Kyiv has been the first city where I’ve felt a bit of a struggle with food and grocery stores. Upon arriving, Anna, the homeowner, directed me to a Billa just down the street, which is the closest grocery store to the apartment. As usual, we headed for our first stock-up trip the day we arrived in Kyiv. I had my list, mapped walking direction on my phone, and we were off. As the Anna said, we heard the magic words “you have arrived at your destination” within about 5-mins. The only problem, we did not see the Billa anywhere. We kept walking and wondering and finally realized, everything here is underground.
There is literally an entire shopping mall about 5-mins from the apartment, but it is entirely underground. It’s 2-levels, complete with a food court, Tommy Hilfiger, Lush, and even a L’occitane and as Anna said, there is a Billa at each end of the shopping mall. Let me introduce you to the Billa.
The Billa is a small grocery store with most of the basics. There is a deli counter, fresh fruits & veggies, alcohol of every kind, and a tiny section dedicated to household products like paper towels, soap, toilet paper, etc. I was able to find most of my check-in shopping list at the Billa.
Here’s my research data on Billa:
- 3 apple varieties, but as I stated, there were sometimes no apples at all.
- No pre-packaged bread. Everything was pretty baked and sliced. There were 2 options for sliced sandwich bread, a white and a wheat, and it was sold as a half-loaf.
- 8 milk varieties. Milk was sold in a bag and in half-bottles, and the boys wouldn’t drink it at all. Both Jim and Nolan said they didn’t like the taste.
- 8 aisles, but this is slightly deceiving, because the aisles were only half-shelves and some were half-ailed, and 2-aisles were dedicated to alcohol.
Other comments about food and the Billa:
- Water had to be purchased and carried up 3-flights of stairs. We used the water for brushing our teeth and washing our hands, but when it came to drinking water, we purchased jugs of water.
- In general, the fruits and veggies didn’t always look overly fresh and the selection varied. Sometimes there were strawberries, sometimes there were none. Sometimes there were potatoes, sometimes there weren’t any. You also have to bag and tag your own fruits and veggies. There’s a scale and a computer to select your item, weight it, and it spits out a sticker. Of course, this computer is in Ukraine, without PICTURES, so it was a little intimating at first, but I figured it out. I also found it interesting that a lot of the veggies weren’t clean. For example, the potatoes and carrots almost all still had dirt on them, which frankly, I kinda of liked. I washed and cut up all our veggies.
- The deli counter was for packaged and dried meat only, there was no fresh meat was sold at the Billa. Dried fish is a big thing here. There were whole fish, dried, without heads, stacked-up in the deli counter. Apparently, people just eat it whole, kind of like beef jerky. I personally never tried it.
- The butter is frozen. I looked for a really, really long time in the dairy section before I just gave up. Then as I was standing in line to check out, I looked over at the freezer section and noticed the butter. Oh, and there’s such a thing as chocolate butter. In case you missed my Instagram post, I made homemade Mac and Cheese last week. As I opened the butter to add to my pan, it was brown, and sure enough, it was chocolate butter. While I opted not to use chocolate butter in my Mac and Cheese, I did try it on toast, it was pretty good.
Here are a few pictures from the Billa:
^This photo includes the potatoes with dirt still on them.
^This is the milk section. Notice the bags of milk in the 3-bins at the bottom.
^All the bread from the Billa was really good. I bought crusty baguette bread several times.
^Dried fish at the deli counter.