Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Around the city there are many memorials to politicians, poets, and wars.  Today I'll feature two of the more memorable ones we've come across in our travels.  This one is located outside of Laura's university and memorializes students who served and died in World War II.

And from the opposite angle which makes it nearly and entirely different statue all together.

The other memorial was a small one  off one of the main streets around the university.  You could easily miss it and unless you walked right up to it you would never know what it was in honor of.  This one is to honor citizens of Kharkiv who died in The Afghanistan War.

I think it's easy for Americans to forget that Russia was at war with Afghanistan for ten years from 1979-1989.  A few of the other museums that we've been to have also had sections devoted to the Afghan War and as America's war with Afghanistan enters its twelfth year I imagine we will have more memorials built to honor the fallen.  

Cloudy Day

The difference between my camera's setting for shooting in "fluorescent light" and "cloudy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Wall of Bags

On our trip to Barabashovo Market which is Ukraine's largest market and one of the largest in Europe we saw lots of interesting sites and smells including a stop at a Vietnamese restaurant that I'll feature in a future post on my food blog Marvel With A Mango.

Th most impressive site though had to be the Wall of Bags at one of the stalls.  Those of the tops of people's heads at the bottom of the photo and so I would estimate it went up between 30-35 feet.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Saturday involved taking a quick trip to the train station to pick up our train tickets for next week and as we were walking down the street we saw three stray dogs sunning themselves.  

One of the dogs made me stop in my tracks and grab my camera.  It looked to be a Norwegian Elk Hound that was the spitting image of my dog Magnus during his younger days.

Here are a few shots of Magnus with a more grayer face.  As Norwegian Elk Hounds get older they turn more and more grey and so the stray dog was probably a few years younger that Magnus in these photos.

Magnus passed away a few years ago and since seeing the dog at the train station I've been thinking about seeing him "reincarnated" a lot since.  If it would have been realistic to have a dog in our apartment I would have taken him home with me right there...and picked up some flea baths on the way home.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Random Picture Collection #1: September/October 2012

I've been taking my camera with me just about anywhere we go and when I don't bring it along I've got my cellphone to capture anything interesting we come upon.  This leads to a ton of photos that will never see their own post and so every once in a while I'll collect them and post them together.  And so here's the first one which covers mid-September through mid-October 2012.  

We begin with the Kiev train station...we'll be headed back to Kiev in a few weeks and it will be nice to get to know that city better.

This is the design of Ukrainian pay phones which you can find pretty much everywhere still.  I've been interested in photographing pay phones since I read issues of a magazine called Hacker Quarterly.  They feature a section with payphones from around the world.  

Graffiti from around Kharkiv...I think this guy is winking.  

This is the advertisement for Twister in Ukraine.  This was from one of the market stalls in Freedom Square...this stall didn't actually sell Twister.   

Based on the shelf space given to Kosmostars this is one of the most popular cereals in Ukraine.

The electric bus had it's cables come off the rails and the bus driver had to get onto of the bus...not sure how long the people in the bus had been waiting.  

Just some giant shuttlecocks in front of a concert hall.  

One of the restaurants around our first apartment.  I enjoy that the restaurant sign says "non stop" in English.  

The sign for the Kharkiv Metro.

Maybe one of the graffiti artists is a fan of 80's Nintendo games...

A shot of Constitution Square.

A black and white view of Constitution Square.  

Although I would say the city has been pretty well scrubbed of communist symbols [giant Lenin statue in Freedom Square excluded], every once in a while you'll find pieces of architecture that is just way too difficult to get rid of.  

In the long line of things we needed to do to get Laura's residency permit at one point we needed to get a certified translation of her passport by some sort of official translation department.  This led us to an office building in which the first floor looked to be brand new but when we stepped off the elevator on Floor 4 we were greeted with this view.  Sure enough, down at the end of the hall way was a little sign for "Translation Department" in English.

This was the start of a Kafkaesque routine of first getting the passport translated into Russian [which everyone at the school office spoke] and then being told that we instead needed it in Ukrainian which meant going back to the office and repeating what we had just done.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Monopoly Kid

"And you must be the Monopoly guy...kid!...Thanks for the free parking!"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mercury, Lead, & Chromium

One of the Ukrainian Mysteries we run into is the appearance of these water trucks around town.  They pull up on the sidewalk, people get in line and fill up their huge ten liter water bottles and head out.  We don't see any money exchange hands and so we are assuming it's free.  But how do people know when they are going to appear?  There doesn't seem to be any pattern of time or location and if you happen to see one, grab your bucket and come running.  

The reason behind the free water is that Ukraine has some of the worst water in Europe.  Boiling the water doesn't help the situation because it's not a bacterial problem.  It's a heavy metals problem from pollution from industry and farming.  So unless you enjoy mercury, lead, and some chromium it's bottled water for you.  I use the water to cook things like that we aren't going to drink the water.  If you are making soup it's with bottled water.  I do use the water to brush my teeth but I make sure to never swallow any of it.

Graffiti #6: The Babushka Lion

I think this would qualify more as "street art" than graffiti...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Mirror Stream

A few blocks down from our apartment and Freedom Square is a small park and it's main attraction is a pavilion called The Mirror Stream.  As you can see it has a fountain and it is a popular stopping point for wedding parties to get photograph taken after the wedding ceremony.

Here's a closer look at The Mirror Stream.

While we were walking by a bride and groom were posing in front of it.  One tradition newly married couples follow is to decorate their car and drive around the city honking their horn through traffic.  Even if that traffic is at a stand still.  Another popular practice is an elaborate fireworks show including having fireworks spell out your name in the sky.  I haven't seen one in person yet but the fireworks explosions are a regular part of any weekend evening.

The View From My Window #5: Parking

Just glancing out my window the other day we got to see Ukraine parking at its most basic.  The first rule of parking in Ukraine is there are no rules.

Don't have enough space to parallel park between two cars?  Just create your own diagonal parking spot half on the curb, half off.  All the parking spots taken on your block?  Just create your own lane of parking spots on the sidewalk.  Do you live on a street with traffic going both ways?  Feel free to park your car on either side of the street in which ever direction you need to...just as long as you've got yourself a parking spot!  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Just Like Prometheus

Today's the day we've been waiting for!  The Magical Ukrainian Heating Elf has decided to grant the people of Kharkiv heat!  Just like Prometheus who stole fire from the Gods, the Magical Ukrainian Heating Elf travels to Russia and makes a cut throat deal with the Russian gas company, Gazprom.  Thank you Magical Ukrainian Heating Elf!

In all seriousness, Russia has Ukraine over a barrel with natural gas prices and there are talks that the heat might only be one for a few hours each day to save on costs.    

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Time Trials In Freedom Square or An Accident Waiting To Happen

Another day, another unique event happening in Freedom Square.  From our apartment we could hear loud screeching but we weren't sure what the heck was going on.  We made our way down to the square later in the day and found they were doing sports car and motorcycle time trials. 

Sports cars would frantically drive a course as quickly as possible and make their way back to the start.

This was all done on one of Kharkiv's famous locations.  It would be like icing over the reflecting pool in Washington D.C. and having a figure skating competition.

I was able to grab a few seconds of video of what was happening.  The only thing between the cars and the spectators was a plastic tape which would probably stop a speeding car from hitting us, right?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Trip Down Artist Lane

While on our adventure to see the cathedrals of Kharkiv last weekend we also came upon a artist market in one of the parks.  Dozens and dozens of local artists had their creations on display and everyone had signs offering the opportunity to have our portrait painted.

There was a nice mix of portraits, landscapes, and some modern art.

You could even get some "pop art" paintings of Angelina Jolie or Al Pacino.

This painting below was my overall favorite.  I would imagine the title would be something like "Ukraine in November."

Along with art there was a display of great entomology frames of spiders, beetles, and butterflies.  Now to just do some research on U.S. customs rules of bring a dead butterfly back into the country.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Churches, Churches, Churches

As Laura and I have gotten into our regular routine we've mainly been exploring Kharkiv over the weekends.  And so last Saturday was all about churches, churches, and more churches.  The three main sites are Pokrovsky Cathedral, Uspensky Cathedral, and Blagoveschensky Cathedral and all are located in the same central area of city.   

Kharkiv has few historic churches thanks to the Communist purges during Stalin's reign. Pokrovsky Cathedral is the oldest structure in Kharkiv and dates back to 1689.  A functioning monastery surrounds the church and you can tour the grounds.    

Uspensky Cathedral is located a block to the south of the monastery.  This church was converted to a theater during Communist times and remains as one today.  We didn't get a chance to tour the inside of the theater [for another day I guess] but it would have been interesting to see an Orthodox Church with seating as parishioners stand throughout Orthodox services and there are typically no pews.  

Blagoveschensky Cathedral is the newest of the three sites and was built in 1901.  It was the only Orthodox church that was able to operate throughout Communist times.  Because of it's colorful outside design Blagoveschensky Cathedral has been dubbed "the candy cane church."

Here's the view of it while standing at Uspensky Cathedral.  

And a close up view:

Getting your photo taken in front of Blagoveschensky Cathedral is a popular spot for newlyweds and there were a few wedding parties around the day we were there.  .

Sometimes foreigners like to get their photo taken there as well:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Piece of America: Ernest Hemingway

The name of this bar is "Old Zhem" and the from the outside there's no discernible connection to Ernest Hemingway.  The three words on the right translate as "Drink! Eat! Entertainment!."   

I haven't been inside yet so maybe there's a guy sitting at the bar who looks like this:

It's clear that The Most Interesting Man In The World is just a modern Hemingway right?

Or maybe it's William Faulkner with a full beard:

Or maybe a combination of both:

Which reminds me of a little throwaway scene from The King of Queens.  In this particular episode Artie and Dough have taken to giving Carrie a "happy hour" when she comes home as her personality is a little more mellow with one or two martinis in her.  They show a montage of random things they do while drinking and they have this little discussion about Hemingway and Faulkner.