Around Ukraine in a Few Hours at Pirogovo

I started my round-the-world trip over a year ago by going back to Ukraine. While visiting Lviv, I ran into a group of Americans at the hostel I was staying there and one of them turned out to be friends with my good friend Melissa from Iowa - talk about small world!

When we returned to Kiev, Christina and I got together to check out Pirogovo - a huge 360 acre "village" just outside of the city made up of houses, churches, windmills and other buildings typical for different times and regions of Ukraine. Interestingly, most of the buildings are not replicas, but were rather taken apart, transported, and put back together on the grounds - the real deal.

Typical village street for Cherkasy region

I severely underestimated the vastness of Pirogovo last year so we only covered a small part and set the stage for us to come back and explore the rest this year. This time we were joined by Larissa, another American teaching English in Kiev.

Since it was pretty obvious that we were not from around here, in many places the keepers invited us inside the houses ("hatas" in Ukrainian) and told us their stories - who used to live in them, what they did, and so on. I could barely keep up translating all the details.

Inside a typical hata for central Ukraine

Hard to believe, but ten people used to live in this room. Two would sleep on the benches to the right and at the back while two couples would sleep in spaces in the left corner behind the "pich" (stove) and four kids would sleep in the small area on top of the stove (the warmest place in the house). What happened when the kids grew older? Good question that I do not have the answer to...

This year we started exploring by visiting a simple wooden church from Kiev region. One of the keepers just opened it up for us and while it looked very basic from the outside, it contained lots of wooden paintings on the inside. I could not help but wonder how many of these churches burned down from the candles being set up inside.

Eighteenth century wooden church

Next we stumbled upon an area filled with various types of windmills - small and large, standing on the ground and up on the stilts.

Windmills of your mind

Pretty much the only memory I have of Pirogovo as a kid is touring some of these windmills and seeing the huge grinding stones as well as the elaborate, yet simple, mechanisms used to convert the wind energy into massive grinding action inside. Neither of the girls have seen this before so it was a pity that none of the windmills was open this time around.

Water-powered mill ain't going anywhere without water

We made our way to Karpaty region representing the western Ukraine. Curiously, the roofs of the houses here were noticeably taller and steeper here than the rest of hatas we have seen.

Karpaty region hatas with tall, steep roofs

The explanation for this is simple - being in the mountains, the region gets a lot of snow in the winter and steep incline helps prevent it from accumulating and breaking the roofs (some in the US could learn from that).

A Carpathian house surrounded with kalina

Because of the abundance of forest in Karpaty region, many of the houses were made of wood and are very simple on the inside.

Inside a hunter's house

Podol region seemed to be the most representing of the real village as it contained not only the houses and utility buildings, but also plenty of ogorody - the plots of land around the houses where produce are grown. The ground keepers are growing some fruits and veggies there but there were no animals as nobody actually lives on site to take care of them.

Podol region is one of the most authentic

Some yards even contained beehives in some interesting shapes and sizes.


As fun as it was, after a few hours of walking around Ukraine in chilly weather, we were ready to call it a day. The only "region" we did not get to this time was the more modern Soviet-style "village" which Christina and I visited last year.

Modern village hata

It was great to re-discover Pirogovo after having only a few vague memories of it from the childhood. Unfortunately, late November is not the ideal time to visit as the trees have lost all their leaves by now and all gardens and ogorody have been winterized. Oh and did I mention the weather was crappy? Brrrr!

If you are in Kiev during the summer or early fall and want to see what the Ukrainian villages used to look like, a visit to Pirogovo is a must!