Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day Tripping in Poltava: War Eagles and Watchtowers

"A healthy spirit in a healthy body". The buff guy pictured is a Cossack, one of the traditional warriors of Ukraine.
Visiting Poltava last week was the first time I'd left the city this entire year and it was a nice change of pace. I've been getting scolded a lot for not travelling around the country, so hopefully Poltava (and going to Kiev this week!) counts for something : ) Kharkov is such a lovely city that, as wonderful as other places may be, I find it difficult to leave!

After D and Zhenia reemerged from the beautiful gold-domed church, we retraced our steps past the battle museum, across the railroad tracks, around the chickens, and back on the marshrutkas into the city. Next stop? The city center, where our friend took us through the lusciously green park surrounding the Monument of Glory.
Green, green, green!
The Monument of Glory is one of Poltava's famous sites; a tall column topped with a gilded eagle of war. Women loitered nearby in lawn chairs, renting toy cars to children who then drove drunkenly and furiously around the area, aiming for the shins of pedestrians. A pair of pale, fluffy golden retrievers panted in the shade.
Another 10 minutes of walking brought us to a Ukrainian cafe. As customary, this Ukrainian cafe also served sushi and pizza (and, er, something labeled "tooth baked under cheese"), but we had our sights set on a dish that is decisively Poltavan- galushki. The galushki were incredible! The waitress carried out three plates with 6 fat galushki each, dumplings of meat and garlic rolled inside a buttery dough. Yum! It took us a while, but we eventually sawed our way through all those bundles of deliciousness and were back out in the blinding sunlight.
"Tasty, like in a fairy tale" reads this little hut.
The Poltava Museum of Local Lore
Little church on a side street
Next to a monument to Peter the Great, a weathered sign displayed the local coat of arms and proclaimed "Poltava- 1100 years!" That seems unbelievably ancient to me, coming from a place where surviving for 50 years makes any house a noteworthy relic.

Can I confess something? It's silly, but a long time ago I saw a picture of a galushki monument in Poltava (thanks for the tip, Chelsea!) and knew I was destined to go there. A giant bowl of stone dumplings and a humongous spoon?- say no more!!!
And so, that's where we went (while my camera suffered from the sun's glare, please pardon the picture quality).
Svyato-Uspens'kiy Cathedral and Bell Tower in the background. A little mobile coffee truck near the crosswalk.
We saved the glorious tribute to galushki for last. First, the church (above), then a walk along a panoramic viewpoint. A combined 24 uah got us into a re-creation of the Ukrainian writer Ivan Kotliarevsky's home. This watchtower was packed with people enjoying the scenic view... or scouting for approaching enemy armies, who knows.

According to a nearby sign, this White Rotunda was built in 1909 to commemorate (what else) the Battle of Poltava. It was disassembled during WWII and then put back up in 1954.
It truly is a gorgeous, romantic spot and heavily visited by couples. We even passed by an English-speaking couple on a date. Girl: (in accented English) Oh, I just love horses, they're so clever! I like to ride them so much! Guy: silent, nodding, looking only at the girl and not at the scenery.

And finally there it was- the giant bowl of galushki, like a strange dream come to life.

My months-long goal of sitting in an oversized spoon- achieved!
I may have imagined it a little better in my mind than it actually was that day, because a giant rumbling crane truck was parked directly behind the monument and lots of construction was going on in the background... in addition to the camera freaking out from the intense sunlight. Perhaps there will be another visit to Poltava and another visit to this area, which, by the way, is known as Soborna Square.

With the day drawing to a close, we still had a few more sights to see, like the Rivendell pub, a giant samovar, and a bust that was either Pushkin or Wolverine from The X-Men, depending on the angle. Dudes could have been brothers, yo.

With the clock ticking, we kept walking.
National Law Academy of Ukraine, Yaroslav the Wise
Monument to the defenders of Poltava. If you look carefully, you can see what part of the lion people rub for luck :p
Victory Park, full of hyperactive grandchildren and grumbling grandparents
Onto a very squeaky Ferris wheel in Victory Park
More of Victory Park. I swear faeries live in here.
Poltava, like Kharkov, is a city of university students. Wikipedia lists 7 universities and I suspect there may be more than that. We passed a ton of dorms, including this one featuring a noble, educated owl in the courtyard. Also, it's not possible to see in this picture, but Zhenia hinted that competition for dorm space was so strong that only students who could afford to remodel the windows were allowed to move in. Sure enough, the majority of the windowsills were shiny and new. Imagine if your university told you to do that!

As for the drive back, ugh, just please never do it after dark unless you really get a kick out of suicidal drivers who play leapfrog around curves with 5-ton hulks of metal... I guarantee at some point you're going to be reaching for that imaginary seatbelt.

For more Poltava, may I suggest-
  • Steven Sirski's cool Poltava travelogues (Part 1 for fire jumping, Part 2 for the city tour)
  • These 4 pages of sightseeing pictures... there's still a lot more to see in Poltava!
  • The site of a culinary and adventurous couple who also enjoyed the galushki
  • And if you missed it, Part 1 of my entry


  1. Thanks for a nice entry about Poltava. Have you considered crowd sourcing for a new camera? I'm sure readers would chip in, so we all can continue to enjoy cool pictures on your blog.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Mr M!
    I'm a creature of habit so I'll stick with the camera I know for now, but will consider your idea for the future : )