Author Topic: UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report  (Read 8336 times)

Offline Eli

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UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report
« on: September 24, 2009, 07:17:04 PM »
The first thing I’ll say about Uman is that there's barely any info online about it. When I did research I came up with an article from 1991. For those of you bad at math, that was 18 years ago. I hope with this article I can shed some light on how to get there, what happens there, what there is to do there, how to do it, and how much it'll cost. Since I was there for Rosh Hashana, most of my info will be for that period of time. Prices may be different at other times, and I’ll leave that up to the reader to figure out.

Vocabulary:

Tzion – R’ Nachman’s Kever, which is a big building with many different areas.
Kloiz – The main, huge Shul in Uman. Seats about 7,500 as of 2009.
Tikkun Klali – 10 Perakim of Tehillim chosen by R’ Nachman which are said to be Misaken any Aveira.
Shuk  – The Shuk (market) runs the length of Pushkina Street (the main road) with small kiosks and people with tables selling everything from toys to Russian hats to CD’s to Sefarim.

GETTING THERE

My trip started this past Sunday night when I was at a wedding with Levi and our friend D.K. told me he was going to Uman. At the same time we found out some of our other friends, Y.H., D.R., and S.S. were also going. We decided that it's possibly a once in a lifetime experience for us and we have to go. Being that R”H was but 6 days away, I figured tickets would be a fortune and it may not work out, but it was worth a try. Monday night I spent some time researching online and found coach tickets with 2 stopovers and a change of airports on the way in for $860 RT. It would have been a crazy itinerary. I had some extra miles in my Continental account and I decided to check that route. Since it was only a few days in advance, tickets all the way to Kiev on a SkyTeam partner airline were impossible to find...there was nothing in business or coach. I put an itinerary on hold that also had 2 stops and a change of airports on the way in, and 2 stops on the way back. I was willing to do it. Tuesday I called back and was on the phone with Continental for 2 hours working on the flights. Some of the flights only had business class available and it would have cost me 75,000 miles plus tax plus $160 for the extra flights to Kiev on a Ukrainian airline (Wizz). The lady heard me mention Kiev and asked why I don't go all the way with Continental’s partners. I mentioned that I had checked the day before and there was nothing available but I told her to check anyways...maybe something opened up since this was the last day to book tickets. We found flights, believe it or not, leaving Wednesday night, with a stop in Amsterdam, arriving in Kiev Thursday afternoon. Perfect. The way back also would be a stop in Amsterdam which was fine. She priced out the itinerary at 75,000 miles and only one short flight would have been in business class. I asked her to price out the whole thing in business, and we were able to get it all for 90,000 miles. I put the itinerary on hold. Wednesday morning I woke up and decided we were going. We ticketed the tickets and left JFK at 10pm that night. One thing I must mention is that I had nothing planned...and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. I had nowhere to stay, nowhere to eat, and nowhere to daven.

Business class to Amsterdam was nice, but business class from AMS to Kiev was basically the first 4 rows with 2 inches extra legroom...I would call it economy plus...or maybe not even. The KLM lounge (number 52) in AMS is huge. There are tons of seats with power ports (remember to bring adapters) and free drinks all over the place. The walk from the lounge to the gate can be about 10 minutes.

If you are going into Amsterdam to visit, you can take a train directly from the airport to the Central Station in Central Amsterdam for about 4 EUR. You can then buy a 24 hour pass for 7 EUR which will get you unlimited subway, tram and bus rides for a day (but no train). There is a Kosher Pizza shop and a Kosher deli in Amsterdam although I don’t have info on these. If you will be in Amsterdam for a day, I can recommend the Canal Tour (8 EUR) and the Heineken Brewery Tour (15 EUR).

When we arrived in Kiev, the airport was full of Jews of all shapes and colors and from all over the world. While waiting in the customs line, a few Breslovers broke out in a rendition of “Uman Uman Rosh Hashana” which was pretty cool. Outside I met a friend, A.S., who told me to stick with him and he'll hook me up. I was also in touch via Blackberry Messenger with some people who were already there who told me to just show up and things would work out. (Side Note: If you have a BlackBerry, I highly recommend adding on an international data package to be able to e-mail and BBM while you are there. It saved the day for me. Remember though that Ukraine is all GSM so you will need a world phone. Once you get there you can buy a prepaid SIM card for $5.00 but I don’t think incoming calls are free so you may need to add money to the card.) I stuck with A.S. and he got us into a tender (big taxi) for $30 per person. The ride to Uman is about 3 hours. When we got to uman, we waited about 40 minutes since we needed to pay off the cops to get the vehicle all the way up the hill and into the Shuk. Once we did that, we arrived and got out of the taxi with our luggage with absolutely no idea where we were going.

SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS

We met up with a friend, Y.J., who took us to Chananya Ehrman’s place, the Nekuda Tova Kollel headquarters, where we put our stuff down. Chananya is a great guy who makes Minyanim and meals for Yom Tov. His place is a bit smaller than the others, but even if you don’t want to eat there, I encourage you to go say hello to him. He’s a pure Jew. We started walking up and down the Shuk and met a bunch of people. We headed over to Laizer Sheiner’s place (more on that later) and ate something. We kept asking about places to stay but no one knew of an open place. They told us to speak to the Russians down the hill, but there are problems with that. Firstly, their apartments are sometimes far (20 minute walk) from anything, and basically they give you a cheap rate because when you are gone during the day they steal all your stuff. We weren’t so interested in that to say the least. Expect to pay $300-$500 for a place to stay over Yom Tov (including the night before and the night after). Something you should be expecting, is to stay in a place you wish you never knew existed. Many apartments don’t have toilets or showers, and if they do, generally the water is only on for a few hours a day. Welcome to Ukraine. Bring along tissues and linen, a towel and other necessities. Carry your passport wherever you go, even on Yom Tov. ALWAYS lock your apartment door, even if you are only leaving for a minute, and even if you are only going to be inside for a minute. Don’t bring any clothes that you can’t afford leaving without. Your clothes will either get stolen or really, really dirty. Don’t bring any fancy or expensive stuff. Don’t bring your laptop. Don’t bring thousands of dollars in cash (hundreds of dollars is all you need). Don’t bring your Burberry tie L’Kavod R”H. Don’t bring your brand new hat. And don’t bring your wife. Uman is for men only. Are you getting the point? There were people this year (and every year) who had their passports stolen and their apartments cleaned out. This is not a joke.

It was already past 1:00am and we still had no idea where we would stay. I said to my friend that we should go to the Tzion to Daven Maariv and hopefully something would work out. After Maariv we came back to Sheiner’s place and immediately met with him personally. We spoke to him for a few minutes and worked out a place to stay and food for Yom Tov. The apartment we stayed in was a godsend. It was beautiful considering the regular apartments in Ukraine. We even had a radio built into the shower! The water shuts off overnight, but otherwise it was great. We went to put our stuff down and came back to chill in the Shuk. One thing I should mention is that Shekels and Dollars flow in the Shuk more than Gribna (the local Ukrainian currency) so there is almost no need to change money. I took 200 Gribna out of the ATM when I got to Kiev (I think the exchange rate is 8.6 to a US Dollar) and came back to the Kiev airport with 193 of it.

The next morning at 3:30am, after an hour and a half of sleep, I got up to go to the Mikva ($15 for a Mikva card good for a week) and Slichos. After Slichos I Davened Vasikin in the Kloiz. It was absolutely beautiful. After Slichos, being that I was still very tired, I went back to sleep and woke up at 11:30 for Tikkun Klali at 12 at the Tzion. According to Breslov tradition, Erev Rosh Hashana is the main time to be in Uman, for Slichos that morning and Tikkun Klali Ha’olami. There were probably over 20,000 people at Tikkun. It is certainly something you don’t want to miss. You probably will not get into the actual Tzion, but being on the streets is just fine. There are loudspeakers all over.

Friday was a good day to just chill in the Shuk. There are a few Kosher places to get food and of course Sheiner’s place is open. I got some Pizza from the place at the corner of the Tzion (2 slices for $5). Beware though, it can be a 10-40 minute wait for a slice depending on the line. There is another place right near the Kloiz that has fresh Pita. Bagel Hole had a stand selling cream cheese and tuna sandwiches for $3-$5.

FOOD IN UMAN

Now let me give you a glimpse into the amazing services of the Hachnasas Orchim of Uman, otherwise known as “Sheiner’s Place” because the guy who runs the place is Laizer Sheiner from Brooklyn. Approximately 24 hours a day, starting from a few days before Rosh Hashana and continuing throughout, anyone can come to Sheiner and get food. And when I say food I don’t mean cake and tea like they have near the Tzion…I’m talking about real food, real soda, and other stuff that will make you really full. The only times you can’t get in for food is while they are setting up, cleaning up, and during Yom Tov meals, when you have to pay $200 to have the Z’chus of getting food during that time. Food by Yom Tov meals is not just Challah and fish. We had steak, tounge, wine and booz, plenty of soda and water, dips galore, appetizers and desserts. Some may feel that with all the free food it’s not worth it to pay the $200, but I encourage you to pay anyway. The guy is probably spending over a half million dollars on this massive Tzedaka that he is doing. He deserves to get some of it back. But in the rare instance that you can’t afford the $200, you should be able to go to the Kiddush both days of Rosh Hashana and get full off the food they are serving, and you can get one of the over 5,000 take-away meals they serve for free for the night meals…or you can come when the meal is almost over when they open the gates, and get food then.

DAVENING

I was still walking around Erev R”H not knowing where I was going to Daven. Seats in the Kloiz can go for $250-$400 and I wasn’t ready to spend that much. I had heard that if you don’t Daven in the Kloiz with over 7,500 people, it almost isn’t worth coming to Uman, so I was determined. I decided that I would Daven at night in the Kloiz and stand in the aisles (like the other 2,000 people standing), and for Shachris I would Daven at the Tzion. I did just that the first night but it was so packed I couldn’t even walk into the building. Instead I stood on the porch and barely heard the Davening. Ok…I figured I would get there earlier the next night. The first day of R”H I woke up at 5:45am and Davened Vasikin by the Tzion. I was in between a Sephardi Minyan and an Ashkenazi one. The Sephardim, it seems, don’t say any Piyutim, rather they just repeat the Shtila Shmone Esrei for Chazaras Hashatz which was a little strange, but it was an awesome experience. Many times during Chazaras Hashatz they stop to sing for about 20 minutes straight (U’vchein Tzadikim is still ringing in my ears), and these guys get really into it. The ones who are able to are climbing on the rafters and encouraging everyone to sing louder and longer. After Shachris I tried making it to the Kloiz for Hamelech. Why? Because by Hamelech in the Kloiz, they clap afterwards for 20 minutes…just another way to be Mamlich Hashem in Uman. Everywhere you go, you will hear clapping after Hamelech (before Borchu) and after Hamelech Hakadosh in Chazaras Hashatz, but only in the Kloiz will you hear it for that long and close to 10,000 people doing it together. I got to the Kloiz at 8:10am and they were already at Yishtabach, so figure Hamelech was probably about 7:45am (Davening starts at 6:30am I think). I went to the Kiddush at Sheiner’s and then went to sleep. I Davened Mussaf by Sheiner which was supposed to start at 11:30 but instead started after 1:00pm. The meal was at 3:00, and by the time we finished it was almost time for Mincha in the Kloiz at 5:40. This time I got there early and actually got a place to stand in the aisle. I got very hooked up with a seat by my newfound friend C.N. and by the R family who encouraged me to come join them and they would find me a seat in the Kloiz. The next morning I Davened Shachris by “Shick” (down the hill from the Tzion, starts at 8:00am). They have a nice Minyan there with plenty of empty seats, and you can actually hear the Chazzan. After Shachris I headed to the Tzion where the R family graciously squashed together to let me sit on half a seat. Trust me, half a seat was just fine for the Kloiz. Mussaf was beautiful there and this time I was actually able to hear the Chazzan, which was not R’ Beinenstock as I had expected, but was really nice nonetheless. The second day R”H I missed the Kiddush by Sheiner and the meal was open to everyone, but I still walked away full. Again, once the meal was over it was almost time for 6:00pm Mincha so I went back to the Kloiz. After Mincha was Tashlich which was certainly the highlight of Uman Rosh Hashana. “Too many people to count” was the way I described it, but just about everyone in Uman was there, so there must’ve been close to 30,000 people there. What an amazing experience.

MOITZEI R”H

Moitzei Rosh Hashana was awesome. Sheiner had Yossi Piamenta along with my new friends and roommates for Yom Tov, Yitzy Schwartz on the keyboard and Avrumi Shcreiber on the drums. The alcohol was flowing and the food was plentiful (on the house, of course) and the dancing was non-stop until after 1:00am. It took me about 2 hours to realize that there was even more dancing in the streets at the corner of the Tzion, and another huge crowd in the courtyard of the Kloiz. A lot of people told me they enjoy leaving Uman right after R”H but I would encourage a first-timer to stay that night. At the very least take a 6:00am flight the next morning so that you can be in Uman until 1:00am.

To get back to the airport, you can go to the end of Pushkina Street and hop into a bus or big taxi for $35 per person. I opted to put 3 guys in a regular taxi and haggled the guy down to $100. I would not recommend someone else to do that unless you are getting a nice car and a guy who knows what he’s doing. Our luggage barely fit into his small car, and he had no idea where he was going. Getting into a fender bender and stopping for coffee and to shmooz with a friend on the way was also not that great, but we managed to get to the airport on time. It’s a good thing we were going business class and got to the front of the line, because people said they were waiting for over an hour.

The business class lounge in Kiev is nothing special, and since it was a Ta’anis we couldn’t even partake in the free drinks. Business class on the flight from Kiev to Amsterdam was the same as the Amsterdam-Kiev flight on the way there, which again was basically economy plus.

And that’s the end of it. I’m on the KBP-AMS flight now typing up this Trip Report. Unfortunately the power port (full, regular outlets) is not working by my seat (just my Mazel…I needed to charge my laptop, phone and iPod) and my battery is dying so that concludes my Trip Report. Feel free to ask any questions here in the forum and I will try to answer. If you’ve been to Uman before and you feel there is any info I may have missed, please post. And remember Sheiner may not do next year what he did this year, so do some research yourself before you rely on everything I wrote.

UMAN UMAN ROSH HASHANA!
-Eli

Offline Charles The Govenor

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Re: UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2009, 08:52:31 PM »
Wow! Ty great report.
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Offline Suave

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Re: UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2013, 04:44:49 AM »
Nice TR.

I personally cooked the tongue (and other food) you ate.   (I had to bump this thread just to bump my ego)
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Offline HP58

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Re: UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2013, 07:37:24 PM »
Wow! Very thorough!

Offline SavingsBigtime

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Re: UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2013, 08:40:05 PM »
Nice TR.

I personally cooked the tongue (and other food) you ate.   (I had to bump this thread just to bump my ego)
you do realize that this tr was written in 2009 ? ::)

Offline Suave

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Re: UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2013, 08:45:11 PM »
you do realize that this tr was written in 2009 ? ::)
Yes, that's one of the years i cooked there. That year specifically i cooked 90 tongues.
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Offline mb1

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Re: UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2013, 10:29:14 PM »
Yes, that's one of the years i cooked there. That year specifically i cooked 90 tongues.

Any pictures?

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Re: UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2014, 01:25:45 AM »
Anyone that was there more recently want to post what might have changed since Eli's trip report in 2009.
I'm thinking of going for the first time ever this rosh hashana

Offline Saver2000

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Re: UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2014, 01:33:43 AM »
Was there last year,  but don't have much info for you.

Showed up erev RH,  with no place to sleep and no food.

Some guy approached me as soon as I showed up,  and asked if I wanted to rent a place to sleep (turned out to be a bungalow with 16 beds and one bathroom)

Didn't have an issue with food over yt bec a friend had purchased a set of "cards"  for me.

It also helped a real lot that a friend of mine had connections. 

Airport is 3 hours from uman. There are dozens of neshers going every hour.

Do not leave anything unattended. Unfortunately people do steal. (that's what everyone there says)

Was really an amazing experience,  and I'm thinking about going back this year iyh.