Travel to Ukraine – Episode 171

categories: europe travel


The Amateur Traveler talks to Jessica from Williamsburg Virginia who traveled last Summer to the Ukraine with an ethnomusicologist from Village Harmony to learn how to sing Ukrainian folk music.

Jessica traveled both to larger cities like the capital Kiev and Ivano-Frankivsk and small country villages. She also journeyed into the Carpathian mountains on the Romanian border. Jessica relates some of the stories about the people she met, the food they ate, and scary public bathrooms. Learn why you should not whistle indoors or give someone a dozen roses in the Ukraine.

click here to download (mp3)
click here to download (iTunes enhanced)


Rick Steves at Bay Area Travel Show – Piano Teacher to Travel Guru

Show Notes

Kiev, Ukraine
Village Harmony – music-centered trips
Ukraine map
Monastery of the Kiev Caves (Kiev Pechersk Lavra)
Kievo-Pecherskaya Larva
Shalom Aleichem (Fiddler on the Roof, loosely based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories about his character Tevye the Milkman)
Chernobyl disaster
The Soviet City Built for Chernobyl Refugees


Internet Resources – online travel contest


Victor’s (of the Typical Mac User podcast) comments on Cuba
Jose’s comments on Cuba
Yak posiyav muzh” sung by Village Harmony Ukraine

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

6 Responses to “Travel to Ukraine – Episode 171”

Mimi Jones


I am new to your site and really enjoyed this podcast and hearing Jessica’s experience. I would love to hear Jessica perform here in Williamsburg. What kind of venues do you perform?



I enjoyed Jessica’s podcast. However, I am not sure what she meant when she said that the Ukranians looked like Americans. Did she mean that the society is diverse with people from many backgrounds?

Darka Nebesh


Thank you for including a segment on Ukraine. As a first-generation Ukrainian-American (my parents were born in Ukraine) it is always nice to see my ancestral homeland featured and recognized. I would like to stress that Ukraine, as it is an independent nation, should not be referred with the article “the,” which for years was a purposeful means to discredit her independence and imply it to be a region, namely a region of Russia. So, it is very important to refer to Ukraine as one would any nation of the world, not as region.

Now two ethnomusicological notes (I happen to have a doctorate in ethnomusicology), 1. one does not need to be a musician to be an ethnomusicologist, an ethnomusicologist is the equivalent of a cultural anthropologist (although I DO happen to be a musician), I felt there was a bit of a misunderstanding as to ethnomusicology. One who learns another culture’s music in order to perform it would simply be known as a musician (linguists encounter a similar situation, everyone assumes they speak a lot of languages…). and 2. traditional vocal music of Ukraine is not polyphonic, it is monodic. Polyphony is the presence of two separate melodies sung or played simultaneously to achieve harmony. The vocal tradition in Ukraine is monody: that is, a single melodic line that is supported by one or more harmonic lines. The harmonic practices of Ukraine are not much different from her neighbors, but the melodic shape, which for the most part is dictated by the language, is what separates the music to be uniquely Ukrainian.
Kyiv, not quite right with pronouncing it, but SO appreciated that she stressed that there IS a Ukrainian vs. Russian one. The fact that she mentioned the important distinction made my day, I feel like Ukraine has finally arrived; note, this emotional reaction is coming from one who often encountered Americans, since the day I was born in NYC, who would tell me “Ukrainian? You mean you are Russian!” or “Ukrainian? Oh, that’s the same as Russian.” So, I am much pleased with this coverage.

The superstitions encountered by Jessica are foreign to my husband (also first generation Ukrainian American) and myself, but I understand that many ancient superstitions have surfaced since Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.
In regards to the three words about Ukraine:
Proud…add to that stubborn
and not so much fierce as perhaps passionate to a fault. πŸ™‚
Darka (in Cyrillic ?????)



Darka, thanks for the wonderful reply. I had almost labeled the show as “Travel to the Ukraine”. It sounds like that may have slipped out during the show?

Wow, another ethnomusicologist! Thanks for your great insights.

I wonder if those superstitions came from Russia. As I mentioned my Russian teacher had mentioned the one about not bringing an even number of flowers.



Thanks for these amazing comments! Darka, you are absolutely right: we learned a melody and then Evgeny taught us all the “variants” (I thought he just didn’t know that we called them harmonies). I should have known there is a difference! Also, sorry about my half-assed pronunciation: I’d love to practice to get it right!

Irene: No, the areas of Ukraine that I saw were definitely not diverse. I guess I meant the way that people gazed out at the world, the set of their expressions, seemed similar to what I’ve seen at home. (I would guess that their “backgrounds”, as you put it, are pretty homogenous).

Mimi: check

Europe Travel Carnival 2 February 2009


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