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Sunday, February 19, 2006

 

Democratic Night Life

I stepped outside last night to the sound of motion. Water in motion. Flowing, dripping, splashing and slopping water. This can mean only one thing:

A thaw.

The temperature rose above freezing for the first time since I arrived in Ukraine, so the sound of moving water was a new addition to the landscape. I’m not so naïve to believe, as much as I want to, that the water won’t revert to its silent solid form again soon. But 35 degrees is a heat wave to be immediately enjoyed.

Toltoho Ploschad
Night Life at Ploschad Tolstoho, from the balcony of my apartment

On Saturdays and Sundays, Khryshchatik, the main thoroughfare through downtown Kyiv, is shut to cars. Last night, thousands of families, pensioners and young people emerged from their holes in the ground to stroll, hat- and glove-free, through the puddles. Dogs ran free in the street, jumping over softening snow drifts, pursing their own agendas.

Coming from Baku, which has an anemic youth and creative culture, Khryshchatik on a Saturday night was almost thrilling. Street performers, ranging from two guys playing blues guitar at a bus shelter to three- and four-piece bands with horns, staked out territory at polite intervals, invisible behind their audiences. Next week, I have to remember to bring small bills with me since I saw at least three performers worthy of financial support as I walked to Planeta Sushi for dinner.

Kyiv has lots of bars and clubs, but most are priced out of the range of its residents, especially young people. Plus there’s the issue of their appeal – the people who most want to hang out in swanky oligarch bars tend to be other oligarchs and whores.

For those who would prefer to mix with the masses, Kyiv has an underworld of passages beneath the streets that serve as pedestrian underpasses and mini-malls. They’re labyrinthine, damp, dark and surprisingly, completely safe. Out of the wind, they’re surprisingly warm and hardly smell at all. At night, they provide the infrastructure for the most democratic of bar cultures.

Because there is also no legal or social stigma attached to drinking in public, entrepreneurs – mostly older women – set up tables offering as many different bottled beers as you can buy in a bar at proletarian prices, no refrigeration needed. They also offer cigarettes and the favored beer snacks of chips and dried fish. There are just as many flower vendors, whose wares slyly encourage impulsive hook-ups in dark corners and side alleys.

Why pay a $20 cover at the nightclubs?

What the passages lack in atmosphere, they make up for in energy. Last night, the passage under the famous Maydan was the scene of a battle of the bands. Hundreds of young people surrounded a band doing Nirvana covers. Around the corner, another band attracted a huge crowd with its less identifiable – possibly original – work. Around another corner, a very small handful of appreciative passersby admired a solo violinist. Others stood in small circles out of music range, bottles in hand, chatting and smoking cigarettes.

I can’t wait until summer!

Comments:
I Love your articles guys keep it up.
v2cigs e-cigarette
 
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