May 2013


Kiev III: Cossacks

My last full day in Kiev, Katya took me to the Mamajeva Sloboda – a recreation of a 17th century Cossack village located west of the city center. As an idea, it’s great, reminding me of Colonial Williamsburg in concept. In execution, well… it’s a bit more problematic.

Mamajeva Sloboda

The Mamajeva Sloboda, with a few modern neighbors rising behind it.

Katya had arranged for an English language guide, and an English language guide we got. The young lady had studied translation at a school in Maine and told us that she was qualified in English and Spanish.

Mamajeva Sloboda

Entering Mamajeva Sloboda, we encountered these crosses. Many people took them quite seriously; I, as the atheistic American remained silent.

Unfortunately her approach to guiding us was to speak as rapidly as possible and move us through the grounds at light speed. A complicating factor is that her English was heavily accented. Generally speaking I’m good at understanding English spoken with a German accent, but the Russian accent takes a lot more effort to understand. Katya speaks her English at a pace that I can understand and is proficient enough that she only rarely has to ask me to repeat myself (plus I suspect that I slow down when speaking with non-native speakers). I doubt that non-native English speakers, other than those with Slavic language backgrounds, could have understood anything that the tour guide said.

Mamajeva Sloboda

The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin at the Mamajeva Sloboda. It looks big on the outside, but is surprisingly cozy on the inside.

As for the translator? Ultimately I only caught about 80% of what she said – as she speedily showed us the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin. We went through the Cossak-dzhura’s estate relatively quickly – the only respite was when she let us look at the gift shop in the other half of the house (and, believe it or not, there was a gift shop in half of every house we visited).

Suddenly we were at the end, at Shynok – the Ukrainian restaurant in the village. The restaurant was the weakest link in the Mamajeva Slobada village – terrible service, with a wait staff that didn’t know what was available and what wasn’t available. Easily the worst service I experienced in Kiev – but not the worst food.

The experience would have been much nicer had the guide not been determined to speak as fast as she could and take us through the village as fast as she could.  That said, I had a nice time — the environment was pleasant, the company fantastic, and the pace (once the guide had ditched us) was relaxed.

Not really fitting into any of the posts are a few random photos — I didn’t write about everything, but I hope you enjoy a few of the other things I did.

Kiev's Lenin Statue

The Statue of Lenin is guarded by members of Ukraine’s communist party, 24/7.

A Colorful Kiev Neighborhood.

on the “Left Bank” in Kiev, this is a pretty colorful neighborhood!

Scaffolding Coming Down

After the May 9th celebrations, all the scaffolding had to come down. There’s no way I could have ever climbed up it, but these guys were fearless.

Ultimately, I had a nice time—I wasn’t looking for an overly complicated vacation in Kiev, I was looking for a laid back, relaxed vacation, and that’s what I got.

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