Tag: highlight

City Guide: Kherson

A native’s guide to Kherson
By Жанна Кобылинская

A sunset view over the river

There is a city in Ukraine filled of special aura, green parks and romance…

This city is Kherson

If you want to visit a city filled with a special aura of love and romanticism, I recommend you to come to Kherson in the south of Ukraine.

The first stones of the city

The city was established by order of Catherine the Great and founded by one of the Empress’ favourite generals – Field Marshal Grigory Potemkin.

Being designed as the southern capital of the empire (which even had its own mint), the city witnessed a secret love affair between Catherine and Potemkin; and love is the feeling that makes impossible things to come true and inspires people to perform the greatest things.

Potemkin stands proud in the city

Grigory Potemkin referred to Kherson as the city of his dreams and asked to be buried in the city. His tomb is located on the territory of the city’s Catherine Cathedral.

Military power of the city

While travelling to Kherson don’t miss an opportunity to visit its old fortress and go along the city picturesque embankment where, apart from modern pleasure boats and yachts, you will see a stone statue of the first 66-gun ship of the Russian Empire «Glory of Catherine».

Kherson has always been a large shipping centre

Here you will learn that Kherson was the first base of the Black Sea Fleet. There are still river and sea navigated ports and ship building, repair and modern ship production remain major industries in the city.

A Multi-religious and multicultural city

If you visit Kherson, I highly recommend a walk around the city’s streets. It has always been a tolerant home for various nationalities and different religion belivers. Among the cosy streets of the old centre there has always been a peaceful coexistence between Greek, Polish, German, and Jewish communities and the city is dotted with synagogues, Greek temples, and the Polish Church and German Lutheran Church.

I am sure you will enjoy the special sound of Kherson, which is a combination of jazz overtones played over the street radio system, mixed with the bright melodies of the street musicians. The festive extravaganza of many street festivals includes fire-shows, a salsa-marathon, and a rock duel.  There are poetry competitions, costumed processions and many carnivals! The list goes on.

Enjoy Kherson’s green parks

I also recommend you visit the only planetarium in the South of Ukraine, the classic theatres, the city’s museums and their thousands of exhibits of local history. The art galleries include unique samples of avant-garde art  from the Kherson region.

There is a museum of modern art, and the department of rare books at the Kherson Regional Library has rare manuscripts and miniature books.

Where to eat and drink

While walking around the city one has a good choice of restaurants and cafes to have a snack or drink. You can drop in for a beer in ‘John Howard’ pub (http://vclub.johnhoward-pub.com.ua/contacts.html), and reflect on old times at ‘Nostalgia’ restaurant (http://nostalgie.net.ua/en/index.php?location=content&id=4).

The restaurants at the hotels ‘Muscat’ (http://www.muscat.kherson.ua/restaurant) and ‘Diligence’ (http://hotel-diligence.com.ua/restoran) offer service in English. Many foreigners coming to Kherson frequent these places due to high service level.

If you feel that you are ready to travel to Kherson and see all above-mentioned with your own eyes you can reach it by train or by bus. Overnight trains run from Kiev and Ukraine’s other main cities.

I’m sure that visit to this city will remain in your heart forever.

Жанна Кобылинская

Visit BlueToYellow’s gallery from Kherson here

Buy the book! 101 Reasons to Love Kyiv

Following the huge success of our article 101 Reasons to Love Kyiv, we decided to publish it, along with some stunning pictures of the Ukrainian capital.

The book makes a wonderful souvenir for tourists and visitors, and is also the perfect gift for anyone who wants to share the beauty of this city.

Book: 101 Reasons to Love Kyiv

The book is currently available from bookshops in Kyiv and also direct from us.

If you would like to order a copy, please visit our online storehttp://kyiv101.blogspot.com/

One book costs One book costs 3GBP (approximately $4.70) or you can purchase five copies for 12GBP ($18.90). That’s just $3.77 per book!!

Ukraine Survival Guide

This is a short ‘survival guide’ for people who are unfamiliar with Ukraine.

I have been here in Ukraine for over two years, but I still remember what it is like to arrive in an unfamiliar place with a crazy alphabet and an almost non-existent tourist industry. So, while the guide is not 100% serious – I hope you find it useful and/or enjoyable.

Also, if you live here and you have anything to add, or if you disagree with me, please add your comments below. I’m sure there will be lots of things I miss and I hope the comments section will grow to be as useful as the guide itself.

If you have any questions, then please also use the comments section at the bottom. I will add more to the guide as/when I can.

The Ukraine Survival Guide

The water.

Drinking the water in Ukraine won’t kill you, but it might give you unwanted stomach problems and if you drink too much you might spend more time on the toilet than anywhere else.

Most locals happily drink the water once its been boiled (for tea etc) and it doesn’t do them any harm. It is also perfectly fine to wash your teeth and rinse your mouth with the tap water, so don’t panic if you accidentally drink some or swallow some while cleaning your teeth – you’re not going to die.

To be 100% safe buy and drink bottled water which you can buy from almost every Kiosk/shop. Also, if you are unlucky and you do develop a bad stomach you will find pharmacies all over the city. Good luck explaining your symptoms to the cashier 😉

Toilets and toilet paper.

If you ‘need to go’ while you are in a hotel, bar or restaurant then the toilet will probably look quite familiar and although it might not have a toilet seat, I think you know how to use it.

However, if you are not in a ‘modern’ building (this includes most theatres and public buildings) then you will probably have to use a squat toilet.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t worked out a satisfactory method of using them. So, if you really have to go – good luck.

TP Tip. Wherever you are, you’ll probably have to ‘wipe’ with some cheap, abrasive, and depressingly grey toilet paper. If you are exceptionally fussy about such things I suggest you keep a small supply of tissues in your pocket. If you are totally desperate and there is no paper, then there is always the 1 UAH banknotes. Ten of them only costs you a Euro!

The Police.

The police in Ukraine are unlikely to be anything like the police you have at home. Ukrainians do not trust their police, they do not call the police if they have a problem unless it is absolutely essential, and if they do, they don’t expect much to happen. Here in Ukraine the police are seen as a public nuisance which, where possible, should be avoided.

In my experience, if you speak English (or any other foreign language) anywhere near the police they are likely to stop you and ask questions. The first question will almost always be: Where is your passport?

If you don’t have it, things get complicated.

> If you are with a Ukrainian or you are good at talking your way out of a tricky situation, they might let you go.
> You might get an on-the-spot fine.
> Or, you might get violently thrown into a police van and driven to a suburban police station to be intimidated.

Of course, if you are in Ukraine and you are a victim of a crime you definitely should contact the police, but if you have time I recommend you speak to your Embassy first. They will be able to offer advice and if you need one they will recommend a translator and lawyer. If anything gets stolen while in Ukraine, you will probably need a police report for your insurance company, so this will also require a trip to the local ‘Militia’.

As the US embassy explains “Ukraine lacks reliable services for foreign victims of crime. Transferring funds from the United States, replacing stolen traveler’s checks or airline tickets, or canceling credit cards can be difficult and time consuming. There are few safe low-cost lodgings, such as youth hostels. Public facilities in Ukraine are generally not equipped to accommodate persons with physical disabilities.”

The public.

Ukrainians are often very direct and in public they are very pushy. This ‘me first’ attitude means they rarely queue for anything and there will almost always be a rush to be ‘first’ for everything. This is true whether you’re in a supermarket or getting on/off the metro.

This will probably cause you more problems if you’re English than if you’re German but try to get used to it or it will drive you crazy. Take a deep breath, understand that you need to be assertive and stand your ground.

Finally, while Ukrainians are often pushy, they are very rarely violent. So, don’t get angry if things don’t go your way. Just accept that you’re in Ukraine and these are the rules of the game. Also, there are some nice exceptions to the ‘me first’ rule. If you are an old lady, a woman with children, or a couple (boy + girl) people may offer you their seat. If you are a girl, the guys often open doors for you and carry your bags etc.

Bars and clubs.

Ukraine, well certainly Kiev, doesn’t have a bar culture which is similar to elsewhere in Europe. Of course Ukrainians like to drink (maybe too much) but they either do it on the street or they sit at a table with friends.

Also, most restaurants, bars and pubs will only let you stay if there is space at a table where you can sit. Standing for a beer at the bar is not common and often not allowed.

This isn’t a big deal, but its worth knowing. If you’re English you will also need to remember to take a table and wait to be served. You do NOT need to go to the bar. This is true even in the pubs and ‘Irish Pubs’ that look familiar to those at home.

You need to sit down, wait to be served and then wait for the bill at the end of the night. If you are used to paying upfront, it is easy to leave forgetting to pay the bill. However, if this happens then always go back and apologise and pay.  If you don’t there is every chance that it will be deducted from the poor waitresses salary. Yes, Ukrainian managers are that heartless.

If you want to drink outside with the locals, nobody is going to stop you, but just remember it is actually illegal to drink on the streets. If the police see you they may take your beer and/or make you pay a fine.

Cars and pavements.

Car drivers in Ukraine don’t have many places to park, so they decided to solve the problem by parking on the pavement (sidewalk). This means you share the pavements with a ridiculous number of SUVs and a ridiculous number of bad drivers. Ukraine is a country where you can easily purchase your driving licence and take to the roads without ever taking a driving lesson. Be careful and if you have kids – keep a lookout for them .


In early 2012 the government passed a new law to outlaw cigarette advertising and ban smoking in public. One day this might reduce the cigarette-smoke-smog that will live with you while you’re in Ukraine. For now, however, you will have to live with the smell of cigarettes.

With one of the highest rates of smoking in the world, it sometimes feels like smoking is the ‘default’ here in Ukraine, and while most bars and restaurants offer a non-smoking section, this often means a table without an ashtray next to the 10 tables with an ashtray.

Now, this is good news if you are a smoker and you will probably love Ukraine because you can smoke almost anywhere. This includes the trains. Just go to the end of the carriage (where the two carriages join) and you can smoke the hours away.


English isn’t spoken by everyone in Ukraine (and knowing a few words of Russian/Ukrainian will help you enormously) but you can easily survive here on English. Just look for a friendly person under the age of 30 and don’t be afraid to ask them for help.  Ukrainian’s can appear quite intimidating (especially if they are dressed like 1980s gangsters or 1990s supermodels), but they are actually pretty friendly and almost always helpful to foreign visitors.  This isn’t always true in shops and super-markets but if you are in trouble, its common for someone who does speak English to rescue you. Many Ukrainians studied English at school and they like to practice.

Also, in the run-up to the EURO 2012 football championships a lot has been done to signpost things in English or at least in the Latin alphabet. Of course, its not perfect and the English is often incorrect, but they are at least trying. Just ask yourself how many signs in the UK are translated for Russian speakers?


Lifts, or ‘elevators’ in Eastern Europe are intimidating things. They are small, they don’t look safe and they are usually in a state of stinking decay.   However, don’t be scared by Ukraine’s collection of terror-boxes – I haven’t heard of anyone who’s every been hurt in, or by a lift.

In Romania, I once squeezed into a lift, with my rucksack and another man, that was only big enough for 1.5 Romanians or 0.25% of an American.  The thing was made entirely from wood, it was covered in graffiti and it didn’t have a door or a back wall, but it worked. Basically, if you’re too lazy to walk, don’t expect communist-era machinery to pamper you in luxury while you’re hoisted up or lowered down to the floor.

Where they exist in Ukraine, the lifts don’t always work either, but if they door opens and you can identify the correct number from the cigarette-burnt plastic numbers – you’ll probably be OK.

Just remember that some lifts only deliver to every second floor and, as a compromise, some lifts deliver you mid way between two floors.

What happens if you get stuck?

If you’re extremely unlucky and it stops with you stuck inside, don’t panic. First try prising the door open. This sometimes works and hopefully you’ll be able to squeeze-out.  If that doesn’t work, look for one of these:

The intercom - your lift lifeline
The intercom – your lift lifeline

This is a lift intercom and whilst it might look like something from a WWII museum – most of them actually work.  Press the red button and see what happens.  You’ll probably get an angry sounding woman shouting ‘da’ (yes) or ‘sto?’ (what?) and if your Russian/Ukrainian is good enough you can explain.   You might even find that they speak English, but don’t count on it. They are employed to intimidate and begrudgingly help – not to communicate.

If you don’t know the address and you can’t find a way to communicate with the intercom woman – just kick the door and make some noise. Eventually someone will hear.

Oh, and make sure you ALWAYS carry the mobile phone number of a Ukrainian who can speak English. This simple trick could save your life.


Travel in Ukraine is ridiculously cheap by ‘Western’ standards and its efficient. But, its also quite hectic, usually crowded and often quite scary. However, if you like adventure you are in the right country.

With the exception of taxis, travel is always charged at a ‘flat rate’, so you pay the some price regardless of the distance or the number of stops. This makes life much simpler and often much cheaper.

The Metro. A detailed guide to using the metro/underground/subway is available here

Taxis. One of the most endearing things about Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries is the fact that every car is a potential taxi. This is free-market economics at its best.

If you hold you arm out indicating a lift, someone will almost always stop and offer you one. The only problem is, you need to tell them where and decide on a price. This is tricky if you don’t know the city or the language. Also, for safety reasons you shouldn’t get in a car with two or three people if you are alone.

A better option is to take a taxi and Ukraine’s taxi business is extremely competitive. Because there are so many taxis (official and unofficial) the prices are low and you can get anywhere in the city centre for less than 50UAH.

Phoning a taxi is the best (and cheapest) option and the operator will usually find someone in the office who can speak English.  You need to provide a mobile phone number because they will take your request and the sms you when they find a car. The SMS will have the car make/model and registration number (licence plate) and the SMS will tell you what time it will arrive and how much you should pay.   This is a really useful service and very useful when you’re standing near 25 Daewoo Lanos’ taxis and trying to work out which is yours.

If you stop a taxi or take one from the street, decide on your maximum price first (remember anywhere in the city centre should be <50UAH …and then prepare for an argument.   If they can see you are foreign (and they will) they will always start with a ridiculously high rate. Just tell them your price and stick to it. If they say no, try walking away towards another taxi, this often works and if it doesn’t, just try your luck with the next taxi – there are hundreds and its better to try three or four than to pay way too much money to the first.

Safety. Your health and safety are not high on your drivers list of priorities and even if it was, many of them distrust safety features such as seatbelts etc.  If there is a seatbelt, drivers will often take offence if you try to wear it, but ignore them and strap-up. The road system, the driving culture and the state of Ukraine’s medical facilities all suggest you should.

Oh, and don’t worry too much if the windscreen is broken, the brake warning light is on and the tires are balder than Duncan Goodhew. These are standard features.

Finally, if you are taking luggage, you will be charged an extra price per bag. I’ve never understood the logic to this, but this isn’t a logical place.

If you don’t want to take a taxi, you have several other reliable, but equally chaotic options.

Minibuses.  Known locally as Marshrutkas, these little yellow boxes are everywhere and they go everywhere. They are difficult to master if you don’t know the city, but if you’re feeling brave, ask someone which Marshrutka number you need and give them a try.

The main things you need you remember are to pay the driver (2.5UAH in Kiev) and to shout when you want to get off. Paying can be done from the back of the bus by passing your money to the person in front of you. They will pass it forward until it reaches the driver. If you need change, wait and it will be passed back to you.

This unique system is actually quite enjoyable, but it does create problems if you don’t speak the language because you need to say how many tickets you want. Also, people will often hand money to you and tell you how many they want. If you don’t understand, it gets quite messy.

How to survive. If you need to take the minibus, the best thing to do is get on the front, pay the driver the exact amount for one person (2.5 UAH) and then walk to the back of the bus. This is the best place to be because nobody will pass you their money. If you’re at the front, you become a ticket conductor and all hell will break loose.

To get off the bus, either wait until someone else gets off (my preferred method) of shout STOP!.  The locals will shout something like ‘at the stop, please’ but the driver will understand you if you stand up and shout stop.

Its customary to let old people and adults with children sit down, and if you forget they will often remind you.  Also, if you’re standing up, hold tight because the driver will most likely be driving, changing money for tickets, drinking a coffee, smoking and talking on his mobile phone all at the same time.

Trolleybuses and trams. The ‘normal’ looking buses on the electric rails are called trolleybuses, and along with the trams, they are probably the safest way to travel. They’re also the cheapest at just 1.5UAH, that is 15 Euro cents.

Whe you get on, look for the ticket conductor (yes they still have them) and wait for him/her to come and give you a ticket. When you buy a ticket, they will often ask if you want them to validate, or stamp it. Say yes.   If they don’t validate your ticket you need to do it yourself by stamping it in the small clamp on the side of the bus/tram. You will see other people stamping their tickets so just copy them.  If you don’t do this your ticket is not valid.

If you get on and there is no conductor, you can buy a ticket from the driver.

Very occasionally, ticket inspectors will ask to see your ticket. This has only happened to me once and they pounced as soon as I walked onto the bus, holding the money to buy a ticket.  Obviously, having just walked onto the bus I had no time to get to the conductor but they weren’t interested – they just wanted to scam me and the two of them pushed me to the front of the bus and demanded payment. Practising his best English, one of them mumbled ‘London is the capital of Great Britain’ and then demanded 30UAH (3 Euros). The second inspector was a fat grumpy guy who was demanding 100 (10 Euros) while indicating that I would go to prison.

I ignored the second guy and paid the 30UAH fine.

Do NOT pay any more than 30 UAH and, since I was stopped, I learn’t that you can actually just get off the bus/tram and walk away.  This sounds like a much better option.


A full list of foreign embassies is available here

Medical help is available via the American Medical Centre (call +38 (044) 490 7600)

Emergency services. Each has its own number!

Fire: 101
Police: 102
First Aid/Ambulance Service: 103

More available here: http://kievukraine.info/index.php?page=reference&cat=29

If you’re really stuck, you can call me and maybe I can help. +380 93 887 57 67

If you need a guide/fixer in Ukraine click here

Gallery. A day out in Kherson

Gallery. A day out in Kherson

How to: use the metro in Kiev

Kiev’s metro (subway) system can be quite intimidating, especially if you’re new to Ukraine, don’t speak the local language and can’t read cyrillic.

However, fear not because it is actually a very cheap, convenient, fast, safe and reliable way to travel around the city.

First, you will need to find a station, then you will need to access it, then you will need to locate and get to your stop. This guide will help you get there and will take the pain out of underground travel – Ukrainian style.

The full guide is available below, but first here’s some basic information and a short history of the metro system.

1. It was first proposed in 1916, put on hold during WWII (known at the Great Patriotic War here in Ukraine) and then restarted in 1949. Eleven years later, in 1960, the first line opened running from the central train station to the river.

2.  At the end of 2010 the Kiev Metro was using 774 individual carriages.

3. There are three lines. Red, Blue and Green. The lines cross each other in a triangle in the city centre. See the map.

4. The cost of a token/ticket is just 2 hrivna! (approximately 20 Euro cents). You pay once and you can travel as far as you like. You only repay if you leave the metro system and want to re-enter.

You can switch lines where they cross in the city centre. Also, ignore the dotted lines, they don't exist yet.

How To: Use the Metro in Kiev

The guide has the following sections

1. Finding the metro
2. Accessing the Metro
3. On the platform
4. Boarding and train etiquette
5. Leaving the train and the platform


1. Finding the metro. 

To find the entrance to the metro, look for the big green M.

The ‘M’ marks the stairs that lead underground, but be aware that there is often a busy collection of kiosks, tunnels, cash machines (ATMs) and grandma’s selling stuff like bread or knickers before you get to the metro itself.

2. Accessing the metro 

Enter > buy a ticket > get through the gates

Your first big challenge will be the swinging doors that guard the metro. These glass and metal doors swing (fast) in both directions, they are  heavy enough to kill a bear and unless you’re old, it is unlikely that the person in front of you will hold the door open for you.  So, just be ready and be careful to catch the thing as it swings back in your face.

TIP: If you’re clever, you can pass the door as the wind coming from the station blows it open, or as it swings open after the last person entered. However, both of these are advanced metro skills and shouldn’t be tried in your first week.

There are two sets of doors for each station. One set to enter (вхід) and one to exit (вихід). Can you see the difference? No?  Well, don’t worry, I still have trouble remembering the difference.

Enter (вхід)
Exit (вихід)

four letters = enter
five letters = exit

To make life more difficult, вхід (enter) is often written in red, while вихід (exit) can be written in green – but not always.  Hopefully they’ll fix all this before the EURO 2012 championships, but if they don’t the best thing to do is follow everyone else and try not to enter a door that people are walking out from.

 Buying a ‘ticket’ 

Actually you need a token or ‘zjeton’. These are small plastic coins and you need one token to enter.

A token costs 2 UAH and there are three ways to buy them.

1. Go to the window, give the woman your money and indicate the number of tokens you need with your fingers

2. Go to the small orange dispenser machines. It the dispenser has a 2 on it, enter 2 UAH and you’ll get one coin. If the dispenser has a 10 on it, enter a 10 UAH and you’ll get 5 coins.  NB, the machines only accept the exact notes. If you try to enter anything but a 2 or 10 you will get nowhere and people will get annoyed with you.

3. Use the new touch screen terminals that they have just installed. If you can understand the English – good luck to you.

TIP: For the benefit of everyone, please have your money ready BEFORE you get to the window or the machine. If you don’t you’ll get a lot of frustrated sighs.
TIP: The small blue tokens make for very cheap souvenirs

Go through the gates

Ukrainian access gates are the exact opposite of English gates.  The token goes in the right side, and you walk through the LEFT side. I repeat, token right, body left.

Its also wise to leave a 1 second pause before you enter to give the token time to register. Listen for the beep.

If you don’t do this, or you forget the token altogether the turnstile wont open (if it has a turnstile) or an angry barrier will shoot-out from both sides and squash you.

Assuming, you get through OK – Congratulations! you’re in the system.

Now get down to the platform.

Usually, this means a trip on a long and fast escalator, but don’t worry – you’ll survive it. I’ve seen 90-year-old bag-carrying women get onto those escalators and blind people. They move fast, but the steps are quite big so don’t be scared.

3. On the platform

Once you’re on the platform, you’ve made it. All you need to do is wait by the correct side (one side for each direction) and then wait for the Metro train.

Unlike the London Underground, each station serves one line. So, one side of the platform goes in one direction, the other side goes in the opposite direction. Its simple.

By the time you arrive here in Kiev, you should find that each station has a name and a number. If you don’t speak Russian or Ukrainian, I would use the numbers because the names can be hard to say.  However, if you are asking for a station, you will need to know the name. The station numbers are new and have been introduced in March 2012. They don’t mean anything to the locals who live here.

4. Boarding and train etiquette


Getting on or off the train can be fun and/or annoying because Ukrainians do not like to wait. They will try to get on the train before you have time to get off and they will push straight past you in order to get on first.

You’ll encounter this ‘me first’ attitude a lot in Ukraine where in other countries you might expect a queue. However, try not to get angry. Ukrainians are often pushy, but they are very rarely (if ever) violent. Just accept that they don’t queue, and join in the fun.

Also, don’t expect to get on the train before any middle-aged or old women. They will push there way on before you. Get over it.

On the train

If you’re lucky you’ll have space to breath or even a seat, but its unlikely. Normally you’ll need to stand, squeezed firmly in the middle of a crowd of train ‘friends’ .

To keep these train friends happy, try to remember these three rules:

1. give up your seat for old people, for people with kids (even if the kid is old enough to stand) and for couples. Yes, the last one is strange, but you’ll love it when someone moves so you can sit by your lover.

2. Don’t move or talk too much. Ukrainians are very well behaved in public, and they like it when other people are too. Joking loudly with your friends or waving your arms during conversation is frowned upon. Talking or moving is not illegal, but its not encouraged either.

3. Don’t stand on peoples shoes. Shoes are a big deal in Ukraine, a very big deal. You have been warned 🙂

Finally, please note how clean and tidy the metro stations are. They are meticulously cared for and regularly cleaned by hand. Ukrainians almost never drop litter inside the metro system and you shouldn’t either. If you have any rubbish, hold onto it until you exit the station, there are bins next to each entrance and exit.

5. Leaving the train and the platform

When you get to your platform, gently push your way off the train, try not to hit the people who are trying to get on the train (as you’re still getting off)  and look for your exit/вихід.

6. Useful info

Here’s the best map of the Metro network

The head office is located on, Prospekt Pobedy 35, next to the “Polytechnic Institute” metro station on the red line.

You can call them on:
+38 (044) 238-58-55
+38 (044) 238-58-98
+38 (044) 238-58-73

Read More

Can you explain Ukraine?

This website (bluetoyellow.com) was set up with a simple mission: uncover Ukraine.

It is a fun mission and it is a fascinating mission – but we need your help. We need you to help us explain Ukraine.

Our writers and editors all work full-time on other projects and for other companies, but we write whatever we can, whenever we can and then we share this with you and with the world. The problem is, Ukraine is a big place.  Actually it is very big place and it is incredibly varied.  Even if we never slept and wrote non-stop 24 hours a day – it would still be too big for us to cover.

So, we want all our readers and followers to help us. We want you to send us stories about Ukraine.

Do you live in Ukraine? Are you Ukrainian? Have you spent some time in Ukraine? If so, then I’m sure you have a story to tell  …and we are all waiting to hear it!

We want this site to be a detailed collection of essays, articles, opinions, stories and videos which will lift the lid on Ukraine and shine light on the many curious aspects of Ukrainian life.

Don’t worry if you are not a native English speaker, we will work with you to correct your grammar and in some cases we could even translate articles from Ukrainian and Russian.

Unfortunately, we can’t pay you (we don’t make any money) and writing for us won’t get you an invitation to the Oscars. But you will earn the love and admiration of our readers, and you will be able to sleep well – happy in the knowledge that you are helping to promote this country around the globe.

Here are some ideas for articles:

We all love stories, and somehow life in Ukraine leads us on the craziest of journeys. So, please share your experiences with us. This could be something short (maybe something happened while you were out walking, riding the metro or during your work) or perhaps you’re a keen writer and have written a longer story about a journey or other mission.

The obvious option is to review businesses, events and restaurants, and these are all very good. However, we also want to read about interesting buildings, or places. Do you have a favourite place to sit and relax? Where can you see an amazing view? and where’s the best place to drink vodka and eat shashlik on a summer day?

Tell us about the Ukrainians. The good the bad, the ugly and the incredible. What do they do, how did you meet them, why are they interesting? what did you learn from them? Do they have interesting or strange jobs? We want to know about them.

Photos and funny stuff
We all know Ukrainians LOVE taking pictures, so please share the best/most interesting/funniest with us.

Here’s your chance to help others. Help us survive in Ukraine, share your expertise and teach us something useful. Where should we shop and how do we get there? How do you find an apartment? What about studying here? or booking a holiday? What should I do if I want to eat salo in a Ukrainian village in spring?

Nature and the Environment
Ukraine is a large and diverse place. From the mountains in the West, to the wonderful Black Sea coast in Crimea – the country has some inspiring natural sites and some unique wildlife.

Food and Drink
We all love food, share your recipes or suggest a good place to eat.

Tell us how you keep fit. What’s happening in the sporting world? Where can we try these sports? What are the latest health crazes sweeping the nation? From pilates to parachute jumping, we want to know.

We look forward to working with you and we look forward to sharing your stories with the world.

For submissions, or if you have any further questions please write to Ian Bearder at ian@bluetoyellow.com

Kind Regards
The bluetoyellow team

PS, many thanks to all of you who have already submitted articles and work.

You know you’ve been in Ukraine too long when…

Feeling like a Ukrainian

Feeling like a Ukrainian?

Have you been in Ukraine too long? Have you assimilated, forgotten your native personality and started to behave like a Ukrainian?

Here’s a check-list to help you find out. You know you’ve been in Ukraine too long when…

  1. You put ukrop (dill) on everything. I mean EVERYTHING.
  2. Your not scared of the street dogs.
  3. You know how to shout at taxi-drivers to get a better price.
  4. You have two SIM cards.
  5. Cyrillic doesn’t confuse you.
  6. You understand that if you put your girlfriends handbag on the table or (god forbid) the floor – she will probably leave you.
  7. You have perfected your own borsch recipe.
  8. You can pronounce Dnipropetrovsk without having a seizure.
  9. You walk past a litter bin which is on fire and has flames coming out of it, and you think its normal.
  10. You say ‘pajowlusta’ without thinking when someone says thanks.
  11. You only wear a black jacket in winter and think anyone in a sports jacket must be a foreigner.
  12. You have forgotten that the fur industry is cruel and inhumane and started to think that fur is glamorous.
  13. Unless its +20C you would never let a child out of the house without a hat and gloves.
  14. You want to drive a large 4×4 to make yourself feel like a man.
  15. You start to hate Marshrutkas.
  16. You can drink beer like you used to drink coffee –morning, day and night.
  17. You can eat semki with one hand and finish a whole bag during a 90 minute football game.
  18. You have developed a working system for separating all the Yulias and Marias in your phonebook.
  19. You accept that your date will be 30 minutes late.
  20. You’ve forgotten what a queue is.
  21. You stop calling it PECTOPAH and start calling it a restaurant.
  22. You are able to get on the bus before the babushkas.
  23. You have discovered a certain charm in the absolute rudeness of shop staff
  24. People stop assuming you are a sex tourist
  25. You buy flowers for people and you think its sweet.
  26. You play Mafia and take it seriously.
  27. You love Karaoke.
  28. You can use the squat toilets without having an accident.
  29. You go into an Italian restaurant and expect to be able to order Japanese food.
  30. You have forgotten how to use definitive article.
  31. You look at people’s shoes and make judgments about their personality.
  32. You let yourself wear a vest, white trousers and white shoes.
  33. You boil eggs and make a picnic before you take a train.
  34. You’ve forgotten what the following words are or mean: copyright, eco-friendly, modesty.
  35. You are comfortable sitting naked in the sauna.
  36. You give confusing and contradictory answers like ‘da nijet’, ‘mojit bit da’ and ‘mojit bit nijet’.
  37. You stand still and don’t talk on the metro. In fact, you’ve pretty much stopped any public displays of emotion.
  38. You fear drafts and think you’ll die if you walk on a cold floor without shoes.
  39. You stare at foreigners out of curiosity. Especially people with dark skin.
  40. You’ve stopped trying to teach people that politics and governance can be different
  41. For no obv.ious reason, you know the name of 6 oligarchs.
  42. You do NOT think rules are for breaking, no matter how stupid or petty they are.
  43. You no longer need to be drunk to dance and sing.
  44. You ask complete strangers for a cigarette.
  45. You know what a gopnik is.
  46. You don’t panic or call a plumber when your hot water stops. In fact, you don’t even think twice when the water stops altogether because you know someone  else will fix it.
  47. You keep a large water bottle behind the toilet to flush when there’s no water.
  48. You can walk on anything. Broken paths, ice, half-a-meter of snow – you can keep your balance on anything. If you are a girl, you can walk on anything in high-heels.
  49. Buying a ticket for the train, which once took 2 minutes, now takes you 15 minutes because you have a long discussion with the ticket officer about all possible options and prices.
  50. You can (and do) run down the escalators.
  51. You make your self look ‘beautiful’ whenever you leave the house, even if you are going to buy toilet paper or potatoes from the supermarket.
  52. You speak Russian but think Ukrainian should be the only national language.
  53. You are not surprised by anything and you dismiss everything by shrugging your shoulders and saying ‘its Ukraine’
  54. …and finally, the absolute test of  your ‘Ukrainianess’… you can sit/squat on your feet and smoke for more than two minutes.  This squat (also known as the Ukrainian chair),  is the ultimate test of how Ukrainian someone is. If you can do it, your at least 95% genetically Ukrainian.

Video: The Pushcha-Voditsa forest tram

The Pushcha-Voditsa tram was described by one online nutcase as ‘the most incredible tram journey in the world’. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is quite cool. It leaves Kyiv and chugs off through some forests before arriving at a small, sleep yet beautiful spa town.

Kyiv trams were built in Czechoslovakia in the bronze age, they are almost always driven by tough looking women, they are cold, they are uncomfortable and they are slow. However, this just adds to the experience.

You can read more about the journey and the town here and view more pictures here.

101 Reasons To Love Kiev

Kiev in Autumn

Kiev in Autumn - 101 Reasons To Love Kiev


1. Springtime. Ukrainian winters are long and cold but damn the Springtime makes up for it! Blink and you’ll miss the transition from snow to sun, however if you’re lucky enough to be in Kiev in May/June – the burst of green shoots, blossoming trees and smiling people will warm your soul.

2. You are never more than 100 meters from a bank. In fact, if stand anywhere in Kiev and spin 360 degrees you’ll probably see at least three.

3. Puzata Hata (Belly House) …which should actually be called Belly Heaven. Puzata Hata restaurants sell cheap, tasty Ukrainian food and, dotted all over Kiev and they are a massive hit with locals and foreigners alike. Simply grab a tray, choose from a huge selection of national dishes and then stuff your face! Nobody leaves a PH hungry.

4. Crossing the road. Almost all crossroads or intersections in Kiev have a pedestrian crossing and pedestrians have the right-of-way. Just walk and the cars will stop.

5. Every car is a potential taxi. This is one of the most endearing things about Ukraine and other ex-soviet countries. Just hold you hand out and soon-enough someone will stop to give you a lift. Negotiate your price and you’re off.

6. Marshrutkas. These little yellow mini-buses buzz around the city like flightless bumble-bees and they are awesome. Wherever you are in Kiev, you can find a Marshrutka to take you home, or take you where you need to go. On top of this they’re super-cheap at just 2.5 UAH (25 cents) a trip.

7. Paying for your Mashrutka. As if they weren’t cool enough already, you can pay for your Marshrutka by passing your money to the person in front of you. He/she will pass it on and you can watch as your money moves off to the driver. Relax as your change works its way back to you.

8. Kiosks, Small square box-like street shops. They’re everywhere and its amazing what you can get from their little tiny windows.

9. Metrograd (Metro-town). It’s an underground shopping world, crammed full of expensive (but cheap-looking) stuff that nobody buys. However, it’s fun to explore and get lost there, especially when its cold above ground.

10. Babushkas (grandmas) and the fact that it is both friendly and respectful to call all old women ‘Babushka’

11. Sushi. Ukrainians love sushi and despite the fact that I’ve never seen a Japanese person in Kiev, the Sushi is pretty good.

12. You can find middle-aged men performing bad (but heartfelt) love songs in public on the street Karaoke machines.

13. Soup with every meal. Ukrainians (and now me) love soup. It makes every dinner feel like a special occasion.

14. Train picnics. Your fellow train passengers will feed you, talk to you and look after you.

15. Mama. Mamas rule in Ukraine. If Mama is not happy then nobody is happy. If you hear a mobile phone ring in Kiev there’s an 85% chance it will be Mama calling to check on someone.

16. Summer. Unlike the summer in the UK – here it is long, dry and very hot.

17. Hydropark.

18. Exchange Booths. Change your dollars or Euros into Hrivna with these women in small boxes. They are even more common than banks.

19. Boat-Trips on the Dniper, complete with great views, booze and bad pop music.

20. Public outdoor Gyms which people actually use! Kids, adults, businessmen, grandparents – everyone can workout for free.

21. Wide Sidewalks. Kiev doesn’t have cycle paths, but thanks to shrewd Soviet city planning it does have wide streets and large pavements. OK, they’re not always in great condition and they’re often covered in cars, but they’re a great place to avoid the traffic.

22. The Botanical Gardens.

23. Beer. Ukrainians are infamous for their love of Vodka however, they also make (and drink) some very good beers. The only problem is, they’re impossible to pronounce whether you’re sober or drunk! (Slavutych, Chernihivske etc).

24. Art Galleries. Dotted across the city, Kiev has some intriguing art spaces. From crumbling exhibition halls, to shiny modern glitzy-galleries, there are plenty of places to stroke your goatee and ponder the exhibits.

25. Zhovten Cinema (www.zhovten-kino.kiev.ua) with its small ‘halls’ (rooms) complete with sofas and DVD-player-run screens. Zhovten blurs the boundary between staying home and going out, however, its cheap, fun and they show a wide range of foreign art-house films. Apparent this is the best ‘cinema for sex’ in Kiev. I was told this.

26. Boulevards. Kiev has many wide, tree-lined boulevards where you can walk, talk and drink beer.

27. Flowers. Ukrainians are flower crazy. They’re obsessed. Not only are there flower shops all over the city, but many of them are 24-hour flower shops!! If you ask a Ukrainian if it is necessary to have flowers available at 4am on a Wednesday morning, they will simply tell you: “Yes, of course!”

28. Metros. The metro in Kiev opened in 1960 and very little has changed since, however – its still brilliant. It is incredibly noisy but it’s fast, extremely clean and safe and for just 20p you can cross the whole city! The little blue Metro tokens are also very cheap souvenirs.

29. Salsa Clubs and dancing. The Ukrainian love of dancing is one of the most surprising things I discovered here. Almost all the girls I know take some kind of dance classes and no the names and styles of many others. In the summer, there are numerous free salsa parties where Kievians go and shake their booty.

30. Museum of Miniature. This is possibly my favourite museum in the world because every single exhibit makes you say ‘wow’. You can also read the world’s smallest book!

31. The Pecherska Lavra. Here there are caves with mummified saints, healing fountains, golden-domed churches and a lot of Monks.

32. Rodina Mat. The mother of all Ukrainian mothers. If there was a fight between Rodina Mat and the statue of Liberty, Rod M would kick Liberties arse!

33. Language Exchange Club. LEC has been running for a number of years now and the organisation is a real tribute to the decency of people. Meetings are organised throughout the week and they are free for anyone who wants to go and talk and practice foreign languages. There are philosophy clubs, finance clubs, Turkish, Russian, Italian and German clubs + many more

34. Street markets offering everything you could ever need in the world. This is trade as it should be – cheap and fun.

35. Late shopping hours mean that you can buy shoes at 10pm all week …if you want to.

36. Ukrainians. I think I could write a whole book about Ukrainians, but its enough to say that Kiev wouldn’t be the same without them.

37. Beaches. How many large European capital cities are covered in large sandy beaches? The answer is: not many. But Kiev is and they’re a BBQ and Sunbathing heaven.

38. Autumn. If you thought spring was beautiful, just wait until Autumn.

39. Free Street Concerts. I don’t think a week goes by in Kiev without a free stage show and pop-concert.

40. Kreshatik Street. It’s the main street in Kiev and Kievians and visitors alike love to stroll here. Its also closed at the weekend so you can stroll even more and enjoy the many (sometimes bizarre) street performers.

41. Break-Dancers. They’ve been break-dancing on Kreshatik since I first came in 2005 and they’re still going. They’re a part of the city.

42. Ukrainians will tell you what they think and they will ask you direct questions. Its both awkward and refreshing.

43. Discount Cards or ‘cartushkas’. I keep losing mine, but discount schemes are super-popular here.

44. Old People waltzing in the Teatranla Metro station.

45. Colourful painted things

Colourful painted things are hidden all over Kiev

Colourful painted things are hidden all over Kiev

46. Holidays, name days and ‘other’ days. Whatever day it is – someone will be celebrating in Kiev. Woman’s day is by far the most important (it’s a day off and requires you to buy a lot of flowers (of course)), but last year on ‘day of man who defends Ukraine’ my colleagues presented all the guys with some presents. 16th July is ‘accountant’s day’ …wtf?

47. Olivia. These restaurants sell simple, cheap and tasty Italian inspired food. Amazingly, you wont find Sushi on the menu.

48. Kiev is covered in fountains and water features. No self-respecting park would be seen in public without a fountain.

49. Pajowlusta. It means ‘you’re welcome’ and EVERYONE says it if you say ‘thank you’ (spasibo) …even if they look grumpy, angry or depressed.

50. Kiev Trams. They were made in the Neolithic period and upgraded a little during the Iron Age. Since then, they have been moving people around Kiev without modification. Tram drivers are normally serious looking women.

51. Superstitions. Ukrainians take many superstitions to be indisputable facts. A cold draft, for example, can lead to kidney failure or infertility. Fact. Also, don’t put your hat, money, and especially your keys on the kitchen table – that’s just wrong.

52. Maidan Square and its big, proud soviet buildings.

53. White shoes and beige trousers. You’d be laughed at in England, but here you’ll be cool.

54. Ukrainian noises. Its hard to describe them here but Ukrainian females make very high (often loud) noises when they speak. The guys make very low, tough noises.

55. Kiev is incredibly safe and people are very well behaved. If you have any problems, they will probably come from the Police, not the Kievians.

56. Podil District. This is the heart of the old-town and a center of trade and commerce. It’s beautiful, diverse and charming …in an ‘old and falling down’ kinda way.

57. The water museum. Where else in the world can you learn about wather purification, ride in a fake lift, sit on a massive fake toilet and stroke a lucky Koi Carp?

58. Supermarkets advertise themselves using huge pictures of food. Much of it looks awfu.

59. ‘Death and the Penguin’ by Andrey Kurkov is a lovable story of one man and his pet penguin in Kiev in the 1990s. The Author lives in Kiev.

60. Architecture. I’m no expert, but the old late 19th and early 2th century here is fascinating and often colourfully painted in pastel pink, green or yellow.

61. It is customary to make a short but profound and sincere speech about someone when it is their birthday. You must stand up, make the speech (looking like you mean it) and then drink to their health. Now wait while everyone else at the table does the same.

62. Plastic flowers. Whoever first imported plastic flower into Ukraine must be a rich man.

63. Kievians love languages and often speak three or four. Naturally bi-lingual (Ukrainian and Russian) most Ukrainians also speak English and study French, German, Spanish etc

64. Communal toilets and washing facilities are common.

65. The State Air Museum.

66. “of Ukraine”. Ukrainian Ministries insist on adding ‘of Ukraine’ to all official State institutions just in case you forget where you are. “The Ministry of Funny Walks of Ukraine” etc

67. Glamour. Kiev is a glamorous city and the Kievians love to be glamorous

68. (almost) everything is in Cyrillic, including the tourist attractions and metro maps. At first its daunting, but as you get better at reading, its extremely rewarding – you feel like a code breaker every time you identify the correct Metro stop.

69. Flowerbeds, flower tyres and other city gardens. While Soviet apartment blocks lack any notable character, the abundance of flowerbeds and makeshift gardens do a great job at compensating. Old tyres, concrete tubs and a wide selection of other ‘containers’ are often painted and planted with great effect.

70. Turquoise. It seems that turquoise, green and blue were the only colour available in Ukraine in the past 300 years. As a result almost all stairwells, fences and all official buildings are painted in a shade of turquoise or bluey-green.

71. People will speak English with you even if they only know a few words.

72. The USSR lives-on in the details, on the buildings, in the street-names and even on the butter. Communist icons and insignia are hiding everywhere like forgotten Easter eggs.

73. You can spend days exploring deserted factories and spooky buildings.

74. You can get a good (and big) coffee from the back of a car, thanks to Kiev’s ingenious Coffee Cars

75. Semki (Sunflower Seeds) and Salo (fat on bread)

76. Holiday photos and birthdays are a big deal and you will be expected to join in with both.

77. People peel and eat bananas the wrong way!! (this has to be seen to be believed, but its true)

78. Feminists in Ukraine (Femen) campaign about negative attitudes towards women by exposing their breasts and performing half-naked publicity stunts. This confuses the hell out of everyone.

79. Ukraine is a black and white (for us or against us) kinda place and there’s always something to protest about. These protests are almost always peaceful and involve music, flag waving and loud monologue speeches which you don’t need to understand to enjoy.

80. There are lots of small friendly birds which will sit at your feet and eat your dinner with you.

81. There are digital ‘iBoxes’ everywhere. You feed money into them and pay for your mobile phone or other things. If you are at home, you can ask other people to feed the machine and buy you credit.

82. Kievians never miss a chance to pose. Give them a flower, a tree, some autumn leaves or a sports car and they will pose for pictures like a 1980s model.

83. You can get a 3 course ‘Business Lunch’ for less than 5 Euros.

84. People still carry multiple mobile phones and have multiple SIM cards because it’s cheaper to call that way. I used to do this at Uni and now, 10 years later – I’m doing it again 🙂

85. Although I don’t condone it, you can watch any movie you want for free on vk.com

87. Dried fish

88. People do funny things for money. Today I watched a man spinning (turning around and around) to earn money. Crazy.

89. Ukrop (Dill) Beetroot and Compot (juice made from boiled fruit)

90. People are very polite when they ask for money. A guy the other day insisted on telling me that he was from St Petersburg as if it made a difference. Actually, not all people are polite; one woman did have a hissy-fit and started crying the other day because I wouldn’t give her money to get the Metro.

91. Occasionally the service is incredibly friendly, even if its slow. A waitress yesterday tried to upgrade my coffee and sell me some syrup and cinnamon! No thanks, but thanks for offering.

92. Its normal to be late

93. Moustaches are still cool here

94. You can park and drive ANYWHERE. Roads are for cars and pavements are for cars in Kiev.

95. Ukrainians say ‘our people’ when they talk about themselves.

96. There’s no compensation culture. People actually look where they’re going.

97. People will smuggle you into places. This has happened to me in the Circus, on the train and at the theatre.

98. People clap when the airplane lands.

99. The Opera/Theatre/Ballet are amazing and super-cheap

100. Andryivsky descent

101. Although they often complain, Ukrainians really love it when you remind them of all the reasons to love this place. I could probably double this list if I had more time.

Kiev is Kyiv is Київ is Киев

Tanks in Kiev/Kyiv/Київ/Киев

Summer in Kiev/Kyiv/Київ ...Киев

If you’re not already in Ukraine, I guess the first thing you should know about Ukraine is this: Ukraine is a bilingual country. Almost all Ukrainians speak Ukrainian and Russian. Of course, most have a dominant language, a mother-tounge (one they speak at home etc.) but almost all can switch between the two.

Now, language is a sensitive subject here, but unless you like nationalist arguments, and unless you’re a Russian who thinks Ukraine is Russia – this wont affect you.

As a foreigner, you just need to know that two languages exist and this coexistence can be a little confusing. For example, the English name for the capital city is Kiev and this comes from the Russian spelling Киев. However, in Ukrainian, the city is Київ and, in English this would be Kyiv.

The official state language is Ukrainian, but state policy doesn’t change much. Many of my friends have websites such as Facebook which say that they live in Kiev and study at uni in Kyiv. They also bounce between the two languages and English when I’m around and many can also speak German, French and Spanish, Italian etc… Ukraine is a multilingual place.

Personally, I use Kyiv if I’m in Ukraine and Kiev if I’m outside of Ukraine, but it’s not a big deal. If Odessa (Russian) becomes Odesa (Ukrainian) you haven’t arrived in a parallel universe – your just in Ukraine. Expect to be confused.

Ian Bearder

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