So many people tweeted me wondering why I was vacationing in Ukraine, kidding me about borscht (which wasn’t that bad), asking where Ukraine is and if I had relatives there.
I have no family there, had never even heard of the Dnieper River, and I’m not a history buff.
Nonetheless, I learned so much from the AHI Tavel trip. It was planned as an education with small alumni groups from Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Colby College, Northwestern and the University of Washington plus a few stragglers like us.
There were also several hundred Europeans aboard, mostly from France, Germany and Spain.
The best part of the trip? The people in our group were all very pleasant and well educated, the kind of people who like to learn just to know new things! We enjoyed daily lectures from the cruise staff, a Kiev University Professor who talked about politics and the head of Russian studies at Dartmouth. We also visited so many places we’d all been reading about since our childhood. In addition to Kiev, Sevastopol, small river towns and the fascinating Odessa, three side trips stand out:
· Yalta, where Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt decided how Europe would be divided after WWII. I wanted to sit in Churchill’s chair but had to settle for just touching it.
In a way, this was where the Cold War began as Stalin made promises he had no intention of keeping.
· A secret underground submarine base right in the port of Balaklava. The Soviets built it into a mountain in the late forties at great expense and a few months after they finished, the new subs were too long to fit in it. Central planning at its best.
· We had lunch with a family in their home in the middle of nowhere on the banks of the river where we toasted them with Ukrainian Moonshine they’d cooked up themselves.
As a marketer, I couldn’t help notice that:
1. All Ukrainian street stalls seem to sell the same stuff from Kiev to Odessa: the same plates, dolls, paintings, shirts, etc. One creative person would own the tourism souvenir market if they created unique branded items.
2. The people selling in stores and stalls need help in dealing with European and American customers. They could be a lot more customer friendly. Their first and only answer to everything seems to be “No”.
3. I saw very few Ukrainian brands. Maybe that’s because of the Russian mindset. Based on what I did see, Authentic Ukrainian Moonshine might be an idea.
This was the original gate to the city of Kiev
I missed you while I was away. As always, please feel free to send any questions, ideas, etc. Or leave a comment here.