My trip to a post-revolutionary Ukraine
March 6 (Thursday at Mila's favorite places)
Mila wanted to take me to her favorite park, Peizazhna Alley (more photos here and here, and history here). This turned out to be only a few steps away from where we'd been the day before, looking for views just off of Andriyivskyy Descent. This park is full of three-dimensional mosaics for kids to play on, serving as benches, jungle gyms, and so forth. One particularly large and creative one was based upon Alice in Wonderland. Other three-dimensional art was nearby, both for children and for adults (traditional statues).
(Side note: In the years since I first wrote this, public art — especially murals — has spread throughout the city, this site having a few good examples.)
We then went into the Lviv Chocolate Factory for hot drinks and truffles. I had hot chocolate, while she, as usual, had latte. I'd buy some truffles on a later day, but I'm afraid they weren't really set up to be transported, so I ate them before returning to the States. I waited for a later day because the place was mobbed with people buying chocolate for International Women's Day, which there stands in place of both Mother's Day and St. Valentine's Day. Curiously, though, most of the people buying chocolates — and seen transporting flowers on subsequent days — were women themselves.
We then walked through other highly trafficked areas of Kyiv, including past the Roshen brand chocolate store. More on it, and its significance, later. Across the street from the Roshen store is the Pinchuk Art Centre, which shows various exhibitions. When I was there, the main exhibit regarded colonialism in the Congo region with pictorial assemblages made of colorful beetle carcasses. I don't regret seeing them, but I wasn't tempted to take one home.
For lunch, we went again to Z.B., the restaurant in the Maidan area, walking up the main approach, so I got to see where the open road ended and the tents began. This time my dumplings had potato rather than cheese, the salad bar had a slightly different selection, and I had a light pastry, which Mila insisted wasn't sweet, but which seemed sweet enough to me. I also had grape juice; due to a mistranslation, I thought it might have been pomegranate. When you know hardly any of the language, sometimes you guess wrong.
After she went back to teach, I walked around the Euromaidan area a bit more, seeing more of both the outskirts and the central Independence Square (Maidan). One of the things I saw was a person nonchalantly walking by in a zebra costume. This was not the first person in animal costume I'd seen around town. I wasn't sure if it was a promotion, or entertainment, or a scam of some sort. They generally congregated in similar areas as the "dove men," men who carried fancy, white doves, though I was never clear on whether they were trying to sell them, have them pose, or something else. I only know that the one English-language "review" for Lovers' Bridge voted it a "one" because of "2 guys ... who will put Doves on you and then expect you to pay 100ua without giving you a chance to decline." So I avoided them all.
From there, I walked to St. Volodymir's Cathedral, the inside of which is a seamless mix of classical and art nouveau, the latter including stained glass, much of the entryway, the bordering and edge patterns, and even some frescos. It is in the museum district, which is centered around Taras Shevchenko Park, the greenery of which contrasts with a maroon-red university building.
The nearby Metro station, Universytet, apparently has one of the world's longest escalators, at 87 meters. (The deeper Arsenalna instead has a series of two long escalators.) I went down and then took the subway to the Babyn Yar memorial, at the ravine where the Nazis killed thousands of Jews, and subsequently others, in arguably the first wholesale massacre of the Holocaust. I should actually say "memorials," since both north and south of the subway stop are multiple memorials. First I saw one to the children killed there, just to the station's northwest. This was quite near where the massacre occurred, but my guidebook told me to look for a menorah. I found an addition plaque with a menorah in the ravine itself, but that wasn't what the guidebook meant. Southeast of the station was a cross (for Ukrainian nationalists killed there), and, further to the south, the massive Soviet memorial statue, with no mention having been made, of course, of the religion of those first massacred there. Finally, I found a list of memorials with GPS coordinates and was able to find the Jewish memorial, a menorah well to the east of the station. I wonder how many people have tried to pay tribute to the victims of the tragedy, only to be foiled by the confusing geography. Directions relative to the station or the giant television tower — supposedly the tallest lattice tower in the world, though you wouldn't know it through the fog — would have helped greatly here. In the end, though, I saw them all, albeit getting back later than expected.