In October the lucky people of Kharkiv will get the chance to see both The Scorpions and Nazareth. Those are the only two "western" acts that I've seen ads for in Kharkiv so far but my city does have a history of having remarkable concerts that world famous artists.
In 2008, Queen, which at the time was fronted by Paul Rodgers from Bad Company, played a massive free concert in Kharkiv that was released as a live album and DVD called Queen Live In Ukraine.
The concert was held in Freedom Square which is a block from our apartment. Here's a shot I took of it yesterday around sunset.
At one end of Freedom Square in Kharkiv you'll find a large statue of Lenin. I haven't seen all of Kharkiv but I doubt there are few more striking and memorable sites in the city. Freedom Square has a long history, first as Dzerzhinsky Square [Felix Dzerzhinsky was the founder of the Bolshevik secret police] and it was finally named Freedom Square after Ukrainian independence in 1991. On the opposite end of the square from Lenin political groups regularly rally around lunch time each day waving flags which is a nice reminder of political freedom each time we walk by.
Today expedition led us to this massive statue in honor of poet and author Taras Shevchenko. He is considered the father of Ukrainian literature and a huge national hero. The statue is so striking that it makes me wonder why we don't honor American authors this way. How about a huge marble statue of Mark Twain? I've been to Mark Twain's home in Hannibal, MO and I think a large Mark Twain monument would be a nice addition.
Taras is also on the 100 Ukrainian Hryvnia bill. I'll be doing a post on all the Hryvnia bills in a little bit.
On this trip I've really tried to take a page from Anthony Bourdain and have "no reservations" about new experiences and eating new foods. That being said though, I will never, ever, ever eat something called "Fish bags"...or for that matter, "Sacks with mushrooms." You've got to draw the line somewhere.
Here's the view from our apartment bedroom on a dreary Ukrainian day. Not much to look at I will admit but the view from the hallway window is a little better.
That view looks onto a park for the kids in the surrounding apartment buildings.
And here is one last shot of our apartment building from across the street. On the bottom floor we have a cafe called The One 2 One Cafe. Even though the cafe has an English name, finding English speaking waitstaff is another story.
Ukraine is having parliamentary elections at the end of October and all the seat in the Ukrainian parliament, called the Verkhova Rada, will be up for grabs. These are the first elections since 2007 and that election led to a political crisis in which the President tried to dissolve the Verkhova Rada. Long story short, it could be an interesting time to be visiting Ukraine!
Ukrainian elections are only allowed to last 90 days so the political parties are out in force to get their message out. As a Political Science undergrad it is so tiring to hear politicians in America argue about who is and isn't a socialist when in come countries you can just walk down the street and get handed pamphlets from actual Communists trying to get the vote out. Michelle Bachman would have fallen down dead of the shock.
To get from St. Paul to Kharkiv it took three flights.
1. Minneapolis/St. Paul to Chicago
2. Chicago to Munich
3. Munich to Kiev
and then a train from Kiev to Kharkiv.
As Flight 2 was about to begin it became clear that the call light button was continuously going off and the staff was searching to see if someone was continually pushing the button every 10 seconds. Finding no one, I heard one steward say to another, "it must be a ghost in the machine." There are few more frightening words you can hear before a nine hour flight.
As we were sitting there the DING, DING, DING every 10 seconds I did some math...
6 dings per minute
360 dings per hour
3,240 dings over nine hours
3,258 dings our flight was over the nine hour and three minute flight.
Fortunately, it didn't quite come to that as somewhere over northeastern Canada the dings stopped.
Flight 3 our of Munich proved to be the most interesting as at least half the flight were Orthodox Jews from the United States. It turned out we were in the middle of a pilgrimage route to Unam, Ukraine. During Rosh Hashanah, several thousand Orthodox Jews travel to the burial site of Rabbi Nachman who founded the Hasidic sect of Judaism. During communist times the pilgrimage was pretty non-existent but has flourished again since the fall of communism.
One East European tradition that MUST be brought to the West is the tradition of having the everyone on the plane applaud the pilots when the plan lands safely at its destination.
One of my favorite photographic pastimes involves snapping examples of graffiti that I stumble upon and Ukraine has given me some great examples in the short time I've been here. Today we have a primate with a message:
The gentleman pictured above was our cab driver in Kiev who brought us from the airport to our hotel on our first night in Ukraine. This man [we never got his name] is a talented specialist who's expertise is successfully avoiding death every minute of every day he is on the road in Kiev. We've all heard crazy cabby stories but there seems to be something to the idea that Ukrainian traffic is truly out of control.
The street directly below our window in Kharkiv is on a major street and we hear screeching tires and breaks at all hours of the day. Below is a video of some scary examples [and some hilarious] of Ukrainian driving and my personal goal is to not be one of those pedestrians that seems to be running into an oncoming car.
Use My Camera will be a blog documenting the sights, sounds, and views of my year as a tourist in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. I've been doing a photo blog by the same name for a while now and I've decided to use the same name for this blog to keep things straight.
And so today we begin back in America! This sign post is located a few miles outside of Menomonie, WI. You've got all the local cities listed and a couple of not-so-local ones [El Paso?]. During the summer I was staying in Colfax which was listed as being nine miles from the sign post. And today I write this some 5434 miles from Colfax in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Interestingly, Google Maps can't find directions between Colfax and Kharkiv. Imagine that!