Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Circus Mirrorball

I'm writing a post about our visit to two must-see attractions in Kharkiv, the Circus and Dolphinarium and while I was going through the photos I found this shot I took of the mirrorball at the Circus.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kharkiv On Jeopardy

One of the readers of this little blog let me know that Kharkiv was mentioned on Jeopardy this week.  It was on Monday's show in the Double Jeopardy round where they had a category on The Cossacks.  They asked:

"The city of Kharkiv, founded by Cossacks to protect Russia's borders, is now in this former Soviet socialist republic."

Hopefully you all could have answered that thanks to my help!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Graffiti #10: A Face

Looking down a little alley around our apartment you can see a face sticking out through the vines growing on one of the walls.

If you are walking fast enough you might fool yourself into thinking someone was really peering through at you.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Airports I Have Known

Some thoughts [Larry King style] on the airports I've experienced in my three times across the Atlantic in the past few months...the Kiev airport is very, very, very deserted early in the morning...

...the Munich airport was a wonderful experience while Frankfurt was a nightmare.  I've never seen such a horrible airport.  Poor designs, insufficient number of bathrooms for the number of people on the concourse, and Lufthansa staff which just didn't seem to have an interest in anything beyond chatting with each other.  I didn't even really have any problems with my flights there but a lot of other people did. Here's a photo of the people waiting in line to get to the Lufthansa desk to reschedule flights or speak to a representative.  I've never seen so many passengers screaming at airline employees before...thankfully, I just took a photo of my line as I walked by.... 

...Frankfurt also had some birds flying my concourse.  It's not too reassuring to see something that clearly shouldn't have been able to get in and makes you wonder what else can get into the airport... 

...And lastly it was nice to be reminded exactly how great the Minneapolis airport is as I was waiting to be picked up after arriving home.  Free wi-fi and everywhere you turn free and available plug-ins!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Lavra

If you ever get to Kiev, you must go to the The Lavra...even if churches might not be what inspires your vacation plans.  It is the center of Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe and home of some of the most beautiful sites I've seen in Ukraine.  The Lavra has several entrances but the most impressive, I believe, is through the Gate Church of the Trinity.  

The gate itself is amazing to look at but what truly is breathtaking are the two frescoes that are on walls leading to the gate.  After living here for a few months, it is clear that keeping things "nice" in Ukraine is a constant struggle and the idea of the "tragedy of the commons" has become something we have seen nearly everyday from polluted drinking water, the condition of sidewalks and roads, or the graffiti problem long story short, that these outdoor frescoes still exist more than a century after their creation blows my mind.

Inside the gates, you have many memorable buildings including The Great Lavra Belltower and...

...the Refractory Church which is one of the newer structures on the site having been built in the 1890's.

There are also a series of caves which hold religious relics and the burial sites of many monks how lived at The cameras allowed in there I'm afraid and the only lighting is a wax candle you need to buy before going down to the caves.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Graffiti #9: Some Of The Most Famous Graffiti In Ukraine

Sure, it's not graffiti on the Berlin Wall or a Bansky, but the Orange Revolution graffiti in Kiev is some of the most famous in Ukraine. These pillars were written on during demonstrations in Independence Square following the Presidential elections in 2004 and were encased in plexiglas to preserve the art.

Here is a close up of the graffiti of Viktor Yushchenko who won the Presidential election.  If you are unfamiliar with Ukrainian politics, you may remember him as the politician that was poisoned with dioxin.

Although I can't make out exactly what it says here, the orange color is very appropriate.  

Although it is mostly in Cyrillic there was some English on the pillars including this "Together Victory."

409 KM

I think about this little marker each time I'm getting a train either or from Kiev.  It is 409 km from Kiev to Kharkiv or Харків in Cyrillic...which for Americans's a long way away. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Kharkiv Thermometer

Although the temperatures around here have been slightly above normal recently, each day for the next week we have snow or sleet or rain or freezing rain forested for Kharkiv which should prove to be a lot of fun.  Since we have weather related excitement coming our way I thought I would show one of the highlights of Kharkiv often mentioned in guide books of Ukraine.  This giant thermometer is on one of the buildings overlooking Constitution Square and is often used as a meeting point for friends or people on dates.  

As you look at it you can't help but notice that it goes to -35 below zero Celsius.  Look at the weather history of the area it looks like we have at least one time a year where the temperature dips that low and I'll have to be sure to try to grab a photo of the red light just slightly above the clock.


From a set of English flash cards.

Random Picture Collection: November/December 2012

Roughly every month I collect the photos that didn't quite get their own post and bring them together in a single post.  Past collection can be found here.  

This group of photos includes shots from around Kharkiv, and trips to Kiev and Poltava, with pit stops at museums, churches, and landmarks along the way.  We start with something I've seen a million times in my life but I've never actually seen.  The hammer and sickle symbol representing Russian communism has always been yellow on a red field and it wasn't until visiting a museum in Poltava that I actually got to see an authentic hammer and sickle positioned that way.  

The train platform in Poltava...not a person in site.

I didn't hear any ambulance sirens so I think this guy made it down okay.  

This is the Kharkiv River which flows into the Lopan River which eventually makes its way to the Black Sea. 

Kharkiv's train station on a rare sunny day.

A giant patch for my patch collection of the official symbol of Kharkiv.  We have cornucopia crossed with the Greek symbol for the staff of Hermes which I had no idea is called a caduceus.

Just walking to the train station in Kharkiv and saw this...

Turns out "it" was a mascot for a sunflower seed company and they were handing out free samples.  

Ancient statues made by some of the first inhabitants of Ukraine. 

Like the American mid-west, Ukraine has a rich wholly mammoth history and I was wonderfully surprised to stumble upon a mammoth skeleton at a museum in Poltava.

Ukrainian folk symbols.

From the same museum as the hammer and the sickle from earlier...this was in the section about the farm collectivization.  

 A mosaic in honor of Ukraine's sunflower tradition

Another orthodox church...this one under renovation.  

Another church but I'm not sure where...they are starting to blur together a little bit.

 The awesome Rotary International bell which the club's president uses to call their meetings to order. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Embarrassing Your Dog

For Christmas, I bought my parent's poodle, Trippie, a penguin outfit.  He's in a sweater throughout the fall and winter anyway, so playing dress up is something he's used to.  .   

He didn't really like having the penguin hood up but we finally got a photo of it.

The suit is was actually big enough to fit over his normal sweater so he seemed to like it as he was a little warmer and by the end of the day he seemed to be used to it.

Which brings me to Riga, Latvia.  Laura and I were walking back from dinner when we heard a commotion coming up behind us.  It sounded like a group of people catching up to us...but upon turning around we were treated to two people with two dogs wearing shoes.  

The other dog was comfortable with his shoes and had a maroon leather that reminded me of this photo.   

 The larger dog was dressed in what looked like a mink stole and was having a little more trouble with his shoes.  The sound he was making walking was something like this.

I'm glad to see that embarrassing dogs is an international sport.

The View From My Window #8: Premium-Comfort Kiev!

After several delays, Monday found Laura and I back in Ukraine and at the Kiev train station...a sort of home away from home where we've spent many an hour waiting...and waiting...for our trains to arrive.  

This was our fourth trip through the station but the first where we've seen it decorated for Christmas.  Orthodox Christmas traditions run nearly through the end of January and so it was nice to see a huge decorated  tree in the middle of the stations entrance.

The station was particularly busy and we met up with two friends and so seating was limited where we normally ended up sitting.  We were walking around and came to an area of the station we hadn't explored before...and then we saw this sign.

"Premium-Comfort"?????  Yes, please!

Turns out it is a "private" waiting room which costs about $4 U.S. dollars to access.  It has huge leather coaches, TVs, and about a million less people.  Kiev train trips will never be the same again!