Kiev, Ukraine. We were pretty psyched to see this city. It is the largest city in Ukraine, the capital of the country, and an important city in Eastern Europe. We were extremely impressed. We hadn't heard very great things about Ukraine from our parents, and this city was just as beautifully constructed as other major European cities. Decorative buildings, wide streets, big parks, open plazas all define Kiev. Ah yes, and frigid cold winter.
We scored an apartment online for a really good price and felt like we were living in luxury. An apartment beats a hotel any day because there's a kitchen, washing machine, living room, etc. It was newly renovated and in the center of the city. There's no way you can get such a sweet deal in Western Europe (Paris & London were especially painful on the wallet). We felt like naturals stopping by the grocery store just around the corner from our place and buying kolbasa (sausage), smoked fish, tomatoes, onions, and bread. This is a classic Ukrainian snack or light meal. We also felt really cool watching Ukrainian TV and being able to understand it. There were so many instances we saw the news on some TV while traveling (in a airport, ferry, or hotel) and wished so badly we could understand what was being said. This time we could.
If you're looking for a European experience but don't have the money to shell out, Eastern Europe is where it's at.
A statue of Lenin, creator of the Soviet Communist Party. Every city in Ukraine used to have his statue, but have all been replaced with Taras Shevchenko since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Somehow Lenin survived in Kiev.
Our sweet apartment in downtown Kiev (we didn't usually stay in nice places like this on our tight budget, so this was a big deal). Luxury.