Croissants, croissants, croissants: chocolate-filled, chocolate chip, peach, cherry, banana, pineapple, blueberry, raspberry, cinnamon & raisin, whole grain, rye, without icing, drizzled with icing, covered in powdered sugar, and numerous mouth-watering, unknown others because I can’t read Russian or Ukrainian! Need I say more?
Ukrainian food is delicious if you like meat, potatoes, and vegetables. It is definitely a “man’s” meal, filling and heavy. Almost every meal begins with soup and ends with salad, which may mean a lettuce salad, but more often is any fresh vegetable or combination of fresh vegetables. I ordered an “American Salad” and got a layered creation of pancakes, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet mayonnaise dressing. Honestly, it was very tasty, and did give us a great laugh. Entrees and sides are pleasantly flavored, with fresh herbs such as dill and parsley. Every meal culminates with tea and cookies; you will be given a wide choice of flavored herbal teas or black tea. Coffee isn’t as popular, however, there are quaint coffee stands on every other corner. But be prepared, regardless of the size you order, the cup will be approximately one-third filled. The only reason I can come up with is so that it won’t slosh out when you walk down the street or ride the trolley bus. The taste is very similar to Starbucks, so my solution is to splurge and order a large, which will cost about $1!
While you are toting coffee or hot tea, it’s very simple to hail a taxi. There is a clever phone app, OTaxi, in which you program the addresses you are most likely to need. Your current location is automatically entered, and you choose the destination address desired. Hit the “cash” or “credit” button, and you’ll receive a text with the license number of your taxi, the ETA, and the cost so you can have your money in hand.
We have experienced Ukrainian hospitality at every location – equal to our Southern hospitality. It is important for them to make us feel welcome and to offer us a massive amount of food and tea. A large population of older people rarely smile, but we have found that if you persevere, and don’t take it personally, you can eventually get a small smile to break through. We are continually asked about our view of politics and quickly learned to answer vaguely. Because of the war they have recently suffered, they are very concerned with Russian advancements. The saying about “walking in someone else’s shoes” comes to mind.
My daughter and I have enjoyed the winter fashion of scarves, hats, and boots. We have noticed predominately black or dark outfits, worn with color-popping scarves. It is nice to be warm and “classy” at the same time! Tights and leggings are popular; again, layer up to keep warm. And speaking of warmth, we are spoiled with heated towel bars. Because most buildings use hot water heat, several bathrooms in our accommodations have had heated towel bars through which the hot water runs. I want them at home now!
We saved the most important on our list for the grand finale – our MLJ facilitator. He has gone above and beyond what we ever expected in his service to us and to our child. His English is excellent, and we have even enjoyed his humor. Not to mention, he sincerely laughs at our jokes too! Language experts say that’s a good sign of truly knowing a language. He is fully committed to taking care of our every need, even to the point of making sure we are comfortable. He has completed our paperwork efficiently and professionally. He is very organized and patiently explains each step of the process to us, sometimes repeatedly. We have enjoyed watching him interact with our child. When we enter the orphanage, all the kids run to him and get in line for their hugs and conversation. He knows their names and makes them smile. We owe him a deep gratitude for truly getting us through this complicated process in the easiest way possible. If you are headed to Ukraine, be reassured that your lawyer has it all under control!
Coffee Photo Credit: Iryna Yeroshko