Saturday, November 14, 2020

What is Living in Dnipro, Ukraine Like for an Expat?

Living in Dnipro, Ukraine

As COVID19's Ukraine quarantine came to an end, my wife, daughter, and I moved to Dnipro, Ukraine to teach English.  It was June 12th when our train arrived in Dnipro and we met our employer to be driven to the apartment we picked out while living in Kyiv.  Maybe picked out is the wrong word.  We didn't have too much of a choice, as it was hard to find something with a cat.  Being that we needed a place within a week, we had one choice, and that was a "mother-in-law" apartment in the backyard of a local family's house.  

We had visited Dnirpo twice previously.  Once was on Persephone's second birthday when we visited with a friend when we lived in Kyiv.  This was during the Orthodox Christmas of 2015.  The other time was in early 2019, on the first day of the original Ukrainian quarantine, when we were told to "come back to Kyiv, lest we become trapped in Dnipro without work."  We turned around and took the train back and stayed with our employer as the country came to a halt.  

View of Dnipro from the river

When we came to Ukraine, we imagined that we would once again live in Kyiv, as we had five years previous.  I grew to love and long for Kyiv, especially since leaving.  We were told that there was a need for teachers in Dnipro but were told that we could come back to Kyiv within a couple of months if we desired.  I did not know at the time how much I would actually enjoy living in Dnipro, and to be honest, the summer that we arrived seemed like something of a dream.  

The view from our living room

It felt very good to be back in Ukraine, and after being quarantined for almost three months, it was amazing to be out and enjoying life again.  Dnipro was far better than I remembered or expected it to be.  In fact, the neighborhood that we ended up living in was quite idlyic.  We currently live across from the botanical garden and close to many beautiful parks.  Our neighborhood is full of universities and is quiet and laid back.  There is good food and inexpensive restaurants everywhere.  There is also a streetcar that takes us to the center of the city through tree-lined streets only a couple of blocks away.  

I was also pleasantly surprised by our apartment.  It was one of those rare instances in life when the pictures look far worse than the place itself.  Usually, it's the opposite.  We had plenty of space for the three of us (and the cat), and a big tree out front.  The apartment is newly furnished and the landlord's family is super nice.  It was a comfortable move-in experience and living here has been quite nice.  To make it even more wonderful, we can enjoy the beautiful sunsets out our window as we eat dinner.  

My walk to work is quite enjoyable as well.  Gagarina Avenue is a tree-lined street full of businesses, restaurants, and lots of people.  It is a very walkable street.  There are many bakeries, grocery stores, and fruit stands all along the street.  At the end of Gagarina is Dafi, a midsized mall, and movie theatre complex.  There is also an Ashan department store inside.  It's a bit expensive, so I don't shop there too much.  There's also a MyPlay store, which is a toy shop that Persephone loves.

I must say that I like Dnipro far more in the Summer and early fall than I do during the colder months.  There is much going on in this city and many gorgeous parks.  One of my favorites is Tunelna Balka, a forest that is close to our apartment.  There are other beautiful areas of the city that I will write about in the future, such as Shevchenko Park and Monastery Island.  The city center has many museums, restaurants, and Globy Park, which is a much older park, but with a lake in the center and a carnival that Persephone enjoys.  It's a good place to visit, especially in the summer.

The "Ozerka Market" in the center

One of my favorite parts of Dnipro is the central market, Ozerka.  In this market, you can find a huge variety of locally sourced fruits, vegetables, cheese, meat, pickles, honey, and imported spices amongst other things.  There are a few Georgian stands and a wonderful bakery at the entrance that sells some of the best baked foods that I have had.  Their Khatchapuri is amazing.  Across from Ozerka is a wonderful Georgian restaurant, Khinkali & Khachapuri.  I highly recommend it.  They have a huge family-sized Khatchapuri that is just divine! 

Ozerka does not only have food stands, but textile, repair shops, and clothing shops.  It's a great place to browse and see a traditional-looking Ukrainian market.  It reminds me a lot of the Herov Dnipro market that we used to live close to in Kyiv a few years earlier.  The big difference is that this market is fully covered.  

Dnipro is a close day or weekend trip away from cities such as Zaporizhzhia (ancient Cossack history) and Poltava (lovely churches and amazing dumplings), which are kind of off the main tourist path and feature some beautiful architecture and attractions.  If you are looking for more of a beach atmosphere, you can easily travel by marshrutka to Berdyansk.  Marshrutkas run often from the central bus station and are easy to catch.  It's cheap enough to go, and if you live here for some time, you have to check these places out.  They are local favorites.  

Although I never imagined living in Dnipro, I am super glad I had the opportunity to do so.  It's a much larger and cosmopolitan city than I expected, and finding anything is super easy to do here.  The people are nice, the cost of living is low, and transportation makes reaching any area of the city quite easy. It gives us a place to work on our Etsy business, teach, and explore Ukraine.

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