Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kharkov, Ukraine: A Few Favorite Sights

Hello dear blog readers,
Greetings from Rostov-on-Don, Russia. This week I'm balancing my happy-to-be-back-home euphoria with my gypsy-recovery mode, so it's a bit overwhelming. Imagine that! Well, now that I think about it, what is huge is the volume of photos and new experiences and special friends I met along the way. Where to start? What to share with you? How to pick and choose?

For starters, let's do a few favorite sights and sites of Kharkov. Another blog, I'll introduce you to some very special folks who live there. Deal. . .Da?

Got milk? Walking along, from a distance looked like a kvas dispenser. You'll remember that kvas is the popular summer-time time drink in these parts and it's dispensed the same kind of container. But right there on the side it says mo-lo-KO. And that means Got Milk! When I saw the young lady climbing up there atop the yellow cow to stir things up, I knew you would want to see this too.

I stopped and asked about the milk, how much it cost and such. It's fresh milk straight from the cow, straight from the country, said the lady there.

And then as I continued along the sidewalk, I heard the one lady on the left repeating word-for-word everything I'd said. I turned around and sorta laughed and shook my finger.

Just ahead is the soldier statue with pedestrians along the way. Just past the statue are entrances to the metro station, called The 23rd of August. Can you imagine why?

That's the date in 1945 on which Kharkov was free of Nazi forces. Here on the left, notice the older man coming toward us. Don't you know that he's seen quite a bit of history in these parts. Imagine he was a boy during the war. Like to visit with him. . . But I'm not going to mess with him. He's on his way to get some of that fresh, country milk. Plus I don't particularly want to hear him repeating every word I said to the Milk Maidens there. Doubt that he would though. He's got more to think about than that. . .

Let's preserve the cleanliness of Kharkov, says the sign at the bus stop.

On the other hand, this young lady wants to smoke. May I ask, do you smoke? I'm thinking about smoking one cigarette in my lifetime. Probably just one puff will do it for me. But if I do, it will probably be after I turn 60. That'll be. . . um. . . about 35 years from now. Give or take thirty. But I can tell you for sure, it won't be in front of a sign about keeping the city clean.

Feeling adventuresome? Try the Mafia Restaurant there on the far left. Italian cuisine, the sign says. Might be quite an exciting evening.

Next to the Mafia is the Japanese Kitchen. It's safe to assume there will be lots of cigarette lighting going on in those two establishments. But I have my doubts about their having any milk. Just a hunch.

Across the way there is Holy Annunciation Church, an Orthodox cathedral of unique architectural style - Byzantine, said someone who would know. The red billboard there on the right caught my attention. Let's zoom on in for a close-up on that.

That red billboard is a bank advertising: Our Stability is Your Assurance. How can any Ukrainian bank can say that with a straight face. That's my question.

Because ironically, at the moment, stability is low and assurance is lower. The fact is this: Ukrainian folk who have their savings in Ukrainian banks today are unable to get their funds out. I'm still chewing on that concept. They are unable to get their own cash out of the bank. Sound like anything you've ever read about, like from 1929? A very scary thought. . .

Moving right along. Let's consider something more pleasant. NATO, for instance.

Farewell to Arms. Farewell to NATO. Interestingly, in Russian - and this sign is in Russian - NATO is pronounced with the usual soft a, the a as in father, so it sounds. . . a little different. However you say it, some folks are very much against NATO in Ukraine. Then there's the other point of view.

Welcome to the Historical Museum of Kharkov. Listed on this poster are production goals for Kharkov factories to accomplish before 1941. And it was in June 1941 that Germany invaded Ukraine. . .

Trying to translate this. Thing is, it's in Ukrainian not Russian and now at 10:30 pm, it's a bit late to call upon any of my sources of Ukrainian language information. Several things are easily translated, however: 18 million tons of "chavyny" (see, that word's not in the Russian dictionary because. . . it's not Russian!) but You might know what it is. And then there's 22.4 million tons of steel (that one's easy) and then 15.8 million tons of "prokaty" - that's something I'm fresh out of, that prokaty. I'm pretty confident that it's not radishes. But over there on the right side, there's 38 million tons of oil for gas. Wonder if they reached those goals. I'm guessing not. With the war starting up and all. Kharkov was and is a major industrial center of Ukraine.

Don't you know that these characters have stories to tell about factory work. They're playing chess at the metro station. Behind are the escalators that go down to the platforms. Lose a game and off you go, down the escalator and over the edge. Maybe, maybe not. . .

These fellows were playing the other evenings playing too. I'd have more pictures for you but the Matron of the Metro came over and said no more photos. Photos are forbidden at the metro, you know. Especially chess games.

Chess games are tippy-top secret. Or at least they should be. Imagine the dangers of sharing on a blog or some such, the secret strategies of a chess game in Kharkov. Let's just keep this between us here, okay? Say, interesting that it's only men playing chess here this evening. No surprise there. But where are the lady chess players? Maybe they're home watching TV, watching grandkids, working the daily crossword in the newspaper. Probably just enjoying the peace and quiet.



Serge said...

Hi - stumbled on your blog via exaptbloglist, and being originally from Russia and now living in China I really enjoy your stories and most of all - pictures, it's like taking a walk back in those streets. Are you comfortable with the level of your Russian?

Eileen said...

Hello Serge, Thank you for your note. You're a long way from home - well, maybe you are - maybe Not, just depending upon from which part of Russia you started out.

So glad you like the photos. =) Gotta admit, I'm proud of them too but you know, there's so much that is interesting to photograph here. Bet in China there is too, eh?

You asked if I'm comfortable with the level of my Russian? Meaning what - language, perhaps? Nyet, nyet, a thousand times nyet. But that doesn't keep me from talking! ;)

How about you. . .with Russian? With Chinese?

Crazy About Ukraine said...

What a great post about Kharkov!! Thank you so much for sharing your photos and impressions : ) I too have always wondered why there are never any ladies playing chess at those tables... but the fact that you got a photo of those guys at all is impressive! They have a notorious rep for being camera shy : ) Katherine