As for me personally, shopping for souvenirs it is a one of the biggest tourist’s excitement, wherever I travel. I hope it is excitement for you as well. If so, I would like to share with you my experience of shopping for souvenirs in West Ukraine. There is huge selection of Ukrainian embroidery, woodwork, painting, woven and sheepskin stuff, beadwork, glasswork, pottery at the souvenirs markets in western Ukraine.
So, where to buy?
Actually, there lots of stores and markets with handcraft goodies are in the western Ukraine, especially in Carpathian Mountains area. Take a look at the picture: this is the biggest souvenir market is in Yaremche (Ivano-Frankivsk region) Next one is a picture of the handcraft market at Yablunivskyy Pereval, which is located at the border between Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakarpattya regions
Another one big handcraft market is in Kosiv and smaller one is in Vorokhta (both are of Ivano-Frankivsk region). One of the biggest handcraft markets of the western Ukraine, the Vernisazh Souvenir Market, is located in the city of Lviv (at the picture below)
So, next question is: what to buy?
Embroidered towel plays a big role in culture and lifestyle of Ukrainian people. In many West Ukrainian houses, especially in villages, you can see icons and pictures on the walls decorated with embroidered towels; also ceremonial embroidered towel is very important at a Ukrainian wedding: there are many wedding rituals involving it. Actually, old Ukrainian custom says, that embroidered towel should be in every Ukrainian home, because it is brining a good luck. But nowadays, especially in big Ukrainian cities, embroidered towel mostly sitting in a closet and not being a part of modern interior of an apartment: more and more families don’t want to have one more “dust collector” in the house. So, before you decide to buy embroidered towel, doesn’t matter, how gorgeous it looks, think first: what you are going to do with it? I personally own few Ukrainian ceremonial towels and they are very special for me, because they are from my wedding, but… they are sitting on the shelf of my closet :(
Next is Ukrainian embroidered shirt. There are hundreds of them on the West Ukrainian craft markets and they are so beautiful! Cross-stitched, geometrical patterned, floral patterned, amazing beaded shirts and blouses, just like these, on the pictures below…
If you knew, how I love Ukrainian embroidered clothes… Really, it is some magic there: for my entire life I never met a person (doesn’t matter, man or woman) who would not look great in Ukrainian embroidery! So, if you not that sure about your natural beauty, get embroidered outfit and you will be ok!
But… here is the thing, which is almost the same with getting embroidered towel: where I am going to wear this fabulous traditional Ukrainian shirt (especially if I am not living in Ukraine)?! So, I better pick something like this dress, which has modern cut, but also traditional patterns on it
or like this knit tee decorated with machine embroidery.
At least this tee is more close to casual one and I can do it for my everyday outfit. There are lots of tees and T-shirts with machine embroidery at the craft markets in western Ukraine.
But if getting a Ukrainian traditional embroidered shirt or blouse still in your mind and you decided that you can wear it once-in-while (well, Ukrainian embroidery is incredibly good looking with denim!), now you better pick a stuff of good quality, if you care about quality, of course. I would. Therefore I better tell you that Ukrainian embroidered shirt of really good quality usually cost more than $100. It is included quality of fabric (cotton or hemp) and quality of embroidery. If it is cross-stitched stuff, the cross-stitches should be very delicately made, and if you turn embroidered thing inside out, all the patterns should look almost as nicely as it looks outside.
Beadwork is my big love #2, after embroidery. I got much more amazing Ukrainian beaded necklaces and bracelets, than occasions to wear them :) so now I am more careful with buying new ones. Actually, now I am looking for some combination of modern and old style in beaded jewelry: something what would match perfectly with my casual clothes. Well, it is your choice, what to buy, modern flavored Ukrainian beaded necklace, like this one, or traditional one, like this.
Anyway, you will be amazed with wide selection of beaded jewelry in western Ukraine, especially at Vernisazh souvenir market in Lviv or at Yaremche souvenir market in Ivano-Frankivsk region.
There are lots of wooden stuff at the West Ukrainian craft markets and stores, especially in Carpathian Mountains, where woodwork art traditionally is a one of the ways for making living. But nowadays more and more Ukrainian vendors bring wooden souvenirs made in China, so if you really want to get something locally made, you have to be very careful choosing stuff. As I am originally from Western Ukraine, I can see a difference between locally made woodwork and imported one. For example, this wooden jewelry box and this gadget for massage
are locally made in Ukrainian Carpathians.
But this cute wooden track is made in China.
My husband and I got it in Carpathians as a gift for this little boy. Well, the boy did not concern at all where it was made :) and he just had fun with his new toy :)
Speaking about me… well, maybe, I am too old-fashioned and do not understand very well this entire global economy thing, but… I don’t care that much about all this junk from the retail stores (pants, socks, toaster or mixer don’t have nationality), but souvenirs! They are such an important part of culture and image of each country, so they should be made locally, for my opinion.
Anyway, finishing my story, I would like to give you few tips from my experience of buying souvenirs in western Ukraine.
1. As I told you already, I am very big fan of handcraft and I usually feel myself at the souvenir market (doesn’t matter, what country is it) like a kid at candy shop: there is everything so colorful, so good looking! But when I really decide to buy something, my first thought is: is this or that thing I am going to get will really have some practical use at my home or it just going to collect a dust on a shelf? So I sincere advice you: before you buy some souvenir, think first, what are you going to do with it?
But… if you will find some really unusual things at Ukrainian markets (no matter their practical use) like I found beaded Easter Eggs or Barbie Doll in Ukrainian outfit, don’t think too much and get them, because they are truly unique!
2. Going shopping to the West Ukrainian souvenirs market, you better bring with you somebody Ukrainian speaking, because Ukrainian vendors usually don’t speak English, well, maybe few words, that’s it. This is too bad, because if they would know more English or you would know more Ukrainian, you would be able to negotiate some prices for goods, which is usual thing on the Ukrainian markets.
Or get yourself English-Ukrainian electronic translator,which would be useful for you not just for shopping in Ukraine, but for your entire Ukrainian travel experience.
3. Unfortunately, vendors at West Ukrainian souvenirs markets don’t accept credit cards, so you better get some cash before you go shopping. It is not a problem to get cash in Ukraine: there are ATMs almost everywhere in cities (not in little towns and villages though).