Posts Tagged ‘Kiev’

Two weeks in Ukraine

July 13, 2016
Monument to Great Famine, Kiev

Monument to Great Famine, Kiev

Sunday 19 June  

I get to Gatwick in spite of cancelled trains.  Then Ukraine International Airways take a long time to find the plane.  I am met at Kiev.  It is hot.  I have a headache.  I get lamb stew and mashed potatoes at a restaurant that apologises for being on a trial basis.  It costs 300 UAH.  I manage to eat the mashed potato.

Monday 20 June

I join Kiran and Nalini, the other 2/3 of our party, together with boss Igor, guide Natasha and driver Vlad.  We see some churches, and have lunch in a place where I do not lose my wallet.  In the afternoon, we visit Pyrohovo–a kind of open-air museum of peasant huts.  Vlad gets a permit to drive round.  I have a burger in a place called The Burger.

Hut in Pyrohovo

Hut in Pyrohovo

Tuesday 21 June

We go to the Lavra.  It is hot.  A different guide takes me and Kiran down some caves with holy dead bodies.  Then we escape an exhibition of micro-miniatures and get Scythian gold instead.  I give Natasha some money in an envelope.  Kiran gives her some money not in an envelope.

A long day awaits without hotel room, toilet, air-conditioning.  I go to Petrovsky Market and it is far too hot.  Then I have some expensive lager in an underground ‘pub’ off Khreshchatik.  I eat in a decent place called Prepuce.

Vlad appears.  We drive to the station.  We wait.  We get on.  It is hot and humid.  My cell-mate contrives a through draught by wedging the door open with a shoe.  Sleep.

Lunch at Puzata Khata

Lunch at Puzata Khata

Wednesday 22 June

Lviv station

Lviv station

We arrive in Lviv.  Welcome signs of recent rain.  We drive round some places–main interest is drawing up to the kerb so that Nalini can get in and out.  Kiran and I do a walking tour. At least we get to sit in the Armenian church.  Typhoid and the paraffin lamp were invented in Lviv.

Thursday 23 June

Building in Zhovka

Building in Zhovka

We go to Zhovka, a small town.  It rains, unfortunately not enough to keep us in the minibus.  We proceed to a monastery at Khrekiv, where Brother Dmitri says he had earlier been a violinist in an orchestra.  Irina the guide and I walk to a magic well, leaving Nalini on a bench.

Nalini says that her grandfather sold his land.  We are cheerful on the way back to Lviv.

Friday 24 June

I wake up early and look at the computer.  The referendum is going badly.  It gets worse.

At breakfast a Dutchman tells me how bad Brexit is.

Determined trudge from Kiran and Nalini at Kamenets-Podilsky

Determined trudge from Kiran and Nalini at Kamenets-Podilsky

We drive towards Kamenets-Podilsky.  I brood about having left my two-pin adaptor behind and how I will manage if so.  K-P is like a Ukrainian version of Durham, with tourist facilities but without tourists.  Our guide is keen to get on with things.

We drive to Ivano-Frankivsk, where the Nadiya is quite nice and I do have the adaptor of course.   I can’t work out how to get into the hotel restaurant and go to place called Desyatka.



I speak to the waitress in Russian, she replies in Ukrainian, I agree with everything and it works out fine.  Young people in brightly-coloured clothes are happy to be alive.  I have chicken and rice and beer.

Saturday 25 June

I have some black pudding at breakfast, a change.  We walk round I-F with the guide Marta.  There is a gallery-style thing in the foundations of a fortress.

Child-cooling apparatus, Ivano-Frankivsk

Child-cooling apparatus, Ivano-Frankivsk

We drive towards the Carpathian mountains.  It is all right.  We arrive at the sadyba, which is somebody’s house they are renting out while living in the one opposite.  We go to a museum where the daughter of a man who taught himself 50 musical instruments gives a demonstration to us and a large group of Americans.

Sadyba kitchen

Sadyba kitchen

I spend the evening searching the sadyba for my glasses.

Sunday 26 June

I wake at 0539 to look for my glasses.  They are in the bag with the computer stuff.

We see a picture of Indira Gandhi done by a peasant artist from a newspaper.  We drive somewhere else and get on a chairlift.  They stop the chairlift so that Nalini can get on.  We look at a view.  We come back.  We drive to a souvenir market.

Shadows of the Carpathian Chairlift

Shadows of the Carpathian Chairlift

Marta wakes me up to have my dinner.  It is quite nice.

Monday 27 June

We go to a museum of the film ‘Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors’ by Paradjanov.  It’s on YouTube too.  The woman speaks for a long time.  Then Martha interprets.

Call that a waterfall?

Call that a waterfall?

We go to Yaremche, where we see an exhibition of models of buildings in Carpathia.  Then somewhere else with a souvenir market and what was a waterfall.  Marta tell us about her tour company.

Marta sees us off

Marta sees us off

We get on the train in Ivano-Frankivsk.  The provodnitsa complains when I do not buy anything from her.  I lock the door.  The floor of the toilet is very wet.

Tuesday 28 June

The train reaches Odessa.  We are driven to the Aleksandrovskiy Hotel.  We have a city tour.  It is hot.  We stay in the minibus.

Main street in Odessa

Main street in Odessa

Wednesday 29 June

We get in the car and drive to Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, where there is a castle.  Then we go to a winery with many steps and see some films and an exhibition about the Swiss who worked there.

OK, it's a castle.  With a tower.

OK, it’s a castle. With a tower.

We have lunch.  Kiran gives instructions about his tea and the milk.

We come back to Odessa.

Thursday 30 June

We go to the caves and the partisan museum.  Igor the boss has reappeared and interprets for Ksenia the interpreter, who is not having a good day.

Kiran and Nalini in the partisan's underground schoolroom

Kiran and Nalini in the partisans’ underground schoolroom

I do not go to the Literary Museum.  I worry about buying train tickets in Poland.

Friday 01 July

We drive.  At Sofyivka Park they say they know nothing about us, we have to pay 50 UAH to stand inside the gate, it is not possible that the guide has been paid for in advance.  We retreat to the car and get the driver to phone Igor.

Discussions.  We get our money back and begin to amble round after the guide.  She says that Euripides was the first Greek playwright.



In Kiev I find I have left my soap and flannel behind.  I manage to buy something that will do as a flannel.  Then the security tag sets off alarms in the supermarket. I have a decent meal at the Prepuce.

Saturday 02 July

I get up about 4am.  My passport is missing.


I find it again.

The girl at the airport check-in desk acts like she is pleased to see me.  They finally locate the plane and send us to another gate.

Farewell Ukraine, hello Poland!




Babi Yar

August 18, 2011

This pleasant-looking scene is unfortunately one of the most infamous sites of European history: Babi Yar, where Kiev’s Jewish population was massacred on 29/30 September 1941. The green lawn is where the ravine (yar = ravine) was later filled in, first of all by the Germans. The site is now quite a manicured piece of parkland, which makes me uneasy.  It looks like the place is out in the countryside somewhere, but actually it’s just a bit of parkland between one one block of housing and the next.

It feels like they’re trying to stamp on the famous Evtushenko poem: ‘There are no monuments above Babi Yar./ The steep cliff like a crude gravestone…Above Babi Yar the rustling of wild grasses/The trees look on sternly like judges. Everything shrieks here silently….’  That dates from 1961 of course.

Here’s the official (Soviet-era) memorial:

and an inscription in Russian:

which says:

Here in 1941-43 more than one hundred thousand citizens of Kiev and prisoners of war were shot by the Fascist German invaders.

This is an inscription in Yiddish, with pieces of stone (or glass) left to memorialise the dead:

I can make the last word into Kriegsgefangene (prisoners of war).  Interesting that while the official monument makes no mention of the Jews, there is an inscription in Yiddish.  Especially since the official–indeed any–use of Yiddish had been eliminated by this stage.

Finally, here’s an inscription from a small Jewish memorial:

It starts off with a quotation from Ezekiel (in the Valley of the Bones):

And I will put my breath in you, and you will live.

Notes on some bookshops in Kiev

August 13, 2011

Here are some remarks on bookshops I ambled round yesterday.


First of all, it was ‘Knigarnya’ at 47 ul L’va Tolstogo.  Inside it was quite a nice clean modern shop, but unfortunately all the books were in Ukrainian, rather than Russian.  I think there were some English books in the far reaches of the back room; there was also a granny selling vegetables outside.

Then I made my way further down L’va Tolstogo and came to the Litera ‘book supermarket’, which also had a nice park opposite it.


They had a pretty decent selection of Russian fiction on the first floor, and it wasn’t too strangely organised; also some books of lit crit (really literaturavedenie) in the sub-basement, together with books in Russian.  The address is…ul L’va Tolstogo 11/61.

After that I made my way to Khreshchatyk, where I found the following corpse:

Nothing so depressing as a dead bookshop...

But then I found something more interesting on ul Bogdana Khmel’nytskogo:


That was very nice:  clean, bright, friendly staff, decent selection of Russian fictiomn and also some books in English.  I completely overlooked the lockers you’re supposed to put your bags in to prevent you nicking stuff and nobody told me off.  I also came across H P Lovecraft looking a bit embarrassed to find himself in a prestigious-looking series of collections of works by ‘classic’ foreign authors:

H P Lovecraft shares his corner of the table with Jane Austen and (less bizarrely) the Marquis de Sade

Lovecraft is one of those writers who seems a great deal better in a foreign language because the poor translator has to decide what this garbage means and even render it into something resembling coherent prose in the target language.  Dostoevsky is the pre-eminent member of this tribe, with Dickens not so far behind.

The ‘book club’ thing apparently means there’s a card which gives you a discount, like France loisirs as I recall.

After that, my way led through the permanent anti-Timoshenko demonstration:

They don't like Yulia

I think their points were:

i)  Timoshenko was personally liable for Ukraine’s oil [and gas?] debt to Russia;

ii)  she had bought her English father-in-law a motorcycle.

Then the ‘Znaniya’ shop at Khreshchatyk 44 was gloomy and old-style:

The ‘we love Yulia’ faction favoured brighter  colours than  their opponents:

Crimeans believe Timoshenko


After that I failed to find any sign of the alleged bookshop in the ‘Globus’ shopping centre.  And on my way back to base I had a look in ‘Akademkniga’ at ulitsa B Khmel’nitskogo 42:

Reminiscent of the good old days...

That was real old-style, with the books displayed behind the counters so that they were safe from potential purchasers.  And since this was the shop of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, they were very largely in Ukrainian!

So that concludes my account of a journey through the bookshops of Kiev, conditioned as it was by my not speaking Ukrainian and this computer not speaking Russian.