tisdag 25 juli 2017

A Scandinavian's Guide to Kiev

This text will be personal and perhaps not relevant to all readers. There are lots of interesting things to see in Kiev, like museums and monuments, but it is not at those places I spent most of my time, nor having my best or most memorable times.

Oddly enough, I have probably spent more time in Kiev than any other capital in the world, that being said I must also confess that I didn't spend a lot of time in any big city - not in Sweden, nor elsewhere. I visited Kiev for the first time last year, staying for three weeks. This year I came for a two-and-a-half week stay.

Being a scandinavian, I found Ukraine to be both challenging and liberating. To some extent it reminds me of some places on the coast in northern Sweden, with its broken asphalt and untouched green areas. It feels dirtier, messier, and faster than Sweden, hence my mind easily enters an "auto-mode" in which poor "I" am there, and not there, at the same time - which feels like a cheaper, but still a neat version of forgetting yourself, and getting lost in the city-experience.

I don't know if this claim is statistically true, but most people don't seem to speak much English in Ukraine. When I ask people about it (those who do know English) it seems to me that the school-system doesn't provide a very usable English-education; the students don't seem to practice speaking, instead prioritizing mere word-knowledge. However, I understood that some people who are dedicated or have rich parents can learn much more and pay for special lessons. It is not like in Sweden where, in order to pass school at all, it is mandatory for students to pass Mathematics, Swedish and English. In Ukraine people speak Ukrainian or Russian, which I believe is as similar to each other as Swedish is to Norwegian. 

First of all, I recommend that you find somewhere to live in the outskirts of Kiev. Hence you will see more sides of the city, and of the people. You will have to take small and often crowded buses to get anywhere. You will have to get your drinking-water in the forest, which lets you see forests too! 

Now comes some deleicious reflections and recommendations from me, if you are interested in visiting Ukraine. And here is an interview in english about Ukraine, which I also recommend :)

The blessings of Kiosks
They are everywhere! - popping up around the metro entry-points, and inside of them, under ground, and Í find them just lovely. You can buy a lot of things there, for example the famous kvas - which tastes like berry-juice, or like beer, but most of all like something we have in Sweden called svagdricka (near-beer). During the hot summer, a cold kvas is a clear favourite.

In some of the kiosks, I have also found coffee better than even the best you can get at home. Normally you can buy a cup for 8 to 14 hryvna (less than one dollar) -  which is really cheap! If you want milk in the coffee, that often cost around 2 hryvnas extra. Ukrainians seem to like their Americano hotter than hot, so be careful!

The kiosks are a feature hard to find in well-organized Sweden. With their cheap, tasty, on-the-go-food, and lots of usable little items, kiosks are one of the most adorable things in Kiev. In kiosks and bazaars I have, for example, bought a lot of a rugged type of soap-bar which costs around 5 hryvna. It is made out of natural substances, leaving the skin considerably clean without much smell, and it lasts for ages. This time in Kiev I found a type of soap-bar which is also made for cleaning clothes, should you have the need - (or perhaps taking the shower with clothes on ... )

Fruit. Food. Clothes. Sun-glasses. Memory-cards. Socks. Most of the little things you might need can be purchased in kiosks.

The food
A "must-try" is dumplings! They can be found in normal grocery stores, or in restaurants with local food. Inside the dumplings you can have chicken, meat, or spiced mashed potatoes. Eat them with smetana.

Middle-eastern chawarma comes in many sizes, and can be bought in kiosks. It is very good and valuable food for the price and reminds somewhat about the kebab-roll.

It is worth the mentioning: McDonald's in Kiev tastes considerably better than Swedish McDonald's. This holds true for the classic Big Mac, but also for the McFlurry. I first heard people say it, that Ukrainian McDonald's is better, but didn't think it was possible with this kind of difference in taste, but it sure was! And it is also much cheaper in Ukraine than in Sweden. Around one third of the price.

In stores you can also find something "cheese-like" called sirok. They come in bars and are nice to buy and eat like a snack. As far as I know they are healthy, and they cost around five hryvnas.

Last but not least, the halva needs to be mentioned. I never saw it in Sweden, and I wonder why, because it is a very tasty and meaty dessert. It is like a cake, but not quite. Somewhere between food and cake, I suppose. Thick textured and sweet, it can fit your milk perfectly without being too unhealthy. Or perhaps together with tea? You can buy it very cheap in grocery stores and they come in lots of different flavours. But don't over-eat it, which I have done.

The drinks
Kefir. How amazing it is! Cheap and healthy, you can bring it in a bag and drink it in between your water-intakes. During summer it's such a fresh drink - or snack. I found an organic kefir coming in a small bottle, which I could recommend, had I only kept the package.

Bottled milk. The taste of standard Ukrainian milk I find much richer than Swedish milk. Perhaps this also explains why the McFlurry tastes so much better?

And a note on water: Don't drink it from the tube. Boil it, buy it, or get in in the forest.

And I already mentioned kvas

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