Exploring the streets of Chernivtsi
Chernivtsi felt like home.
I've had the feeling a few times while living in Ukraine, like the time we hosted the Virsky Studio dancers over for Canadian Thanksgiving in Kyiv or when my sister came to visit in Lviv or even any day I have a fully stocked fridge (OK, maybe not fully but more so than usual) after grocery shopping.
One reason I felt at home was because of the people, most notably the Bukovyna State Ensemble of Song and Dance. Another reason is because so many Canadians are from the Bukovynian region, which Chernivtsi is in.
Oh, and plus the city Saskatoon has a stone engraved with its name on it in Chernivtsi since the two are sister cities. Not that I'm from Saskatoon, but a prairie person is a prairie person is a prairie person.
I lived in Chernivtsi for only seven weeks, and it was one of the more eventful cities, so time really flew by.
Malls and markets
Shopping in Chernivtsi is pretty great. All us Canadians lived near Kobylianska, a pedestrian street, and nearby there are many reasonably priced boutiques. But for the real fun, I recommend heading to one of the malls or markets.
After dance rehearsal one day, Natalya, Hannah, and I walked 45 minutes from the theatre to a dance store (Vse Dlya Tantsyu), which happened to be in a little mall we walked through quickly. Near this mall there is also the Market Carpathians, so we went to have a look
It was mid-afternoon by this point, so we figured the market may be closing down. When we got there, it didn't look like much at all. I wasn't sure we were even in the right place. There were metal shelters set up and tarps hanging and there appeared to be some people around. When we went more into the sheltered area, there really was a market, albeit not many vendors open.
We went back the next day, in hopes of catching the sellers early, but only a handful more were open than the day before. We figured it must be more of a summer thing. But during our time there, we saw plenty of car parts and shoes and clothing and underwear and home appliances.
I also went to Formarket mall a couple times. There are tons of stores in it, mostly clothing and accessories, and each shop is the size of a reasonably sized bedroom (not too big). But they are jam packed with items, so it can take some sifting through.
Ukrainian style is fun. There is tons of fur and lots of sparkles and many English translations of phrases that do not make sense (I'm not one to judge though, seeing as I speak far worse Ukrainian). And many, many tracksuits, which I proudly say I am now an owner of (thanks to the Kalynivsky Market).
The best shopping experience in all of Chernivtsi is the Kalynivsky Market. It's a 25 minute bus ride from the city centre (we took #22). The market is a city itself, and if you're not in the right mindset it can be extremely overwhelming. Who knew that many goods could be in one place at one time?
There were clothes and shoes and appliances and souvenirs and everything else like at other markets, just mega-sized (except for souvenirs/embroidery — there wasn't that much). Some shops were actual stores in a closed-in building. Others were in large metal storage units. Both times we went it was really cold outside, and it was actually colder being in these storage unit shops, because as Hannah said, it was basically like a refrigerator, keeping all that cold air in.
There was also a giant food section, as in there was a whole line up of shops selling solely cooking oil. In another area, there was meat sitting out in the open and cheese on display and fruits and veggies and dried goods and preserves.
It was fun. And tiring. But mostly fun.
To be honest, one of the funnest parts was taking the bus. In Chernivtsi, we used the bus quite a bit, and at four hryvnia ($0.20 CAD), it was a reasonably priced option. The best part is paying. You get on the bus, then you pass your money to the person in front of you until it makes its way to the front. And then the driver, while driving, gets your ticket and your change, and then people pass it back to you. Only once we didn't get our change back, but it seems to be a pretty reliable system.
We left our comforts of Chernivtsi and headed to Khotyn and Kamianets-Podilskyi one Saturday to check out fortresses. We learned lots of history, saw some beautiful sights, and walked a lot (as in, basically the whole city of Kamianets-Podilskyi).
In Khotyn, we just went to the fortress. In Kamianets-Podilsky, it was nice to walk around, though it was a long time. We were mostly in the older section of the city. It was a Saturday afternoon, but it was unbelievably quiet. Almost eerie at times. But it made it that much more interesting.
Wandering and sitting
To get to know a city, one of my favourite things to do is walk the town. Maybe I have a destination in mind, or maybe I don't. But what I do have is an open mind and two open eyes.
In Chernivtsi, I saw beautiful buildings, like homes and churches, and I saw interesting sights, like people who set up things to sell on the sidewalk on any given day of the week on any given part of the sidewalk.
But sometimes you just need to sit, to write down the dance exercises you learned that day or to learn the Bukovynian dialect since they use different words than other areas of Ukraine or to study the Ukrainian language in general or to write in your journal or to catch up on laptop work. That's where the fine cafes of Chernivtsi come in. Svoya Tarilka, Gusto Coffee, Grand Cafe, Mantulky, Literatur Cafe, and Cotte Cafe are among favourites (OK, so maybe I just named every cafe I went to ... they were all great though).
Dancing five days per week with the Buko ensemble, we became close friends with them right away. We went to their homes where we ate late night potatoes, and we went to their birthday parties where we danced the night away, and we went to pubs and practised Ukrainian and made many lasting memories.
We had them over for a couple get togethers, and we introduced them to jello shots, and they tried to teach us the card game Durak (fool), which didn't go so well with the language barrier and all, but it was still fun.
I brought some Canada pins from home (thanks to all the politicians we collected them from for free) and handed them out to the dancers. I've done the same in every city we've been in, and gosh, it's so nice to see their smiling faces as they wear the teeny tiny little pin with such pride. Whenever we mention we're from Canada, people often thank us for coming to visit Ukraine and for the strong relationship our countries have. So let's keep that up, shall we?
One fine weekday afternoon, Hannah, Natalya, and I were walking back from exploring the city. And we forced, er, encouraged, Hannah to get a haircut, something she had been talking about for weeks. For months, really. So we walked into a salon we passed the day before, and thankfully they had an opening right then and there.
Hannah inspired us all, and the following week Natalya and I went for haircuts. The salon Hannah went to was booked that day, but we walked across the street where another salon happened to be located and got it done there.
I was first up. OK, so maybe you think getting a haircut isn't the most exciting thing. But getting one in a country where you don't speak the language well is exciting. I attempted to explain to the hairdresser what I wanted, and after she glimpsed at a photo for 0.05 of a second, she nodded that she knew what I wanted. And I put my trust in her, because really, it's only hair.
She washed my hair, dried it, then started the cut. It didn't take long, and next thing you know I see her plug in a crimping iron.
And then my heart sank a bit.
From living in Ukraine for seven months, I knew crimping hair is actually in style here. Some people crimp their roots for volume, and others display it loud and proud all over their head.
I was attending a concert that night, so I was hoping after the cut my hair would be good to go. But this crimper changed things.
I was tempted to give the hairdresser a hard no on the crimping, but then I thought, you know what? I'm living in Ukraine, meaning by this point I should have crimped hair. So I let her go for it.
Thankfully, she just did the roots (and it added wonderful volume), and the hair on top mostly covered it, though some of the crimped hair did show through. Which I wore with pride.
Also, if you're about to travel to Ukraine, I highly recommend getting your hair done while here. I paid $7 CAD for my haircut, and a friend paid $25 for a cut and colour. Plus, they do a great job. So it's a win-win situation all around.
Oh, the dogs of Chernivtsi. They are everywhere. There have been many in other cities too, but in Chernivtsi there seemed to be an exceptionally high stray population. Many of them have tags, indicating they are vaccinated. Our language instructor, Lyra, explained that volunteers came one year to vaccinate the dogs since there was a big problem with people getting bit. Apparently out in the more residential areas, the dogs can still be quite dangerous, but we never had that experience. Except for that one time we saw one nip a man's hand. But that was it.
Still want more Chernivtsi? My friend Hannah made a video about our time there. Check it out here!