We've made the incredibly difficult decision that this will be our last year in Kyiv, Ukraine. We first came to this city in 2013 and only a few months later the protests began on Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square in the center of the city (only a few blocks from our house). Since then we've watched this city, country, and people struggle, overcome, and evolve into what is now an up-and-coming completely hip cafe city (or at least this is how we see it). In other words, I've grown quite attached to Kyiv. Sure, there are still quirks, but you learn to accept and cherish them instead of always judging. While we're here I want to take the time to reflect on some of the things I've grown to love about the city and people who have hosted us for the past five years.
Wintertime in Kyiv... some complain, but I absolutely love it. I am lucky to have an apartment with a spectacular view over a city landmark (the National Opera House) along with heaters that work very well and not all people have these comforts, so perhaps I am an exception to the rule. I love watching the snow fall as I look out over the opera house. A friend of ours once described it as a snow globe view and that's definitely how I see it. If I were to find a cheesy snow globe featuring the opera house for purchase it would be mine in a heartbeat. The past two years there has been a laser light show projected onto the opera house each evening near curtain call. Even though it's sponsored by Rafaello and is sprinkled with advertising it's quite a sight. I'm impressed with how creative people can be and how they can manipulate light in such ways.
Also there's the Christmas market. We've been lucky each year to arrive home from the holiday just before Ukrainian Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7th as per the Julian calendar. With the market still abuzz at St. Sophia's, we wander around to see the lights, watch people, and sip glintvine (mulled wine). Some years there is snow making the scene even more magical, but this year it was almost 10C as we walked around on Christmas day. Sure, the market wares are not unique and once you've seen one you've seen them all, but it's such a fun atmosphere and is definitely something that I'll miss.
Finally there's the Nutcracker ballet, which gets some extra shows around this time of year. We've watched it at least twice and the music takes me back to childhood. The dancing and backdrops are always impressive. I feel like we haven't taken advantage of enough of these shows in our time here. The opera house and all its shows will probably be a future post.
There's more to Christmas time in Kyiv than this, but these are my standouts. That said, I am looking forward to experiencing how the holiday season is celebrated in our next destination!