Okay, religion and politics in Ukraine are no joke, but believe me, the country has a serious sense of humor. For one, Ukrainians know how to potty. Scatological humor is heralded at the Toilet History Museum, which holds a Guinness World Record for the largest collection of WC-related artifacts (top left), including one of the first self-sanitizing crappers (top right). The day I visited, on an American holiday, quite a few a school groups were on field trips, so I joined one for a tour (bottom). If you're not so much into plumbing, you can peruse more prestigious collections at Kyiv's many other museums instead; but if you still want to stay a bit quirky, you can try the Jellyfish Museum.
Being tongue in cheek doesn't end at the toilet stall in Ukraine. Silly signage tells you how to use the bathroom by not stealing paper or the commode (top). Other signs show you to sit, not squat, on the top of the seat. On the other hand, you aren't allowed to sit on Metro escalators, even though the rides can be very long (bottom left). At Arsenalna, the deepest subway station in the world, it takes 5 minutes to get to the top. The hilly terrain of Kyiv begets multiple modes of ascension, including the funicular, which makes the short but steep traverse from the artsy district of Podil to downtown (bottom right).
The arts are front and center throughout the capital. Nearly every weekend in summer, an interactive tour highlighting Kyiv's creative style, particularly its architecture, passed right by my apartment (top). For a while, filming of a popular TV show took place two doors down from my place (middle left). Quite a few times, I stumbled upon commercial shoots, including one for a car brand that used the National Opera as a backdrop (middle right). The city is full of theaters, for operetta, drama, orchestra, dance, popular music, sports, and even puppetry. All of these were at my doorstep, but the theater I primarily frequented was Kinopanorama because of its English-language movie offerings (bottom).Ukrainian House, the international convention center, the Philharmonic (top left) was the backing band for a Frank Sinatra aficionado (top right). But certainly, a penchant for classical music dominates. A free summer concert series in Shevchenko Park featured Tchaikovsky symphonies performed by a university ensemble (bottom left) and baroque works played on a harpsichord (bottom right).
It seemed like I wandered into melodies all the time. During a random weekend walk, Sage and I stopped to watch a military band practice (top). Regularly, aspiring student musicians would rehearse on benches lining the sidewalks near the same Shevchenko statue (bottom left). Braver souls would break out the big guns to busk during busy street festivals (bottom right).
I wouldn't be surprised if the street performers made decent hauls, considering how philanthropic Ukrainians are. During another weekend walk, Sage and I had to weave through an army of volunteers re-painting the benches and trash cans in the Fomin Botanical Garden (top left). Sage even inspired some charity, from a dogless girl who wanted to stroll with him through the park (top right). Although not dogless myself, the young lady inspired me to spend a day at a local shelter, where some friends and I got the canine residents out and about from their cages for a little while (bottom left). It was a hot day, so we had to relax in the shade after releasing some energy (bottom right).In the cooler months, I focused my volunteering on another effort, arranged by a work colleague. We pre-built gingerbread houses for needy kids to finish decorating for Christmas (top left). Due to a schedule conflict, I didn't get to deliver our mobile-home kits (top right). Luckily, I was able to join the second trip to the orphanage. We delivered some donated toys (middle left) and we organized some art projects (middle right), but really, we just played with the kids (bottom). You'll likely be relieved to know that, despite their friendliness, I didn't come home from Ukraine with any kind of ankle biter, furry or otherwise.