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багажу і беззмістовність 02/10/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
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Displaced

Hopelessness and despair had shattered my mind, leaving me unfit to lead our band onward. Janice, grizzled road warrior and freshly settled Eastern European that she is, saw our rattling wagon’s destiny with a chasm and ripped the reins from my lifeless hands. Hostel Yaroslav witnessed our plight and offered salvation, in English and with online booking. Elbows sent morning commuters scattering and saddlebags were heaped onto the blue line heading towards Podil.

Sunk beneath the tangled convergence of streets which comprise Kontraktova Ploscha is a subterranean warren of twisting corridors, fluorescent tubing and grim storefronts. Frequent excursions through the underground passages of Khreschatyk had not prepared us for the intensely claustrophobic rat-maze in which we had been deposited. A lower-class of street vendor populated this den already narrowed by walls. Directions to the hostel had been provided, but the piece of paper on which they had been copied proved useless. Exits to the land of sunshine and air lay in all directions, but which direction did they lead?

Métro stations in Paris can sprawl. They twist and turn. There are multiple points of entry. Conscious of the displacement caused by traveling beneath streets the RATP as chosen to number and identify each stairwell as well as to provide the essential Plan de Quartier.

Metro stations in Kyiv force you to crawl from the depths of hell into a frightening and unknowable realm of shysters, cops, cheap consumer crap and impatient masses.

Words Fail Me

In the square kiosks kettled us as people streamed past our ramshackle outpost of luggage and vapidity. We had reached the street but not the street we needed to be on, and there were no signs for reference. Massage parlors and escort agencies had invested in a tourist map, but the cartographers had only invested in major thoroughfares and sponsored hotspots. We were fucked for help.

Janice held a knife to fate’s throat, plunging forth through the crowd towards the carnivorous cars circling our sanctuary. Joining a pack of locals we forded the street, like the great migration of wildebeests whose success depends on the slow and infirm entertaining crocodiles and lions. Plastic wheels rattled across the cracked sidewalk as eyes sought familiar Cyrillic anchored to the crumbling facade of apartment buildings.

After several blocks we admitted failure. Failure led back to the metro station where fate sat laughing. My feverish thoughts left agitation bleeding in the dirt, riding off instead with hysteria:

Janice! Janice! Try to ask someone. Just try to see if they understand. Wave the street name under their noses. Stop That Girl. Ask That Girl on the corner. Scream in Polish and see if it sounds like Ukrainian. Ask That Girl!

That Girl painfully converted the broken pan-Slavic melange into something approaching language. That Girl tortured her tongue with English, squeezing her brain dry of everything learned. That Girl had no idea where the street we were looking for was.

But That Girl stopped a woman and implored her for help. I watched as simultaneous translation and wild gesticulation pulled us from the brink of disaster. Thank you! Merci! Dziękuję!

Hats Are Hung

By passing through an unlit passage and entering a courtyard festooned with broken glass, derelict cars and presumably vital fluids, guests are welcomed to Hostel Yaroslav. A cheery handmade sign hangs on a heavy metal door which defeats gravity through sheer stubbornness. Cement steps lead into a hallway which creaks and sags as you walk, and a young girl watching pop videos on TV turns to regard you with a combination of curiosity and street-savvy.

Check in became especially amusing because our reservation played hide-and-go-seek. Janice and our hostess came to an understanding that didn’t involve an exchange of cash or apparent contempt. We were led up several flights of industrial stairs to the top landing.

Features include a shared toilet, shared bathroom, a couple four-bed suites and, at the end of the hallway, our double twin bed luxury honeymoon accommodations. Light streamed in through the windows. There was an actual table with chairs. Walking the room involved more than three steps and the journey wasn’t impaired by furniture. I could have thrown myself on a bed and soaked in the palatial surroundings.

Except that we had an appointment across town and we were already late.

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