Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We've made it to Split, Croatia, today!

It's a wonderful city, reminds Misha of Venice, but I've never been there, so it reminded me of Lviv - Lviv with the sea.

At first, I felt very disoriented: I'm too used to Turkey, haven't been anywhere but Turkey in the past decade, and here, before we got to the Old Town, the scenery was more or less like the Çanakkale area - and it's all South to me, of course, the awesome Mediterranean, the Promised Land! - but the language was so different, and I understood even less of it, because my ears, obviously, thought they'd be hearing Turkish once abroad...

Our first coherent conversation in Croatia was with a cab driver, in English - about football: the UEFA Euro 2012, which we are hosting with Poland - and which could've taken place in Croatia and Hungary instead, if we hadn't won the bid.

The driver also told us about last summer's wildfires here: on the way from the airport, it's hard not to notice the dead, black forest in the distance, at the feet of the mountains that wall off the seaside area. Very sad and scary.

The Old Town is, as I said, wonderful, but we were very upset to discover too many homophobic writings on the walls of the old buildings. I had read about the assault on the gay pride parade in Split just a few weeks ago, but seeing the hateful leftovers all around us was still very unsettling. I wish I didn't understand Croatian at all - the way I don't understand Turkish: I would've preferred to remain ignorant and more idealistic, and I feel terribly upset (though not surprised at all) that this amazingly beautiful place is suddenly so transparent - and that some of it looks so similar to our own part of the world, which is also filled with hateful schmucks.

I'm falling asleep as I type now, so here are the photos that I took today - both of the good things that we saw and of the bad:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Yulia Tymoshenko's trial has started with two rallies on Khreshchatyk today: her supporters were a lot more numerous than her opponents. The latter seemed piled together with the former somewhere on the other side of Khreshchatyk by the building of the court, and I have failed to identify them visually when I crossed the street, even though I knew they were there because of the peculiar music - the so-called chanson - that they played very loudly, to block the sound of the pro-Yulia rally.

Many elderly people were out there today, and Yulia's buddy Turchynov even tried to make a joke, saying that these pensioners were ready for a rebellion. I felt pity for them, because they had to stand for hours in the sun, and no one had thought of supplying them with free drinking water (I do think they should have, whoever organized this rally), and then there was a really wild thunderstorm, and they probably had nowhere to hide from it - or had to run for shelter, which isn't easy for people their age. Anyway, their lives are tough in general, this rally isn't a picnic either - but they are tough, too, so the rally continues, despite crazy weather.

Below are some photos - and maybe I'll have enough for Part 2 later today. It's been a long time for me since the last rally I took pictures at, so I find it really interesting.



I've added 15 more pictures and a tiny video to today's set.

The post-rain part of the pro-Yulia rally was a depressing sight.

Tons of garbage everywhere; some of the protesters who were still there looked exhausted and demoralized; a few, however, still oozed with naive enthusiasm.

Two old men from the opposing camps got into an argument, which later evolved into a very brief fight, but a man who looked like one of the rally's organizers got involved and had them calm down:

One of the protesters next to me talked to someone who had been inside the court building: it was terribly hot in there, he said, a small room with a hundred people in it, everyone sweating like crazy.

Someone praised the protesters from the stage, noting that they were heroes - and indeed, they were, for it was already 3 PM and they had been on Khreshchatyk for nine hours by then, since 6 AM. It's 4:30 PM now, and they're still playing music, chanting and making speeches out there, though I've no idea if anyone's still left. I guess they are waiting for Yulia to get out of the courthouse.

On my way to the other side of Khreshchatyk, I noticed these elderly women selling flowers and berries:


They had nothing to do with the rally, or with politics in general, they were the near-Besarabka regulars - but what struck me was that they could've easily been part of the rally crowd - they seemed to fit in perfectly, at least visually. And this observation is what I'll probably remember best from today.

This, and the drunk man asleep in the sandbox at our playground...


Saturday, June 18, 2011

It was an insomnia-inspired walk that lasted from around 6 a.m. to around 9 a.m. An adventure, in a way, for I usually stay up much of the night, working or reading, and eventually fall asleep angry with myself for being such a vampire. In summertime I suffer the most: the sun is up and the birds are singing way too early, around 4 a.m., always catching me unprepared, still not sleepy enough. And I've always dreamed of being a morning person - because, I imagine, it's easier to be that way. But I'm not, and whenever I'm out early, I feel that the world is upside down, and the people who move around me with such ease are either aliens or robots.

For a long time, I've been very curious to see what Kyiv is like in the morning, so even though my last night's futile attempts to fall asleep had exhausted me, I was filled with some sort of a crazy enthusiasm when I set out on this walk. It turned out to be a pretty interesting, dreamlike experience, but I was upset to realize that taking pictures in the morning wasn't my thing at all somehow. All this endless walking and photographing that I normally do in late afternoons has always appealed to me because of its dreamy spontaneity; today (or should I call it yesterday already?) I've realized that my constant efforts to stay fully awake during this walk were taking all the fun out of the process. I ended up having more pictures in my mind than on my camera. Dreamlike pictures, some of them too subtle to describe in words.

Khreshchatyk was empty, with no one (or almost no one) driving on its sidewalks. If I still had a bicycle, I caught myself thinking, I'd go for an early-morning ride, the way I did once or twice in the late 1990s.

The air, unfortunately, had a really unpleasant smell - possibly, due to all the public toilets set up on Khreshchatyk, or because of all the drunks who populate the area at night, when the toilets are closed.

At 6 a.m., there were a few homeless people sitting on the benches, occasional bunches of tipsy young people returning from night clubs, and a water truck riding slowly along the sidewalk, stopping next to every tree and light pole with flowers hanging on it, and the driver, who was dispensing water from the hose right from his cabin, got into a fight with a cabbie at one point, because the cabbie didn't want to leave the spot he was parked at, right by a tree, and the driver didn't want to water him and his car together with that tree.


By 7 a.m., there were street cleaners everywhere, mostly the elderly local folks, unlike in Moscow, where a typical street cleaner is a young Central Asian male. An old woman was sweeping stuff from memorial plaques near the Unknown Soldier monument: she looked like a dedicated volunteer, with her ragged old broom and a white plastic bag to put the garbage in.


There were pigeons in almost every backyard I passed through: some were already being fed by compassionate elderly women, others were waiting for their guardian angels to wake up. In front of the Lavra, it was a man in a wheelchair who was feeding the pigeons. In the park, I saw people walking their dogs AND feeding a bunch of young black strays.


Around 7:30 a.m., buses and marshrutkas were already crowded as hell, and those mysterious morning people were marching in droves to their offices from the Arsenalna subway station, so very awake and energetic, so unlike me the somnambulist.


At 8:30 a.m., there was a minor traffic jam in the Presidential Administration neighborhood, the streetlights were off at the Bankova/Instytutska intersection, replaced by a cop in the middle of the street, which probably meant that Yanukovych was about to arrive to work. Two hours earlier and a few blocks away, when there were still only a few cars and a few people around, an extremely voluptuous middle-aged woman entered the huge Cabinet of Ministers building through its imposing front door: my guess is she was their head cook or something.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Serbia's arrest of Mladic "might be a very strong turning point" for the Serbia-EU thing, someone wrote in a comment on GV yesterday.

It usually horrifies me to imagine a similar scenario for Ukraine, but I do get carried away sometimes.

First, half a decade of war. Then, business as usual, sort of, and also catching some of the war criminals, at a rather leisurely pace, leaving the most odious ones for dessert - at which point everyone around is so tired of waiting that they let you in without even lifting their heads to look at you. Something like that. War as the EU's entrance fee, more or less.

(There's the Russia factor, of course: Russia may be happy or unhappy about Serbia joining the EU - or both - but who cares.)

I'm so happy Ukraine has managed to stay sane and peaceful over the past two decades, but I do wonder sometimes what we have to do to get to our own "strong turning point" - or at least to have them allow us to travel to Europe visa-free, the way they allowed Serbian citizens a year and a half ago...
Another bunch of pictures from a whole day of walking yesterday. I wish I weren't so exhausted, I wish I could write a little about some of these photos, and about other stuff that I've seen and heard lately, I wish I could write anything at all now, I miss writing, but I'm so incredibly tired, and also a little bit sick, so here are just the day's pictures...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

This deserves a special entry:





Took another lovely marathon walk today - below are some pics:

Tuesday, June 07, 2011



Half a month ago, I posted these two pictures of the sparrows that Marta and I were feeding at the park in Moscow, and I showed them to mama today, she loved them, and then she went out and came back with two baby sparrows that she found in the grass on Khreshchatyk. Had we lived in some park, she would've left them there, for their parents to continue caring for them. But on Khreshchatyk there are too many people and too many cars, this place is a bit too tough even for humans, no way these poor birdies would've survived it.

Our cat is growing more and more interested in them, and they require more or less constant feeding, but I do hope they'll survive. Mama is a former biologist, and she has tons of positive experience with all sorts of ordinary birds and animals: we've had pigeons and crows at home, and frogs and rats, and cats and dogs. Life is never boring in our family.

I looked up baby sparrow feeding tips on the web: turns out that in the States one needs some special permit to keep a sparrow at home - because sparrows are considered wild animals or something there. Which they are, of course, but still, I wonder if it's true about the permit.

On a different note, I saw a Svoboda Party rally against political repressions today - it was a comparatively small one, they were moving down to Khreshchatyk from the Shevchenko Park, and there were plenty of cops around them - as well as around the Lenin monument and the communist tent next to it. Haven't seen anything in the news about this rally yet.

And when I was walking past the 5-star Premier Palace Hotel on Shevchenko Boulevard in the evening, an elderly priest (or was he a monk?) asked me for some change: he was dressed in a neat black robe, had a neat beard - but the golden/gilded/shiny cross on his chest was too huge, too conspicuous, too in-your-face. I asked him where he was from, and he said, Konotop, in Ukrainian. His left eye was missing. I had a fleeting thought that he might be just posing as a priest (or a monk), but I gave him some money anyway - because even if he was a fake, he still didn't look like one of those Premier Palace guests to me.

Back home, we watched "Rio" with mama and Marta, to mark the arrival of the baby sparrows.

And an hour or so ago, I saw a very tall bum down at the playground: he was collecting empty bottles into a white plastic bag. He drank up whatever remained in a couple of those bottles, and seeing him do it made me really sad, even though this is definitely not the first time I observe something like this at this playground.

And it all got me thinking of food chains.

Baby sparrows feeding on the soaked cat food that our cat can't eat because of his health problems; the cat who'd really like to eat the sparrows, and that unhealthy cat food as well, but is on a diet; an eccentric-looking priest/monk who is quite conveniently begging for money next to a 5-star hotel; communists camping by the Lenin monument across the street from the 5-star hotel, and their Svoboda adversaries, all part of the really lucrative political food chain; local cops who seem to be regularly making some pocket money off the young people who drink beer illegally outside; a bum who makes some cash by collecting empty cans and bottles, and also gets to fill up on the beer and gin & tonic left over by those young people who got busted by the cops; and, finally, another bum, who is at the playground right now, surveying the locations already covered by his colleague - he leaves with nothing except for a large cup of cola from some fast food place that he came with, most likely a find from another dump.

Monday, June 06, 2011

I took a really long, relaxed walk today. Much longer than yesterday. Once again, I didn't have any specific route in mind, just kept walking, looking around and taking pictures. Kyiv is so different from its winter self now. It is so gentle and so friendly. This friendliness has nothing to do with other people, friendly or not. It's the friendliness of a city that allows me to walk for hours on my own, never feeling lonely, bored or uncomfortable. Not even tired.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Can't stand to see this blog so neglected - but somehow Facebook and Twitter keep getting most of my attention...

So here's a quick photoset from my first walk in Kyiv this summer (we've just arrived today) - I posted these pictures on Facebook as well, of course, and on Flickr, and I'll tweet the link, too - I swear I can't stand being fractured like this, and also repeating myself constantly, but I can't help it, either...