Good afternoon from the Ukraine! We left Hyytiala on Saturday and made it to Helsinki in time for a little pre-Eurovision concert (Finnish reggae. i kid you not.) and a drink in the ice bar. And yes Colette, they do have grapefruit joice. A greyhound or two later (vodka and grapefrui juice for the unintiated reader), and I was safely back in my hotel room fast asleep and ready for a ridiculously early start the next day. For how far Lviv and Helsinki are from each other, it takes a rather long flight through Vienna to get here. Flying into Lviv is fas\cinating - lots of small towns, each with a church with a dome that glistens in the sun. The farms are clearly remnants of the large collective tracts. And flying over Lviv showed the mix of ancient buildings (a little like Vienna) and large Soviet-style blocks of concrete. Upon arrival to Lviv Airport, there is a very long line to get to the non-English speaking immigration official, dressed in full military uniform, wide-brim hat and weapons included. But I made it out, and was greeted by my mother, and got my first real look at the Ukraine from the ground. In the form of an incredibly sketchy taxi ride.
The taxis are a little reminiscent of Central America, though the cars are definitely more dilapidated here in the Ukraine. Many of them date back to the 1950's, and consequently are constantly in repair on the side of the road. The view from the car was mixed - old, run-down, cobblestone streets, little old ladies in shawls with shopping bags, but beautiful tree-lined streets and old stone buildings. Many churches, and many devout people of all ages in them - surprisingly, a large number of young (teenagers, twenty-something) men, praying devoutly. Despite the apparent poverty, however, the people are very kind and friendly, and our hotel is comfortable. Most importantly, the varenyky (perogies) are delicious. So a few observations on the Ukraine:
People are very dressed up here. It rather looks like the women are copying their styles out of the high fashion magazines. The majority of women (of all ages) are wearing high, pointy heels (ranging from red patent leather to leopard-print), and the outfits are reminiscent of the most extreme parts of the Oscars red carpet. Sequins, see-through gauze shirts with brightly coloured satin bras, bright, clashing prints, and incredibly bright, jelly-fish like skirts are all the rage. Strips of fabric I wouldn't dare to wear to a nightclub are daytime fashhion here! And not just the teenagers, all the way up to the middle-aged set. Needless to say, I feel very underdressed in my jeans and runners.
The history, however, is really something else. I am beginning to understand where the Ukrainian culture comes from - a country that has been alternating between Austro-Hungarian and Russian rule, with heavy influences and involvement from the Poles, the Tartars, the Scots, to name just a few. But this internet is sketchy and slow, and there are museums to see and perogies to eat, so I will leave it here and try to update soon! Tomorrow we are off to Ternopil. But all the stories my grandmother told me about Lviv are beginning to make sense, and despite the incredibly short skirts, I feel at least a little bit at home here...