Thursday, January 14, 2010

Snow is a lot colder than I expected.

One of my biggest regrets is not getting the chance to know KayAnna better. She taught at a different school than I did, we didn't live near each other, and we didn't have any vacations together. We set aside a Saturday and went to Andrivsky Street, Kiev's number one place for tacky tourist trinkets, Soviet Union leftovers, and pickpockets. Actually, the metro probably has the most pickpockets, but we were warned over and over about the ones on Souvenir Street, as it's called. KayAnna and I moseyed along a path than runs behind a bunch of apartment buildings, overlooking Podil, the old section of the city. The walk is well-hidden from the main street and drops down into forest on one side.

We crawled through this, in a very dignified manner, of course.

Picturesque, sure, but also fake. They ran out of money in the middle of building this new complex, so it's just sitting vacant.

Ukraine in a nutshell. Remember the Fanta guy?

Captain Hook's favorite bench.

A whole complex of mosaic monsters.

Rickety stairs to the forest. We went down slowly, trying not to slip on the snow or fall through, and a Ukrainian guy just zooms by, "Be careful girls!" Thanks, man.

We came out behind some shops and apartments, and found stuffed bodies in the snow.

Creepy, in an abandoned-circus-hangout way.

Somebody spent time on those pictures.

But it probably wasn't this guy.

I'd had my eye on the old Soviet cameras for weeks, so Santa Clause emailed me and told me that if I bought one that he would reimburse me. This is my new love, a medium-format "Moskva-5" camera, made in 1958. It shoots 6x9 OR 6x6, which is nifty. I have lovingly researched and cleaned it since I got home. If I had any money at all, I would buy film for it. I call it my "Communist Camera."

After the stuffed bodies and the eerie silence of the snow-sprinkled woods, KayAnna and I cut through an alley and found ourselves partway down the descent of Andrivsky street. We split up and got our shopping done quickly, since neither of us are big shoppers and it was wickedly and bitingly cold. We reunited and ducked into the nearest cafe that seemed likely to have an English menu. It turned out to be a way-overpriced French place, but it was warm and the hot chocolate was so dark and rich, served in goblets with straws, that it warmed more than just our glaciated bodies. The lights glowed, strangers laughed with each other, and the toilet paper was soft. I may or may not have stolen some.

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