Monday, July 30, 2012

Where is everyone?

D's cousin came to town on a business trip this weekend. "Where is everyone?" he questioned as we walked along the banks of the Lopan river. "The train station this morning- deserted. The metro- echoing. The streets- empty. Where are the people?" D and I shrugged. I hadn't really noticed fewer people out and about. "Probably in Crimea" D answered, "enjoying their summer vacations."

We stopped for pizza and beer at the much-loved Pizza Maranello and then continued our walk through the park across the river. It's REALLY nice to be living closer to this part of town.

Lopan river

That evening D and his cousin went to Stargorod to catch up over some beer. Apparently the second floor is now open and is a much quieter place than the first. Meanwhile, I met up with a former student at the Ukrainian-themed cafeteria Puzata Hata. This student is one of Kharkov's many foreign PhD students and speaks English quite well, which made for very decent conversation! Since it's now Ramadan and he's Muslim, we loaded up our trays with food and then waited until 8:30 PM on the dot to dig in. Around 10 PM we were surprised by D and his cousin walking into the dining room for a late night snack! People keep telling me that Kharkov is a big village- I've never agreed with this but if coincidences like this keep happening... Really, in a city of 1.5 million, shouldn't it be less likely to run into people you know in random parts of town? For example, yesterday D and I were exploring a new neighborhood and who should fly by on a bike but one of our Scrabble players!

The next day cousin Sergei headed out to a business meeting and D and I went to Sumskaya (a major street) to look for a Kharkov souvenir to present to Sergei. We found a cool underground shop packed with Ukrainian gifts: hand-painted lacquer boxes, traditional clothing, artwork, and bulavas. We purchased an elaborate beer mug for Sergei. Across the street was an quiet and well-stocked bookshop with a selection of English-language books. Then it was time for Sergei to catch his train back home, which entailed another stop at Puzata Hata and a mad rush to the train station... only to find the train was late. After it finally stopped at the platform and passengers began boarding, the crowds cleared enough to reveal this guy lying on the ground. Public drunkenness is pretty common here- this wasn't the only guy we saw in this position that day- but it's worrisome that you could collapse of heatstroke (it was in the 90s) and passerby would just assume you're drunk. Eventually a cop came along, checked to see if he was breathing, called for back-up, and then three officers shook him awake and pointed him off in another direction.

Ready to sever ties with our old apartment, we took the metro back and spent the afternoon scrubbing and mopping until everything gleamed. It was nice to live there this past year, but I'm excited to have made this move to a new place. Here's what a year of fanatical tea-drinking looks like:
All along I told myself- when we reach the top, it'll be time to move

It wasn't until now that I realized Sergei was right about the city being scarily empty. Taking the metro last night was almost creepy. Behold an empty Arkhitektora Beketova:

Beketov was a Ukrainian/Soviet architect who designed a bunch of projects around Kharkov. One of my friends said "if you see a beautiful building, it was probably his." In 1941 he was named an Honored Architect of USSR.
Beketov statue in front of Kharkov's Institute of Architecture

The metro station named after him is very long and features two beautiful stained glass exhibits.

This one shows several famous Kharkov landmarks, such as the mirror stream fountain. These pictures don't really do it justice; it's a neat station!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on the move- and that collection of tea is impressive! I wonder what mine would look like after a year- my kettle barely has time to cool before I'm heating more water for yet another mug of tea. And the pictures of the empty metro station are a little unsettling. It's always strange to be in a place that's empty when you're used to it being full.