Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kharkov like a local

Kharkov's Lopan river, courtesy of my brother's HDR app : )
As a tourist it can be hard to scratch the surface of a city, so I was determined to show my brother how we actually live. No one visits monuments and goes out to restaurants all the time... if only!!*sigh*... but people do trek to outdoor markets and pillage supermarket shelves on a regular basis. Thus, our first must-see in Kharkov was the Central Market, a weekly pilgrimage in which we arrive with cash and leave laden with fresh fruits and veggies. (Ahem, or I should note, D leaves laden with the heavy stuff and I carry my sunglasses. Thank you, D!)

After months of dust and disorder, Central Market's remodel is finally complete and I think you'll agree that it's now the best-looking market in town!
Visiting our favorite vendor! She always remembers our names and greets us with a smile. If you find yourself shopping here, ask for Luba.
!Warning! If you're a vegetarian, you might want to close your eyes and keep scrolling!
Part of the meat market, lots of gory bits and pieces here.
On the way to Central Market, we wandered through Kharkov's open air book market, which offers more than just old musty romance novels and computer science manuals. Outside of the formal market (actual stalls), you'll find old men guarding tables of USSR pins, hats, warning signs, basically anything you can imagine!
Book market in Fall 2012.
Usually I'm not brave enough to get into a "how much?" conversation with the book vendors, but this time an old city guidebook caught my eye and I worked up the courage to ask about it.
Apparent rules of the book market: smoking is allowed, shirts are optional.
The vendor immediately got all worked up and insisted on showing other guidebooks that he had stashed away elsewhere. He beckoned impatiently for us to follow him down an alleyway.

I peered past him as he unlocked an unmarked door- books were everywhere, piled 3 to 4 feet high. He quickly grabbed a book and thrust it at me- "English! Look at this while I find the others, okay?". The English book was an auction book, a dry listing of hundreds of items and prices that might as well have been in Chinese for all I understood. Within minutes the man was back, somehow having located several other books that showed the former Soviet city in snapshots of black and white. They were all pretty cool books but I went with my original choice, a 1979 publication titled Get Familiar with Kharkov.

The book is in Russian, with brief English and French summaries in its final pages.
Left: The V.I. Lenin Heavy Electrical Engineering Plant. Right: A shop in the Turbine Plant.
Upper left: Sumskaya Street. Lower left: The Palace of Labor.
Right: Monument to the establishment of Soviet Power in Ukraine. Residents used to jokingly call this "three men and a woman carrying a refrigerator".

Meanwhile, my brother picked up these cool military hats.
If memory serves, the green was worn by tank artillery, the blue by air forces.
We didn't enter the official market, which sells school supplies and modern books/textbooks but here's what it looks like-

By the way, after perusing the books and loading up on produce, we did make a final stop at the Billa supermarket, where my brother found a couple of things surprising-
Lower left: milk in a bag. Right: vodka aisle.
Bacon, bacon, bacon!
Visiting these three local favorites made a great start for Nick's time in the city! We'd all been tromping around visiting monuments in Kiev the day before and it was nice to relax briefly back into our regular duties. That's not to say there wasn't a lot more monument-visiting afterwards, so stay tuned for that over the next couple of days!

After all he saw and did in Kharkov, I'm pretty sure Nick would agree with Get Familiar with Kharkov's closing lines: "Nobody remains indifferent after staying in Kharkov. Those who will walk its streets and squares, or will go to its theaters and museums, who will spend some time in its shady parks and gardens, who will visit its giant factories, higher educational establishments, libraries, and research institutes will feel the robust vitality of Kharkov, the city of workers, the city of creative energy marching into the future."


  1. I loved the shirts are optional picture :)

  2. Я принимал воинскую присягу так же как парень на картинке и в такой же военной форме. Это было 100 лет назад.

    1. Then I must say- you're looking good for a 100-year-old! :p