Category: Kyiv

If you like planking and sweating – Hot Yoga is just the ticket

Twenty minutes after we arrived I was upside-down with snot, sweat, saliva and tears pouring down my face.  Straining to touch my toes on the floor above my head, I was learning the hard way that Hot Yoga wasn’t, as I had been hoping, just hot girls doing stretches in Lycra.

OK, this is Ukraine, so the room was also full of hot girls, but like me they were also sweating their way through a no-nonsense Yoga session in a room as hot as a Sauna.

Welcome to Hot Yoga Kyiv.

I don’t know who thought of the concept of Yoga in an oven, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds but it was also one of the most ‘extreme’ hours of my life and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think I was the only wuss who stopped and took a drink mid-exercise and everyone else was slimmer and more streachy than me, but it didn’t matter.

Hot Yoga takes place in a basement at 23 Observatornaya Str which is just off Artema street, one-block from Lvivska Square and behind the House of Artists (for those who know Kyiv, that’s the building with seven large women on it).

There had been a slight mix-up with the booking and the receptionist (sweat manager?) had no idea about our booking, but she was all smiles and assured us that everything would be OK as she handed me some slippers and showed me where to get changed etc. Everything was OK and shortly after 18:30 about twelve of us were stretching, balancing and sweating in our little basement hot-box.

It’s pretty hard to describe how much sweating I did and at one point my right eye felt like it was trying to pop out of my head, but despite the hell-like conditions it was actually a lot of fun and (afterwards) thoroughly relaxing – easily as relaxing as a ‘strong’ Thai massage but without the need for a Thai woman to climb on you and no elbows in your back.

For some reason our hour-long session overran giving us an extra 15 minutes of the hot-stuff, but to be honest, I was pretty messed-up by this time and our ‘bonus’ felt more like unnecessary torture. For a newbie like me, 60 minutes is just fine.

The hot salon is small, low-key and friendly with everything you need for a sweaty session, including showers, towels, drinks and mats etc and although the website says you should book, it did seem that anyone could walk-in and join a session at any time if there’s space.

So, if planking in a sauna is your kind of thing – Hot Yoga is the perfect way to end a hard day.

Thanks to Marina for the invitation and the team at Hot Yoga for looking after us.

Ian

Tip: guys, forget your t-shirt, it is completely pointless and you’re better-off without one. Do not forget water – you’ll need lots of it.

Podil’s ‘self garden’ offers hope for a better Kyiv

Podil

Podil (Podol in Russian) is perhaps one of the oldest, quirkiest and most diverse district in Kyiv. Its mix of ‘pre-revolution’, Stalinist, 1970s and modern ‘fake-old’ buildings, dotted with ancient burial grounds, hills and ‘elite’ tower-blocks makes it a fun place to explore. In Podil you’ll find small winding streets of faded pastel-coloured houses, ancient trams, crappy roads, sleepy boulevards, students, businessmen and babushkas all jostling for space on its small squares, ruined pavements and a patchwork of small courtyards.

Since the Maidan revolution last year, Podil has also become a hipsters paradise of coffee shops, animal-themed kiosks, tech companies, galleries and burger bars.

It’s the home of Kyiv’s most famous street (Andriyivsky Spusk) a large University, a massive Soviet market and a port where you can take a small ferry along the river to drinking beer and listening to loud Russian pop-music. It has Kyiv’s poshest hotel, three million sushi bars, a mosque and the bizarrely-named but wonderfully cheap bar called ‘Beer Online’ where you can eat and drink with local students, alcoholics and expats – all for the cost of a bottle of Evian in western Europe.

Podil is the kind of place where a drunk a man can introduce you to a small bronze statue which he claims to have married, where a bar called ‘live fuck die’ may appear in the middle of the revolution and where you can invent entirely new words during an excessively drunken underground karaoke session. I know because all of these things have happened to me in this crazy district on the banks of the Dniper. Basically, for those who love Kyiv because of its striking contrasts, weirdness and unpredictability – Podil offers everything you could wish for and more and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

However, nothing in Podil is as cool as the new ‘Samo Sad‘ (СамоСада) or ‘self garden’.

I first saw a post about Samo Sad somewhere online but didn’t pay much attention to the article as it looked like ‘just another park’ amongst the hundreds of others that literally ‘Spring’ to life in early May. About two weeks later on a typically warm and sunny Sunday, my housemate Gregory invited me to join him at a new ‘garden’ near our house on Horiva Street.

Misjudging the weather quite spectacularly, I put on a large orange body-warmer and wandered down to join him and Vika and to see what ‘new garden’ he was talking about.

“Our Grandmas are very clever”

Samo Sad is a small square of land which is about 20 meters wide and is guarded by two straw sheep. Well, at least I think they are sheep and in authentic Ukrainian-style one is wearing sunglasses and the other has a pink bow tied in her hair. Along one side of the plot is a pub, there are two restaurants across the street, a ‘produkti’ (corner-shop) on the opposite side, a ridiculous but fun ‘Crab Coffee’ kiosk on one corner and a recycling centre for used bottles on the other. The cetnre piece is a large tree and if you crawl through a hole in the bushes and fence there is a basketball court behind.

So what is it? Well, it was (and officially probably still is) a peice of land which is being leased to the Russian Embassy (yes its occupied territory), and right now Samo Sad is a community garden and 20 square meters of cool.

I met Gregory and Vika sitting under the tree on the newly erected bench which now circles it, and just as they just started mocking my winter jacket an old lady stopped to inquire about this random new ‘garden’. Vika explained that a bunch of activists had reclaimed the land and were building a community space, a stage and a herb garden. The old woman responded that she also lived in Podil and was very proud to see such an initiative.

As a stood there like a big sweaty orange, I felt a sense of pride too. This garden isn’t just another space – it represents a complete 360 degree change of mentality and symbolizes not just a new-found confidence which has spread through Podil, but also a shift in power back to the people and their neighborhood.

A local activist explained in more detail.

The space, she said, was reclaimed and landscaped by the same Volunteers that took it upon themselves to patrol the streets of Podil in March 2014 when the police vanished following the grim climax of the Maidan protests and massacre in the city centre. They have built and planted a vegetable garden in boxes, erected a stage, built a number of wooden chairs, found a piano from somewhere and assembled it all around the grassy square. This will not surprise anyone in Ukraine, but the Babushkas (grandmas) often come to the garden and tell the young growers what they are doing wrong and how they should be growing this and that vegetable. The hipsters come on their bikes, families bring their kids and the drunks come and sit and get quietly drunk. It is the first real, organic community I’ve seen in five years in Kyiv.

“So why is the piano padlocked?”, I asked. “Well”, the activist said, “it is because people were leaving the pub playing it late at night when they are drunk”. This (somewhat understandably) irritated an old woman in the apartment bloc next door who vented her anger by logging onto Facebook and complaining to the community via their new Facebook page.

“Our old people are very smart” the she explained in a matter-of-fact way – highlighting, for me anyway, the real and ongoing social media revolution that’s taking place.

The future?

So far it seems that the local authorities have given their silent approval to the project but this is Ukraine and so we can be fairly sure that Samo Sad will eventually attract much drama, scandal and controversy. But, for now at least it symbolizes everything that is good about Ukraine. It shows the very best of Ukrainian community spirit and it is Podil’s stubborn, understated and beautiful answer to the vitriol which has been thrown in their direction by those claiming the city is overrun by Nazis.

Samo Sad is a peoples garden for people who deserve ever inch of it.

Go and see for yourself at Voloska St, 20. Visit them online at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Samosad/1605911233024707?fref=ts

Video: when cycling in Ukraine…

How superman sees Kyiv

Video: Cycling in Kyiv. More fun and less dangerous than people think!

Mention cycling in Kyiv and many people look at you in horror.
‘But, our drivers are crazy and the roads are awful’ they say. Or, “I love cycling, but I would never do it here, it’s too dangerous’.

The first statement is undeniably true but Kyiv’s drivers are less crazy than Belgian drivers and if you own a mountain bike then the holes in the road are just fun. The second statement blatantly false. Cycling in Kyiv is no more dangerous than in most other European cities. In fact, if you go to the right places, it is a lot safer, more beautiful and more fun. There are park, forests, beaches and crazy markets to explore!

To see what I mean watch the video below which shows the highlights of a 52km ride around Kyiv yesterday.

The exact route + more info are available here:

New Kyiv Police

After the massacre in Kyiv early last year the massive police presence in the city evaporated and almost vanished overnight. The few cops that remained immediately rebranded themselves with Ukraines Blue and Yellow flag and joined joint street patrols with local volunteers. Since those early post-revolution months, they have scarcely been seen. The DAI (traffic police) have still been out annoying drivers but the cities brutally corrupt civilian police have been in hiding.

Needless to say, Kyiv didn’t descend into anarchy and the city returned to, and continued in its usual quiet, safe and self-policing self.

For those of us who live here and especially for those who, like me, have been arbitrarily detained by the pre-revolution police – that has been a welcome state of affairs.

Yesterday however they returned in force. Or more accurately they returned as a new force. Dropping their Soviet era ‘Militsiya’ name, the new ‘Politsyia’ have been completely re-recruited and trained from scratch in a Georgian-style root-and-branch reform.

Thousands of people applied for the new positions and those that were lucky started their work yesterday. 27% are said to be women (apparently higher than the EU average) and last night they were out in their new shiny cars – clearly enjoying their flashy blue lights*.

This is undoubtedly the most visable and well promoted if the post-revolution reforms and I think there’s a general feeling of pride here in Kyiv in their new officers.

Let’s hope they manage to retain this respect and do what all good police forces should – stop criminals and protect innocent people, whatever their views, race, religion or political affiliation.

Good luck to them.

*the new police cars seem to have their lights set to ‘always flash’. Perhaps it’s a way to draw attention to themselves.

Monkey business

Amazing as this might sound, many Ukrainians actually open bananas from the wrong end!

I mean, they turn the banana upside down, ignore the stem (accepted by most of the world to be the part that opens the banana) and then open the fruit from the closed end. – the bit without the handle!!!

How do you open yours?

Bananas: How do you open yours?

The first time I saw this I thought it was a joke, or perhaps I was watching a crazy person?. Well, No. As time has passed I’ve watched in amazement as many other Ukrainians have done the same thing. There really is no ‘right’ way to open a banana in Ukraine.

Maybe its a anarchistic statement, a complete rejection of the dominant social order. Or perhaps its a subtle rejection of communism – I just don’t know, but its barmy.

If you’re in Ukraine, take a look, you might witness this crazy behaviour yourself.

Well Water for city dwellers

The water supply system has broken down in a subburb of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. No worries. There is always the local water well. Dozens of people line up to get there plastic bottles filled.

There is also a queue in a nearby district. No problems with the water system here, but people just prefer water from Mother Nature. Tap water in Ukraine is of poor quality. Many wells are located on church property. The sacral environment makes the water better to the taste locals.

By Jerom Rozendaal

My stick promised so much, but it delivered so little…

Has it really been 10 years since the year 2000? I certainly don’t feel 10 years older and certainly don’t act it! OK, a lot has changed since the 31st of December 1999 when I was a 22 year old student jumping around in a nightclub in Bournemouth but it doesn’t feel like 10 years.

Anyway, enough reminiscing and onto the present day – 2009, Christmas and on to 2010…

For the 1st time ever, I chose to leave family Bearder and spend Christmas abroad, somewhere exotic, somewhere exciting and adventurous, somewhere like… erm – Moldova.

The decision wasn’t really difficult. The rest of family Bearder had decided to spread itself across Europe covering Italy, Ireland and the UK and so, it seemed only fair to let the East-Europeans in on the action too. Flights home from Kiev were expensive, I’d been invited to Ski in the Carpathians and well, I’d be in Moldova for a conference anyway – so that’s where I stayed.

Arriving on my super-hot train from super-cold Ukraine (see previous post) I was collected at the train-station and taken swiftly onto the Leogrand hotel in Chisinau. I assume Leogrand means ‘Grand Lion’ and that whoever booked this knows me well… Oh, a girl played the Harp for me whilst I enjoyed my breakfast too – nice touch!

You can read about the conference I attended in my next post however, my two days at the Leogrand were fun and informative and I met quite a few interesting characters. Notably, an African-English-American guy who worked for the World Bank. He’d been drinking the previous night with a guy who worked with Emma Nicholson who is the Lady who held my mothers job before her. Small world huh? well, more about that later…

So, Moldova was covered in snow but it didn’t upset my trip too much.The first time I arrived in Moldova it was about 44 degrees and insanely uncomfortable so it was interesting to see the contrast. Moldova obviously gets real weather and four seasons… no ‘slightly hot and slightly cold’ cycles here. Anyway, I checked out of the nice hotel and into a very nice hostel (imaginatively names ‘Chisinau Hostel’) and spent 4 days being looked after by three beautiful girls and a cat called Pinkie. Unfortunately, Pinkie was the only one who showed-up in my room after dark as he enjoyed climbing in plastic bags, hunting and killing pens at 3am. I spent a day or two exploring Chisinau, checking on ‘shoe man’ (who is still going-strong and must be about 78 by now) and checking out the large Shopping Mall next to my hostel called, yes – you guessed… Mall Dova! …someone should win prizes for these names! I went bowling, ate (too much) and watched the end of the world (film) 2012 in Russian with 2.5 hours of translation thanks to Christina. If you are thinking of watching 2012, my advise would be – don’t. The graphics are good but the story is pants and the stereotypes bordering on offensive.

Oh, and I listened to a LOT of Christmas Carols in English. It would appear that English language carols are just as much a part of Christmas in Moldova (and Ukraine) as they are in England. However, I wonder how many people know what Figgy Pudding is? Also, I evidently got bored at some point because, I decided to entertain the idea of going home… fired up google maps, found a cheap flight from Northern Romania (kinda close to where I would be skiing) and 20 minutes later – I had a WizzAir flight booked to get me home to Oxford on the 31st.

However, I still had a problem. What was I gonna do on the 25th? Christmas day. Well, most people in Moldova couldn’t care less because, under the Soviet Union it’s not a big deal as, unless you are a Catholic (and remember religion was suppressed) then you celebrated the Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January …or neither and just partied like hell for NY!

but, I couldn’t allow this. OK, I’m not at home and I had a 12 hour bus journey planned for the evening of the 25th but, I had to have a Christmas! …and luckily, I did. I moved it to the 24th and Christina, Christina, Christina (no I don’t have a stutter) and Anna and friends ate Chicken, drank wine partied with me until the early hours of the 25th. Christmas Moldovan style.

Bukovel – The pride of Ukrainian Skiing

Where the “equipment has been fully tested and is ready for exploitation”

My bus dropped me in (a very cold) Ivano-Frankovsk at about 5.50am and I said goodbye to my new German ‘Chinese Gardener’ friend and vacated the row or rear coach-seats for the next lucky would-be sleeper. Two hours later and Maria, Maria and Maria had arrived (no, it’s not a stutter again) and we we’re on our way to our wooden home, in a village that I can’t pronounce, somewhere in the Carpathian mountains. We ski’d for 3 days, ate exceptionally large breakfasts and dinners, and played charades (not so easy if you don’t speak Russian). I’m no expert but Bukovel is a large resort and whilst it’s not nearly as beautiful as Slovenia, the slopes are much longer, the equipment much newer and the whole experience a LOT cheaper! However, if you ever decide to try it, NEVER decide to get home again from Cluj Napoca in Romania… Yes, I know it looks close on Google Maps (maybe about 300k) but trust me, it’s not. It took me 44 hours to get home from Bukovel to Oxofrd and involved a night in the train station in Chernivtsi (Ukraine) a day in Suceava (Romania) and then a night in the Airport in Cluj at the other end! I did however make 4 new friends, was helped along the way by almost everyone, saw a guy carrying a lamb through the train with a pink bow-tie and, believe it or not – met two friends from Kiev walking right towards me in Suceava! So, like I said earlier about it being a small world – I first met Ludmila outside a concert in Kiev, we met randomly again in a canteen the next day and then, amazingly, in Suceava in Romania!

The night in Chernivtsi train-station was an experience. It was about -5 and the place was full of homeless Babushkas, a sea of ‘Ukrainian bags’ (‘Chinese bags’ if you’re Ukrainian) a few drunks, an army guy who kept opening the door for me …and me. We spent the night hugging radiators together and although one Babushka lost the plot at about 3am, there wasn’t much danger – we were all in that freezing dilemma together.

Arriving in Romania was also an experience because, the first time I did this (about 4 years ago) the border guards were drunk, and making fun of my train cabin-mate. This time the guy was (in perfect English) welcoming me to Romania, laughing at my passport and asking if I was on my way home to celebrate NY? Which I was. Maybe he was drunk too? The tramp who stopped to ask me for something, realised I was English and then shook my hand, patted my back and wished me Happy New Year (in English) was definitely drunk… I’m starting to think Romania has the friendliest drunks in Europe…

The whole travel thing wasn’t helped by the forced internet exile (there’s no public internet in Bukovel) or by the fact that, getting travel info in Ukraine isn’t a straightforward affair. Maria and co did their best to help but I gave in and called home where things are done the easy way – online. OBB (Austrial Rail) to be precise as they have all train times in Europe and a piece of Software called Scotty who’ll do everythung for you in English.

Trains.

On the whole i’m a huge fan of train travel in Europe (and I’ve done a hell of a lot of it) and although the trains normally take you a whole day (or night) to get you anywhere, they are warm, comfortable, fun and almost never late. However, there is one golden rule you should never break. Never attempt a ‘number 2’ on European a train. In fact, don’t even put yourself in the danger zone of needing one – it will spoilt your journey.

Home

Anyway, I made it to my flight, had to leave the newly purchased bottle of cognac on the table because it wasn’t allowed in my hand luggage and then flew home with an incredibly nice Romanian girl called Iulia. I got home in time to see the new year …in bed – I was exhausted!

However, I finished that crazy week with:
A new Moldovan diary
A large map of Ukraine
A bottle opener from Italy
Some woollen socks that smell of sheep
8 new friends and some very funny memories.

My three favourite quotes were…
“your stick promised so much and delivered so little” …yes, one of the Moldovan girls actually said this to me, but it’s not like you think!
“IAN! You touched your laptop in a rude way!” …also, it’s not what you think!
“Where is gonzo with his weed?” …can’t explain this one
and “This conversation is totally monkey nuts” …because, like the whole week – it was.

If I ever hear Lady Gaga’s ‘Stuck in a bad Romance’ again, I might kill myself…

Posted from: www.bearder.com

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