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більше не горить, але вже не дихає 11/01/2012

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
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Urban Renewal

Fate had sunk us deep within the roots of Kyiv to end our trip. Primordial Slavs crawled forth from the mighty Dnieper to claim this narrow strip of riverfront as the center of their civilization. Janice and I wandered through Podil towards that azure gash, a natural fortification protecting the annals of history from encroaching concrete communist blocks laying siege to the far shore.

The merry magic of trade and commerce conjured dockyards, warehouses, tenements and offices. Cobblestones sprang forth from the fertile soil and horses hauled foreign delights to the burgeoning gentry of Uppertown. Roughnecks, stewards, butchers and their squalling families slapped together timber slums and worked anchoring ships. A city was being born and Podil was the heart, a densely packed and infested engine pumping life through the fetid gutters. (more…)

Багатство і престиж 15/11/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
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What the Hell is Wrong with You?

Come see The Montmartre of Kyiv! Whichever enterprising copywriter conceived that golden gem must have a monument raised in their honor. What else but brilliant advertising could convince the touring masses of the world to slip and stumble along cracked cobblestones down a street of dust and unsavory characters?

Politicians responded with a funicular to spare the overfed any exercise climbing Andriyivskyy Descent. Public works of yesterday which civilized this sharp slope with a winding road cannot keep up with the growing monied masses, and Kyiv would like more monied masses please. Buildings which have been sagging since the neighborhood began in the 17th century are swaddled in scaffolding. Plans have been made to install glistening concrete sidewalks. Soon the small cafes will expand and add neon to their windows, the boutiques will hire English-speaking students and death squads will cart dog carcasses to the incinerators. (more…)

проникли самозванці 16/10/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
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Mihaylivskiy Zolotoverhiy

Rag pickers held the gates, their eyes prowling a majestic expanse of flagstones. Hardened professionals with no affectations of serving the unprepared or groveling for sympathy. City-wide, lurking near the entrances of hallowed ground, scarf hawking women demurely proffered their ways in silent desperation that heedless tourists would find themselves blasphemously naked under the gaze of God. Banshees had spawned these sentinels clustered at every gateway, eager for confrontation.

Reconnaissance made contact while we watched hidden within the anonymity of a milling crowd. Savage jabbering assailed the ears and arms flailed with violent spasms. The skirmish was on the verge of the physical when suddenly the din subsided. Tourists slipped through and enraged beggars regrouped, digging in for the next assault.

No one outside the third world can ignore a man drowning in his own shit on the sidewalk like a born and bred San Franciscan. Our home has been corrupted by outsiders, our ranks infiltrated by impostors, our lives a ceaseless torrent of imposed bullshit. Yet this firestorm tempers the soul, wrapping our hearts in chainmail in which we walk impervious to the parade of lunatics, wannabes, con artists and yuppie scum.

No one except Ukrainians. (more…)

з усіх сил, питання 11/09/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
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St. Sophia's Cathedral

Floodgates burst when the Soviet Union dissolved and freedom spread through the east. Freedom is a heady wine, one which quickly went to the head of many Ukrainian factions long bent under a cultural yoke. Ardent Christians freed from state-imposed atheism it must have felt as like the second coming.

Riots erupted in 1995 outside of St. Sophia’s Cathedral. At issue was the final resting place of Vasily Romaniuk, or Patriarch Volodymyr, a gulag survivor cum exile who led the newly founded Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Due to multiple claims (drunkest of the bunch are the Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches) of ownership the government retains possession of St. Sophia’s and allots different faiths different periods of liturgical access. The state refused the burial of Patriarch Volodymyr and barricaded the monument. (more…)

Голодомор 04/07/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
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Vichnoyi Slavy Park

Gilded domes swam in the pastel horizon, a suspended backdrop for obelisks and towers. Vichnoyi Slavy Park had been ransacked by Disney prospectors intent on contorting accepted standards of perspective. The cluster of monuments, basking in a rolling sea of lawns manicured by legions of Scottish groundskeepers welcomes you as an amusement park and leaves you reeling from the price of admission.

Walkways ran thick as people dared the approaching tempest to steal what sun pierced blackening clouds. Visitors were casual, staving off heat exhaustion with shorts and summer dresses, but none violated the carefully cultivated grass. Considering the gravity of our surroundings adherence to rules as submission to respect was sensible, yet no reverence was paid to any of the edifices and conversation wasn’t a somber affair. Abandon walkways and sculpted concrete benches at your own peril. Cops at Le Jardin du Luxembourg would agonize over disturbing a picnic before gently chastising offenders. It was anyone’s guess what cops in Kyiv would do.

Tourists come to gape at Pechersk Lavra, an enclave of Eastern-Orthodox churches complimenting the network of caves which have served as a monastery since the 11th century. St. Anthony accidentally founded an ascetic movement upon returning home from Greece. His teachings inspired disciples to invade his subterranean warren. His attempts at pious isolation drove him down river to build a new underground habitat, but the zealous adoration of acolytes led to architects being brought in from Constantinople who littered the land with temples. Today relics and the mummified remains of notables relent to the scrutiny of paying guests willing to adopt the appropriately misogynistic attire. (more…)

раптової пірует 20/06/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
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Outdoor Theater

They honored silence and the passage of time. One or two created self-contained picnics in their laps. One or two clung to beers praying for some distraction from their festering minds. We were all scattered throughout rows of long wooden benches which rippled forth from some modernist caricature of an amphitheater. Jean Nouvel has finally escaped his space-age polymer nightmares through the divinity of Eastern-Orthodoxy and had become infatuated with Norse mythology.

Chairs were shuffled and instruments deposited beneath a creeping tongue of polished wood. Stagehands clustered for idle chatter in an open doorway, basking in the knowledge that any spectacle slated was hardly imminent. The audience was content to wait for someone to eventually pull a rabbit from a hat.

Trees lined a wide walkway perfect for promenading in big, funny hats. Janice trained her camera on a wall which had been repeatedly victimized by reverent, although indiscriminate, fans of MTV rock. A teenager powered past on skates, interpreting the soaring melodies of his Walkman through twirls, knee bends and smiles. Off he would disappear into the distance, skid into a sudden pirouette, then come rocketing back to encircle his humorless babushka. (more…)

Україна ще не вмерла 07/06/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
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Coffee Time

Jets of foaming water danced to the pixie’s delight, charming a hapless pack of aging tourists who thought Janice and I could lead them to further enchantments. The monkey grinder plied his trade in gracious silence, the dragon slayer hesitated his delivery of death. Plastic bubbles drifted through the surface scum of their tank, failing to tempt any of the carefree teens eagerly anticipating their elevator ride underground. No horses roamed the carefully tended paths and no evidence betrayed any act of violence towards drunken imbeciles rich with brilliant ideas.

Atlantic City, our convivial breakfast companion given to preemptive fits of hiding ashtrays, insists Kyiv is European. On those rare occasions when my perpetually fractured internal clock aligned with the stars I entertained notions of a Parisian existence while propped against the counter of Cafe d’Albert. There was always at least one older gentleman in a slightly shabby suit beginning his day with a Pernod or Ricard.

The morning drinker at Cafe d’Albert soothes his shakes browsing Liberation or l’Humanité, orders a tartine beurrée, and steps away from the counter before gravity becomes adversarial. Khreschaty Park ends with a small counter bar turning a brisk trade at ten in the morning. Patrons had settled into a spread of tales with half-liters of draft, including a couple decorated members of the local law readying for their shifts. There was little talk and no newspapers. There was no food. (more…)

коло всередині квадрата 28/05/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
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Kontraktova Ploscha

White knuckles through Rome or London attest to the conflict between centuries of architecture, urban design, and transportation. Haussmann’s geometric exuberance dragged Paris into broad roads and grids but drivers still face Place de la Concorde and Place de l’étoile. Kontraktova Ploscha is a circle inside a square, a tangled convergence of streets, rails and crosswalks bereft of lane markings or discernible right-of-way.

Beneath the buttes of Kyiv’s founding lies the ancient riverfront neighborhood of Podil. Merchants thrived along the ports and artists starved on the slopes of surrounding hills. The square, named for the administrative offices where civic contracts were formalized and signed, is besieged by history: monuments to Cossacks and poets sit amidst footpaths and trees of a park; Kyiv-Mohyla Acedemy and a children’s theatre watch through traffic; spires and steeples from several religions pierce the immediate skyline. Thousands of homes, government buildings, over a dozen churches and monasteries burned in 1811 during a severe drought. Bolsheviks razed much that had survived. (more…)

загиблих солдатів і вчених 26/05/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
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Chornobyl Museum

Cracker… Cracker. Looking for Cracker, the closest approximation to whatever Cyrillic Janice had carefully researched and copied down. City planners in Kyiv never saw the need to litter corners with street signs, leaving you to wander in the shadow of luck. One or two buildings a block boast plaques with addresses and the name of whatever you’re standing on. This makes it marginally more navigable than Japan.

Emergency vehicles from bygone days were lined in a tidy row, polished to a shine. Vehicles that responded to Chornobyl absorbed such doses of radiation graveyards of trucks, helicopters and buses were left behind. In the 25 years since a thriving scrap metal trade has flourished, impoverished Ukrainians and Belorussians slipping through porous borders into the exclusion zone. Adi Roche, founder of Chernobyl Children International, speaks of dead village encounters with people stripping houses. The French photographer Guillaume Herbaut— who I would later court back in Paris– shot an essay on smugglers. But these were probably replicas. (more…)

Значна фігура з найдавніших часів 22/05/2011

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Ukrainian House

A grim slab haunts the edge of Khreschatyk. An allowance of sunlight is sacrificed to the glory of gravity-defying concrete, intermittently interrupted by squared columns and doorways untarnished by visitors. Constructed in 1982 the Ukrainian House welcomed party-faithful into the life and times of Lenin. In the wake of Soviet collapse boosters found a more lucrative purpose, a conference center for international business, trade shows and consumer events.

Tucked behind progress is a tiled plaza cut from a hillside with a cracked brick and stone cascading fountain keeping nature at bay.Throngs competed for relief amidst the ceaseless flow of water filling Maidan Nezalezhnosti, but here Janice and I were free to wander the receding tiers gushing pale green water. (more…)