ukraine: 46 posts

Green Perfumes : Spring Inside You

I grew up in the city, but every summer I traveled to Poltava to spend several months with my great-grandparents. In the Soviet Union, grandparents functioned almost like a second pair of parents and such an arrangement was normal. My great-grandparents, Asya and Sergiy, lived in a village near Poltava, and their parenting was down-to-earth, literally. From an early age I knew how to prune tomatoes, plant beans and trim rose bushes to grow one perfect blossom. Asya and Sergiy are no longer alive, but we still have their garden. When I return to their village, I find myself remembering how to do things I haven’t done for ages–planting, weeding, or pruning.

February is still a month when one can only talk about new planting projects, but I like to walk around the garden and see how it’s wintering. Lately, I’ve been reminded of a scent I always associate with spring–that of fresh buds. Cut a few branches and place them in warm water. A couple of days later, the buds start to burst and their scent of green leaves, bitter sap and sweet woods is the embodiment of spring.

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Postcard from Ukraine : Kalyna Berries

Guelder rose berries, called kalyna in Ukrainian, taste like cranberries and have a bitter-sour scent reminiscent of almonds and lingonberries. After the frost hits them, they lose their tannic pungency and become sweeter. They’re known to be a panacea for colds and sore throats, but we leave ours for the birds. The truth is that we prefer their red glimmer among the bare branches. No other sight is more quintessentially Ukrainian. No other plant has richer symbolic meaning.

In Ukrainian folklore, kalyna represents female beauty–the effervescence of youth with its delicate white flowers and mature sensuality with its red berries. Red stands for passion, and so the crimson hue of the berries represents love. If you look closer at Ukrainian embroideries, you can see kalyna berries and flowers telling their story of life coming a full circle.

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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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Ukrainian Christmas Giveaway

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Ukraine celebrates these holidays on January 7th and 14th respectively because the Orthodox Church follows the calendar proposed by Julius Caesar. Yes, we hold onto old traditions.

Nataliya of Experience Ukraine and I will lead a tour in Ukraine on June 2-9, 2020, and it will be a chance to discover more about Ukrainian culture, food, and of course, scents. I can’t be impartial, perhaps, but for the past few years I have been traveling extensively in Ukraine and every trip has been memorable. Nataliya feels the same way, which is why we’re so passionate in sharing these discoveries with you.

To give you a little preview, we’re hosting a #ukrainianscentandtasteadventure giveaway on Instagram: my prize will be an English translation of Nikolai Gogol’s The Night Before Christmas, handmade Ukrainian church incense, and linden blossom hydrosol and Nataliya will contribute an antique hand-loomed rushnyk, hand towel. We will select two winners randomly.

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Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure : June 2-9, 2020

CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19

Our Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure tour is scheduled for June 2-9, 2020. I’m partnering with Nataliya Cummings of the Experience Ukraine, a boutique UK based tour operator. We’re taking reservations right now and there are still some places open. We would like to accommodate everyone, but we want to keep the group small. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. This tour will be a chance to learn about perfumery, discover the beautiful region of Transcarpathia, explore artisanal crafts, scents and food. The tour will include 8 days with a variety of workshops. We will travel from the capital city of Kyiv all the way west to the historical city of Lviv, and along our journey we will cook, eat, smell, have fun and discover Ukraine’s many treasures, from UNESCO heritage sites to smoked pears!

Safety: Ukraine is absolutely safe for travel. The tour will take place in the western part of Ukraine, 20km from the Romanian border. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Flights: we recommend flying in and out of Kyiv, unless you would like combine this trip with a visit to Poland, Czech Republic or Austria (Lviv offers easy connections to those countries). At the end of the tour, many of us will be taking a high speed train from Lviv to Kyiv, so you can travel with our group. Ukraine International Airlines offer many direct flights from the major US and European cities.

To book the tour: fill out the form on the the Experience Ukraine website. You can also see the full program on the Experience Ukraine website, while the detailed perfumery workshop descriptions are available  here.

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