Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

The CLO office offered an excursion to see the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, which is translated into English as the Monastery of the Caves. The excursion included a guided tour of the Monastery and access to local honey vendors, so of course I signed my husband and I up.

Dating back to the 10th Century, the Monastery has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also voted as one of the seven wonders of Ukraine. There are many buildings on the grounds, including quite a few churches, a Seminary, a bell tower, and catacombs. The grounds offer a nice view of the Dnieper River and the city as well.

Some of the grounds are undergoing renovation, and there are over 100 monks in residence. At one point there were over 1,000 monks! We were able to peek in several of the churches to listen to the beautiful music and see the Baroque architecture. We also got to see the catacombs and caves, which we had to light candles and to see. It was a cool experience. A side note, women are supposed to cover their heads in most churches here in Ukraine, so I was advised to bring a scarf. They also frown upon shorts, which ended up being fine because our tour was on an unseasonably cool day in August.

On the grounds there were also vendors selling fresh honey, which is a seasonal thing here, so we bought some. There were at least twenty vendors selling different types of honey- but our favorites were sunflower honey and buckwheat honey. The vendors allowed us to try so many types of honey that I was almost in sugar shock:). We even got to try honey that has the consistency of butter, which was AMAZING!! Of course we bought that as well.

Photography is prohibited inside the buildings, which is a shame because they are so stunning inside. Thus, here are some pictures of the grounds and our honey haul:

Our honey haul, I believe we got all this for around $12 or $13 USD.

Babushkas

Babushka is the Russian word for grandmother. In our apartment building, the front desk attendants are of a certain age that they could be grandmothers, so of course I call them the babushkas.

The babushkas take their job very seriously. They monitor who goes in and who goes out, and if they don’t know you, they will stop you and ask what you are doing here and who you are here to see. One afternoon I came home from running errands to a babushka who waved me down to let me know that two people from the Embassy came to visit earlier that day while I was gone.

One time a person was parked in our parking spot in the garage and we told the babushka, and they quickly took care of the matter. Another responsibility of the babushka is to give us our monthly utility bills. And without fail they will wave you down and make sure it is paid.

Of course most of our communication is non verbal. I use Google Translate and hand gestures the majority of the time. Somehow, we understand each other fairly well. With each week of language lessons I am able to communicate with them better. A few weeks ago I said good afternoon (добрий день), and I got the biggest smile from one of the babushkas.

They also have other responsibilities that may or may not be work related. They take care of watering the plants in the lobby, and will give you a big smile if they see you bringing home flowers or a plant and compliment you on it. The babushkas act as a grandmotherly figure to those in the building and dote on the little children who live in the building. I have heard stories of the babushkas making sure you are dressed properly in the wintertime, making sure everyone wears a hat and has a good warm coat and gloves on before they go outside, and I completely believe that the babushkas would do that.

I think each building should have a babushka. We would all benefit from babushkas in our lives.

National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

On a glorious sunny 70 degree weekend day, my husband and I decided to go to the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War. The Memorial Complex is both indoor and outdoor, on extensive grounds covering quite a few acres.

We spent about two and a half hours there. The grounds contained two indoor museums and a long pathway that had sculptures and war machines such as tanks and helicopters. The grounds were truly beautiful and there were so many artifacts to see in the museums.

It was quite an informative and sobering afternoon spent learning about the war from the Ukrainian perspective. Admission to the grounds is free, however you pay small entrance fees to different areas if you want to get a closer look at different machines (such as the inside of a WW2 helicopter) or the indoor museums. The money spent was completely worth it as the items we saw were carefully curated and everything was so nicely done.

There was a guided tour in English that we encountered while in one of the museums, for those who want a more involved and informative experience. I highly recommend visiting this museum to anyone who comes to Kyiv.