Sofiyivka Park, Uman, Ukraine, Part Two

Uman' Travel Blog

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        We packed into the Volkswagen van, and as soon as we reached the countryside, discovered that in a past life our driver was either a fighter jet pilot or an indy race car driver.
    Roads in Ukraine are, to say the least, bouncy. And when you factor in the traffic, which could range from a hand-pushed ox cart to a lorry (in America we would call this a semi tractor and trailer), our driver was found to be quite skilled in passing everything he could, and managed to get us to our destination in a hurry. Maybe we should have told him we were not in a hurry. Oh well, we made it there alive.

Map of Sofiyivka Park near Uman
Photo by Nicole Weber



English Description of Sofiyivka Park
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber

    We were heading to a town called Uman, and a true gem of Ukraine, Sofiyivka Park. And while I have not traveled all that much and can't compare the park to other parks, other traveler writers have, and according to them, Sofiyivka park is well accepted by my travel writing peers and mentors as one of the greatest landscape parks of the world. The park is compared to Balbi Garden in Florence, Italy, San-Susi Park in Potsdam, Germany, and Versailles, in France.

Flora Pavillion
Лавилбйон Фпора
Photo by Nicole Weber

    What makes the park amazing may not only be its size, but it's complexity and the complex nature of how the park came to be in the first place. It is not a park built because a King told his people to build it. It is a park a Count paid for and built for a beautiful woman he loved dearly.
    The story of Sofiyivka Park is, at best, convoluted. Tour guides have so many sources citing so many things, they've actually gone to either lying or telling you every possible theory of how the park came to be. It took me nearly a month to sort out the story, and I'm still not totally sure I'm accurate.
    Since there are so many theories and so many lies about the park's builders, I will give a brief synopsis of what I can gather is the most accurate of all the stories:

    Count Stanislav (Felix) Potocki is rich. Then he's poor, but he owns a lot of land. He always treats his surfs (peasants) well. His parents die, and he marries a rich woman. They have children. They get a lot of land, and both are powerful.

    Sofia grows up in Greece, and after her father dies her mother decides to send her to the Polish King, or at least to Warsaw to find a rich husband. Rumor has that she was sold into slavery, but there is no proof of that, and she is rather already among higher "aristocratic" circles of the time, only hoping to enhance her already high position. On her way to the Polish King, she marries a Russian General. They have children.

    While Russia and Prussia trade, steal and aquire land, Potocki attends talks in Yasi, Romania and meets Sofia. They are both married to other people, but run off together. When both of them receive divorces, they settle in the Uman area, mostly because Potocki lost political clout and his ex wife spent the farm while he ran off with Sofia. Their first choice would have been Crimea. While Sofia is off getting her divorce, she tells Stanislav of a beautiful park in a letter to him. It had many different varieties of plants and trees, greek statues, and she wanted the Count to build something similar for her. He died about a year before the park was completed. Local legend says it was because his heart was broken after he found Sofia cheating on him with another man, his son from his first marriage. The park was dedicated on her birthday in 1802.
    Sofia then had a brief fling with a well-known Russian Count and finished the park with his money. He was the famous Potempkin, and the equally famous Battleship Potempkin was named after him.


Snake Fountain and Ionian Sea
�'одограй Змея
Iонiчне Море
Photo by Nicole Weber

    The most accurate historical perspective comes from the garden's official website: http://www.sofiyivka.org.ua/en/history/history1.htm
    The website debunks a lot of myths and other stories that are told of the park, and offers more info than anyone can take in.
    However, even if you forget the story of how the park came to be, you can still be amazed by the variety of things the park has to offer. A team of scientists studying the park issued a catalogue of plants declaring the park had a total of 1,994 taxons. A taxon, if you remember from your high school science class, is a group of organisms (Do you remember Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species?). That's an impressive number.
    There are 320 taxons of roses. There are 100 lianas (woody "climbers" that use trees to climb up into the canopy), 98 other flower taxons, 57 rhododendrons, 44 junipers, 41 fir trees, 25 hazels, and 24 beeches. The local trees were gathered from within a 100-mile radius. More exotic trees came from places like Antipode, Atlas, Lebanon, Asia, Italy, Weymouth and Crimea. There are maples and lindens (there are only 30 known species of lindens in the world), chestnuts and poplars, white acacia, ashes, oaks and pines. There are 1220 taxons of trees and bushes total, and over 774 herbaceous plants. And the English Park (inside the park) itself has 150 different species of plants. It is believed that the only plants that were local were the oak trees that inhabited the area before the park was built. Some were saved, others were cut down. But some of the oak trees that remain are believed to be at least 100 years older than the park. Italian poplar, Weymouth pine, and white acacia are a few examples of trees that were introduced to the park, but flourished and eventually have spread into other parts of Ukraine.

Snake Fountain and Ionian Sea
�'одограй Змея
Iонiчне Море
Photo by Nicole Weber

    For anyone who hasn't dug dirt from under their fingernails at night after a day doing landscape work or gardening, to build something similar you would have to plant something different every day for about five years, and given the rate that plants die, it would probably be closer to about 8 years. Just hope at that point you don't have a natural disaster like a fire or blight that kills off most of the garden. I know first hand that it isn't easy. You should see my garden. A lot of things have died in my garden. A book about my garden could be called The Garden of Good and Evil if that name wasn't already taken.

A Close-up of Snake Fountain on the Ionian Sea
�'одограй Змея
Iонiчне Море
Photo by Nicole Weber

    Our driver took us on a series of roads from Cherkasy to Uman, on a maze of roads heading mostly southwest. The trip I'm told usually takes three hours. And I think he did it in a little over two. The van had curtains in the window, mostly to keep the hot sun out, but also because the driver would often kick back and nap or watch TV or DVDs on a pull-down TV just behind the front seat while we were off sightseeing.
    The driver spoke very little english, but Derrick decided at one point to join him up front, in part because the view was better, but also because up to this point he had spent a lot of time bouncing around in the back of the van with the luggage. Oh, yeah. And the air conditioning wasn't working very well that day. We spent a lot of time with the windows open.
    The driver would sometimes stop for a smoke break, which made me happy because the ride was making me ill. I was happy to not be driving, because I drive almost every day of my life. And to spend every day of vacation bouncing down the road, dodging traffic, not worrying about my own driving skills and putting our lives into another person's hands comes with its plusses and minuses. I found it was better to try not to look, or close my eyes, hope for the best, realize that he wants to go home just like me and doesn't want to get into an accident, and while on the road like this, it's also not a bad idea to sit back, try to relax, and make your peace with god.

Canola Field
Рапс
Photo by Nicole Weber

    The farm fields in Ukraine are often full of Canola, a blazing yellow in mid May. The plants stand knee-high at this time of the year, and apparently grow very well in this area. They caught Nicole's attention, because they're yellow. And the story of their use here in Ukraine apparently goes deeper. After a little research, I found out that many of the beautiful yellow fields are going toward bio-diesel production in Ukraine. There are at least two plants in Ukraine as of last year, drawing from over a million tons of Canola now being grown in Ukraine.

Canola Field
Рапс
Photo by Nicole Weber

    The country may not produce quite as much canola as the United States. We produce somewhere between 7 and 10 million tons, but for it's size and per capita, Ukraine definitely has us beat.
    Besides the canola there are always large plots of land set aside for people, small-time farmers who grow potatos, beets, carrots, celery, onions and just about every other vegetable and fruit you might find at a farmer's market this time of year. At one farmer's market, Nicole and I found a woman selling nothing but seeds, an entire table of seed packets, in envelopes stacked on end. It was an impressive sight to behold, and hard to imagine how much a farmer could plant with all those seeds. I would imagine, like education, keeping and drying seeds for future planting is somewhat of a Ukraine pastime for farmers and city folk alike, and the trading and selling of seeds probably looks a lot like the online trade of mp3s or CDs in the States.
    At some of the major and not-so-major road intersections, there is often a petrol stop or gas station. There's no mistaking a gas station anywhere in the universe, but I get the feeling that the owners or the designers sometimes don't get the idea of how customer flow works, getting traffic in and out in a timely fashion. Some stations forced drivers to back up to the pumps. And in towns and the country it's often possible to see a tractor and a wagon blocking all the pumps. Does that mean rural gasoline and diesel delivery is rare or non-existant? Maybe it's undependable or comes at a much higher cost or is something farmers worry will be stolen. Whatever the case, it was a common sight to see farmers driving tractors to the gas station. And a customer is a customer is a customer. So what if a tractor blocks the petrol pump? They're probably buying a hundred gallons anyway. Let the farmers take their time.
    Along the sides of the road, trees were being harvested and planted by men in bright orange or bright yellow vests. And along country roads and highways, the ditch space, grass and trees are never wasted or grown simply for looks.
    All along Ukraine country roads, cows and goats eat the grass, weeds and shrubs. There are little to no mowers, and the animals are either left alone while chained to the ground or to a tree, or they are attended all day by an old man or old babushka with a stick to move or swat the animal, to keep it out of the road, or get it to cross the road. So, now in hindsight, let me add to the list of things that a driver must avoid in Ukraine; animals and herders.
    Rural living and time measure a little different when you consider the life of an elderly person, spending their days watching animals graze on the side of the road. While driving U.S. roads, one would certainly call 9-1-1 on a cell phone if you spotted loose animals on the side of the road with an old woman lying there, lifeless. But here, it's no cause for alarm. For the old herder is only napping on the ground, in the shade of a tree or even in the beating sun. She will wake up soon, and will have to take the animals to their water source, probably water in a ditch or a nearby pond or stream (cows, for example, drink a gallon and a half of water per day, more if it's hot). She would be extremely angry with you for waking her up to see if she was O.K. and would probably wonder what the hell was wrong with you, couldn't you see she was napping? Then she would calm down, and probably offer you instant coffee from her thermos or a cabbage sandwich and probably apologize for yelling at you.
    I looked in awe, wondering how anyone could sleep just a few feet away from a busy highway of lorries, cars and motorcycles. But I've been that tired before, and I know I can sleep anywhere. Heck, I slept in pouring rain during a hurricane. Friends woke me up so I wouldn't drown. But that's a story for another day.
    Speaking of motorcycles, we passed a really bad motorcycle wreck, the former rider of the bike no longer with our world anymore. His body was deposited, splat style, sans foot according to Derrick. He was rolled over and settled not-so-gently just under the front wheels of a small car.
    The bike had the front wheel smashed into the engine, and the BMW, probably passing at a high rate of speed or blowing through a stop sign making the bike t-bone the front quarterpanel of the car, was a car without a whole lot of damage. The BMW was still drivable.
    In this country, even though drivers seem crazy, it is entirely possible to lose all driving priviledges and probably spend a few nights in jail for such an accident. You might be able to get out by knowing the right people, or by spending lots of money in the right places. And even then, you will still be seeing a lot of cops, and at some point a very unhappy judge. But at least you'll be alive.
    We passed other fender-benders from time-to-time. They ranged from minor to major. And at some point, you get the idea that if you drive here, it's not a matter of if you will be in an accident, it's when.
    So we arrived at Sophie's Garden, better known as Sofiyivka Park in Uman. And I was never more glad to get out of a vehicle. My head was spinning for the next two hours.

Snake Fountain and Ionian Sea
�'одограй Змея
Iонiчне Море
Photo by Nicole Weber



Little Bridge on the south end of the Ionian Sea
�'енещiансбкий МiМтк
Iонiуне Море
Photo by Nicole Weber

    We met up with two women who would be our personal, english-speaking guides on the tour. The head guide spoke brilliant english, and the other woman spoke a little bit of english, and was very easy to understand. The head guide was also very well versed in the history of the park and the Uman area, knew a lot of the ancient greek mythology, but at times would have trouble translating the greek names to english. What a confusing thing, to understand an ancient story only to have to translate it to a totally different language than you'd learned the story. And it's not as if greek statues or stories come up in everyday conversation.

Part of the Flora Pavilion
Лавилбйон Фпора
Photo by Nicole Weber



Орфей
Острн Iтака
Photo by Nicole Weber

    I could remember many names, of many of the statues, like Aprodite, Venus, Apollo, Mercury, Cupid, when the guide was having trouble with the translations, but I realized how rusty I was whenever I couldn't remember. We walked through a lot of the park. And it's huge. It is said the gardens occupy one fourth of the land in the city of Uman. How many acres and how much area seems to be under contention. Is it 45 hectares, 400 acres, a few square miles, all of the numbers different according to who you speak to or what online reference or book you find the information. I'd like a real official read on exactly how big the park is. But until then, let's just say it's really big.

The flower and sitting area near the pond, and the Temple of Poseidon
Площа Зборiв
Храм ПосйдонА
Photo by Nicole Weber



Another angle of the Temple of Poseidon
Храм ПосйдонА
Photo by Nicole Weber



Temple of Poseidon at left, Ionian Sea, Snake Fountain and Flora Pavilion at right in the background
Площа Зборiв
Храм ПосйдонА
�'одограй Змея
Iонiчне Море
Лавилбйон Фпора
Photo by Nicole Weber

    The walkways of the park were a mix of cobblestone, of soviet-era ashalt, of new and reused concrete, of marble, granite, wood, sand, dirt, gravel, and they were all very well traveled. the park gets a staggering amount of visitors every year, and the green houses take up an equally staggering amount of land. Most of the park is not mowed, and in the rare mowed area, grass is never walked upon, slept or lazed upon, or for that matter does it see any human tread of any kind, except for the rare mowers. And I wonder when they mow, because we never heard or saw a mower.
    The park uses the hills, has a reservoir and pipes to provide fountains and waterfalls with a natural, gravity-fed pressure, released by a valve that has needed no repair in the past 211 years of service.
    Just to build this hydro system required a lot of thought. Because the pipes had to be in place before the extra rocks, paths, statues and grottos were built, the master plan had to be intricate. Ludwig Metzel, the former military engineer responsible for designing and building the park calculated at one point that every day for six years, an average of 800 people worked on the park.

Cupid (Amor in Latin) Statue. Cupid is the god of erotic love.
Амур
�'елнкий �'одоснад
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber



Statue of Venus and Grotto
�"рот Фетiди
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber



Statue of Venus
�"рот Фетiди
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber

    Now, workers are still everywhere. Tractors and laborers are constantly rebuilding paths, changing them to a more original state. They are tearing up gravel and asphalt placed there by Russians and putting back cobblestones. And they're adding flowers, trees, plants and shrubs along the way. They're replacing old, decaying and dying plants, and they're replacing broken or worn-out things. What things? Well, believe it or not, if you walk on a rock long enough, you will wear it out. Yes, they replace 2-centuries-old rocks. It's amazing. And it's amazing to think how much was not wasted. Rock chips from stone carvings, for instance, can always be used for cobblestones, or even gravel. You wouldn't dream of wasting such a thing.

Statue of Venus
�"рот Фетiди
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber



Island of Anti-Circe, across the pond
Острiв Анти-Цирцей
�'ерхнiй Смав
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber



The Boat to the Island of Anti-Circe, one of a few ways to get to the Island
�'ерхнiй Смав
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber


    The original stone workers carved massive things, like Calypso, Loketek, and Diana's grottos all out of natural rocks in the hillside. In some other places, workers used explosives. Marble statues were ordered from Italy.
    Walking isn't the only way to enjoy the park. Rowboats, ferries and other watercraft carry people around the upper and lower ponds and reservoirs. Boats take people to the island. Boats take people through the River Styx, a 224-Meter underground stream with an archway made of granite, starting at the Dead Lake, then floating through complete darkness with only four windows above representing Childhood, Youth, Adulthood and Death.


Boat to the Island
�'ерхнiй Смав
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber



Restaurant, Hotel and Museum
Ресторан, �"отелб, Музей
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber




    We were lead down a path going from the old main entrance, along the lower levels, along the creek, through canopy trees covering the main road and parallel foot path. Giant boulders were hauled in, some placed there for meaning, others placed randomly to represent chaos, the beginning of the universe and the source of "godlike creation" for the ancient people. (Many believed the Universe was created by chaos. And that would explain a lot.) Some of the boulders appeared as if they could fall at any second, held in place by sheer placement and gravity and already able to withstand several earthquakes experienced here throughout the park's history.
    OH OH OH. And just a sidebar here! I found one source that claims when one of the earthquakes happened here, it shook Sofia's grave out of Uman churchyard. When that happened, many locals started to believe she was a witch. Freaky!

    During the tour and our re-education of greek stories, we were told that when giving tours to the many Chinese travelers visiting the park, tour guides had often decided that it was easier to come up with parallel chinese fables rather than try to describe greek stories and how they relate to the rock formations.
    I'm not sure, however, how they explain the marble statues or the inscriptions that are clearly not Chinese, but I guess that's not my problem. I was, however, concerned that if they were willing to make up stories for the Chinese travelers, what's to say they didn't make them up for us? Upon reflection, and after doing some research, I discovered that I believe they did make up some of the stories. But that just made it funnier, and it made me want to know more about the park. So here I am, trying to straighten the story out.
    There were honestly so many amazing and pretty things to see at the park, it's hard to remember which was my favorite part. I guess I would honestly have to say the best was probably Diana's Grotto. The bath was carved out of solid rock, tunneled into the hillside and opened up to a room about 3 meters by 3 meters. The bath had a step down and was square, about the size of a kitchen table, or common picnic table.


Diana's Grotto, carved in solid rock in the hillside. Diana is Apollo's twin sister, and is known as the Goddess of the hunt. She was almost always shown clothed in statues and paintings, because she was not supposed to be seen in the nude by men and only bathed in the prescence of other women. One myth says Acteon saw her bathing nude, and Diana turned him into a stag, then sent his own hunting dogs to kill him. Diana worship is mentioned in the Bible, Acts 19:21-24.
�"рот �"ианы в
Photo by Nicole Weber

    It was fed by springs running through the hillside, and from every spring-fed creek or spring-fed pond I've ever swam in, why anybody in their right mind would put so much work into a project just to try and relax in such, OH-SWEET-BEANS-THIS-IS-COLD water, is far beyond my understanding. Maybe it's like asking why people continue to brush their teeth, then drink orange juice and gag. They knew it was the worst taste in the universe with exception of that green-death flavored NyQuil. People are just so stupid.
    The woman who wanted the bath built, must have been born with polar bear fur on her arse to withstand such cold water. Legend has it she rarely used it, and when she did, no other men were ever allowed inside. This may have been true after the place was built and maintained by men, but it was probably because she didn't want to get caught screaming as she dipped herself in the frigid water. Other women wouldn't have necessarily told everyone else how she cursed a blue streak as her skin turned red as a lobster, then shrunk down and goose pimples flashed all over her body. A guy seeing such a thing might go tell all his buddies about the crazy woman who didn't know any better and didn't realize spring water was cold. What's next? Duh... the sun is going to come up in the east? I don't believe you. Make it come up in the west! I am a princess, make it so! Duh... dogs like their butts? Nah, I don't believe you. Here spot, give mommy a big wet kiss on the mouth. Aw, man, how did I get a tapeworm?
    I'd be willing to bet that the minute after this was ordered to be built, Sophia tried it out, then fired the serf peasant who spoke up and said it wouldn't be a good idea.
    Then, the men built it anyway, in part because they were too stupid to flee their work site or needed the money. And just as the project was finished, she tried it out and had all the workers killed for not installing warm water. Then, she never used the bath again. It was tossed aside like so many dresses and so many pairs of shoes. And people at this point made up clever little stories and jokes about the place, and the workers used it to chill their beer on hot summer days.
    The most recent funny story regarding the bath was from a few years back when a tour guide accidentally locked a woman inside, and she was forced to spend the night inside the little cold cave. Apparently the tour guide made a head count, and missed the one woman inside who stayed behind to get a few extra pictures, then a short time later realized the err of her dawdling and screamed for help to no avail until the sun went down.
    A tour the next morning found the woman, disheveled and quite wet from sleeping on the damp, cold rocks of Diana's Grotto. It's just a little room and a little pool of water, and something in her mind believed getting a picture she could have bought for 25 cents at the souvenir shop was well worth giving up the "buddy system" we all learned in grade school, and she was just too important to the group and nobody would forget to look for her. And she was wrong, completely wrong.
    Her husband of 35-years probably made the bus, enjoyed the rest of the tour, made his flights back to Atlanta, Georgia surprised how everything went swimmingly where nobody lost his luggage, everybody was nice, no kids kicked the back of his chair, and he was able to eat all his airline meals in peace.
    And as he got ready for bed, he flipped his slippers under the bed, placed his cognac on the nightstand, pulled the covers back and layed down, then sat up again, looked around, and said outloud to himself, "Where's Cheryl?"

    Our group wandered around the rest of the park, making sure from time-to-time we hadn't left Derrick or Nicole, our primary photographers on this trip, anywhere in some cave or on some island without a means of escape.
    In one area of the park, we discovered something that was to become more and more common wherever we went. And that was the endless number of street vendors, street people, and often the barkers who surround them, trying their damndest to get you to buy their crap.
    Some of these barkers are just downright annoying, and they simply pollute the air. Yet some are very skilled and funny and are fully capable of making your day if you listen and let them entertain you. That's how I discovered myself getting "clanged" in the head by a St. Petersburg hat man, but that's a story for later in our tales of St. Petersburg and Russia.
    Sofiyivka Park was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to trying to get every coin from every tourist. Visitors were encouraged to throw coins in fountains, in the lakes, and begging is a big profession in many part of Ukraine and the Park is just one of many spots you will find them asking.
    Some of the highlights of the park I didn't mention yet include the Island of Anti-Circe (often now called by a slightly less romantic name "the Island of Love"), the Rose Pavilion on that island, the Isle of Lesbos, Tempe Valley, the Red Poppy Elysian Fields, the Grotto of Thetis, the Valley of the Giants, the Tantal Grotto (where a giant boulder feels as if it will soon collapse and smash you like a bug), the Terrace of the Muses, the Cretan Labyrinth (something we didn't get to see, and I believe it is on the island), Leucadian Rock, the Flora Pavilion, the Snake Fountain, and a small Gazebo sitting on mounds of chaotic heaps of rocks overlooking the Kamyanka river which runs through the park.
    The park and its splendor cost the count the equivalent of 15-million Polish Zltoy (peasant wages, rock work, plants and trees, and the land and buildings). And it's staggering that for all that cost, the entrance fee costs each person only about $1 US (6 Hrivnas - Pronounced "Griv-naz"). It's the deal of a lifetime.
    We finished up our tour by walking back to where we'd started, then circled some of the palaces and other gardens and buildings before we found our driver. Our head guide parted company with us, and the other woman got us to our next stop and told us a few things about Uman. She took us to a great out-of-the-way restaurant that I would only have to guess very few tourists get to see. And I say that because so few would ever even find the place. It was hidden back in the hills, and was only marked by a couple of small signs above the door.

Derrick taking a picture of delicious Borscht.
�'орщ
Photo by Sam Sinke



A typical Ukrainian Meal
Photo by Nicole Weber
    The wait staff seated us in a special back room of the restaurant, and even though there weren't a lot of lights, it was clear the place was beautiful, full of hardwoods and tile. They served us Borscht, potatos filled with meat, and an egg scramble (possibly like a quiche, but cooked different). We had beer with dinner, we paid for the driver's dinner in addition, and when we got the bill, it wasn't bad considering all of the great food we enjoyed.

Nicole taking pictures of Canola
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Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole in the Canola
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Photo by Sam Sinke



Canola Field
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Photo by Nicole Weber



Canola Field
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Photo by Nicole Weber
    After sitting and letting the food digest for a few minutes, we got back into that van that I dreaded so much, and I begged them to stop at least once so that we could enjoy a nice yellow field for a few minutes. I was thinking pictures, but I was also thinking about not barfing. And a nice yellow field that didn't bounce and didn't make me more car sick was exactly what the doctor ordered. In a way, I was also hoping to stop at some place to get some pictures of rural life or farmers working in a field, but those places were easier to spot on the way out, and I felt a little hurried about getting back to Cherkasy. So I just let that one go.


Nicole and DiAnna in a field of Canola
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole and DiAnna in a Canola Field
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole and DiAnna in a Canola Field
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole and DiAnna in a Canola Field
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole and DiAnna in a Canola Field
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole and DiAnna in a Canola Field
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole and Dianna
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole leaves the Canola Field
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



DiAnna exits the Canola Field
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Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photo by Sam Sinke



Sam is trying to catch up in his journal
Рапс
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber



Sam
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Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber



Sam
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Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber



Sam
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Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber


DiAnna and Derrick head back to the Van
Photo Courtesy Nicole Weber

    One of the things I did while in the van was try to get a picture of everybody doing their best "Little People" impression. From what I understand, this goes back a way, and "Little People" in Ukraine is basically a stuffed animal. So we are doing impressions of stuffed animals. DiAnna has this routine with a dance she does whenever Derrick turns the video camera on her she calls the little people dance. Hence the next bunch of strange pictures.



L.P. Derrick
Photo by Sam Sinke



L.P. DiAnna
Photo by Sam Sinke



L.P. Sam
Self-Portrait



L.P. Nicole
Photo by Sam Sinke



Derrick and DiAnna riding in the back of the Wondervan
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole in the Wondervan
Photo by Sam Sinke



Nicole in the Wondervan
Photo by Sam Sinke
    Derrick and DiAnna made another visit to her parents while Nicole and I went back to take a nap. After the nap, we went up to the Sheller's room for a few drinks. And again Derrick relailed us of tales of how his mother-in-law was trying to feed him again. We worked out our plans for the next day, which started with us having breakfast and then had us attempt to make a 9am departure for Kiev, Ukraine's capital city.
    Between Cherkasy and Kiev, DiAnna found a great stop to break up the trip, a sort-of outdoor museum of folk architecture. Then, we would try to make a date for a city tour of Kiev at 3 pm. It sounded like a plan, and I was so glad to hear we would be breaking up the trip with a stop in-between.
    The next morning, we all met for breakfast. And this time I was totally on top of the whole instant coffee/hot water fiasco I couldn't figure out the day before. We talked a little more about the night before, the trip so far, and what we had planned in Kiev. We went back to our rooms, gathered our bags, loaded the van, then stopped at Vladimir's office at the Hotel to say thank you. He did so much for us, and I was keenly aware of how many strings he pulled to get us such red-carpet treatment at Sofiyivka Park. And it was at this time that I wished most that I could speak to him in fluent Russian, or even Ukrainian. I'm not sure if he spent months planning our trip, or if he made three phone calls, but I will guess that he spent the former and worked very hard to get us the best trip of Ukraine possible.
    He followed us over to their flat, where we said goodbye to Svitlana (and Derrick was helping to set up a power supply for a gift he gave earlier... an important missing piece), and we saw DiAnna's aunt and told her how good it was to see her again. We hit the ATM, then hit the road.
    And I say this with all the sincerity in the world, that I do hope that we get to somehow see them again. Both Vladimir and Svitlana have made it to the U.S., and if they should come over again, I sure it works out to at least stop by and say Zdrastvuite (or Privyet)!
    It's a lot to ask, or even to offer, but I went as far to invite them to our wedding. It's a long shot, and more than likely they will not be able to make it. But the offer is there, and on the slim chance that it might work, I would certainly welcome Vladimir and Svitlana with the widest open arms. We are so lucky to have met them and learned so much from them.

UP NEXT: Falling in Love with Kiev

AND: Russian Bear Wrestling

Photos Courtesy Nicole Weber
Photos and Comic by Sam Sinke
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