Saturday, June 9, 2012

First photos of Euro 2012!

The city is abuzz with chatter, curiosity, and foreigners. It's like someone stuck a stick in an anthill and stirred things up. A hum of excitement hangs in the sky.

This morning I made a mistake with my metro card (for the first time ever, mind you!) and the metro employee, a middle-aged blonde, came to my assistance and then smiled at me. As I wrote last time, smiling is most definitely not in their job description....more like scowling, so I should have realized that something was up right then. Come to think of it, yesterday my students were trading rumors of a Black Eyed Peas / Fatboy Slim concert and other almost unbelievable things, but I didn't realize that TODAY was THE DAY. I guess I'd kind of forgotten-
- until I stumbled across this in Freedom Square.
Lenin's statue is in the background, overlooking all of this p
Clumps of orange-shirted men from the Netherlands were busy partying, shouting, even taking pictures with cops. This is another frankly impossible act: to take a picture with a cop, yet I saw a group of Dutch guys hamming it up for a photo with about 5 cops in stern black uniforms. The cops even looked amused!

In fact, not only can you take pictures freely in public now, but you can also see people smiling in public. Exhibit A) the metro lady this morning. Exhibit B) these girls.
In my experience this is rather atypical behavior for Ukraine! But then again, I've never been here for an event of this magnitude before.
3 cars of them, actually, driving around downtown, waving, smiling, cheering. And handing out flyers for "Philippine Massage" and "Appartments" at the Kakadu Club.

People here often say всё время улыбаются только идиоты, only idiots smile all the time.
On a regular day strangers don't usually make eye contact or smile, but today?.... Today was a special day. The rules didn't apply. It sounds like there is some truth to the Ukraine is friendlier than you think movement.

The traffic lights on Sumskaya were off and traffic cops were blowing whistles and directing cars. Perhaps this was a planned event because local drivers, you're awesome at accelerating quickly and dodging obstacles and honking impatiently but admit it- looking out for pedestrians is often an afterthought. The traffic cops did an excellent job of keeping cars and walkers moving smoothly and safely.

One more thing to note-
remember this photo of Gorky Park?
I took it almost exactly 2 months ago. The park is supposed to be looking like the map by now, but instead there's some frantic construction efforts still going on.

1/3 of the park is beautiful, clean, filled with benches and rosebushes and lined garbage cans and security huts and little speakers that are shaped like mushrooms and play happy music.

1/3 of the park looks like this:

And the remaining 1/3 was torn up and left like this:
Do you think it will be finished and polished up before the foreign fans leave town?

I'll leave you with a couple more shots from the Fan Zone in Freedom Square. The city always finds something cool to put in the square, whether it's a psychedelic three-headed dragon in the winter or these giant matryoshka dolls for the football championship. Well done, Kharkov event organizers!
The Portugal doll
These dolls represent Germany and Denmark.
This is the Netherlands doll.
PS: Don't forget the Freedom Square web camera- you can see some of this with your own eyes!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! :) I'll send you an email about how to make your own picture fit as a background.

  2. How did you manage to do it? I tried as well but my files are always too big!