One amazing excursion to Kiev and Lviv

I have to start this post by saying that IF walking in 5 inch stiletto heels on jenky cobblestone streets were an olympic sport, the women of Kiev would have that shit locked down.

That was just ONE observation I made while in Kiev and Lviv.  The rest are more pertinent to libraries, I assure you.  I arrived in Kiev on June 12th and was picked up with two other students (whom I didn’t know) by a driver and taken to my apartment.  Let me tell you–that first apartment experience of walking through a dark, slum-like hallway with a strange man who doesn’t speak English after being on a plane for an entire day was a little disarming.  I was pleasantly surprised once we got to our quaint apartment and it did NOT resemble the hallway in any way.

Our first night (so a couple hours after I arrived) we went to see La Traviata.  I had to leave halfway through the performance because I physically could not stay awake and I’ve decided that Opera is not very enjoyable when you’re suddenly struck with narcolepsy.  My roommate also left with me and luckily I was able to navigate our way back despite my loopy state.  We happened to find some street performers on the way back who were spinning fire and singing in Ukrainian–which by the way is one of the most beautiful languages!  I slept like a rock that night, but woke up at 4 AM…a trend that would last my entire trip. 

Welcome to Kiev! The above shot is taken from a park we found while wandering around one of our free moments.  On our second day we went on a “sightseeing excursion” with a lovely tour guide who happily showed us several churches around the city via a small tour bus.  We saw several smaller churches that were replicas and rebuilt more recently.  I found it both interesting and heartbreaking that were were learning how religious the people of the Ukraine are, how that is a very integral part of their culture, and when other countries have occupied the Ukraine, many of these churches were destroyed.  I have a much deeper respect for the people there than I realized.  They have endured SO much hardship and have now had their freedom for no more than two decades (1991)!  Pictured here is Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, an icon of the city of Kiev.

I’m going to jump around a bit to keep you on your toes, hope that’s okay. 🙂 Below is a photo I took one morning of a stray dog.  Followed by OUR stray dog with Serenity. There were stray dogs EVERYWHERE and for the first few days I did not notice any stray cats but they were there, too…they were just masters of hiding since the dogs probably rule the Kiev underground of stray animals.  Seriously, there would be packs of dogs laying around in the sun.  They mostly didn’t care about people, but we did meet ONE who wanted some attention and nothing else.  There was a group of us from Portland and one night while picnicking in the park a puppy, who couldn’t have been more than 6 months old wandered over to us and laid down in the middle of our dinner.  She didn’t want anything we offered her but happily passed out as soon as we started petting her.  I would have taken her home if it were possible.  She was so sweet and calm (something I’m not used to since my dog is almost never calm–except right now.  She’s curled up next to me like a little couch potato as I write this).  We named her Hermoine Luna because we talked about Harry Potter a LOT on this trip.

Once we started visiting libraries, things got even more interesting.  The library system they have in place in the Ukraine is very interesting because it is very different than what we’re used to in the U.S.  Above is a depository and below is the reading room in one of the libraries we saw.  Each library had some type of depository and a really beautiful and naturally lit reading room; almost all of them looked like they could be ballrooms.  The way it works in academic, public, even CHILDREN’S libraries is one browses the card catalog or the online catalog and makes note of the books you want and then take it to a desk and give it to a librarian, who then goes to the depository to retrieve the books.  There is no open browsing in most cases and if so, it is only a tiny portion of the whole collection.  The reading rooms exist because taking the books OUT of the library is not allowed.  Whaaaaat?!  At least the reading rooms are pleasant spaces because if you’re a student or researching anything you’re going to spend a lot of time in them.

Beautiful card catalogs in Lviv.

We did take an over night train to Lviv, which was an interesting city as well.  The libraries there were just as grand and beautiful and the best part was our round table discussion in the university library with library students.  They were much younger than us because their education system is a little different as well.  We were able to ask questions about our educational experiences and issues in libraries and then they sang to us!  Below is a photo taken by Katie Hill, our wonderful coordinator from Kansas, of our discussion.

And, finally here is a good one of me showing some of the decor in the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Library.  It was a truly educational (but amazingly fun) trip with really great people.

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