15 August 2011

CRF: Ukraine

"CRF" is not a crime show you've never heard of, it stands for "Cutting Room Floor." Below are some of our favorite pics that never made the blog. We figured we'd reminisce a little while we're home for a visit. (Back in Europe August 16th).
We were in Ukraine during the frustrating throes of springtime. The weather was warmer than it had been in the countries before, but not by much. The skies were bluer occasionally, but still threatening. We drove on muddy, washed out backroads in the Carpathians, up into deep snowpack and back down to the dry plains of the east. It was a beautiful and vast country, with scuffed edges and flashes of brilliant color.
The Ukrainian flag has two fields - a strip of gold beneath another of blue. It is said to be based on the colors of wheat under a cloudless sky, the simplicity evoking the great flatlands at the country's heart.
Near the fortress of Khotyn we had cups of bitter coffee in this cafe (and home). It was unheated, so we sat in our bundling layers and held our cups in mittened hands. The woman who sold us the coffee had a few blankets and embroidered shirts for sale. Her cat sat on our table and watched us.
A kind of shabby elegance mixed with soviet functionality gave Ukraine a beautiful aesthetic. Layers of history seemed to have decayed into a uniform state where ancient and new seemed equally rusty and appealing.
It felt like the broken and fertile landscape of spring, with chimneys and old antennae rising up from chipped paint like last fall's brown stalks from a bed of dead leaves. We felt that all of the country had just been released from winter's snow and was set to begin blooming.
In Ivano-Frankivsk, a city we liked quite a bit, we poked our cameras through the fence that surrounded this almost barren market. Dark figures moved amongst the flapping tarps of the stands, carrying things from place to place.
In the lower folds of the Carpathians, houses (and churches) were decorated with elaborate tinwork. It seemed that the style and pattern changed from valley to valley.
A book market in Lviv, were the vendors splayed their wares out beneath a statue of a man holding a huge tome. It was too cold to leaf through any of the books (or bother struggling with the cyrillic).
In the Carpathians we stayed at a ski area, but didn't ski. In a nearby town, another ski area was set up - people rented equipment out of the back of old army trucks.
We laughed when we saw this picture because we remembered laughing at the time - the chocolate bars arranged along the bottom of this display were bootleg versions of popular brands, their wrappers just slightly different from the real thing. It struck us as funny at the time; Ukraine is a country so committed to thriftiness and practicality that even the price of a bar of chocolate is worth undercutting.

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