Around noon, a major religious celebration began at the statue to Mary outside our window. We had been to a park earlier in the day, and noticed large crowds by some of the churches that we passed by. What religious holiday could it be? We were told that it might be Spas. It turns out that part three of the Spas Trilogy is on August 29: Honey/Poppy Seed Spas (August 14), Apple Spas (August 19), and Nut Spas (August 29). At the end of the Spas holidays, you are supposed to be ready for cold weather.
As you will note, however, today is not August 29, and we were told that there are 100 recognized holidays in Ukraine. So, we thought, perhaps it is Nut Spas Eve? Some further research by Lea's dad revealed that it is Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, also called First Purest. Tomorrow should be Nut Spas, so we should get our hats and mittens ready!
Walter invited us to have dinner with his wife Lyuda and grandson Roman this afternoon. Walter guided us on the marshrutka to his apartment. A marshrutka is a small bus or minivan that is privately run along pre-determined routes in town. It supplements municipal services like the tramvai and is relatively low in cost (1 grivnya for a marshrutka compared with 50 kopecks for the tramvai). The marshrutka quickly filled up. We had seats, but all seats and standing spots were occupied by riders, the driver, and his helper. Erik counted 27 people on the marshrutka with at least 8 standing.
The apartment was on the outskirts of town up on a hill. After getting off the marshrutka, we took some fresher air (much less polluted than in the center of town) and gazed down at the old city. We walked to the apartment in a new building situated among many other apartments. Lyuda had prepared a lovely meal of summer borshch, zucchini salad, cabbage, tomato and cucumber salad, potatoes, and cutlets. Everything was delicious; Lea chased down her dinner with some nice wine and Erik had a couple of vodka toasts with Walter. After dinner, Carter entertained us (or we entertained Carter) with guitar playing and singing accompanied by his dancing. We had a dessert of tea, coffee, and delicious apple cake and decided to take a stroll. Carter had a chance to ride a bike for the first time (you can see him on the right with Lyuda). We then took a walk to the nearby park which turned out to be the same park where we met Phil, Jani, and Thomas to feed ducks!