Back in 1051, the Venerable Anthony, with a name that is quite venerable, settled in a cave on the Dneiper River. Other followers joined and eventually they built this entire Orthodox Christianity complex. The Monastery was built over the centuries thanks to donations from Prince Izyaslev and other Kievan aristocracy.
On my last day in Kiev (Kyiv is the Russian/Ukrainian name of the city) I climbed a extremely sketchy series of icy metal stairs up this hillside to the get this picture. Below is a famous street that I can’t remember the name of, and even if I did, you have to be a dolphin to pronounce it.
On that dolphinesque street, there are all kinds of local goods being sold from little carts and booths. Various nest Russian dolls, old Soviet war medals, pictures of the wars, wooden maces, particolored scarves, and cold-weather gear of every size and shape.
In the distance, you can see Saint Michael’s cathedral on the horizon.
This is Saint Sophia, buried deep in the snow after several nights of blizzard-like conditions. We walked here from Independence Square up and down slippery cobblestoned streets. I have possibly the worst shoes possible for walking around icy Kiev – Nike 5.0 running shoes. These things were built to “breathe”, and not to protect against ankle-deep slush puddles.
St. Sophia’s cost about $1 USD to enter and walk around the grounds. I spent a while goofing around with the settings on my camera to get these strange conditions in the right light.
Saint Sophia was almost destroyed by the Russian government after the revolution of 1917. They wanted to destroy the cathedral and convert the grounds into a park called “Heroes of Perekop”, which was named after a Red Army victory in Crimea.
(Reminder – You have until MIDNIGHT tonight to vote for me for the Bloggies in the Photography section, if you would be so kind – thank you. Also, I will upload pictures from Chernobyl soon.)
This evening while walking to dinner at an Uzbekistan restaurant, the sun started to go down behind the icy overcast skies, casting more of that eerie blue light across the city of Kiev. There were a few flecks of snow beginning to fall, but not enough to obscure Saint Andrews Church here as we passed.
This classically baroque church was originally in the mid 18th century and is still occasionally used by the creatively anachronistic Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church for services. It’s built on a very steep hill, near a steeper and scenic curved road, which was too icy for me to get down with the tripod. It’s one of the few times I decided discretion was the better part of photographic valor.
(Reminder – you have until Midnight to vote for this blog for the 2007 Bloggies – thanks!)
The Byzantine gold glowed hot when I got inside, a divine signal to me that God was mad because I brought my camera inside. However, I reasoned with God, the sign read “No Cameras” in a Cyrillic lettering, a lettering style I do not recognize since the Jesuits trained me in the Romance languages and not these Slavic uncials.
Besides, I was inside Saint Michael’s Cathedral, and I was holding a camera, and, as the saying goes, when in Rome, shoot interiors of churches in Rome, and when in Kiev, break Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Councils.
While God was busy figuring out my flawless reasoning, I spotted a cloaked HeiroMonk in is post-Matins chanting, moving in a pattern indecipherable by my camera, thus the ghostly visage in this seeming partial transcendence.
This morning I decided to do something that seemed smart at the time, and now, in retrospect, was clearly an awful idea.
I thought I would get up early before work at sunrise and go take a picture of St. Michael’s Cathedral in the morning light. I loaded up and got into a gypsy cab, which was still warm from running missions for the mafia the night before, and told him to take me to St. Michael’s. The taxi driver looked at me strangely and stabbed his hand out the window towards the sky.
Yes, I told him, I know there is a blizzard and it is dark.
I was thinking maybe it’s just one of those morning blizzards that passes through, like fog in Texas or a light dew. After he dropped me off, I noticed there was no discernible road, running cars, people, or heat. I especially noticed the last one as the wind started to whip around, carrying the snow at orthogonal angles to the ground. I used a protractor to make sure.
Before reaching full hypothermia, I squeezed out this nine exposure HDR, and the final result was able to peer through the density of the snowfall in all the exposures… so this does not really indicate the severity of the blizzard, but it did get a strange blue morning light through the clouds.
Getting another cab home was a problem. My feet were so cold by the time I made it back to the hotel, the only way to warm them was to insert my toes into a room service omelette.
Tonight our hosts took us to a traditional Ukrainian dinner. It was very good food, quite hearty, with portions that would have been fine if I was a tauntaun. In fact, after Will was done eating, I was considering slicing him open to stay warm in the Kiev streets. He does, indeed, smell bad on the outside.
At one point during dinner, they brought us some bread slices with a viscous white topping. I inquired with our host:
“What is that white stuff?”
“It is,” he said in a thick Russian accent, “like bacon without meat part.”
“Whaaa?” I said, working it out in my head. “Oh.”
After that, we walked over to Independance Square where I got this night shot as the traffic rolled through the streets.
I made it to Kiev, and it is perhaps the slipperiest city in the world. It could be colder, but I don’t know how.
No matter which way I walked, the snow and wind beat into my face like a sandstorm combined with a monsoon combined with my mother-in-law’s attitude. The other Ukrainians and wayward Russian wives were walking around without hats like it was normal. Will and I wanted to dress up in our Spies-Like-Us-winter-garb, but we haven’t found where to buy that yet.
Here is a shot of the opera house in the middle of the snowstorm. That little blip up there on the left is a snowflake that had the inconsiderate vector to land on my lens.
The large version of this one is a little dizzying.