Sunday, March 31, 2013

Visiting Lychakiv Cemetary

Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv dates back to 1787 and in the two hundred plus years since it has been built up, destroyed, and built up again.  Its most famous resident is the Ukrainian poet Ivan Franko who's grave is located near the many entrance of the cemetery and is always decorated with flowers.  

The cemetery went on as far as the eye could see in all directions.  I imagine that during the summer it's not quite as impressive when the trees block your view.

Another view of the grave markers.  As you can see it was a gloomy winter day when we visited and when we walked around the grounds we were often the only ones around.  

During Soviet times monuments like these were regularly destroyed in the cemetery.  In 1975 the cemetery was made a historical monument and so some of the statues have been restored around the grounds.

Walking around the grounds we came upon this little chapel.

In one of the most recently constructed area of the cemetery they recently had a that is how you should decorate a grave!

The Soviet's Political Prison In Lviv

In Lviv, you'll find one of the most anti-Soviet museums you'll ever see in Ukraine.  The English translation of the museum's name is the "Memorial Museum Prison at Lontskoho Street" and what you'll find inside is a historically preserved prison that was operated by Poland, Germany, and Russia during Lviv's various occupations during the 20th century.  This particular prison primarily housed political prisoners and was used all the way through Ukrainian independence.  Here is the outer door leading to the outside world and what you face as you enter the museum.

Here is the outer door of one of the cells that the prisoners were kept in.

The white square painted on the ground shows how much space was designated for each prisoner.  Twelve prisoners were typically kept in a room this size.

In another one of the rooms, the museum has placed Soviet propaganda posters on the walls.  This not too subtle statement was one of the most striking displays in the building.

One of the last prison cells had an ominous sign next to it.

The entirely dark room had no windows and the prisoners had no access to the outside world.

The museum is currently only on the first floor of the building with hopes to expand through donations.  The current Ukrainian regime has cut funding to the prison museum as it highlights an ugly part of Ukraine's history so they are more and more dependent on donations.

One of the nice parts of traveling around Ukraine during the off-peak tourism time was that we got to have a personal tour with one of their guides.  Here she was showing us around the outer grounds of the prison...

...and the area in which  the occupying forces executed criminals and political prisoners.  A cross decorates the wall today.  This museum is not often included in the list of the major sites around Lviv but I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to visit.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Conversations in Lviv

A few brief conversations Laura and I had during our days in Lviv. 

The first one taking place in front of the Black Stone House which has been around since 1588.  Its black color as been attributed to the oxidation of the polychrome that was used on the building although a popular wife's tale is that it was due to the soot from coal burned during the Industrial Revolution.

Laura:  "Lviv is so touristy and European!"

Matt:  "And with cobblestones everywhere, you can easily sprain your ankle."

Laura:  "Yeah, isn't it great!"

Laura talking to the lady at the girl at the tourist office...the first and only tourist office that we've found in Ukraine that was actually open.]

Laura:  "In Ukrainian, how do you stress the syllables in words?"

Girl:  " just sort of know."

Laura always has questions about a particular language issue unfortunately not everyone is always willing to give her a helpful answer.

What I said after seeing this building from across the square.

Matt:  "I never thought I would say this but can we go to the opera?"

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Morning Odessa

I don't usually take black and white photos in Ukraine because it would be hard to tell the difference between those and the color ones.  Enjoying a few days in Odessa and then on to Crimea.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Visiting The Korolyov Cosmonaut Museum

Sergei Korolyov, a famous rocket scientist and spacecraft designer for the Soviet Union, was born in the city of Zhytomer, Ukraine and so when visiting Zhytomer in February we had to make a stop at this unassuming gray building.  

Inside you'll find the Korolyov Cosmonaut Museum which has the reputation as being the best space museum in Ukraine.  One of the first things you come upon is this landing capsule that held one of the Soviets animal cosmonauts.  They also have a photographic tribute to Laika and all the other animal cosmonauts that gave their life to the space program.

The item I was most excited to see was a Soviet lunar rover that never made it to the Moon.

They had many exhibits of satellites and probes built by the Soviets as well as spacesuits and jumpsuits the cosmonauts wore.

Over on my food blog, Marvel With A Mango, I'm going to highlight some of the cosmonaut food they had no display as well.  

You can also get a close up look at a Soviet landing capsule.  Ideally, the capsule would land in water somewhere near the planned splash down area but clearly based on the instructions on the outside there was the possibility of it landing on the ground by someone who spoke English.  

You have instructions letting you know that there is a cosmonaut inside and you need to get them out as soon as possible.

I also enjoy the slightly broken English of "Help To Go Out!"

Outside the museum you had two rockets "on display" meaning they were turned on their side and balanced on some cinder blocks. 

If only they would turn those rockets skyward it would be much more impressive...

...and maybe even the cat that was sitting near the rocket would be more impressed.  Did you notice the cat the first time?

In America, I'm sure this museum would be easily double or triple the size with the ability to get some nice corporate sponsors.  I would imagine it would be akin to The Cosmosphere museum in Hutchinson, Kansas which is a great space museum located in an unlikely location.  I visited the Cosmosphere in 2011 and they have a surprising amount of Cosmonaut items for an American museum with the highlight being this small metal ball.  Almost unknown in America is that the fact that the Soviets were on the moon a decade before Neil Armstrong took his stroll.  The Luna II probe traveled to the Moon in 1959 and shot these little silver balls that have "CCCP" written on them dozens of time in pentagons.  This particular ball never made it to the  Moon and instead resides in Kansas.

I was reminded of the Moon Ball from this display of a model of the Moon with all the different American and Russian missions marked.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Waiting For The Train

Four babushkas waiting for the train in Kolomyia.

Random CCCP Sightings

I usually react in disgust seeing someone wear CCCP related t-shirts in America...feel free to wear your Karl Marx shirt to make your political statement about communism but no one should promote the horrors the USSR [CCCP in Cyrillic] did to the Russian, Ukrainian, and all the people of the Eastern bloc.  Nevertheless, in my travels I can't help but stop and look whenever a great big Lenin statue comes into view or when we find a monument honoring the Communist history of the city or region.   

This Lenin statue is located in Zhytomyr which is also home to my favorite Ukrainian museum and future blog post topic, Korolyov Cosmonaut Museum.  

We came upon this mini Lenin in a restaurant in Zhytomyr as well. 

This Lenin stares at you while you get off the subway in Kiev. You're not supposed to take photos in the subway but sometimes I like to live dangerously.

I can't remember exactly where I snapped this CCCP emblem.

This hammer and sickle was at a soldier war memorial in Lychakiv Cemetary in Lviv.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Oddest Building In Kiev

While walking around the area surrounding the Ukrainian parliament we came upon a building known as Gorodetsky House.  It was built around 1900 by the architect Vladislav Gorodetsky and is covered by an architectural feature called a Chimera which is a figure that is mythical or grotesque like a gargoyle.  Along with being called the "Gorodetsky House" it is also often called The House With Chimaeras.  It was originally used as an upscale apartment building [across the road is the Ukrainian president's offices, by the way] but during Soviet times it was a clinic. 

Here are several examples of the Chimeras that cover the building.  My favorite is the this group of grumpy frogs that line the roof of one side of the building.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Everything Is Illuminated

Laura and I have been working our way through our created "required Ukrainian viewing" list slowly but surely.  While exploring western Ukraine we re-watched 2005's Everything is Illuminated directed by Liev Schreiber and staring Elijah Wood.  It is based on Jonathan Safran Foer's novel and follows the author's adventures in finding out more about his deceased grandfather and his life in Ukraine before and during World War II.  The first half of the film is mainly a comedy with the conclusion being very dramatic as he learns the truth about exactly what happened in the days following Germany's invasion of Ukraine.  One of the funniest scenes that rings true here occurs when the vegetarian Elijah Wood [along with his rented Ukrainian translator and driver] attempts to eat something without meat during dinner.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Kolomyia Train

The train leaving the station at Kolomyia, Ukraine on a foggy day.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

The View From My Window #14: Ivano-Frankivsk

In our travels around southwestern Ukraine we ended up in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk twice but we never spent the night there.  Instead Laura had some interviews there [with me awkwardly sitting in the back of the room understanding about 2% of what was going on].  I snapped this photo from the office building window where one of the interviews took place and I enjoy the bright yellow house in the gloomy Ukrainian hillside.  

The Hostel Bookshelf

When I was home in Wisconsin this past summer I stayed at my late Grandmother's house and in my bedroom were the bookshelves that my grandparents kept their book collection.  I started scanning some of the covers and posting them my tumblr page "Paperback Covers."

Along those lines while we were staying in a hostel in Kiev I took an interest in the book shelf in our room which was filled with books left by the people that have slept there.  I made of slide show of the eclectic contents and you can find it here.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Seeing The Kharkov Dynamo Hockey Team In Action

Back in November we saw our first Ukrainian hockey game and a few weeks ago we had took in a local game staring the Kharkov Dynamo.  Their facility was on the outskirts of Kharkiv and was very nice.  The game was very crowded but we were pleasantly surprised to see a couple of seats available...and they were in the front row no less!

That was until we sat down and started watching the game.  Here was our view for most of it...

...and about every five seconds you had someone passing through as they headed to the WC or the snack bar.

The game was against Sokil Kyiv and when the team from the capital city comes to town it is going to be a big game.  

There were a bunch of penalties and a fist fight broke out at one point...

...and one of the players from the visitors got ejected from the game for arguing with the referees after he was given a penalty.

From our seats and the metal bars in front of us it was difficult to get some good action shots of the players but the goalies were pretty easy to do. 

And this one was my favorite...keep your eye on that puck!

Kharkov took a 2-1 lead in the 2nd period and after Kyiv pulled their goalie in the final minutes the Dynamo were able to get another goal to win 3-1.