Monday, March 26, 2007


Max showed me this (you can see where I live).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Russian music television

Of all the 1400 channels I have it is only the music channels that I can make some sense of.

This channel shows American music but in between there are a lot of videos I have never seen and that I assume are Russian. They look completely like American R&B videos in that they have the same glamour styling. But there is something funny about the lyrics. This woman is singing 'I am not a piece of meat' and the refrain, 'we don't have to take our clothes off just to have a good time'. There is also the song 'Jetsetter' where the woman is singing 'you are so exciting and inviting'. And then there is a song with a woman sitting in a glamour snow setting, she is making fake tears, staring at the camera and singing 'let me be you silence'.

There was a break and they showed one commercial. It was for the movie 'Direktøren for det hele' by Danish director Lars Von Trier. I am surprised that Russian movie theaters are showing this movie and also that it is advertised in this pop channel. The movie almost wasn't shown anywhere in Denmark, it is very low key and something I assume Trier mainly made to have a laugh with his friends. But maybe Russians can relate to it because it is about a big swindle.

This is a VJ from another music channel, I like her outfit.


There is a lot of complicated political stuff going on in Ukraine. Last Friday Max and Alex took me to a demonstration against the sitting government.

This is the main square of Kharkov where the demonstration was going to be. But the government somehow hindered that and instead they had these people make a demonstration for the government. Max told me that most of the people probably were paid to show up. He also told me that when he was in University they once told him to show up at a similar demonstration and because he did not he wasn't given a mark that he needed.

We took a bus to the real demonstration. The bus was actually a van and we were sitting 12 people crammed together. Max insisted that we had another passenger take a photo of us, I think it is because he likes my blog and he wants me to have some pictures I can post.

The demonstration, lights and loud music and banners with clenched fist logos. There was a famous journalist speaking, he is writing articles about swindles like when large Ukrainian companies are privatized and sold very cheap to friends of the government. The former chief of police was also speaking. He was fired because he had promised to go after all the corrupt people of the government. When he started speaking there was a group of young people who started making loud noises so that we could not hear him. They were stopped by some angry old ladies and the police. Max told me that the young people may also have been paid to make the noise.

This is from another demonstration some weeks before. It is the police demonstrating because they are getting paid to little. I think someone told me they get around 200$ per month.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The markets

One of the best things about being in Kharkov is that you can go to the big old markets.

The old markets are actually the only places where you can get vegetables, the new super markets only have very few and very bad vegetables.

You can buy all kinds and parts of animals, brains, spines, furry ears, and some other things I just can't tell what is (for example what is that on top of the scale?!). Something very popular here also is the big peaces of smoked lard - 'Salo' - which they eat with garlic.

The fish is absolutely fresh. I pointed out one from the water and she killed it for me, and in a matter of two minutes she had also cleaned it out, removed the scales and hammered it into 10 steaks. She gave it to me in a plastic bag with blood and scales on it and it only cost me 3$, what I could have paid for one fish steak in Denmark. I don't know if it was so cheap because they caught it near to Chernobyl though.

These ladies are selling homemade dairy products. They are selling cottage cheese (in the front), sour cream (in the back) and a kind of sweet cheese spread with fruits, which is very good (second from the front). You can get one kilo of delicious sour cream for 1$.

Egg Alley. There are maybe 40 containers from which you can only buy eggs.

There is also a big part of the market where they are only selling tools, a part with shoes and a part with kitchen/bathroom stuff.

Around the official markets there are always some old women selling homemade pickles.

Around the official markets there are also people selling pirated movies. You can get 8 to 12 different movies on one DVD for 2$. I got one which had English speech. Then I bought 6 more but they were all in Russian, even though the package said differently. Now I will only buy my pirated movies from the big, respectable electronic stores.

After a long day at the market you will appreciate some of this greasy stuff.

Going to the 'hyper market' is quite a different experience. I counted 10 security people guarding the exit from the market. Every third time someone went between the electronic sensors they would make a sound and attract the guards. One guard made us empty all the bags we had just packed and when he had studied a pack of crackers he let us pack the bags one more time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The police

Last Saturday I had my first encounter with the Ukrainian police. Everybody seem to hate the police here and I was told a lot about how crazy they can be, so it was a bit scary. Also, the place and timing was perhaps the worst possible, I was literally taken with my pants open. I had been walking around for a long time so I really had to pea. I had found a secluded area with many trees and I thought I was completely alone until I turned around and there were three policemen, they had truncheons and one of them had a big scar across his cheek. I don't know if it was luck or because I was trying not to be prejudice with them, but they did not do anything bad to me. They took quite a lot of my time though. They asked me a lot of questions and were talking about drugs and espionage. They also had me empty all of my pockets and one policeman insisted on seeing all 500 pictures in my camera. I think I should have been fined for peeing in public but in the end they just told me that I should not do that, and I said 'sorry'.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Women's day

Last Thursday was Ukrainian women's day.

The evening before women's day we had another party at the office, and this time it was the guys who arranged the party. That way it actually was made more of a men's day.

There was a contest to see which of the girls at office would make the best house wife. They had to peel potatoes and use tools and things like that. The blond one is a guy dressed up as a woman, don't worry.

I helped in playing a small concert and after that there were sing-alongs all night long and here Andrey is also playing something. We were using a computer with speakers as a sound system for the vocal.

The next morning it suddenly seemed like spring. Everybody had a day off and in the park in front of my house there were a lot of people enjoying some leisure.

In the evening I went to see a concert with this band who play American pop songs like they were traditional Ukrainian folk songs, Selo 'n' Ludy - Village and People. I liked their double tempo version of 'You can leave your hat on'.

I met Loscha (that is Alex' nick) and his friends. To the right is Olga who speaks English very well. She is on a mission to teach all Ukrainians English so she is working seven days a week and even this evening she was working overtime to help me speak with the Ukrainian people. All the people were extremely nice and the owner of the pub - Churchill's Pub - invited me to come and see a lot of concerts. There was also a girl who I did not talk to but she gave me her number and said 'auf wiedersehen'.

Monday, March 5, 2007

A Ukrainian home + office

Last Sunday was the first time I saw a real Ukrainian home from the inside. I was meeting Kyryl, a Ukrainian guy, and his friend Alex in the morning and we were going to play some music. Alex and I joined the waiting people at one metro station and somehow I was not too surprised to see Kyryl 45 minutes late, he also did not seem surprised that we were still waiting for him.

This is the street of the house where we were going to play, the house is on the right. When we arrived there it was too late though, the owner had let some other band get the place.

Instead we went to Alex' place, and I got a small tour. This is the kitchen. The fire on the stove is always turned on because they have to pay the same no matter how much gas they use. Also they need it very often to heat water which is not warm directly from the tap.

We had to use a flash light in the hall between the rooms. In the Soviet days the apartment used to be owned by an extremely rich family but now it is shared between a lot of people. The old guy also lives there.

We had a lot of port wine Georgian style. We also had some ice cream which he kept in the place between the windows so it was not very hard.

Alex collects old stuff. These are old Russian perfumes. The tall yellow one smells like Chloé and the one in the middle like Old Spice. He also had a lot of old bank notes, like 500000 ruble notes.

They knew I thought this place was very funny so they encouraged me to have a lot of dumb pictures taken and here we are wearing old Russian police clothes. Actually Alex' place was not so unusual to me because when I go on tour with my band we often stay in similar places.

Later we went to have fun at Alex' work place. Alex works together with his father and brother in the family's company which produces big steel doors.

View from the office. Like the swimming pool in Poltava that building in the background has the Olympic logo. I think they are very strict about where this logo can be used but I guess in Ukraine it is hard to enforce regulations.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The opera

Like a lot of things in Ukraine the opera is Italian. We went to see an opera by Puccini. Unlike in Denmark the opera here is really for the people. You can get a ticket for 1$ and it cost us 6$ for the best seats. There were all kinds of people there, young and old, and some people had crisps and soda as if it were a movie theater.

The opera.

The hall inside the opera. I don't know the name of that style of architecture.

Ukraine, breadbasket of Europe

According to my guide book Ukraine should have a rich tradition for baking bread. That is however not my experience. Wherever we go there are always only the same two types of bread, maybe in different shapes but always extremely boring. No matter if you go to a bakery or a supermarket the bread always seems to come from the same factory. Only once did I visit a 'real' bakery with fresh bread and many different kinds. That was really good, but sadly it was in Poltava. I think the sad bread situation is somehow connected with a policy that the government enforced some time ago, but I don't know the details about that.

This is a typical 'bakery'. The architecture is unusual compared to other buildings in Kharkov, seems kind of Austrian to me. The bakeries have the kind of pastries that are completely stuffed with poppy seed, which is also something very Austrian to me. I read that the western part of Ukraine has a very different architecture because of an historical Austro-Hungarian influence and I wonder if there is some connection.

Semen helped me find a baking machine and I invited him and his girlfriend to have some fresh baked bread. Like I guessed, they had never tasted anything like it. In the pictures we are having some cakes that Semen brought. The wine is normal Ukrainian red wine and it is extremely sweet.


Poltava is sort of a 'big village' between Kharkov and Kiev but it has some interesting history. For some reason there were a lot of Swedes down here in 1709 and they were fighting the Russians together with the Cossacks. In Poltava they lost a big battle and after that Sweden was no longer a great power.

This is a 4 star hotel room in Ukraine. Italian style. When we had breakfast we were thrown out of the restaurant because they found out that the president's wife was arriving. On every corner outside there were suddenly policemen.

A cap took us to the museum of the Poltava battle but it was closed. For one moment we thought he had left us completely alone 7 km outside of town, but he came back shortly after.

On the way back we walked around in the outskirts of Poltava.


There was this shooting 'tent' in the middle of the streets. As it turns out, I am pretty good with a gun.

We saw some very bad 'spiritual art'. The interesting thing was that in all the exhibitions we went to they would only light the room that we were in, and in this place they would turn the lights from one end of the room to the other every time we crossed the middle. I wonder if they do this to save energy or to keep people employed, or if it is another example of the efficient spirit that you will also see in restaurants when they take your plate the same second that you put the last piece of food on your fork.

We saw this very photogenic old swimming pool. It is steaming because the air is very cold.

Fun is over.

Many places there was garbage lying on the ground and like in Kharkov there were dogs running around freely.

This restaurant is kind of fancy. Still has decorations from Valentine's day. We had some good borsch and the people over there are frying a fondue dinner.

His name is Atu and he works at this second hand shop. He studies at the technical university, has a wife and a kid and lives in a one room apartment. He does not have a car and he does not like Ukraine. But he thinks Italy is good. We were they first foreigners he ever spoke to.

Anna got this beautiful dress very cheap. When she is wearing it everybody is staring and they don't even mind that we can see them staring. Another thing Ukrainian people seem to find very funny is the fact that Anna likes to wear gloves.

Drum and bass

It turns out Kharkov also has an excellent drum and bass club. It is called sjivot, meaning stomach, and the interior is completely red.

The dance floor. Unlike how it can be in drum and bass clubs it was not only guys getting down. I think the DJs were Russian and they where quite good.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Kharkov Zoo

Kharkov Zoo was a fascinating experience. Going there in the winter time it felt like going to an abandoned playground and you would somehow be surprised every time you saw an animal.

Birds in a rusty cage. We liked that there were no information signs so we did not have to learn anything, we could just stand and stare at the creatures.

Hippo smells bad. It was lying there, rolling from side to side and once it would stick it's head up for air.

You could get really close to the animals and this guy really enjoyed that. He was teasing the animal, pulling it's hair and the animal was frothing with anger.

Sad buffalo.