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Найбільш розумний курс дій 28/01/2012

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Last Morning

Double espresso! Double espresso! But there was no coffee jerk chasing crumbs on this morning. In the category Not Waking Up Sans Kidneys in a Bathtub Filled with Ice Hostel Yaroslav wins a gold star. In the category Not Returning to Find Expensive Electronics Stolen they take the cake. In the competition for Best Breakfast Buffet Deal someone entered a double-burner hotplate before passing out backstage. Janice hoisted me from the tangled remains of my bed and hauled me through the early morning sounds of Podil to the nearest cafe.

Podil

Some voluntary vagabond had taken residence in the shower stall, leaving us to wring the sweat from our clothes before packing. Through the darkened hallway then down flights of concrete stairs to pass the key to a different receptionist than we’d met the day before. Janice found a corner in the barren kitchen where the meager complimentary wifi could be harnessed and double-checked that we knew what we were doing.

What we were doing was leaving Kyiv. (more…)

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

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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…)

розпливчасті уявлення про час і місце 27/11/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
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On Further Assignment

Tourist trap but I don’t care. Stella Artois on umbrellas and English on menus are comforting when you’re far from home, battered by logistics and suffering humiliating defeats. The waitress running this high-rent cafe smiled through our mangled ordering and let us stew on the terrace in peace.

In celebration of our nation’s birth the American ambassador was hosting a backyard weenie roast somewhere in the surrounding blocks. I suppose that banal banter and sacrificial animal innards in the name of freedom isn’t much worse than our foiled dancing through the poisoned landscape of Chornobyl. No ethical dilemma, dietary or political, was faced. As quickly as I learned of this BBQ I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to attend.

Not that Our Man in Kyiv had issued a direct decree. A project manager with Bechtel, in-country to oversee work on the multimillion dollar effort to contain, conceal and dismantle the crumbling remains of Chornobyl, had. Using sketchy and possibly illegal information we had positioned ourselves near the official diplomatic residence to receive a post-soiree phone call. (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…)

багажу і беззмістовність 02/10/2011

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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. (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…)