Thursday, 4 April 2013
Day 307 – Sculptures and ski slopes. (Ukraine)
Kiev is a fascinating city and it was quite a task to narrow down the list of possible activities to squeeze into the three days that we had allocated to Kiev. One of the must-sees that we decided on though was FashionPark on Landscape Alley. Our host told us about it and showed us some photographs and the project looked fascinating. Kiev Fashion Park is the first project in a movement to install Ukrainian designed works of modern art in various locations around the city, including sculptures, benches, and play equipment. The park is located at the top of a hill but fortunately there is a funicular which we were able to catch on the way up, and the main street of souvenir shops runs down the other side of the hill. We struggled at first to find the park, but because we’d seen photos of the sculptures we knew what we were looking for. The first item that caught our attention was an amusing statue of a dozen pillows stacked precariously on top of each other; an angel blowing a trumpet perched at the top. When we spotted this we knew we were on the right track so followed the path and sure enough there were several more angels atop wobbly piles of cushions. An entire wall was covered in blue and white mosaic which at first we just thought was a nice pattern, but having walked the length of it we realised that there was a cat face at the end of it, the mouth of which was open and big enough for a person to stand inside, and it dawned on us that the whole wall was in fact a long blue cat with dozens of legs. The heads of a cat, a rabbit and an elephant of the same style were placed near this wall, each of which had an open mouth which doubled as a humorous novelty bench. We walked the length of Landscape Alley, passing a play park representing Alice in Wonderland, a bench with sculptures of a blanket and pillow sprawled on it as if it was used as a bed, a bench in the design of sunglasses and various other amusing works of art. And everything was covered in snow which not only made the whole experience more exciting visually, but added an extra dimension of fun when sliding down the Alice in Wonderland slide and posing for photos on the benches.
The great thing about staying with locals, which is why we used Couch Surfing as much as possible (we stayed with a Couch Surfer every single night in Ukraine), is that they can give you advice that you wouldn’t be able to get from a guide book or a website, and often they can show you places that wouldn’t even feature on any sort of tourist trail. Our hosts in Kiev were a perfect example of this: they took us to the Obolon brewery (Blog Day 306 – A bomb shelter and a brewery), told us about Fashion Park, helped our decision making regarding visiting Chernobyl (also Blog Day 306 – A bomb shelterand a brewery) and gave us advice on skiing options (below). In fact most of what we did in Kiev was on the back of suggestions from them, but they took us to one place that even most locals wouldn’t know about. Very close to a very beautiful section of waterfront there is a huge concrete tunnel which was built above ground during WWII and was intended to be used as storage for food, weapons and people. Unfortunately they didn’t get around to it quick enough and the project was dismissed at the end of the war, leaving this incomplete concrete eye sore in what is now quite a desirable area of the city. There is nothing set up there suggesting that it is of any significance and its current use is as a hang out spot for teenagers, junkies and the homeless who have left mounds of litter all through the interior.
Whilst staying in Kiev we went skiing at Vyshgorod which was our second and unfortunately last time on this trip. The first time was in Bosnia Herzegovina (Blog Day 268 – TheSarajevo Siege and the 1984 Winter Olympics) where we went to a particularly difficult mountain and had an exhausting day tackling the runs which held the Winter Olympics in 1984. The slopes around Kiev are very small and basic, catering solely to beginners, so our two experiences of skiing on this trip were completely opposite from each other. Whilst a challenge is good and we really enjoyed our day in Sarajevo, it was kind of nice to have a relaxing day of easy skiing where we could focus on more than just making it down the hill alive. The great thing about skiing at Vyshgorod is that it only took half an hour to drive there from our hosts’ house in Kiev so we were able to fit it into just an afternoon, which was plenty seeing there was only one slope.