DECADE OF PHILHARMONIC ART
Dedicated to the Opening of the 140th Concert Season
With the support of the Foundation for the Patronage of Arts Development,
the Embassies of France, Italy, and Germany in Ukraine
THE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OF THE NATIONAL PHILHARMONIC OF UKRAINE
Programme: L.Beethoven - Symphony No. 9
Kiev might be the 'staleetsa' of Ukraine, but as with all cities outside the L'vov region, the predominant 'yizik' (tongue) is Russian, with bi-lingual signposting on the main routes in & out of the capitol. Ukrainian was 1 of the languages banned under Soviet dictatorship & despite 2 decades of separation from the old centre of power in Moscow, little seems to have changed, even in the attitude of folk half my age, who were born AFTER the fall of the Berlin Wall...
Many seem still to be umbilical to their 'motherland's' apron strings & regard the west as a threat, & it demonstrates what a fractious place 'the new Ukraine' is, that Russian remains the language of the capitol. Do not go there, believing as I did originally in 2005 - the propaganda emanating from the progressive movement in Kiev, that the country had westernised - it has not - & returning 6 years on, I detected not much, if any progress, especially in regard to tourists...
Soviet attitudes hold fast, & even the simplest things, like buying a bus or train ticket, are a bureaucratic exercise in the committee decision, in the union of nations that invented the internal passport. No automatic ticket dispensers exist to avoid the language barrier, so if you cannot speak Russian, plan ahead your visit in advance & use online translation software to write out your travel requests on notes, before you arrive...
The service you receive will depend on the temperament of whoever is on duty - so they might be very polite & helpful, or they might go out of their way to be the opposite. Just count your blessings if you get your ticket for the price requested - requiring change can cause problems & dishonest clerks will pocket the difference, which can be quite a sum if you have just arrived & obtained notes from an 'automat' (ATM).
Kiev is joint co-host city for the international football tournament to be held in 2012 - foreign fans who arrive here for this, are in for a short, sharp, shock...
when traveling by train, be prepared that your travel companions might be too excited to meet you. for some of them, you will be the first foreigner they have ever met on the train, or even in their life. Most likely they would not speak your language, but they will try to impress you with Ukrainian hospitality. Th Ukrainian hospitality might translate into ask you to share a dinner with them and in some cases, offer you a drink "za znayomstvo" ('nice to meet you' drink). The drink can range from a beer to numerous shots of vodka. Usually a polite ‘thank you’ and ‘no’ (dyakuyu, ya ne pyu - ukr.) will do, but if your travel companion keeps insisting, say that you take medication that do not go with alcohol (ya pryimayu liky - ukr.) In rare instances, which will hopefully never happens, your companion might keep bugging you. in that case, ask a conductor to move you to another compartment.
it's customary to remove your shoes after you have entered a Ukrainian house. the main reasons for that are: 1) Ukrainian streets, unlike streets in Europe or U.S. are quite dusty, and tent to get dirty after the rain or snow. 2) in most of Ukrainian houses/apartments people have carpets/kilims on the floor. would you like to see the dirt on your kilims?? most likely not ;) so out of courtesy, and to save your host a cleaning effort, it's advisable to take your shoes off. don't worry, you will be offered a pair of slippers instead. if concerned about hygiene, just say that you prefer to remain barefoot (or in socks) :)
in some instances, the host will tell you not to remove the shoes, but don't assume that. simply ask :)
In such houses average Kiyevans live. They are so called apartment buildings. Due to high demand in apartments in Kiev, new apartment buildings rise higher than 20 floors. Unfrortunately only old buildings are in good condition. Those that were built years ago suffer from lack of paint, broken windows and doors.
Notice that every aparment must have a balcony. Ukrainians don't have drier in apartments so all laudry is on balconies. Also it is a good place to store things that cannot fit into an apartment.
Many foreigners asked me what cuisine I like: Indian, Middle Easter, Asian or any other. Dear foreigners, although there are many ethnic restaurants now in Kiev, not so many people can afford to go there, so they have no idea how ethnic food tastes. So don’t be surprised if in return you will have an answer like, “I never tried it” or “I don’t know how it tastes.” Moreover, it is just not in fashion to try other food than Ukrainian.
I think the place for this tip cannot be among shopping tips because of the reason that flea markets are not only the place for food and clothes shopping, but also for communication, meeting of friends, eating out, and just strolling for the heck of it.
On Kiev's flea markets you can buy everything from food, beverages, clothes, shoes to parfumes, furniture, etc. Also the products are from different countries, mainly Ukraine, Turkey, China, Poland, Germany, and Italy. There is a big chance for bargaining and buying stuff for cheaper price, there is a large assortment of everything.
Of course, as a tourist, I doubt you will have a lot of discount on a product, because there are always an opinion that tourists are very rich and don't care how much they pay for things. However, it is a good place for you as a tourist to see the part of Ukrainian culture: buying and selling things.
The largest and most popular clothes markets are:
- Petrovka (subway station Petrovka near book market)
- Troyeshchina - the biggest one, you won't be able to see it all in one day (special minibus goes from Petrovka to there, located on the left Dnipro banch in residential area Troyeshchina)
- Svyatoshino - (subway station SVyatoshino) not as reach as other, however, can be interesting to see, because the lower part of market is located in park, there is no pavement).
I was told by a few local people that if you are going to give, give to the old people (mostly old ladies) who beg on the street. Most senior citizens in Ukraine receive a pension of about $80 a month. Ukrainian tradition requires children to look after their parents, but when children won't help, or the old people don't have any children, the old people suffer (and die before their time).
Fishing is the part of Ukrainian culture. As a rule it is a part of male population, but sometimes men don't mind if women come along with them. What for? Well, who will cook that fish? However, many man cook fish soup better than any woman.
Some men love fishing so much that they spend cold spring days as that one I took a picture on indulging themselves in delight of fishing from Dnipro banks. During all seasons you can see somebody with fishing pole nearby River Port, along Dnipro banks, or on numerous river islands.
Residents of apartment buildings can be very creative about children's playgrounds, which may have different hills, rides, sand boxes. Sometimes they can be very colorful like that on my photo. I remember when I was a kid I spent a lot of time there.
People of all ages in Kiev are opened to display their affection. Maybe older people are more reserved, because during Soviet Union it was inappropriate to hug and kiss on streets. However, things changed and couples love to go to downtown, walk around, sit on the benches on Independance Square, at cafes and just on the stairs.
I admire Friendship Arch lookout. I can stay for minutes there enjoying the views of the city. But my single friends don't like that place much as I do. They pull my sleeve saying that they are bored, that they were not in this place for years and don't much regret that. I noticed other Kiev residents have feelings as my friends do. I guess it is like with people who all their life lived near ocean and don't have as much attraction to it as tourists do.
But to my happiness I realized that there are two groups of people who like this place: tourists and couples in love. You may see both in that spot in any weather and any time of the day. The difference between them is that tourists are busy with taking pictures and talking about the view, when couples in love stay in silence hugging each other, look at the city and kiss. Isn't it romantic?
Kiev has many beautiful restaurants, clubs, and casinos. Unfortunately, the beauty of exterior of such places is not safe because of full-of-strength youth around that is looking to break something, or steal. Glass box as a kind of protection for expensive lamp was created by restaurant “Tsar” located near Theatre of Puppets (European Square). Maybe it doesn’t look very appealing, but it is secured.
In Kiev many businesses do such work.
The bandura (traditional Ukrainian folk instrument; 6th century) street players still exist :) And it'a amazing to see how they play and sing traditional Ukrainian songs!
This particular one I saw next to St. Sophia Cathedral
It is popular for newly wed couples to make photos in charming spots of Kiev like Mikhailovskiy Monastery or Mariyinskiy Palace. An interesting attraction is to see how imaginatively they decorate their cars. After all…is one of the most important days of their lives.