Friday, March 09, 2007


I've written very little on here for some time, so I thought I'd give a quick rundown of a very short Ukrainian winter

"Don't think he knows about Second Christmas . . ."

It was a rare treat to enjoy not just one, but two Christmases, on the 25th (the 'real' one) and the Orthodox one. Not only that, but a week later I was told it was 'Old New Year'. This has something to do with the change of the calendar. By now I was getting really quite confused. A friend of mine in Belarus told me "don't be surprised if there's a third Christmas and New Year".

Journey into the unknown (and potentially uninteresting)

Another friend of mine was visiting at the time and we travelled on the suburban train to Nizhin (НІЖИН). It's only about as far as Peterborough is from London but it took a good two and a half hours both ways. It turned out to be a good place to visit, and someone we met on the train gave up their afternoon to show us around the town, university and churches. The Greeks were here apparently and it had given the place a bit of a Greek feel, particularly in the architecture of the churches. I was pleased to be able to convert a visitor to the delights of Mister Snek and, in particular, the Chicken Deluxe.

When winter finally came . . .

Around February the temperatures finally plunged below zero and the really winter had begun. I had thought that Ukraine, which has experienced such temperatures annually from the dawn of time, would be well-prepared for the winter. How wrong I was. When it's really icy just getting home can seem like running the gauntlet. How could they have chosen such unsuitable materials (smooth marble) for steps outside metro stations, and how does no one know about salt or grit, when even England's winter-ineptness still allows for gritting of pavements and the like? The basic mentality seems to be 'it won't happen to me'. The most treacherous night was when the temperature had warmed up just enough for rain to fall onto snow, which then froze and became like a shiny, slippery film of ice over everything, as if a tribe of giant snails had left their mark. The snow boots I'd bought (or rather had bought for me) in England were by no means a luxury, although most people seem to struggle along with normal footwear, slipping and sliding along and riding their luck as ever.

No comments: