Kiev Ukraine – How to enjoy the city

Been in Kiev before. I like the city. There is a lot of green parks and all in all it is a pleasant town. What you do when you returning to a city is not the same as when you visit for the first time, so this post is what I like… So not a guide to the city. Kiev is a city of great contrast and there is a constant battle between new and old, make it a interesting stay. There are the enormous wealthy and the poor where everyday is a struggle to survive. And really. Who on earth needs a scull covert with diamonds…even fake ones.

I like the dancing in the park. I like the fact, that this have been going on even in the darker times. It seems like there is not many young people there, so maybe it will die out eventually. But it really seem that people are enjoying their day out. There is a live band and the weather was nice. Good to see that there is more to life than just work life.

They are not as energetic as they used to, but there still are something really nice about it. They taken the wife or go as a single if the spouse is no more, and just enjoy themselves. Put on their best clothes and let the fun start. Some of them still remember the moves from way back then.

Kiev Metro

I like the metro. It is extreme deep on both sides of the river. It do not  seems to go all the way to Hell, but must have been a hell of a work to go this deep.

There is some hidden gems in the Metro. It is a way of getting civilization to the masses. And still it is very impressive.

And sometimes it is tragic like this poor guy ending his life in a cheap plastic bag. You can see his boots sticking out, because the black plastic is not long enough. Big city lights is always illusive and the metro is just like a micro cosmos of life underground. Sometimes the city eats it’s children, like the revolution.

The Flea market – Vulytsya Verbova  

I like this market a lot. It is filled with thing you have absolutely no use for, but want anyway. I like the old stuff from east block days. We found some wonderful old Lenin busts and some incredible old Soviet Posters. It all depends of the day. There are fixed stores and people just putting stuff on a blanket. You can find pretty much everything. It continues on the other side of the tracks, and on the philosophical side give a little inside in everyday Ukrainian life. 

There are a lot of books and it looks like it would be impossible to find anything.

Russian Bar

This is an interesting bar in Kiev. There is wonderful toilets…;o)

Great grob.  And interior to die for. Definitely my kind of place.

Good for a cold one. And did I say lots and lots of charisma.

Where is Lenin?

Well, there is a big empty space on top of the column.

This is where there was a big Lenin Statue. It was taken down 2013 by an angry mob.

  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Lenin_monument,_Kiev

As I can see from the pictures it was a really ugly monument, but never the less I missed this one.

TAXI – ANYONE?

Nice taxi bumper car. Maybe it escaped from the playground

BELARUS – Aleksandr Grigoryevich Lukashenko

Lukashenko – Belarus President and Dictator  

Lukashenko need a whole post for himself, i think. I know this is political incorrect but I kind of think he is great. (And I have to option to leave) You are not operating in areas where spin doctors are defining the opinions of the dictator. He has opinions and are not afraid to express them.  And it is easy to judge coming from a democracy.  In Belarus they have this father figure looking into all, big and small. A kind of big brother is  watching you.  It is a surveillance state, and I am sure, that if it was possible Belarus would still be isolated from the vest,  not to give any ideas about freedom of speech and democracy to Belarusians.

But having been in other dictatorships, I think this is maybe better still than even some democracies I seen.  Everything works. Is is clean and neat and people look pretty content. To put it blank, what good is democracy if you starve….And in this context he just continues the thought of Lenin, that wasn’t a great believer of democracy either. I found two quotes that I will look into.

  • No amount of political freedom will satisfy the hungry masses.
  • A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
                                                                                                                               LENIN

Lenin is talking about capitalism. And it is just pure rhetoric. If we turn the rhetoric around and use it on the former soviet state, history shows, that soviet state did not provide for the hungry masses, and one can maybe think, that keeping the population just hungry enough they will preoccupied themselves with finding food instead of pursuing political agendas. Pure Maslowian, where political agendas is a luxury when basic needs are not met. And here the other quote is coming into play. If you tell the population that they are living in the best of all society often enough, they will begin to believe it, In this way Lenin’s quotes are more true that he ever imagined. Freedom of speech and democracy will only make the lie harder to sustain. This is how dictatorship/Communist state works. Only my two cents.

Ben Zand have made a BBC documentary – “Dictatorland” where he in one episode addresses the Belarussian strong man. It is worth seeing if you can find it anywhere.

Lukashenko is famos for saying

“On 4 March 2012, two days after EU leaders (including openly gay German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle) had called for new measures to pressure Lukashenko over alleged human rights abuses in Belarus at a summit in Brussels, Lukashenko provoked diplomatic rebuke from Germany after commenting that it was “better to be a dictator than gay in response to Westerwelle having referred to him as “Europe’s last dictator” during the meeting.” (WIKI)

 If you want to know more about the president of Belarus try

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Lukashenko

What did you expect, sending half a man to do a mans job. ,o)

After passing by the  circus building there is a huge empty building. It should have been Kempinski Hotel, but there could not be reached consensus between Lukashenko and the investor who where going to manage it. According to rumors, he wanted his son to lead, but the investors didn’t agree. So no hotel….

There was the “Teddy Incident”.

Teddybear Airdrop Minsk 2012 was an aerial event that took place over Belarus on July 4, 2012. An airplane, chartered by the Swedish advertising agency Studio Total, illegally entered the Belarusian airspace on July 4 and parachuted several hundred teddy bears with notes carrying pro-democracy messages. After denying for three weeks that the incident ever took place and calling the footage of the airdrop released by Studio Total a hoax, the Belarus government finally acknowledged on July 26, 2012, that the teddy bear airdrop did happen. (WIKI)

The only thing I can add is a rumor, that the chief of the airforce lost his job after the incident.

So, If you miss with Lukashenko, you get the horn….

Minsk Belarus – Back to the USSR

MINSK BELARUS

Minsk is the cosmopolitan capital of Belarus. It was the most beautiful town of the former East Block. Belarus have been independent from Russia since 1991 but the naval cord with mother Russia is still not completely cut. It is a love/hate relationship. There have been some disharmony with trade sanction on energy and milk. 2 million people live in Minsk.

It is all in the eye of the beholder. I wanted to go to Belarus for ages, and now it is so easy with the new Visa regime that gives most travelers 5 days at arrival in Minsk International. You have to buy health insurance too, but it is very inexpensive. Check it out.

http://mfa.gov.by/en/visa/visafreetravel/c4bbfb78b29bccdc.html

Minsk is a dream city for me. It still looks and feels like it is a  part of the former Soviet union.

Big part of the reason is that Minsk was one of the most bombed cities during WWII and an estimate says that more than 80-90% of the city where  transformed into rubble. Painful rebuilding of this completely destroyed city gave room for the most beautiful Stalinist architecture anywhere. It’s been engineered and carefully planned to impress with grand avenues and big squares and really imposing buildings. Very little of pre WWII buildings exist giving Soviet planner free hands to build this communist utopia. It is demonstration of real power.  No stone is unturned.

A wonderful thing for me as a Soviet nostalgic is the lack of willingness to hide the past. In Ukraine they now have legislation to declutter all the former symbols of power to do with USSR, and all over the former East block these are disappearing fast.  In Belarus Lenin’s and Soviet symbols are still very relevant and show the good relationship with the Putin, even though invasion of Crimea must have put a scare into the heart of Belarusians

STREET SWEEPERS UNITE

Minsk is a street sweepers dream come trough. They roam the streets in packs looking for garbage they can remove. There are so many. And Minsk is the cleanest town I ever been in. You have to look long and hard to find something that in some way is not picture postcard perfect, like these boys outside a metro. Did not see any graffiti anywhere. Everything is clean, neat and tidy.

Felix Dzerzhinsky – IRON FELIX

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Dzerzhinsky

Iron Felix was the inventor of the KGB. I am sure he is not around many places in the former USSR. In Minsk he is still placed in a nice park.

Minsk Tractor Works

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minsk_Tractor_Works

This is a very interesting factory. More than 20000 worked there in the heydays. There is both a tractor stadium and a swimming stadion. Remember Soviet used to be  mostly agricultural.  And tractor where the symbol på the modern society.

Uncle P called this woman worker Tractorina. And that fit perfectly. In Soviet people called their baby girls for Tractorina to commemorate the big rural revolution.

And the tractor are not bad looking. This with track-laying.

It looks a little like a tank. I want to share this wonderful poster reprinted in 1976. This is a mean tractor not to missed with. And shows how important Tractors are (even in war) and commemorates  the historic developement from horse to machine.

MINSK METRO

In the former USSR there where following Metro System available.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_metro_systems_in_the_Soviet_Union

As seen Minsk Metro transport 290 mio people making the 4th most important in that respect. and there is a lot of hidden gems to explore.

This is a picture af a proletarian from the proletarian metro Station.

PEOPLE OF MINSK

The unemployment rate in Minsk is below 0,3 % official.  The government discourages official unemployment registration with tiny unemployment benefits ($7 per month) and obligatory public works.

For the outsider it looks like people are quite satisfied, but as this is a dictatorship the dissatisfaction of the people run deep. There is absolutely no Freedom of speech.

The freedom to practice religion make people queue in line for service in front of churches. This newborn christianity revived after being suppressed during the soviet years.

As usual the old people are the ones who have the most difficulty in making ends meet. This old babushka is sitting under a bridge trying to make a few cents.

Minsk was a pleasant surprise for me. My expectations where high, but this place is in many ways like visiting a living museum for time past. Reforms are disparately needed. It seems to me that people are doing fine in general. It seems like the state provides, not in abundance but just enough. Only speaking for myself as a tourist, I love the place. There are little signs that things are changing, but maybe this soviet utopia could disappear. I can only recommend to go there soon.

The Rock-Hewn Churches Of Tigray – Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA – ROCK CHURCHES OF TIGRAY

The Rock-Hewn Churches Of Tigray are less known than the ones in Lalibella. But for me much more interesting. Most of the 120 churches in the area is on road less travelled. You need a guide and a 4 wheel drive to see some of them. And please have decent hiking boots and not sandals like I did…Most of these Churches are hidden  away on mountaintops or difficult to get places, to be safe from robbers and invaders. Most of them are Semi-Monolithic (only partly separated from the host rock) or even built into pre-existing caves, and hence at first sight less “impressive” Please be patient. It can take a while before somebody finds the priest with the key.  And be ready to do some legwork. It will be rewarding…

On route there was a procession. I think maybe someone from the nearest village died.

One other positive thing is that going to the churches, you will pass trough some amazing countryside where life is going on like forever.

GONDAR – Castles and Dance – Amhara Region/North Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA – GONDAR

Gondar is an old lively city in the Amhara region. Elevation 2200 meters, more than 200 000 inhabitants. Gondar used to be called “The Camelot of Africa”. But this place is very real and not fiction like Camelot. This was the last stronghold af the invading Italian army before they where kicked out.

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Fasilides Castle was built by Emperor Fasilides (Raign1632-67). And since then has been a home for seceding Ethiopian emperors. Before then the emperors of Ethiopia didn’t have a fixed base but was wandering. It is the remains of the fortress city within Gondar called Fasil Ghebbi (Royal Enclosure). Its been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1979 and probably one of the two reasons to go to Gondar. Second reason is to book a tour to go to Semian Mountains.

Ethiopia Dance and music

Traditionally the music is played on a kind of little guitar with only one string called the masenqo.  Every dancer have their own way of moving to the music. I read that there where more than 80 different ethnic group with their own Traditional dance and moves. Uploaded 2 videos to show traditional Ethiopia dance. I would like to merge these video, but the YouTube merging bottom  is not to be found. It is kind of a wild dance. I was told that after the dance, you are supposed to stick notes on the sweaty forehead of the masenqo player.

As always I am sorry for the quality and not understanding basic IPhone. I need to turn the thingy 45 degrees. Anyways I think you can get a basic idea about Ethiopian Dance. And maybe you can steal  a move or two.

Debre Berhan Selassie Church is worth seeing.  There’s space for 135 cherubs, though 13 have been erased by water damage.

There is a lovely story about  marauding Sudanese dervishes showed up outside the church gates in the 1880s, when a giant swarm of bees surged out of the compound, chasing the invaders away. (Lonely Planet)

Ethiopia – DALLOL VOLCANO – DANAKIL DESERT

DALLOL VOLCANO  – Afar Region Close to Eritrean border

The term Dallol was coined by the Afar people and means dissolution or disintegration, describing a landscape of green acid ponds (pH-values less than 1) and iron oxidesulfur and salt desert plains. (WIKI)

In fact this volcano last erupted in 2011. So still very active. Very visible with the  sulfur gasses. This is kind of the view, I think, of how earth used to look like before creatures existed. A bare, inhospitable place. with a moon like surface.

It is a fantastic site. A mosaic of yellow-green brown and white. And an ever-present smell of old eggs.  According to some, this is the lowest active volcano on earth. It is both beautiful and dangerous. Please be careful where you walk, dipping your feet in acid is not ideal.

ROAD TO HELL – DANAKIL DEPRESSION

DANAKIL DEPRESSION – Afar region of Ethiopia

SALT PRODUCTION in the Danakil

The Danakil experience is not to be missed. Been fascinated since I saw an article in National geographic long long time ago. This is for me the one reason to go to Ethiopia. We were (Uncle P and I) very worried no to be able to make this trip. We had some info trough the grapevine about a poor bastard being shot dead climbing a volcano. This area is heavy disputed and there is always a chance that they will close it down for further visits from tourist. But to our luck, they just send in more soldiers and it was possible. And just to make one thing clear, you are not going to be roaming free.  Armed Escort is the name of the game.. You are a valuable asset and keeping you alive and kicking is feeding the ever starving tourist Industry.

The people of the desert is as tough as their environment. They move house in the hot period  living in these makeshift huts 10 month of the year.

The area is absolutely fascinating. Located in the north of the Afar Triangle, a geological depression formed by tectonic plates that are slowly ripping the earth apart, the Danakil Depression is very low in altitude (about 100 meters below sea level), dry (rain is extremely rare) and hot – so hot that it’s famous for being the hottest place on earth in terms of year round average temperatures. it’s also one of the most geologically active: the depression is essentially a molten, acidic, and bubbling expanse of land unlike anything else you’ve ever going to see.

But for me, the fascination lays in the salt mines of Dallol. The land was once a part of the red sea. And now there is only big deposits of salt left. The locals are mining this salt in unbearable heat under inhuman conditions.

Transporting the salt on camels and donkeys to the nearest city to sell it for very little profit. Not a profession for the weak hearted.

The salt production of Danakil is the most interesting I seen for ages. It is incredible it is still existing. One would think that with modern technology, the old way would disappear fast like everywhere else in the world. But till now, the Afar people is cutting their livelihood out of the salt brick by brick. A top of the line production facility only worked for 5 years. Beaten by the relentless heat and dust.  Been a great privilege to see this.

The white waves of Axum

Axum – Northern Ethiopia

For most people Axum is the base of exploring the kingdom of Axum (100 AD-940 AD) archaeological site. I made some not so wonderful videos with my phone. 

Normally I am not to keen on archaeological sites, and this is not exceptionel. But as always it is nice to see but nothing special. I was wondering why some of the Obelisks had a door.

Cathedral of Maryam of Tsion is much more interesting. It is opposite the Stelae Park. Like the atmosphere of the place. It is nearly like touching religion.

The big thing is in an outbuilding on the church site. They claim that in this building there is one of the world most renown artifacts. The Tabot or the Ark of Covenant. Obvious this is a truth that is widely disputed. There is no way they will allow anybody to examine the Artifact. So it is a little argument against argument. My position is, that if this make them happy it doesn’t hurt anybody. And remember, that in the old times, every church needed something to make them special. Like a splinter from the Cross or a strand of hair from  Jesus. It made religious arguments have more punch, sanction by God himself. So the validity of the ark argument is not important. Religion is about believing in something bigger and not looking for logical truth.

The place for the Tabot is heavenly guarded. The guard of the Covenant is appointed for life. Interesting is, that the Tabot suppose to have been in the second temple in Jerusalem.  How the Covenant is to be in Axum today  is a story I would love to hear.

Sometimes when you travel you are going to experience something unexpected exceptional. And this happened in Axum early morning Sunday. I call it the white waves of Axum. It is an amazing spectacle, where everybody is out for the service.

There is a segregation going on between the woman and men. It is an amazing spectacle. There is singing game where there is a lot of singing and dancing. I didn’t avoid the watchful eye of a guy who  didn’t want me talking a video. But the amosfare this morning was second to none. Seems to me that everybody was there.  Everybody dressed in white and in constant move. Just like a big white sea. Happy I bought sunglasses to prevent me from becoming snow blind ,o). On the religious side priest was doing outdoor service which is obvious, as there is no way these crowds of people will fit indoors.

Religion run deep in the souls of Ethiopians.

There is a thing about religion. Marx called religion opium of the people. And there is a correlation between the rich countries and their populations lack of believing. On the other hand, the poorest countries are also the most believing. If it is impossible to change the now, people tend to focus on the spiritual and the next life to make the now bearable. Just like in the rich countries before.

Interesting video. And not the whole truth….

Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.  – Dalai Lama.

Ethiopia – Bahar Dar – Lake Tana

Lake Tana is a big body of water. It is the largest lake in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile. It is nearly impossible not to charter a boat in Bahar Dar to see the lake. The touts will not let you.

It is a beautiful lake. and a must see. The really interesting thing for most people about the lake is the monasteries. They are scattered on the little islands. And here a boat hire is essential. There are also  hippos,  weaverbirds and pelicans. And some say the odd crocodile. I do not find the monasteries very interesting, but if you are there it is something to do. After two or tree it get a little repetitious. Boat arrives. Tourist gets out. Going on the little path to the monasteries the villages are trying hard to push their products. After a while this gets a little deja-vu. Same thing over and over. You get to the monetary often on the top of the island. Here you pay entrance fee. Some guy tells about the paintings. The claim some of the drawings are more than 1000 years old. Maybe so, but they have been updated a lot. And really – Who cares. All taking in to consideration it is nice on the lake, and definitely a must see.

 

 

 

Inside the monasteries there are often painting and  drums for prying. And sometime you can be lucky to see a priest. I think these guys give a strong impression. Total devotion to God. It is kind of hard to find this in a modern society.  This quiet iterative life have been going on for thousand of years.

The paintings inside is often quite gruesome.  Purgatory seems like the common theme.  I guess this was necessary to keep the sheep in the flock.

There is a lot of  traffic on the lake. And it is very beautiful. People are using boats to connect with each other and the mainland.

All in all the beautiful lake Tana is a very nice break from Bahar Dar and definitely worth seeing. The monisternes are interesting qua their location, but the buildings and interiør are found better.

Daytrip to Blue Nile Falls – Bahar Dar Ethiopia

There is a nice daytrip to be done from Bahar Dar to Blue Nile Falls. Getting there is more than half the fun. I have made a little Video with my Cell and posted it.

Gives a estimate how life on the road is in Ethiopia.

The Blue Nile experience  is a couple of hours wandering around in the beautiful Ethiopian landscape. There is an old Bridge

A suspension bridge and of cause the Blue Nile falls. To be completely honest I do not think that the falls are worth going there for. They are using most of the water to generate electricity. And of cause your are not going there on your own. It seems like everybody from the nearby villages  are trying to make a buck from old granny to very young children selling souvenirs or just begging. They can be quite desperate and persistent. The beautiful Ethiopian scenery though is second to none and is a nice break from Bahar Dar.