kyiv: 4 posts

Postcard from Ukraine : Lavra and Cornflowers

One of my first rituals on returning to Kyiv is to visit the Kyivo-Pecherska Lavra, the 11th century Monastery of the Caves, to see the painting of Ukrainian artist Kateryna Bilokur (1900-1961) in The Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art. At a time when the only acceptable art style was socialist realist, her paintings of flowers were subversive. She was refused admittance to art school or even a transfer out of her village, although her paintings were exhibited abroad as a showcase for the success of Communism–“see, even our peasants can create art.” Pablo Picasso once said of her work, “If we had an artist of this level of skill, we would make the whole world talking about her!”

Those of you who shall be joining me on the Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure this year will be discovering more about Ukrainian art as part of the trip. And those who are planning a trip to Kyiv shouldn’t miss a visit to the Lavra complex. I recommend setting aside a whole day for it, because besides The Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art and the stunning churches (each with different wall paintings), you can descend into the caves bearing the remnants of the saints who came to this hill above the Dnieper River as early as 1057.

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Postcard from Ukraine : Sepia

One of my favorite museums in Kyiv is a collection of Ukrainian folk art founded by the sculptor Ivan Honchar. It contains masterpieces of embroidery, painting, wood carving and iconography gathered from different regions of Ukraine. One of my favorite expositions features photography, mostly shots taken by itinerant photographers who set up an early 20th century version of a pop-up shop complete with painted decorations. Sitters rarely look comfortable in these photographs, standing stiff and tense in their finery, but you can still glean their personalities and little quirks.

ivan honchar museum

Ivan Honchar Museum is located on Ivana Mazepy 29, Kyiv. Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Le Flacon : Kyiv’s Perfume Gem

I have long held that the owners of perfume boutiques all over the world have more similarities than differences–artistic dispositions, creative personalities and a boundless passion for fragrance. It’s not enough to be a good manager and sales person to run such a specialized enterprise. One needs to inspire visitors to learn new things, to expand their horizons and to step outside their comfort zone. For this, energy and knowledge are essential, but so is passion.

le flacon

Walk past the fanciful House with Chimaeras, whose dolphins and monsters look as if they are about to tumble down on the guards patrolling the Ukrainian President’s office. Then continue past the former residence of  the ballet dancer Serge Lifar and the pale blue Ivan Franko Theater that looks like a Ladurée pastry. Tucked away nearby is Le Flacon, a boutique run by a team of perfume lovers.

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Scents of Cities : Kyiv

Springtime_kiev_3

I can give you a long list of reasons why I am scent obsessed. The main one is that nothing captures better the feeling of a place than its smells. Therefore, I would like to paint an olfactory portrait of each city that made an impression on me and take you on a journey. The first city I selected for this series is the city of my birth, Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The turbulent history of the city, from its grandeur as a capital of Kyivan Rus to the post-Soviet confusion, marks every stone on its streets. The gilded domes of the numerous Orthodox churches emerge from the lush greenery of the historic city on the Right Bank, while modern high-rises crowd the Left. Burial caves for medieval ascetic monks neighbor WWII memorials. Billboards advertising Nokia cell phones crown the baroque Stalinesque buildings of the 1950s. Most of my early scent memories are connected to Kyiv, and no matter where I find myself, I only have to think of a few scents in order for all its streets, sounds and people to spring from my memory. …

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