1. People moving a giant pysanka, a Ukrainian Easter Egg, in the middle of Kiev, Ukraine.
2. Street food hotdog snacks with strange innuendo.
3. The Kiev Monastery of the Caves is a historic monastery located in Kiev, Ukraine and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The underground caves are the most interesting part, but no photos allowed!
4. Kiev only a few months after the Maidan Protests. There are now ‘Support our Troops’ posters and a memorial to casualties from the protests.
5. Memorial for casualties during the Maidan Protests. Walking up to the memorial you can feel the somber mood of the people there, and reminded me of walking through the Vietnam Memorial in the United States.
6. Chestnut season in Kiev! Leaves were already on the ground and fall was arriving at the end of September.
7. Inside the train station in Kiev, Ukraine. Luckily, you don’t have to go far to find a McDonalds if that massive advertisement has got you in the mood.
8. Heading to to our overnight train on the platform in the Kiev Train Station.
9. Tea time on the train ride to Kherson, Ukraine. The provenitza, your all purpose ticket-collector and snack provider, will sell you tea and coffee, or you can ask for free hot water. I recommend not drinking the (instant) coffee.
10. The market in my hometown of Kherson, Ukraine is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, all locally grown and usually from people’s home gardens.
11. A booth selling sweets, candies and cookies, at the local farmer’s market. Ukrainians have a big sweet tooth.
12. A chicken in the family coop gives me a weary stare, perhaps wondering if he’ll be dinner tonight.
13. One of these ducks wasn’t so lucky, but it was delicious. Nothing like fresh duck on a summer evening.
14. Plenty of sweet real homemade vodka around the table to celebrate visiting family. When locals brew vodka they don’t throw much away. The vodka has a different taste the longer the still is running, so every bottle will taste a little bit different. Some sweeter and stronger than others. This particular batch was sweet, but very strong!
15. We rented a banya, Russian sauna, for the family one day and had exclusive use. There was plenty of kitschy decor to give the place some character, not that it needed it.
16. The little house in the back is the actual banya, the steam room. The facilities also included a hot tub (left), and ice water tub (right). Traditionally, the sauna was built as a small hut out of doors, with a cold pond nearby. This establishment evoked tradition with the outdoor inspired decor theme.
17. Classic Russian car, the Lada.
18. Sunflowers almost ready to be harvested. Ukraine grows sunflowers by the millions, and the flower is an emblem for summertime.
19. This person has the right idea with this set up: three fishing poles with three separate bells.
20. You don’t need to venture far from the road to find some of Ukraine’s rustic, natural beauty like this stunning combination of colors and textures.
21. An old Soviet car, most likely still in use, parked along the scenic lake.
22. Sally trying intently to take a picture of something tiny while my family looks out over the town where my grandmother grew up.
23. We visited the town where my mother spent her summers with my great grandparents, very rural and clearly still living and farming like in the old days. In the photo, a neighbor works to harvest a field of corn by hand.
24. If you’re only option for the toilet is an outhouse, why not give it some character?
25. This fried fish came out of a very dirty local lake, which we didn’t find out until after lunch. Still delicious though.
26. My little cousin, here 3 years-old, watches closely as my mom puts on make-up in Kherson, Ukraine. Tomatoes came straight from the garden.
27. A tradition in many parts of Ukraine, recently married couples secure locks to fixtures on bridges, benches, etc. to signify their eternal love. This bench appears to be a popular location in a small park in Kherson, Ukraine.
28. My cousin frolics in a local park in Kherson, Ukraine.
29. A fixture of the elaborate front of the ‘Passage’ in Odessa. This building is a point of interest with many stores on the bottom floors and a hotel on the top floors.
30. Yummy homemade dumplings. Back in the United States my family uses a tool to cut out dumplings from a mold, for some reason handmade dumplings taste so much better.
31. Grapes are a fixture of every home garden in Ukraine. By late summer the vines become heavy with thick clusters of sweet, juicy grapes.
32. A family member cultivates honey in their home garden. He explained to us how the bees bring the pollen necessary to make honey back to the hive on their hind legs. You can see two bees returning to the hive carrying full loads of pollen.
33. A pile of walnuts in the yard on the dacha. The walnuts had just begun to fall off of the trees when we were arrived. My mom’s cousin had so many walnuts from a single tree (literally hundreds of pounds) that they gave my uncle a whole sack full (that I could barely lift) to take home with us.
34. Street art around Kherson, Ukraine.
35. Statues of Vladimir Lenin have long been fixtures in towns and cities across Ukraine. I’m told many of them have been torn down or defaced since the most recent conflict with Russia.
36. Delicious fresh Ukrainian food. Pictured here is salo (cured pig fatback, very salty and delicious), stuffed bell peppers, fresh vegetables, black bread, and other goodies.
37. The dacha, or summer house, is as much a country retreat as it is an exercise in gluttony. A staggering variety of fruits and vegetables are cultivated in just one garden. We even found some wild almonds, and used a rock to crack them open.
38. Huge cabbages at the dacha. Every time I come to Ukraine I’m amazed at how big and quickly everything grows, often with minimal effort. The black topsoil in Ukraine is some of the most fertile in the world.
39. My family owns a small dacha that requires a boat to get to. Many people live right on the river year round and this is what they wake up to every day.
40. Hanging out, taking photos.
41. Slime, reeds and bullfrogs along the riverbanks.
42. Sunflower seeds are a common snack in Ukraine, but also a means of making a living. Many people work in pressing sunflower seeds into cooking oil. We passed thousands of sunflower farms as we drove around the southern part of the country.
43. A warehouse full of sacks of sunflower seeds.
44. Sunflower seed sacks everywhere!
45. My family’s adorable dog hamming it up for the camera.
48. Getting ready to board the train back to Kiev at sunset in Kherson, Ukraine.
49. As we were preparing to leave Kiev, a bomb threat was called in and the airport had to be evacuated. The emergency response consisted of: 1) evacuating the building temporarily, 2) one ‘SWAT’ police car showing up, 3) waiting a few minutes, and 4) letting everyone back into the airport to continue business as usual. All over the course of a few minutes. No bomb went off that we know of.