Sunday, December 9, 2012

Площа Повстання 1: The Horse Market

Welcome to Kharkov's Конный рынок (Horse market)!

You're at least 100 years too late to actually buy a horse here, but there are still plenty of other things for sale.

We discovered this place
during the summer and began grocery shopping here about a month ago. For the past year we'd been shopping at Central market and the nearby Billa supermarket but they both began massive remodelling projects at the same time, meaning constant dust and disorder. Konniy rinok (the horse market) is the perfect substitute... plus its accompanying supermarket- Karavan- is cheaper than Billa and they comically use the word 'bear' instead of 'beer' on some of their aisle display signs, check it out!

I like Konniy rinok not just for the low prices. It's always clean and seems less crowded than Central market or- heaven forbid- that market mosh pit called Barabashova. We have a pomegranate guy at Konniy rinok who always gives us a great deal and hand picks the best pomegranates. "Other people want beauty," he says, "but for you, for you I pick the most delicious ones." We buy 8 - 10 at a time and so far he's never given us a bad one.

There's a large selection of fruit and veggies to be had here. We even bought a pickled? salted? watermelon last time which, let me tell you, is definitely an acquired taste! I much prefer the sweet imported mandarins or Crimean grapes. Middle-aged women sell honey, scraping huge hunks of it into wax paper and tying it up with twine. Other women stand in the cold, bundled up, selling socks, carrot graters, and sponges. Fish, flowers, fashion, you can find it all here!

Across the street is the bus station-

and the PF market.


So, for months I'd been aching to take pictures at the market. At any market! They are such cool places and I really want to share the sights with you, my readers. I see others posting great market shots online and have always admired their courage. Two months ago Naomi from Anywhere but Home took these incredible pictures of people on the streets of Tibilisi, Georgia and I thought- what the heck, if she can take pictures of people then surely I can at least take pictures of vegetables! I'm a bit of a shy photographer (plus, Ukrainians are suspicious about being photographed) but I finally got up enough nerve to ask the vendors if I could take pictures of their displays.

Surprisingly, after hearing my accent they all shrugged and agreed. Phew!

But then, it happened.
My biggest fear.

I'd just gotten all brave and taken the unauthorized potato picture at the top of this entry. The guy in the right of the picture was standing around with a couple of other tough-looking men. They immediately turned and started watching me with a fair amount of hostility and suspicion. Uh-oh, I thought, let's roll. But no, D actually wanted to buy some potatoes!

He casually strikes up a conversation with the potato lady while I can feel the biggest and burliest man of the group glaring and getting ready to turn me in as a spy. I know something's got to be done. Quickly I say to the potato lady- "May I please take a picture of the potatoes lying in the truck?" with purposefully my absolute worst grammar and accent. I was so freaked out that I didn't have to fake it. She begins to respond with a "why not?" when suddenly I feel the big man there at my shoulder.

"Why?" he demands gruffly, perhaps taking me for some kind of agent from a competing potato stall. Please understand, I had no choice but to turn on maximum cuteness. "Oh, there are so many potatoes here! I've never seen so many potatoes in my life!" (This was true, btw.) I nervously continue, "We don't eat so many potatoes where I come from!"

His answer?
"Give me that camera."

Forgive me, but I did. I handed it over to him.

He takes the camera but instead of turning it on, gives it to D. "Come here," he tells me, and points towards the truck. I gulp.

I stand by the open back of the truck. He also stands by the open back of the truck, a stack of potatoes between us. "If you've really never seen this..." he starts, and turns to D "Take a picture of us!"

This is me, secretly terrified!!!!!!, and him, somehow slyly smiling.

 Then he barks to the women- "Grandmother! Wife! Let this girl take a picture of you!"
Shockingly, grandmother agreed to a photo.

He takes me over to another group of men. "Hey guys! Pose! This girl is going to take your picture!"

These guys look pissed.

"Uh no, really, it's okay, thanks," I stammer.

"Where are you from?" says one of the new guys, like it's a police interrogation.

"America. {think maximum cuteness! think maximum cuteness!} So, uh, are you from Kharkov?"

"America? I thought all Americans were black. I'm from Azerbaijan. Do you know where that is?"

After this I somehow escaped. Not quite at a run, but definitely at a fast clip. Holy cow, I think my photo journalism days are over! :p

But don't let this scare you away from Konniy market. It's a wonderful place to shop for fresh produce and people are usually very friendly by Ukrainian standards. I'll definitely go back, but without the camera!

How to get there: hop on the Oleksiivska (green) line and get off at Площа Повстання (Ploshchad Vosstaniya). You'll find yourself in a big park. Konniy rinok is nearby, just across the street.

During the winter I suggest you warm up afterwards at Pizza Maranello, which is catty corner from the market.
Thawing frozen hands with hot tea at Pizza Maranello

And finally, some of our haul-
but the vodka is from Karavan- the side of the bottle reads space edition!- and the mushrooms in the back are from a friend

If you're curious, the Konniy market has a website with lots of info about the market's origins.

And in fact, Ploshchad Vosstaniya metro stop is surrounded by many other interesting things, like the Metalist Stadium, a scary giant head, and Kharkov's yeast factory. Click on the links to keep reading!


  1. This the BEST post of yours that I have read! Thank you! I am going to find this place. BEAUTIFUL!!!

    1. Thank you, itinerantyak!! :) If you come to Kharkov, I can show the market to you, just drop me a line!

  2. I agree, this post is great at SO MANY levels. I thought all Americans were black.... hahaha.
    There is not a single day I don't think I've got to stop at a real market and explore. And guess what. I feel the same way about taking photos of people. But today I did, of no less than the security guard at our local store because their hawk eyes actually make my blood boil. I'm working on a blog post - not sure if I'm brave enough yet to post it :)

    1. Hi MCD, like itinerantyak said below, please do post it! It will be very interesting to read/see. I'll always remember the story you told about photographing art at that ice skating place and having to deal with a pissed-off security guard, haha. There was this bookstore here with a hawk-eyed guard that made my blood boil. Every time I went in the store he would follow me around like his life depended on it. SO annoying! Finally the bookstore went out of business and had a closing sale that was so chaotic that all he could do was just sit there, overwhelmed, while crowds of people pawed through piles of books on the floor... and that was the end of that. But I'm sure he's still out there, at some other store. Or perhaps he moved to Kiev! :p

  3. LMAO. I can totally see that conversation with the potato man. I was visualizing the whole action as I was reading your story, and I just wish I was there to observe. Hats off to your courage, all I can say. Now we'll definitely have to visit this place when we are in Kharkiv, though I wouldn't even think of it without this post. Where is the scary giant head? I don't remember it.

    1. Hi Sergiy, it would sure be a good, authentic experience for any guests you bring to Ukraine :) Maybe this and Barabashova, just to compare? The scary giant head is near the metro stop- it's the one from Pushkin's Ludmila and Ruslan story. You can see a pic of it on the 8 months in Ukraine Facebook page. It was the scavenger hunt photo for this month.

  4. Where is the market, BTW? (And PLEASE post the security guard photo with story!)

    1. The market is here in Kharkov, at the Ploshchad Vosstaniya metro stop. You've probably got similar markets in Kiev, right? Or is it more supermarket territory? The guy that terrorized me (the guy in the picture above) was actually a potato boss, not a security guard, but he would probably make a really good security guard! :p

  5. Good old Конный Рынок! And a GREAT post! I live two minutes from there and I've only been once. After reading this I think I'll go check it out some more!

    1. Hi Chelsea, you're lucky to live in that part of town! What do you think of it? I think it's a really fascinating area and feels different than the rest of the city. The housing there looks more Russian than Ukrainian to me... more individual wooden homes and fences, at least on the other side of the highway opposite the Конный Рынок. Have you been to that Pizza Maranello yet, btw? Sooooo good and pretty cheap prices for Kharkov!

    2. I do like living here. It's pretty quiet (except on football match days), but we have enough shops and supermarkets nearby to keep it from being inconvenient. And it's only a quick metro ride to the center on either the red line or the green line. My roommates really liked Maranello too, so I'll have to eat there sometime soon!

  6. You made me worried! Please never try to take pictures like these when you are on your own. Unless you are 007 agent on the mission :) You are very brave girl!

  7. i like your blog btw ... am going to there and dont knw enough am asking about the price's it's with Hryvnia currency ?