Monday, July 22, 2013

Hollywood, Hemingway, and Dragons

After what felt like months and months of commitment-filled weekends, a Saturday finally came on which neither D nor I had plans. An entire day, no places to be, no errands to run?- such goodness!! We decided to visit the movie theater Kiev, where a matinee only costs 20 uah, but a fearsome bout of rain turned up on the way to the theater and somehow we ended up taking shelter at D's work. In the IT field there's always someone at work, so I got to have coffee with one of his coworkers while watching what looked like a hurricane stomp down on the city streets.

View before the storm:
the Turboatom factory with its "Glory to the builders of Turboatom!" slogan in big red letters
View of the same area during the final minutes of the storm:

For a few minutes the Turboatom factory had completely disappeared, shrouded in heavy fog and rain. It was a lot like Stephen King's The Mist and I'm just glad no crazy flying creatures showed up to eat us!

There was, of course, a short office tour. The company had recently moved from a crowded, haphazard set of rooms across town to a bright and open entire floor with great views. D's coworker pointed out Stare Saltovka in the distance, a part of town that people usually joke about (still don't understand why?) and that I will forever associate with this Harlem shake video. The three golden domes of a far-off church gleamed in Park Pobedy. Much closer was the ping pong table / workout room across the hall where employees can grab a quick bit of exercise. And the final stop on the tour- another important room with a great view (see right), this particular view being of much amusement in the office.

We finally made a dash for the theater through a bit of drizzle and settled in to watch Pacific Rim. By the way, I like how it's mandatory to choose a seat when buying a ticket here. Just a nice perk, not having to stand awkwardly and decide between the leftover spots in the dark : ) Anyways, the film was in Ukrainian which is like mumble mumble mumble word mumble word for my philistine ears, but I couldn't help noticing the plot featured a giant robot built by the Russians. Did my ears mistake me or were they calling this particular fighting machine Alpha-Chernobyl in the Ukrainian translation?? In English it's apparently Cherno Alpha. The film's wiki claims Cherno is related to "black" (cherniy) but I swear I heard a different word. If that's true, not sure why the Russians of 2020 would build a fighting machine and name it after an incident in Ukraine in which their predecessors really messed up... and apparently lots of Russian-speakers are wondering the same.
in big letters at the bottom: for children over 12
Someone in this forum sums it up with "Hollywood must still think that Chernobyl is somewhere near Moscow". And Yulia Kuznetsova really hit the nail on the head with her observation on sterotypes within the film: "... the non-US characters are all stereotyped. The Australians- tanned and light haired. Mako Mori- a type of Asian attractive to whites. The worst case is the Russians. Even their robot is named Alpha-Chernobyl (why?) and pilots Sasha and Aleksis Kaidanovsky are like a bearded Ivan Drago and his wife from Rocky 4." Also interesting that the actors playing the Russian pilots were both Canadians. But that's the name of the game when it comes to the screen, I guess.

There's a little game I play when going to movies and restaurants. In the movie theater, I try to pick up one new Ukrainian word per film. The Lone Ranger provided харчі (food). Pacific Rim used але (but) over and over again. It's obviously slow going, learning a language like this, but it's better than nothing. As for restaurants, my goal is to learn a new word based on the ethnicity of the restaurant we go to. Think of it!- you could pick up a smidgen of Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, or Turkish, etc this way. Have to admit that sometimes I'm so hungry that I forget about learning a new word, but I still like the idea.

Speaking of restaurants, if you find yourself in Kharkov with a free day and an appetite, read on for some ideas!

 Взлетающий Дракон (Flying Dragon)

Impressive, right?
This restaurant was suggested by a reader of this blog (thanks, Sergei!) and we finally were able to visit it when some of my colleagues (who had come from teaching in China) were about to leave (to teach in China again). We figured they would be able to tell us if the food was the real deal or not. Of course, everyone ended up ordering sweet and sour dishes, so... :p
As you can see, Flying Dragon is this gigantic red-tiled building. You'd think that with such unique architecture, it would be a hopping place on a Friday night, but no. In fact, as we approached the building, the security guard huffed out of his security hut and demanded to know where we were going. I found this question rather odd, as we were directly approaching the front door of the restaurant. Uh, isn't the restaurant open?, I asked. Oh, okay, go ahead then, he replied, backing off. Maybe he was shocked to see us because, save for the staff, the entire place was deserted: all the tables set, silverware polished, music playing, dead snake floating in a jar on the bar, but diners nowhere to be seen.
Prices ranged from a-bit-on-the-expensive-side to obscene (imported champagne, whole roasted pigs). The food was good and my China-savvy coworkers enjoyed their meals. D got pho, which was nice but not as flavorful as Umami's version of the same dish. I got some kind of sauteed eggplant which my taste buds gave a 10 out of 10! The menu was in English/Russian and offered Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine.

Flying Dragon website
Address: пр. Героев Сталинграда, 45 (Heroes of Stalingrad, 45)

Phone: +38 (057) 714-83-44, 714-81-62
You can even reserve a table online, but when we called to make a reservation (Friday night, after all) they told us to just show up. Open daily from 2 PM.

Старик Хем (Old Man Hem)

It just so happened that the fabled Sergei (who advised us on Flying Dragon) showed up in town last weekend. Despite not actually living here at the moment, he sure knows all the cool places to go, and thus we found ourselves at Kharkov's only underground Ernest Hemingway-themed bar!

Flags are stretched across the ceiling and the walls: U.S., Cuba, Spain, France. Hemingway's face has been eye-catchingly created out of brick behind the bar. A small stage and piano wait in the corner. Hey bartender, pour me a drink and feed me! is scrawled on the wall.
"Old Man Hem bar"
There was a middle-aged man and a little boy sitting together at the bar when we walked in. Kind of a funny place for a father/son outing as the menu is filled with drinks like "powder barrel" and "punch to the liver" but eh, to each his own. The food and drink were fantastic and very reasonably priced. We only drank beer this time and snacked on sauerkraut, an overwhelming platter of sausage, and salo-
salo (pig fat) and smoked salo- we got two of these dishes!
For those who enjoy more potent drinks, there are three awesome sets that come with vodka (in order, from a shot to a bottle): Only for The Bravest, Duet for True Friends, and Trio for Real Men. The sets also come with an assortment of snacks and the price caps at just under 200 uah for the Real Men set. I think that's a great deal, especially considering that the bar is smack in the middle of downtown Kharkov, a 5-minute walk from Freedom Square and University metro.

Location: Ivanova 8, Kharkov.
Wifi available, in case you feel inspired to emulate the old writer after a couple of drinks.

So there you have it- a little Hemingway, a little Hollywood stereotyping, and a few dragons... an odd but hopefully entertaining mix of things : )

PS: Didn't see the kind of restaurant you're looking for? Try Hungry, Hungry 2, or check out the list of places on the Life in Kharkov page.


  1. An underground Ernest Hemingway-themed bar?? Count me in! The Chinese restaurant sounded pretty darned good, too (I'm a sucker for eggplant).

    Also, I'm glad you guys survived the storm!!

    1. Hola Cassandra! Hemingway was in Spain for a while, wasn't he? Have you run across any Hemingway-themed establishments there?