Ukraine part 1: Warsaw and Odessa

Chris and I just got back from a two week trip to Ukraine sans children! It was a fabulous trip, all things considered (missing babies, stomach flu, etc). We split the trip into three main cities, Odessa, Kiev and Lviv and worked really hard to see all the things. So to keep things organized you can expect a three part series on each city we went to. This is post number one, but before we get into the nitty gritty…

So but like…why Ukraine though?

Roughly 10 years ago Chris, my husband, served a mission for the LDS church to Ukraine. He lived there for two years and has wanted to go back ever since.

^^Isn’t he the cutest??

Shortly after Evelyn was born we started planning a trip to Ukraine, initially to get Chris a new suit because you can get things so inexpensively in Ukraine. But only a week or so after creating our Pinterest board this big revolution business happened and it became very unsafe for us to go to Ukraine so we didn’t.

Fast forward 3.5 years to November 2016, when we found out about these incredibly cheap tickets to Europe and we just couldn’t say no. We talked about going to the UK or Italy but we had already started planning that trip to Ukraine and we are the type to travel off the beaten path, so to speak, so Ukraine it was.

There weren’t any tickets right into Ukraine with this really good deal ($400 RT!!) so we booked tickets into Warsaw, Poland and the trip planning began.

The Flight

The first leg of our trip was 10 hrs! I was in a bit of a tizzy. Ideally I’d get a great 10 hour nap but in reality, how many people do you know who can get a full comfortable sleep while sitting at a 90* angle?!

I packed my carry-on with all the important items for a good night’s sleep as well as some back up plans for when sleep didn’t come so easily. Makeup remover wipes, thick moisturizer, compression socks, slippers, a neck pillow, a travel blanket, then a journal, doodling coloring book, fidget cube, a kindle app loaded with thrillers and an ipad loaded with downloaded shows off Netflix.

Turns out Delta has these tvs in the back of the seats full of movies and shows you can watch. So between that, my neck pillow and three meals they served, that 10 hour flight zoomed by.

^^Dinner was lasagna with bread, a salad, hummus and pita, cheese, and a little brownie.

Warsaw, Poland

We got to our hotel in Warsaw at about noon the next day utterly exhausted, it was roughly 4am Utah time. But it was our only time to explore the city so we sucked it up, found a cab and headed to ‘old town.’

We drove through a typical downtown looking area, turned a corner and BOOM it was like this little piece of preserved history right there. Although to be honest, it was destroyed in the 1940s and rebuilt after WWII so it’s not all that old.

It was pretty late in the day so there wasn’t a whole lot open, but it also wasn’t busy which was nice because it made for great pictures.

We hadn’t planned for the cold and drizzly weather and I had seen an H&M on the way over, so we were looking for a cab to head back in that direction but it was a little hard to find one and we hadn’t figured out uber with our cards abroad so we ended up walking. Chris was a tad grumpy. I may have lied to him about how far we had to walk. But once we got him a jacket, he was much happier.

On the walk, we passed a Sephora, so naturally I had to go inside because…Sephora, duh. And then we found a restaurant that looked authentic, was full of locals and promised perogis. It was delicious and, according to Chris, very similar to traditional Ukrainian food.

Odessa

The next morning we left bright and early to get to the airport and fly into Odessa.

We opted to use Airbnb for our trip which saved us a bunch of money and gave us a whole apartment instead of just a hotel room. Our apartment was adorable and had this sailor theme. Our hosts called it ‘The Flat of Kostya the Sailor.” Odessa is right on the Black Sea, hence the sailor idea.

^^Building #7

^^the courtyard outside our apartment

^^Front door

Sticking with the trend of our trip, we were exhausted and immediately took a nap.

When we woke up a few hours later we freshened up and headed out to explore the city. Our flat was seriously right in the middle of the city and we could walk everywhere. We started with getting some lunch at Chris’ favorite place, a food cart serving shawarma.

The weather took a turn for the damp, so after procuring me a rain jacket, we wandered and took all the pictures and got soaking wet.

^^the Opera house

^^this random indoor area with shopping and just gorgeously decorated with statues and such

^^Close up of the gorgeousness

^^I was taking pictures of all these random buildings because everything is so intricate and beautiful. But for the people who lived there it’s just a random apartment building.

The plan for the next morning was to get up and go to the 7th Kilometer, an ENORMOUS outdoor market. And believe me, enormous doesn’t even begin to cover it.

We went into our ten day trip with like three outfits each because Chris had this grand idea that we needed to look like locals (although according to one of his Ukrainian friends, we just don’t look Ukrainian so…) by dressing like locals. He kept talking about this market and how it has such great deals, so we planned our trip to start in Odessa so we could buy clothes for the rest of the trip right at the start.

I wish I had some photos to give you an idea of the magnitude of this place but any kind of pictures or videos are expressly forbidden. But let me try and describe it for you. It is roughly 170 acres of shipping containers being used as shops. And they really like to make a sale. The first place we went was a little shop in the area they called the “World of Leather”.

As I mentioned it was pretty chilly on our trip, and why not get a beautiful leather coat for myself? Well after probably 30 minutes of being harassed by these people in a language I didn’t understand and being shoved into like 80 coats, I thought my head was going to explode. The lady was literally begging us not to leave when I decided not to buy a coat because OH THE OPTIONS!

At any booth as soon as you show any amount of interest in something, like say a bag, the vendor picks it up, wants you to try it on, and starts telling you about mundane details like zippers and the color (which you can clearly see if you have eyes). It’s a tad overwhelming.

We spent a good 5-6 hours browsing this place and by the end I actually got pretty comfortable with it. We ended up both getting clothes, accessories and other souvenirs. So many souvenirs.

We did a lot of wandering in Odessa and even stopped by Chris’ old apartment when he lived there. I loved our quick trip to the beach which was way to cold to enjoy as a beach but it was so pretty.

^^This statue is for all the sailor’s wives waiting for their husbands to come home

^^The Potemkin steps were closed because they’re renovating them. What?! They are a pretty famous landmark here in Odessa so we at least had to get a photo.

^^All these locks used to be on a bridge, a lover’s lock situation. But I don’t know if they did work on the bridge or what but they took them all off and put them on this big heart. Which is cute but kind of ruins the romantic idea behind putting a lock on a bridge that will never move like your love.

^Some random street art.

^^Odessa’s symbol is an anchor

 

In Ukraine they have all these outdoor parks for adults that have workout equipment. How cool is that?! There was one by the beach and clearly we had to try it out. If we had these in America, I might work out more. Did I mention that they’re free? (Check out my Instagram for a video!)

Train to Kiev

The cheapest way to get to Kiev is definitely by train which takes about 8-9 hours. So we opted for a night train! I’ve been on trains before but not since I lived in England when I was 13 so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to.

We got a private cabin with a bed for each of us and fell asleep being lulled to sleep by the gentle (ish) rocking of the train.

::

::

Stay tuned to hear all about our trip in Kiev which includes more rain, a stomach bug and a real weird Thai massage.