Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kiev vibrations

I decided to spend my Orthodox Christian Christmas in Kiev so I took the train January 6 in the morning, before flying back to Denmark on January 7. That was my third time in Kiev, but my impression of the city did not change so much for the better.



I came directly from the gay club to the train station and I thought I could just have a rest in the train, but I was wrong. Next to where I was sitting there was a sort of restaurant where three Russian guys where listening to reggae on a cell phone, drinking vodka and talking very loudly. So I gave up on sleeping and ended up drinking with them. They did not speak English but there was a Danish guy from Herning and his Ukrainian - but danish speaking - wife who translated what the guys had to say.




These are two of the Russian guys. I did not notice at first but the guy to the left was actually a real rastaman, with the sun tattooed on his back and a pocket full of marijuana. They were going to enjoy that in a special club in Kiev and they invited me to come and meet their families and celebrate Christmas the Russian way. The rasta promised to pay everything for us and he was throwing his hands up in the air to illustrate the way he would be treating his money. But when we left the train and came to the metro entrance we were stopped by some policemen and they took us to a small room and started going through all our luggage. I think the room was about 6 m^2 and besides the three of us there were 6 policemen, a desk and a small cage. They took the marijuana from the rasta and put him into the cage to enjoy his Christmas, and when they let me go that was the last place I saw him. It was the first time I saw him not smiling.

It was also about the same time that I lost my good vibrations. I have to say I am still not very fond of Kiev. I feel funny walking in the pompous streets of the centre, and I don't like the looks given by people who hang out by the metro entrances and, generally, what capitalism seems to have done to the city and it's people.

The centre of Kiev seems to be void of any real life. Like in certain areas of Copenhagen I guess the prices there have become so high that only big companies and institutions can afford to use the space. And on that Ukrainian Christmas night - when there were not even people shopping or hurrying home from work - Kiev was quiet as the grave. That night I walked passed the J-Lo flagship store to a place which a German speaking guy had recommended to me. He told me that you can determine which places have good people by how many big cars are parked outside. And that place he would give a five star rating. So I went there but was completely ignored and had to wait for more than half an hour before someone would serve me. I suspect it was because I don't look wealthy and that that was also the reason why they would not even let me in at another place. Anyway I had a lot of time to study a Jennifer Lopez 'concert' on the restaurant's T.V. screens, and the food was not so bad.

As a foreigner in Kiev I kind of feel that I am seen primarily as someone to be hustled for money. I guess I don't even have to mention the beggars/police. Here some policemen have optimized their business by learning a few English words. Late at night I met two of them and they were so insisting and kept embarrassing themselves to a point where the only polite way to end the situation was for me to give in. After paying them I felt like an idiot, but they probably felt clever.

The point where I finally had enough of Kiev was when I met a guy who very insistingly offered me to drink vodka with him and his friend. I have experienced that many times in Kharkov but never in Kharkov has someone then expected me to pay for it. This person even kept ordering, thinking I would pay. But I did not, I went home to the hotel and ate the muraveynik which I brought from Kharkov.

They say business in Kharkov is not going so well. You can see that by the number of International flights to the city. I think even Donetsk have 5 flights every day, yet Kharkov has one per day. They once planned to bring Kharkov airport up to international standards, but it is said that the project failed because the people in charge of hiring a company to do the construction was mainly concerned with how to get the money into their own pockets, and so chose a some incompetent local company. Somehow I kind of hope these egoistic capitalists of Kharkov will keep ruining it for themselves.




I decided to try out an old Soviet hotel in the suburbs of Kiev. This was were the guy from Herning stayed when he came to Kiev to meet his new wife for the first time, and the manager is actually related to his wife. The price of the room was about the same as a similarly situated room in Denmark, but the standard was more like some student dorm.




In the area of the hotel most of the metro stations have a McDonalds and some ugly casinos.




The suburbs of Kiev are different from the suburbs of Kharkov and, to me, less charming. The buildings don't have the personality that comes with the many homemade balconies you see in Kharkov. There also are no cozy back yards between the buildings. Instead buildings are placed like such tall silos which - as you can also experience in some sad new areas of Copenhagen - creates perfect conditions for the wind to blow freely, and in turn discourages natural human outside life. Besides the wind blowing there was just the sound of a lonely crow (seriously).




I met one nice person but he was an Afghan. He is studying building engineering in Kiev and when he finishes his studies he will go back to Afghanistan and start an NGO with his father and cousin. They want to be around a hundred people working in construction and health security. He told me a lot about the political stuff down there, and until I forgot it all again I was quite well-informed. But I remember he told me that very unlike in Ukraine around 80 - soon close to a hundred - percent of the people in Afghanistan speak English, and they like foreign countries.




Kiev does actually have a bit of the stuff I like about Ukraine, such as insane architects and rich people with no sense of aesthetics and a lack of regulations to stop them. I just wish Copenhagen could have a building like this right on Christianshavn.




I had a nice walk on the water which was frozen. There were many people sitting with their bags to the wind, fishing. That made me feel good, and cold.

9 comments:

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Vinokurov Dmytry said...

Hello.

I accidentally visited your blog and was pleasantly wondered. Your story about visiting Kiev is vivid and interesting. Thanks for it.

Go on reading the rest :)

dmytry, kharkov

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