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Find Your Dream House in Kyiv  |  Ukraine

One evening over 6 years ago we were having a cup of tea my friend and fellow Toastmaster Eugene. At that time he was having some trouble arranging an accommodation in Kyiv for his foreign friends. Having traveled all over Europe, I often stay at hostels, hence, I was surprised to find out that there was no decent hostel in Kyiv at that moment. 

Time has passed and recently I was even more surprised with the great news that not only had Eugene opened a Dream House Hostel in Kyiv, but his hostel made it to the TOP 10 best small hostels worldwide, according to the Hostelworld ranking.

So, what is so special about the Dream House Hostel? First of all, it’s located at the heart of Kyiv within a walking distance to the subway station, main city attractions and a 24/7 grocery store. Hidden in a courtyard, it’s almost noiseless, and you can get a good rest after an intense day in the city. I took a walking tour around the hostel and I loved its modern and stylish design. Everything looks very new and fresh. Bright colors spread all over the place cheer you up on every corner. 

As a Kyiv dweller, I didn’t have a chance to stay at the hostel myself, but I was impressed with a horde of excellent reviews on Tripadvisor. Previous visitors complemented the warm and positive atmosphere, extremely friendly and hospitable staff, and impeccably tidy rooms. Judging from the photos on their Facebook page, the Dream House team not only provide their visitors with a cozy accommodation, but also arrange plenty of fun activities - check out the Boat Party, Ukrainian Drinks Party, Pub Crawl, and many others. 

Moreover, next door to the hostel there is a Druzi Cafe with an extremely cozy ambiance. Reasonably priced, with decent portion sizes (an important thing to note when you are in Ukraine!), Druzi Cafe is a great place to catch up with old friends and meet new people. They often conduct workshops and have a great selection of board games, so you’ll never be bored there :) 

Speaking of the menu, carrot cake is highly recommended by everyone. Unfortunately, it’s is so popular that they’d already ran out of it when I was there, but… it only made me want to come back here again :)

About Yuliya: http://blog.cityshare.com/post/63256498022/introduction-yuliya-kiev

Check out more awesome posts from Yuliya: http://blog.cityshare.com/search/yuliya

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Jars of Positive at the Fan-bar ‘Banka’   |   Kyiv

Remember the last time you were at home relishing that tasty jam right away from a jar? Enjoyed it? Then you are most welcomed to the Banka fan bar, a conceptual democratic bar in Kyiv where everything, food and drinks, is served in traditional jars of glass (a jar is ‘banka’ in Ukrainian, and that’s where this place got its name from). Soups, sausages, and even desserts - everything here is served in cute glass jars which is, believe me, a totally new culinary experience.

Among locals, Banka is famous for its cozy atmosphere and home-styled food, but most of all - for its creative drink ideas. Cocktails of all colors and tastes are served here every night. What’s more, many of them are based on the traditional alcohol drinks which are produced right here, at Banka. Choice of cocktails, mainly shots, is excellent, and the prices will pleasantly surprise you. 

As you arrive, make sure to check-in on Foursquare and get your free coffee. You will need some energy as the parties at Banka go on till late at night. Oh, and don’t forget to get some cool Banka souvenirs like T-shirts, bags, or medallions. To be honest, I am just crazy about the earrings with jars of colorful candies inside :) 

The first Banka was founded a little over a year ago. But the idea was caught on right away, and already there are 4 restaurants in various parts of Kyiv. Banka is very popular. Usually, it’s quite crowded on Fridays and Saturdays. So, it’s a good thing that I managed to book a table for my friends and soon we’ll be enjoying jars of fun at the Banka!

About Yuliya: http://blog.cityshare.com/post/63256498022/introduction-yuliya-kiev

Check out more awesome posts from Yuliya: http://blog.cityshare.com/search/yuliya

It’s raining, man!

Saturday morning. I woke up to the grey and dreary view in the window. My first intention was to crawl back under the covers and stay in bed all day. But the I thought: “Wow, my first rain in over 4 months in SF! ” I dragged myself out of the house and onto the wet streets.

I was surprised to see how different the city looks! All streets that are so familiar looked somehow different, they were empty and sooo quiet. No pedestrians, almost no cars, and no homeless people. Just raindrops in the air, on the ground, everywhere.

But SF didn’t stay paralyzed with the rain for a long time. Dog walkers (dogs def had a blast), committed runners (feels like everybody runs in SF), and young mommies with strollers soon filled up the streets. Shops opened up their doors putting out a bucket for wet umbrellas.

City was slowly waking up and getting back to its usual rhythm. Me? I am just strolling down the streets with my purple umbrella enjoying the city and the rain.

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Creative art in the Lavra Gallery | Kyiv

I will be honest: in winter it gets really-really cold in Kyiv. So, together with some outdoor activities on your to-do list, it’s important to have a safety plan that includes some nice cozy places to warm up. One of these should definitely be the art Gallery of Lavra. 

Why? First of all, it’s the largest city gallery in Kyiv. In 19th century it used to be a warehouse of the Kyiv Fortress, and over the years it has grown from a simple single-story building to a spatial expo hall with inside and outside expositions. Secondly, unlike many municipal galleries (that can be pretty boring sometimes), it holds all kinds of cool events starting from the photo exhibitions, pre-release screening of theatre performances, modern art festivals, fashion shows, and many others. Traditionally, it hosts the «I Love Kiev» festival with all the amazing photo/book/fashion/movie presentations of the local artists, as well as World Press Photo exhibitions. Thirdly, entrance is free of charge:) You got to check it out!

Last month, Lavra Galery hosted a photo exhibition of a national Ukrainian newspaper called ‘Den’. It was huge: over 300 photos capturing the most heart-warming moments of life. I attended it and was really touched. Funny animal pics, snaps of patriotic sport fans, touching photographs of what seems mundane events really move you. One hall was completely dedicated to photos taken by kids, so cute! I personally find black-and-white photos to be very moving, and this exhibition was rich with them. Very inspiring! You can certainly expect more of these inspiring exhibitions if you’ll visit it coming winter.

Lavra Gallery
1 Lavrska Street
(044) 280-36-33, (044) 290-02-90 
Open: 12AM-6PM daily
Closest subway station - metro ‘Arsenalsa’

About Yuliya: http://blog.cityshare.com/post/63256498022/introduction-yuliya-kiev

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Mamaeva Sloboda – the hottest place during a cold season in Kyiv

If you ever visit Mamaeva Sloboda, you’ll find yourself in a traditional Ukrainian village with small houses, wooden churches, and windmills. Thus, this open-air park is a great place to dive into the history of Ukraine and experience the traditional Ukrainian life of 16-17th centuries. Especially, if you come over during spring or summer, the picture will be enhanced with the spectacular view of the rich green meadows, colorful water lilies on blue lakes, and many blooming trees.

But what about now? When it’s cold and dreary, can you hope for any outside fun in Kyiv? For sure! Get your warm clothes on and head for Mamaeva Sloboda.

Tours around the village are conducted all year long. Just in under an hour you’ll walk around the park, get a chance to see the authentic interior of the traditional houses and check out a number of Ukrainian souvenirs from local craftsman. Then, after you are done with the ‘official’ part, the true fun begins :-)

Mamaeva Sloboda has lots of space, so just in the middle of the village you will see a fun crowd of musicians and dancers dressed in the national clothes, serving food, and entertaining visitors. I’d recommend starting off with a shot of Nalyvka. This is a traditional Ukrainian flavored vodka made according to the old time recipes with tastes of cherries, apples, plums and other fruit. Of course, you can’t miss trying out Kulish (millet porridge with smocked meat) cooked on an open fire, just like Cossack, Ukrainian warriors of 16th century, used to do.

By the way, all of these will be served in the colorful pottery, wooden spoons, and thick glasses that represent Ukrainian folk art of those times. To finish your meal, you can go for a glass of hot steamy mulled wine, which will not only warm you up but also give you strength for the next activities. Now join the crowd for the energetic folk dances, try out horseback riding, and, of course, don’t forget to enjoy Nalyvka one more time
:-)

Mamaeva Sloboda
Open 10 AM to 12 PM
Entrance fee is about EUR 9 (USD 12)

About Yuliya: http://blog.cityshare.com/post/63256498022/introduction-yuliya-kiev

This CityShare blog post got featured on premier Dutch travel tv-show: 
http://3opreis.bnn.nl/blogitem/40/mamaeva-sloboda

San Francisco Chocolate Tour

Wanna do something tasty and fancy in SF without putting on weight?  Try a walking chocolate tour! You’ll visit the best chocolate spots in SF, get high on chocolate in under 2 hours, and stay happy for the rest of the day. Check out Groupon for some good deals (regular price was 65 bucks, bit we got it for 18) and don’t forget a bottle of water! With all the sweets you will definitely need one. When to start shopping? Well, you can buy a little bit of everything at each stop, or wait till the last one (if you can) and then make up your chocolate mind :)

For a chocolate lover like me this was the best birthday present. 

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We start with the Fog City News. They actually sell magazines, but they also have a great selection of very unique chocolates. 88% dark Dolfin chocolate is just perfect -creamy strong but not bitter at all. BTW, experts say that dark chocolate has a richer tasting profile than most wines!

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Heaven is a place on Earth! 

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See’s chocolate - my dream job. Chocolate is so-so, but they have an eat all policy for their employees :)

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Mr. Ghirardelli came to the USA to get rich in the Gold Rush. Little did he know that it would be the ‘chocolate gold’ that would make him rich and famous.

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Ghirardelli's. Among all American chocolates, this one is actually edible :)

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Our chocolate experience at Spicely Organic Spices and Teas Boutique was very special. They pair different types of tea with different types of chocolate. Something new!

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100% organic
Vegan cousher
Free teade
Tea infused
Chocolatе

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Afterwords, you can purchase any tea or chocolate. I LOVED the white tea (just found out that it’s very good for your skin). Each box costs about 10-15 USD, a little pricy but definitely worth it!

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Next stop - exotic Japanes sweets. Most of them are made out of rice and are extremely sweet. The reason for that is as follows: they are usually paired with a Japanese tea which is very bitter. 

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We tried something more simple, but still very sweet. Chocolate ganache cream sandwiched between mini chocolate pancakes. Sweet, soft, delicious. 

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Back to Europe! Leonidas - exquisite Belgian chocolate. Made me recall my good times in Antwerp… Mmm… and, finally, the best of the best and my personal favorite chocolate from Switzerland - Teuscher.

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Here you can find the cutes presents for your friends! Teuscher is famous not only for its chocolate but also for their creative packages. Each single figure is a chocolate box and has a delicious praline inside. 

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Halloween army of little Draculas :)

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Ty personal favorite - Champagne Truffle. It has a dark chocolate ganache center that is enriched by a creamy infusion containing finest Dom Perignon Champagne. No picture! You have to try it yourself! 

The last present surprise was to find vodka truffle. Tastes unexpectedly cool!image

Great start of one more year filled with chocolate for me :)

gay, gay, gay every day. tales of castro.

Mid of August, but summer hasn’t started yet. Foggy and grey Saturday morning in SF… Looking for some fun and bright colors, I headed to the most cheerful and colorful neighborhood of the city on a walking tour around Castro with San Francisco Walking Tours. Not only had I a good time walking around, but I picked up a couple of fun facts and learned something new :)

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Our guide Russell embodied the character of the neighborhood and entertained us with lots of interesting stories along the way. I am not going to go deep into the history, but it was cool to know that that over the past two centuries Castro changed from being Mexican-Scandinavian-working-class blue-color Irish quoter with dairy farms and dirt roads to being a vibrant and trendy gay village of SF.

Buildings from different times, various architectural styles, bright colors and hidden backyard patios make Castro a great place to walk around. 

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Castro neighborhood (or gayborhood as Russell said) got its specific flair due to the activism in 1960-70s and one man in particular - Harvey Milk (if you, like me, haven’t heard of him before, check this out - Harvey Milk, a man with an amazing life story). Harvey Milk moved to SF from NY. He became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. He did a lot of things for the community and the the neighborhood, being a great visionary and a passionate gar rights activist. Sadly, he was assassinated by his political antagonist. Russell also recommended to check out the movie about Harvey Milk (2008).

The Flag. Milk was involved in creating the rainbow flag for the first 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Celebration. Turns out that rainbow flag wasn’t the first gay symbol used (the roots of the previous ones go back the sad times when pink triangles used during the WWII). The original flag designed in 1978 had far more colors but each of them had a specific meaning. Modern flag is a little simpler, but still bright and rainbow-like.

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The Hanky Code. Interesting story: during the Gold Rush times in SF (mid of XIX century) there were a lot of man in SF… and no so many women. After a couple of drinks in a local bar, hard-working gold diggers just wanted to relax and dance a bit. Square dances were in trend at that time, but you still needed somebody to lead and somebody to follow. The leader would identify himself with a blue bandana or a kerchief in his pocket. The follower would were a red bandana. Later on this evolved to become a hanky code which is used to identify one’s sexual preferences (an exciting article on Wikipedia about this Handkerchief code).

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The Castro Theater is absolutely beautiful. Built in 1922, it’s Baroque facade and even more beautiful interior will amaze you. Plan a visit during your time in SF for sure!

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The streets. Well, I guess you have to see it with your own eyes. Great restaurants, trendy shops with sexy underwear, cozy houses and unexpected things. TwinPeaksTavern, also called gateway to Castro, was the first open gay bar. Now there are a lot of them. I wonder why they don’t have a night tour around Castro. That would be fun!

Come over for colors and fun. Be open and let the neighborhood surprise you ;)

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Best place to start your day in Kyiv - Aroma Espresso Bar

Whether you are looking for that one cup of extra strong espresso, or a huge traditional American breakfast, or just a quiet place to work and dive into your laptop for a couple of hours, sooner or later the bumpy Kyiv roads will bring you Aroma Espresso Bar. 

Originated in Jerusalem, Aroma espresso coffee bars made their way to Kyiv in 2009, and I am sure they here to stay.

If you look through the photos people take at Aroma on Foursquare or Yelp, there will not so many food snaps. Why? The food is simply too good to take pictures of :-) Even the most dedicated food spotters, usually realize that half-through their meals. Aroma offers a great combination of healthy and tasty dishes served in large portions (which is big contrast to an average Ukrainian café). They do have an English menu, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting a mouthwatering sandwich or a delicious brownie.

Among locals Aroma is known for a variety of drinks. Latte is always impeccable. There is always a new flavor of tea and smoothie on the menu. My personal favorite drink for this cold time of the year is hot chocolate. It’s really-really hot and there is lots of yummy chocolate in it.

However, it’s not only the menus that makes you wanna come back to this place and recommend it to your friends. Comfortable sofas, warm wooden interior design, friendly stuff, free Wi-Fi and 24/7 schedule makes it an incredibly cozy place where you can enjoy the food, drink coffee and meet great people.

Insider tip! When you place an order at the register, they will ask you for your name. Traditionally people go crazy with their Aroma names. So, don’t miss your opportunity to be a Superman or Angelina Jolie at least for a moment. If you ever hear a bartender calling out for Pocahontas to pick up her extra hot latte, this means I am around :-)

Aroma Espresso Bars in Kyiv

5 Dymytrova Street
75 Zhylyans’ka Street
3 Mechnykova Street

About Yuliya: http://blog.cityshare.com/post/63256498022/introduction-yuliya-kiev

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We’re happy to introduce Yuliya from Kiev!

«Kyiv City is a beautiful, happy city. Over the wide Dnipro, all in green chestnuts, all in sunshine ». Mikhail Bulgakov.

Pryvit! I am Yuliya from Ukraine. Over the past 10 years I’ve been an inquisitive dweller of Kyiv, one of the greatest places on the globe.  

Beautiful city with beautiful people, Kyiv has a lot of hidden places with exciting mysterious stories shared only by locals. You can walk around its quiet streets for hours, or you can lose yourself in the affluence of tasty Ukrainian food and strong, yet delicious, traditional drinks. Here you can feel the essence of Ukrainian hospitality, sacramental history and modern day drive. 

Kyiv does have it all. You just need to know where to look for it :)