Our last full day in Kyiv! Where did the time go? We should have been more rigorous with our mornings and done less sitting around the apartment. Oh well, you can’t travel back in time, but you can travel to Pochaina metro to visit Petrivka market.
Petrivka market is mostly about books; literature, scholastic, stationery, all kinds of books. But beyond the books is a flea market. We’d read that it operates every day with Saturday being the busiest day. We quickly discovered Friday is not a prime flea market day – and we had travelled a long way for two lonely stalls. Luckily one of them had a very cool clock for sale; it didn’t work but it had a nice shape, and for only 70 hryvnia it was ours. We spent almost as much as that on two coffees at the art book shop to celebrate our purchase.
Of course, the stallholder didn’t have change for a 100 hryvnia note, and we didn’t have much change at all. We cobbled together 70 out of notes, coins and a metro token. (After buying our coffee we had some changes, so we went back to buy the metro token off him but despite checking all his pockets he couldn’t find it. So instead we spent another 20 hryvnia on some Soviet era badges he also had for sale.)
We decided to make today our day to make a tour of the Metro stations. This might initially sound a bit weird, but when the Soviets built Metro stations, they were built on a grand scale and decorated to celebrate in some way the name of the station. (Unlike my local metro which I think was designed to sap the will from the human spirit.) Thanks to Kraina-Ua we had a list of the 10 most beautiful metro stations and we proceeded to tick them off.
Zoloti vorota was pretty with its arches, its chandeliers and its religious mosaics; Slavutych was futuristic with shining metal columns and overhead lighting; Univerisytet was suitably sombre with the heads of noted thinkers on display; Teatralna gave a preview of the interior of the National Opera House; Olimpiiska presented the Olympic rings and flame; and Minska celebrated all things Belarus with a decorative ceiling in Belarussian folk pattern. In some of the stations the columns have been covered over with advertising, so the original concept has been lost somewhat behind bright colourful posters shouting “BUY OUR PHONE”. We were also surprised that the metro crosses the Dnieper River above ground. Considering how deep some of the stations are, to find ourselves at ground level and in the bright sunlight was surprising.
I was also surprised to see some metro carriages painted in colourful graffiti patterns, and even spotted some recognition for my work in one of the carriage windows.
(Me to husband: “Quick quick, we have to get in this carriage.”
Him: “Oh for heaven’s sake….”)
After long enough in the caves of the Metro, we headed back to the surface, coming out by Teatralna. We were walking along, and just as I was saying, “We didn’t yet have one of those famous Kyiv snack things,” we walked past the famous perepichka outlet. Kyivska perepichka is not a snack for the diet conscious. It is very heavy and probably completely devoid of any nutritional value. I can best describe it as hot dog sausage in a doughnut.
There was a constant queue of people coming to buy these hot greasy (but at the same time kind of yummy) snacks. And it’s not something for tourists, these were local Kyiv people coming to get a snack or lunch. Considering the number of food outlets in Kyiv that were Lvivska- something (I have to assume Lviv is the food and drink capital of Ukraine), it was nice to find something that made a point about being Kyivska.
For “proper lunch”, we visited the One Love café in the Pinchuk ArtCentre next to Bessarabsky Market. We had thought of going to the gallery but it was closed so we had extra time to linger over our cake and salad and smoothie, while looking out across the city.
Then a slow walk home, a little rest, and then time to dress up and head out to the Opera! (Although we stopped on the way to have a burger for dinner. We did feel a bit overdressed in the burger restaurant but that’s OK.)
Husband had deliberately brought a long-sleeved collared shirt with him so he wouldn’t look out of place at the opera, but there were men there in t-shirts, so he was actually well dressed in comparison. When I’d quizzed my colleague about how to dress for the Opera she advised, “The women will be dressed up and look amazing, that’s part of our national culture. The men will not be dressed up and will look disgusting. That’s also part of our national culture.” I think she was a little hard on her national culture as almost everyone looked like they’d made an effort. But certainly the women had made the most effort.
If you go to the Kyiv National Opera you must get there early. Not because of queues or security or anything like that, it’s because you will want to spend about half an hour walking around the building and taking selfies: selfie on the stairs, selfie by the big mirror, selfie by the chandelier, selfie in your seat, selfie with the theatre behind you… I’m not being cynical here, I was overtaken by the selfie-pheromones in the building and started to go a little mad with the selfie mode too.
We were here to see a production of Carmen. We had booked two tickets in a box, the cost of which would have cost ten times back in London. Our box had a great view of the orchestra – my top tip for Potentially Bored At Opera Husband was, if you’re not interested in what’s happening on stage, watch the musicians, or look around the audience.
We were lucky that Carmen was on while we were there. We usually refer to this opera as “the one with all the hits” and certainly when the prelude music started, giving a foretaste of tunes to come, I was thinking, “I know this one, I know that one, oh yes that one, I forgot that one was from Carmen.” And although I listen to a classical music radio station sometimes, it really was a different experience to hear the music live. The choruses sounded so much more rousing, the arias more plaintive.
For all that the actors were singing in French, a language I like to think I have a basic knowledge of, I understood almost nothing of what was being sung. Thank goodness we had read up on the plot in advance.
And I think the moral of this opera story is: “Stay away from jealous ex-boyfriends.”