We moseyed through Ivan Franko park, stopping to jump off tall tree stumps, bounce on the teeter-totter, and to take a lot of posed pictures like the foxy Ukrainian women love to do. In Kiev, we'd noticed girls our age riding the metro with bouquets of fall leaves, so we gathered our own and ran around the park with them.
I bought those wool mittens for about a buck and a half at one of the markets.
Camille scares children.
We navigated our way through the Ukrainian postal service, and then made our way over to a national art gallery. Our guidebook got us to the right block, but we couldn't find the way in. Two Ukrainian men tried talking to us, and when we said that we only spoke English, one was so shocked that he whipped out his video camera. He explained that he and his wife got married basically right where we were standing, and that his daughter lives in New Jersey, "She's never going to believe that I met Americans in Ukraine! Will you say hi to her on my camera?" We awkwardly waved at the camera and said hi, the whole time guarding our purses very carefully.
We found an entrance to the building where our guidebook said the art gallery should be, so we went inside a crowded lobby and gestured our way through buying tickets, being careful to show our international student cards for a discount. The book said the gallery was on the second floor, so we marched right through the first-floor crowds to find the exhibit. Jessica pointed out a couple of massage chairs, but we told her we could check them out at the end. The second floor wasn't quite what we expected. It was packed with well-dressed people, with a lot of strange displays set up on counters and behind glass cabinets. Suddenly it all made sense: the "massage" chairs, the business people, the fake teeth. We'd bought ourselves tickets to a dental convention.
The woman who sold us our tickets must have thought we were crazy, so carefully getting student discounts for a dental exhibit. Instead of leaving immediately, we decided to get our money's worth and check out all the equipment, and take a few subtle photos as well. One good-looking young dentist approached us and asked if we were dentists. We laughed and explained that we were trying to find the art gallery. When he found out that we were living in Kiev, he handed us a business card and told us that if we ever needed any dental work done, his office was in Kiev too. I looked down at the card to read the office address: Lesi Ukrainky Blvd--the street where I live.
We did find an art gallery on the second floor, but it definitely wasn't the one the guidebook was raving about. It was tucked in a musty old room that reminded me of an elementary-school library, with that brown-and-orange 1970's decor. The gallery was entirely dedicated to Taras Shevchenko. The only person there was a babushka who greeted us with a smile, flipping on light switches and turning on some background music. She wanted to give us the guided tour, so she took us around the room, pointing at certain paintings and then gesturing and trying to explain in simple language, smiling the whole time. She finally gave up and took out a book, flipped to the short English section, and sat us down in some chairs to read the information. The rest of the book repeated the English portion in about 20 languages.
We left the dental convention/art gallery starving, and the first place we stumbled across was a tiny "Mr. Bean Snack Bar." The sign was as large as the restaurant. We can't figure out why Ukraine loves Mr. Bean so much.
We still had some daylight left, so we brought out the compass. I got the short end of the stick with the compass instructing me to buy Jessica and Camille each an ice-cream cone. It did the trick, though, because as we wandered around looking for ice-cream, we found a video store and bought a hilarious Ukrainian aerobic-workout video. Then, as we were strolling through downtown, we walked out of a store and right into a very lost-looking young man. We had no doubt that he was not Ukrainian, so we started talking to him. Del, from Canada, arrived in Lviv earlier that day and couldn't find a hostel. After about 30 seconds of talking, one of us offered, "Come home with us!" We knew that there were about a dozen vacant beds in the hostel, and he was grateful to find somewhere to sleep since it was getting late.
We went to Puzata Hata (of course) and after the borsch had enough time to warm up our chilled bodies, we headed back to the hostel. I suppose he needed to prove his strength, because he carried Jessica for about a block.
And then Jessica proved her strength and carried him.