Friday August 9, 2013

After missing my alarm, I managed to catch my early flight from Kyiv to Amsterdam. From the airport in Amsterdam, I made my way to a hotel in the city centre Chic & Basic.

Having made a list of cafes I wanted to check out, I made my first stop at Screaming Beans; excellent latte, and a great sandwhich! Not yet over caffeinated, the next stop was Caffe Il Momento.

Amsterdam is the first city in the world I have been to where anytime you are about to divert from your walking path, taking a look in every direction is recommended! If not, you run the risk of getting hit by bikes, electric cars, trams, or other pedestrians! Definitely a neat thing to experience! 

I made the mistake of spending too much time touring the Rembrant Museum, which contained prints of almost all of his work, but no originals. Although a talented painter, his pieces all start to look the same! 

I had dinner at an outdoor patio and then took a stroll through the Red Light District. I've never been surrounded by so many people in my life; young and old!

Saturday August 10, 2013

I started Saturday morning off right by heading down to Headfirst Coffee Roasters. For antique, interior design or Kinfolk magazine enthusiasts, this cafe is recommended for you!

After this it was off to tourist central, aka museum time! The first stop was the RijksmuseumApparently the museum had been closed for almost a decade and re-opened to the public early this year. Housing art relating to the history of Amsterdam, there were some pieces I liked, and others that I couldn't relate to.

Lunch was picked up from a nearby deli and eaten in the park outside all of the museums. Next stop Stedelijk Museum which has a focus more on modern art and design. As this is a style of art that really appeals to me, I was glad I made the choice to check it out! As an added bonus, there were fewer tourists here! 

Sunday August 11, 2013

While the paintings were definitely worthwhile seeing, I would only recommend going to the Van Gogh Museum if you can handle a ridiculous amount rude tourists. It was challenging and sometimes impossible to catch a glimpse of some the photos in peace with the continual sound of camera shutters going off in the background.  However, still a worthwhile stop!

In my last hour of touring around Amsterdam, I stopped in at Koko Coffee & Design for a latte and piece of pie. It's a quaint little shop that shares space with clothing designers. Another neat place to check out!  

What a great two week holiday! Until next time Europe!



Tuesday August 6, 2013

This morning I a few guys on a walk from our hotel to Maidon, and back to the hotel, before we were on our way to our last tech rehearsal of the tour! Here in Kyiv we performed in the Kyiv National Academic Theatre of Operette, another old ornate theatre. 

For our last performance, we went out with a bang. Of the three performances that I took part of, this was probably the second best, so it was nice way to finish the tour. Following the concert, we had a Zabava back at our hotel. 

Wednesday August 7, 2013

Wow! Today the choir was fortunate enough to sit in on Vir'yovka Choir's rehearsal. To say that this choir can sing would be a huge understatement. Whether or not you understand Ukrainian language, if you ever get the opportunity to see this group perform, DO IT! It was evident watching him, that their conductor, Anatoliy Avdiyevskiy is a master and perfectionist! This workshop was definitely one of my highlights of the trip!

In the afternoon, I walked from our hotel to Kreshchatyk, to pick up some souvenirs. I managed to find a new shirt and a belt that I plan to use as a camera strap!

Thursday August 8, 2013

Our last day in Kyiv (and Ukraine)! We went for a photo-shoot at Mamaj Sloboda (a Ukrainian Village museum). Despite the hot humid weather and having to wear our costumes, it was fun!

After this I went on the tour to Perchesk Lavra. I had been there back in 2010, but I recalled the view of the city that you can see from there, so decided to go back . 

For our last Zabava, we had a dinner on the beach overlooking the Dnipro. Quite the view, great weather, and I even ventured into the river for a swim! Not a bad way to end the my time in Ukraine!

Kaniv | Kirovograd

Sunday August 4, 2013

Today was an up and down emotional day for the group as we travelled to the gravesite of Taras Shevchenko in Kaniv. It was emotional to sing at his gravesite, and overlook the majestic Dnieper River. Although not 100% accurate in their article, our appearance in Kaniv made the news. The museum on the site is well worth checking out. I hope to go back sometime, when I can view everything at a more relaxed pace. 

We ate lunch at a crumbling hotel near the museum. Don't judge a meal by it's location, the food was great!

In Kirovograd, we stayed at Hotel Europe. This was probably the latest I stayed up, and involved a late night journey to purchase Spiderman chips.  

Monday August 5, 2013

Today we went to the Ukrainian National Dance Museum where we toured around the displays and watched the dance group in their workshop. 

After this we continued on our journey to Kyiv. Where we checked into Hotel Ibis and went to bed. 


Friday August 2, 2013

Prior to our departure from Lviv to Cherkasy, Roman stopped by the hotel to see me briefly. We had a short, but good visit and then we were off! Lviv to Cherkasy was very long drive! Fortunately the road from Lviv to Kyiv is still in decent shape following improvements prior to the 2012 Euro Cup. 

Despite the good roads and smooth sailing, we didn't arrive at the Fusion Club for dinner until about 10pm. After a long day on the bus, I'm heading straight to bed!

Saturday August 3, 2013

This morning we watched the Cherkasy Choir perform. Unlike the Holoc Choir, they didn't teach us any new songs, but had us perform two songs for them. All in all, a fun morning!

After our workshop, we stopped briefly at the Kobzar Museum (Taras Shevchenko) and then off to tech rehearsal. Unlike the other theatres so far, Cherkasy's was the a newer theatre. They also had the largest banner for our group to date! Pretty neat!

Tonight we had our best Zabava yet, featuring a local band and several good toasts late into the night!


Wednesday July 31, 2013

After a late night I somehow got up early, grabbed a bite to eat and met Ivan down in the lobby by 8am. Had I been thinking clearly, I wouldn't have eaten anything as Lucy (Ivan's wife) had a huge spread waiting for me!

Slavko and his daughters Katya and Halya stopped by for a brief bit; they're heading on a vacation to Italy tomorrow to visit Slavko's sister. It was very nice of them to come see me, even though they weren't able to come to the concert.  Slavka and Tolic also stopped in.

Shortly after noon, I met up with the choir at a Freemason's Lodge restaurant downtown Lviv. Quite a neat place, and great food! After lunch it was back to the hotel, and off to tech rehearsal at the Maria Zankovets'ka theatre. The theatre is one of the oldest, most ornate theatres I have ever set foot in (built in 1842) and the sound (even before we were mic'd ) was perfect. 

The performance tonight was probably the most emotional I have ever had; I felt that Gido was looking down on me, and I had ~20 family members in the audience. In addition to this, the older audience members had tears in their eyes during some of our songs!

After the concert, I went for a walk with my cousin Olya through the centre and then back to the hotel for a Zabava. 

Thursday August 1, 2013

Once again, I got up early and met Ivan in the hotel lobby. I spent time playing with Yuri and Maria's daughter, Olena. She was born last time I was in Ukraine, so it was fun to see her again.

I went down to the market with Ivan, Lucy, Slavka and Tolic because they wanted to spend time with me, and get gifts for everyone back home! So they wouldn't spend too much money on souvenirs, and because I needed a good coffee, I convinced them to go to Svit Kavy (World of Coffee) for a drink and snack. 

As we made our way back to the hotel, we stopped for one last beer at a restaurant on the main strip. It was the perfect weather to spend the day outside exploring the streets. 

After my adventure with Ivan, Lucy, Slavka and Tolic, I met up with Olya. She speaks great English so we were able to have a great conversation. I had intended on meeting up with the choir for dinner at Kryjivka, but they were finishing up by the time I got there, so Olya and I went for pizza. 

Back at the hotel, the tour group had another late night as we don't have a performance tomorrow.

Kolomiya and Lviv

Tuesday July 30, 2013

Today we got up early so we could make the trip from Chernivtsi to Lviv in decent time. Distance wise, it's only about 250km, but with the condition of the roads, and travelling by bus, it takes much longer than that!

We arrived in Kolomiya early for lunch so we had time to explore before heading to the restaurant. Having been to the Pysanka Museum (it's about as exciting as it sounds) on my last trip, I declined to go back, and instead walk around the town square. We had lunch at a neat outdoor restaurant and then headed back on the bus to continue our journey to Lviv. 

On our way into Lviv, we drove down one of my favourite streets, and apartment building which was the inspiration for one of my prints, Knyaza Romana Vulitsya (Prince Roman Streeet).

As we pulled up to Hotel Lviv, I was astonished and excited to see, Uncle Ivan, Yuri and Maria! They had been waiting out front for a few hours I think! I rushed up to my room and went out for pizza, beer and two carafes of vodka with them. It was so great to see them again!

Tomorrow morning, I am heading to their house and then to tech rehearsal, before our performance in the evening! This trip continues to get better!

Train and Chernivtsi

Monday July 29, 2013

Trains in Ukraine (intentional rhyme) are a practical and very affordable mode of transportation, especially if you want to travel through the night. On my 12 hour overnight ride to Chernivtsi, I shared the "sleeper car" with three others. A gentlemen in his forties, who fell asleep right away and two guys about my age. 

The one guy spoke only Ukrainian and the other guy spoke Russian and a little bit of English, so between the three of us, and a few beer, we were able to have some sort of conversation. Mostly, they couldn't grasp the fact that I had travelled all the way to Ukraine to sing with my choir for free. 

Since the trains and tracks are older, the noise from the movement and frequent stops in villages along the way prevented me from getting into a deep sleep. The result of this was various train related nightmares for 8 hours. 

I arrived in Chernivtsi bright and early was greeted by two of our tour guides who took me to the hotel. The choir was finishing breakfast and preparing to go to a workshop, so I quickly put my bags in the room and grabbed a quick bite.

We went to a workshop with Holos Choir who were exceptionally talented musicians. They sang a few songs and then worked on two new songs with us. A phenomenal experience!

Following this, we were given the opportunity to tour around Chernivtsi, or go shopping. Since I hadn't been to Chernivtsi before, I decided on the tour option, which consisted of the beautiful University and city centre.  

In the evening, we had a fantastic dinner followed by a full performance by Holos. What a day to start off my choir tour! Tomorrow we are stopping in Kolomiya en-route to Lviv!


Sunday July 28, 2013

Landed in Kyiv late last night (Saturday July 27), after what was a good two days of travel. Myroslava (our tour guide's girlfriend) picked me up at the airport and helped me find my hotel. She doesn't speak a lot of English, so it was a great way to be immersed into Ukrainian language! Fortunately my mind was alert enough, that I was able to have a conversation with her for the duration of the cab ride. 

Hotel Ibis is very modern!

I stayed the night in the fantastic, Hotel Ibis which is close to the centre of "Old Kyiv", so I was able to spend the morning and afternoon wandering the streets on my own. The hotel itself is brand new, affordable and has a decent (but expensive) restaurant. I lucked into getting a room with a great view. 

Maidan Nezalezhnosti (independence square). It got it's name when Ukraine reached independence in 1991. It was also the location of the Orange Revolution.

I walked from my hotel to Maidan which is about a 2.5km walk. Keep in mind the hilly cobblestone streets, and an out-of-shape North American so both ways the walk took me a little while. On my way, I passed many landmarks from my last visit to Kyiv such as Taras Shevchenko University, old men playing chess in the park, and the sketchy underground pedestrian tunnels. 

With no goal for the day, other than to be back to my hotel on time, I had a relaxing afternoon exploring the city and taking pictures. I got to practice my Ukrainian by purchasing a SIM card for my phone as well as calling my mom's cousin in Lviv to tell them that I had successfully arrived. 

I made it back to the hotel to meet Myroslava and we are now off to the train station so I can catch my overnight ride to Chernivtsi!

I'm always fascinated by these stairways.

Taras Schevchenko University in Kyiv. 

Delayed Flight

Friday July 26, 2013

I didn't notice when I checked in (in Saskatoon), but my boarding passes had different times then my e-ticket.

My flight from Saskatoon was at the same time, but flights from Minneapolis to Amsterdam was bumped and the flight from Amsterdam to Kyiv was at an entirely different time.

Saturday July 27, 2013

Normally I wouldn't be upset about this kind of delay, but I'm going to be tired after a 7 hour layover, and I have someone who is supposed to be waiting for me in Kyiv.  Fortunately, Amsterdam airport is fairly large/nice, so I managed to make the time go by fairly quickly.

Just about to board the plane to Kyiv! Wooooohoooo!

7 hours in Amsterdam's airport wasn't all bad... Managed to find a restaurant that served fresh Heineken 

Away I Go!

And I'm off! From Saskatoon, I am flying to Minneapolis, to Amsterdam, to Kyiv. Once in Kyiv, I need to meet up with the tour group (via train) who will be in Chernivtsi. I'm not entirely sure how long this train ride might take, nor do I currently have enough Hryvnya to get myself there! All part of the adventure!

Probably not enough money to get me a bottle of water, let alone a train ride from Kyiv to Chernivtsi.

Probably not enough money to get me a bottle of water, let alone a train ride from Kyiv to Chernivtsi.