Kyiv First 100 Days: Play

Our apartment is unfortunately not terribly close to any open area or park. Open outdoor spaces are VITAL for our sanity and ability to be nice to one another, so we did a lot of walking and discovering the first few weeks we were here, hoping to expend some energy and ward off early-onset cabin fever.

Other than the aforementioned street dogs that hang out a lot at many parks and open spaces here in Kyiv, our first experience with parks and playground equipment included this beauty, in the park across the street from the Embassy. They've repainted over the graffiti since this picture was taken, so the entire structure, which we fondly refer to as the Tower of Death, is now a lovely light blue color.

However, the interior remains in ruins, which never fail to call Henry's name whenever we are in that park. Thank goodness for tetanus shots.

Incidentally, the park with the Tower is also the park with the bars through which Henry fell and dangled by his forehead. And it is also the park that, when I tell David that we might go play there, he says, "Just call me when you need an ice pack."

There's an interesting contrast at most parks, actually - some things seemed designed for children to absolutely do bodily harm, and others seem designed to give the safest and most secure playing experience ever. Like the merry-go-rounds with individual chairs for the children to sit on.

And all the swings that are individually mounted wooden seats with backs and sides and don't swing in a wider arch than permitted by the short bars by which they hang.

We have found some lovely parks to walk through and quite a few decent playgrounds, so our first time in the parks has been improved upon. There are some great teeter-totters, a nice fountain or two, usually a statue of someone, and plenty of benches and paths. Many of the playgrounds look like dreamlands of adventure, such as this one that is painted brightly and is just waiting to be explored. No two playgrounds are alike, except in their attempt to create a sort of colorful little piece of childhood in an otherwise shades-of-grey city.

It's funny to see the non-uniformity in the building of the structures, where one set of steps might be OK for a little guy to climb, but the one on the next level is definitely not. But it's the only way to the slide.

Many of the slides, too, are much steeper than they are in any park I've ever been to in the States. Even the toddler slides, while not being terribly high have quite a vertical grade.

(I tried, but couldn't quite take a picture that adequately portrayed the experience of basically jumping feet first to the ground with your bum resting against a piece of brightly painted vertical aluminum. Maybe sometime later...At any rate, Calvin, Henry and Charlie prefer sending Matchbox cars down the slides more than they enjoy the lung gulping ride.)

Due to the Double Diamond difficulty of the slides, we were all impressed to find that (before the weather got too cold), there was often an enterprising fellow who set up a moonbounce slide near the play area. For a small price, you could play on the moonbounce for fifteen minutes. Where I come from, moonbounces are something reserved for fairs or carnivals or wealthy birthday parties, so it was like a holiday every time we saw one in the park.

Usually along with the moonbounce, there is another fellow selling minutes of driving your own 4WD vehicle around a loop of the park paths. Once and only once did I let the kids convince me that they could do it. Heaven help us when they both have drivers' licenses. Still, I sincerely applaud the little corners of enterprise where someone buys a toy and then charges kids for the use of it.

A few weeks into living here, we finally made it to the city's famous park, Shevchenko Park. Calvin affectionately calls it "The Park With the Ten-Person Swing."

In addition to the moonbounce and the 4WD rentals, there are also pony rides at Shevchenko. Somehow, the pony rides got dubbed as a "girl thing" however, so we haven't had a pony adventure yet.

Also in Shevchenko Park is a great Urkainian restaurant - with a chicken coop right by its back door, with real chickens! (And a rabbit cage inside, with real rabbits!) Attached to the restaurant is a little walk-up window where you can order crepes filled with most any kind of different thing. The lady makes them one at a time so there is usually a huge line, but they are worth the wait. Come visit, we'll for sure take you there.

The biggest draw, however, for the boys, is that every park, Shevchenko included, is basically one big sandbox. It's like going to the beach, only with colder hands and wearing more clothes than you'd like to. We're on the lookout for sand toys - every family brings their own.

Our best discovery, especially since the weather has gotten a little bitter, is a place called Ultramarine. It is in big building that also houses a movie theatre, a bowling alley, and a casino. There is an area of Chuck E. Cheese's-type video and ball games, only without the tickets that you can use to purchase cheap toys, so we bypass that and go for best thing: The playland.

Two ball pits, one moonbounce, and three or four stories of climbing, rolling, scaling, chasing, crawling and sliding fun. It's about $3 an hour per child. There are also smaller playhouses and ride-ons for the Charlie-size crowd and small tables with color sheets and crayons and a TV corner if you want to watch Tom and Jerry in Ukrainian.

As Calvin and Henry have been saying lately about things they really, really like: Ultramarine is "two thumbs up, with pinkies, wiggling!"

And that's how and where we play - in Kyiv.


S said...

Sounds like I need to set up a play date with you. Red would love that as much as she would love the boys:) I really like the colors and metal set up. It reminds me of when I was a kid. Now everything is plastic plastic plastic. Which mean people burn down. When is it going to get real cold there? S

Blog O' Beth said...

Sounds like you are slowing adjusting. Is there anything I can send you or the boys? I know we don't know each other, but that is the beauty of blogging - I feel like I do - and I am in such awe of what you are doing over there. Let me know if I can help in anyways.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. That sounds like great fun.

Christine said...

Do you have to take public transportation to get to all these parks? Sounds like you have a lot of options. That's good. Maybe we will come visit in maybe a year. How much does a liter of milk cost there?