Tag: culture

Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 17. Turnu Măgurele to Giurgiu.

In Romanian villages – it’s all about the bench.

While the Bulgaria seems quiet and sometimes a little introverted, Romania is the complete opposite. By and large, Romanians are outwardly friendly, noisy, curious and incredibly welcoming. In fact this openness is almost built into the fabric of their towns and Villages. Unlike Bulgarian villages which are arranged in clusters away from the main roads, houses in Romania line the streets and outside every house is a bench under a tree. This bench is where people sit, talk, gossip and argue, but mostly it seems that the bench is simply for sitting on and watching the world go by.

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As a gift to a very good (and long-time) friend of mine, this weekend we moved 500km West this weekend for two days in Ukrainie’s ‘capital of culture’ – Lviv.

As a man who’s been to many ‘capitals of culture’ (and almost all European capitals) I can honestly say Lviv is one of the most beautiful. It’s not only unique from a Ukrainian perspective bit it’s as diverse, quirky, inspiring and enjoyable as anywhere I’ve ever been anywhere in Europe – including and perhaps even more so than Ljubljana in Slovenia.

For those who know me, you’ll understand the significance of that last statement.

Lviv is special and like it or not, Lviv will be the hottest ‘must see’ city in Europe within the next 5 years.

Despite the war thousands of kilometres to the East, or perhaps because of the war, Ukraine is opening to the world like never before and the world now knows where UA is. For now Lviv and Western Ukraine may be the best kept secret for Poles looking for a romantic weekend away and for those of us in Ukraine, but that won’t last. Easyjet or RyanAir will arrive soon and when they do you’ll all be wondering why you never came before.

This is all the more remarkable for a city which, just 10 years ago was as drab and depressing as any of its post-Soviet neighbours.

Go there!






Deaf Dudes and Talking Rukavichki. Ukrainians break the silence.

I was walking from my house in Druzhby Narodiv towards the botanical garden a few years ago when I passed a large group of deaf people having a meeting at the side of the road.

I don’t know why they stuck in my mind, but since that day I started to notice how many other deaf groups there were in Kyiv. Normally I noticed them on the bus or Metro, but more than once I’ve sat on Maidan Square or Kreshatik watching a group of deaf teenagers talk their animated talk.

Perhaps they stand out because they are the only people moving/talking on the metro (it is customary to stand still and look seriously stern), or perhaps I just noticed them because I had taken part in a one day training course about deafness before I came to Ukraine. Either way, there are certainly more deaf people in Kyiv than there are in Oxford – a lot more.

So, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that TIME magazine had honored four Ukrainian students with the 7th best invention of 2012. Their invention was – talking gloves.

I’ll let Forbes magazine explain…

At the front of an auditorium filled with hundreds of people, a programmer from the Ukraine slipped on a pair of thick, black gloves, each dotted with flex sensors and a micro controller. A couple of feet away was a smartphone receiving signals from the gloves via Bluetooth. When the time was right, the programmer made a gesture, carefully and deliberately moving his hands and arms, before an automated female voice boomed through the speakers: “Nice to meet you.” The audience cheered.

Here they are:

They are undeniably cool, and they potentially give a very clear voice to the voiceless. However, I’d be interested to know what people are saying (signing) about them in the deaf communities. Are they a fantastic way to alleviate a frustrating disability? or, are they a threat to deaf culture and the various national sign languages?

Also, how should a non-deaf person respond?

Maybe they will also invent a machine that waves your hand and arms in sign speech when you talk. Until then, I would settle for a machine that translates Ukrainian.

Anyway, thumbs up to Ukraine. If a deaf person starts shouting at me on the metro next year – I will know why.

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