian emphasises the sibilant sounds of the alphabet, whereas Russian is equally sibilant & guttaral, (& therefore a tongue-twisting language to learn!)
So, Kiev or Kyiv - it's your preference, but it's all the same place, however you say it...
Written Feb 1, 2013
There are many online agents offering accommodation in Kiev, the only trouble being that the businessmen who run these are worldly wise & many of them are in anycase, not Ukrainian, but American or British, who bought up property in the country when it was still cheap. So, not only are their daily rents hyper-priced, but in many cases are more expensive than staying in this country, in an equivalent flat. It's possible to book accommodation after arrival, & there are 2 ways to achieve this:
1 - Local newspaper small ads/street corner ads - many apartments are advertised here, but in Russian, so you will need to be able to read the local language & speak it, to arrange a deal by ringing the agent's telephone number...
2 - 'damavladyeleetsya' - this literally means 'lady-owner' in Russian, & you might be surprised to find that in post-Soviet Ukraine, the women are savvy in business, perhaps more so than the typical man, who'll be more acute just to scam a foreigner, than do a decent deal...
If you visit the main train terminus, expect to find some enterprising middle-aged or elderly ladies, standing around, whatever the weather, holding signs reading 'komnata' (room) or 'kvarteera' (apartment).
They'll be only to eager to receive your request for accommodation, but be aware, in Ukrainian culture, just approaching such a vendor is regarded as doing a deal, so if you agree to return with them to their property, it will be considered that you're doing so, in order to stay & pay, not just to view...
This is a problem, because in Ukraine, what is considered "an apartment", or even "a room", will quite often be at odds with what a westerner will picture in mind from such words...
Do not expect the shiny, renovated studio flats that appear so enticing on the online rental sites, because these are a product of 'the new Ukraine', & for the enterprising ladies enticing tourists at train stations, 'an apartment' will more likely be a 2 room, ground floor dwelling with a flat roof, (similar to what the Indians call a 'bungalow'...)
Many families exist in these cramped dwellings that sprawl within the inner-city courtyards, & if you want a full-on Ukrainian EXPERIENCE, then do stay in such a home, but be prepared for what you might be letting yourself in for!
Ukrainian plumbing is not a national achievement, so expect to find a bucket in the bathroom for containing leaks & also to flush the toilet, (as when I stayed in 1 of these dwellings, the cistern had not been plumbed in...)
Another consideration is to the exact meaning of 'room', because under Soviet housing provisions, several families were allocated the same apartment, & expected to be grateful for 2 rooms between at least a dozen people, (& that was if they did not have children...)
When I stayed in such an apartment, with folk who had grown up during the Soviet era, they had separate living room & bedroom, but the mother & grandmother shared the bedroom, & the son slept in the living room, with any guests...
I thought this was a cramped arrangement, but when I returned a couple of years later, they were sub-letting the living room to another lady with 2 children - & this is what you need to bear in mind, if seeking accommodation with a 'damavladyeleetsya' wheeler-dealer!
The provision of a room might not be for YOU personally, & in the worst circumstance, neither might the bed, or fold-out couch, i.e; you might be expected to share sleeping quarters with 'babooshka' (grandmother)!
So, if you do not wish to go the way of hotel conformity, by all means consider the alternatives, which might provide daily cooked meals & a warm home for a monthly outlay that amounts to no more than 1 night in a UK Premier Inn, but also be prepared for some cultural incommunicado (& that's even if you can speak Russian...)
Written Jan 16, 2013
Like in England it is very nice to receive flowers as a gift but in Ukraine chosing an odd number is the key. In Ukraine you would only buy an even number of flowers to put beside the grave of someone who is deceased.
You should also never give flowers or gifts over a threshold. So if you are outside of a door do not pass the flowers to the person on the otherside of the door. Go into the house first or get the receiver to come out.
Written Nov 21, 2012
If or when you come to any of the countries where they sell kvas - TRY IT!! I have tried quite a few brands now and I have to say I really like it. The first time I tried it was in Kraków. That one gave a very slight but sensible tingling feel on the tounge. But the taste was nice. The next time I tried there was a completely different taste and no tingling (which I have in fact only noticed once) but still, the taste was good. Everytime I have tried kvas the taste has been different from the other times! In Kiev I bought a 1L bottle in a food store for 7 Hryvnia. It tasted very much of dark rye bread (which is natural since kvas is most often made of bread and water that is put into fermentation). Just outside of the store close to my hotel I bought half a litre in a plastic cup for 5 Hryvnia. There was just a big, happy smile all over the face!! That was the best kvas I have ever tasted this far, it was absolutely wonderful! Sweet in taste and light in colour, so this was not made from rye bread.
As it is fermented it ought to be some alcohol in it but I have never been able to sense it.
Updated Nov 20, 2012
Victory day is a day where most of the ex soviet countries celebrate the lives of the soldiers who died fighting for Independence against Nazi Germany. In Ukraine Victory day is a bank holiday and is considered a non working day although some shops and restaurants in the city may still be open. If Victory day falls on a weekend then the Monday nearest will be non working and will be a long weekend.
There is usually some sort of Parade or concert going on during Victory day and not just in Kyiv but most of the major cities in Ukraine. On my last trip to Kyiv I even saw some Russian protest although I am not completely sure what that was about.
See my Kyiv travelogue for some pictures of the Victory day concert that i saw in May 2012.
Updated Sep 5, 2012
One of the popular drinks found in and around Kiev is Kvass, a fermented beverage made from dark bread. It is served by the glass, by the pitcher, in plastic bottles like soda pop... but no pop, only a low alcohol level, generally less than 1%. Generally classified as a non alcoholic drink. The taste is pleasant and I started enjoying it fairly quickly.
Written Jul 10, 2012
According to my local Kiev experts, corruption is rampant. Quite often when one party is booted out of office, the bootee party members are jailed quite often for fraud....The winning party probably is just as bad and evil, but that is what happens when there are winners and losers in Ukraine. There are posters all over Kiev to "Free Yulia", a very wholesome looking politician who is on the losing side. My Kiev experts say she is just as corrupt as the next....
Written Jul 10, 2012
The Ukrainian Ocarina known as the Zozulkoyu (named after the cockoo) is similar so many other slavic ocarina's. The Ukrainian model is known to reproduce bird sounds exceptionally well in the hands of a skilled player...or exceptionally bad bird sounds in the hands of someone like me.
Updated Jul 10, 2012
The Kievites and the city visitors celebrate the City Day on the last weekend in May.
This festival has become very popular of late and attracts thousands of people to improvised stages all over the city, in each of its ten districts.
A big part of the festival is the tradesmen exhibition in St.Andrew's Descent where you can see and buy lots of souveniers of folk handicrafts, pictures of local painters and lots of other trivia.
The city looks expecially festive on those days when the chestnuts are in blossom!
Updated Nov 27, 2011
European Square along with Independence Square often become places of meeting of thousands of people who come there to attend different concerts.
The traffic is closed in Khreshchatyk and you can walk freely enjoying the music and your company.
There are concerts in summer in front of the Ukrainian House (the National Cultural Center).
These concerts attract lots of people on weekends.
Updated Nov 3, 2011
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