Walking Chernigiv, Ukraine

chernigov6 007

For a westerner’s eye, like mine, photographs capture the beauty of this city in northern Ukraine better than words. We have separated the world, giving an east/west classification that may be simple, but it is not descriptive. Ukraine is easily distinguished from many western countries, and Chernigiv is unlike any city in my home state of California in the USA. But different can be beautiful, and it is always interesting. Let’s prove that by seeing the sights  in Chernigiv. Let’s take a walk.

Drain spouts hang politely over the sidewalk, buses pass by, and you walk past forested areas as you near the city center. The season is autumn, and it is felt in your toes as they contact the stony cold of the street or sidewalk, and in your lungs as you breathe crisp cold. You feel the cold on your nose as you try to figure out ways to cover up in the coming winter. Autumn is coat weather, but pleasantly so. As you walk, you gather some steam, for there are hills to climb in Chernigiv.

chernigov8 014First, you walk past older homes, one-storied and rectangular. Their corrugated metal roofs are a study in geometry. Electric wires invade a building made before electricity, searching the easiest way to enter the home. Three-paned double windows line up along the houses’ sides, but only the smallest pane is open and only a few of those.

chernigov5 012A river rambles by. Or maybe it is a stream off the main river. There are so many trees that it is hard to get a view. Until you walk up to the top of the hill, and then there it is, a panorama memorialized by the residents of Chernigiv. A shrine is placed at the top of the hill, and the view is suddenly extraordinary. Orthodox domes, one after another line up into the distance. A wedding party gathers in the bright yellow fallen leaves, posing for photos. The houses nearby give off steam, adding to the mist of the day, swirling this landscape in a beautiful uncertainty.

You stop at the restaurant by the river, amazed at the fireplace in the center of the dining room, and grateful for the warmth. The meal is plentiful and robust. Dark bread and buckwheat, roast chicken with vegetables. You drink hot tea simmered with leaves still on the twig in a iron-wrapped tall glass.

Now, you walk to the main avenue of downtown Chernigiv. You can walk on either side of the street on the broad sidewalks, or you can venture down the promenade in the center of the street, passing water fountains that you are told shoot colored sprays during festivals. Of course, there is a statue of Lenin in the middle of this concourse, and several other statues. You recognize the name of a famous poet, but struggle to read the Cyrillic letters on the plaques.

Continuing, you pass a school, then the side street that leads to a large outdoor market, and the underground entrances to the walkways that take you to the opposite side of the avenue. You decide to use one of these underground crosswalks, and are delighted to find a string of small shops hidden beneath the street. You linger a bit and make some purchases. On the other side of the avenue, you wander into a large apartment complex and past a neighborhood grocery store.DSCN0373

You feel chill in the air and decide it’s time to return home. Past the apartments, through the forested area and back to the older one-storied homes, you are grateful for those two-layered windows. For the first time, you realize the significance of the complex design of the three panes and the double layers. You open the larger pane at the bottom of the interior windows, then reach through to the small pane of the outer one. You take off your coat and scarf and gloves and hat – your boots have already been left at the door – and let the steam leave through the window. Then, you close everything up again, and are grateful for the two layers of protection from the cold.

DSCN0154Residents of Chernigiv have structured their city in a way that makes sense. The cold, the ice, the beauty of the autumn leaves, the wandering river, the church domes all remind you that California is half a world away, and you are so lucky to be seeing this place that is new to you.

Linked to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

 

 

Walking the Neighborhood

IMG_0414When you live where you can walk along a beautiful path every day, you are a lucky sort. I am a lucky sort – these views never get old. Many places in world are beautiful, and the Central California coastline where I live is one.

IMG_4424

I leave my shoes by the dunes, and fight with the dry sand to get to the water’s edge. Barefoot walking, in and out of the tide, soothes my feet. The sea birds let me pass, but don’t give up their feeding grounds unless I get very close. It’s a tricky business, trying to guess the correct distance from each bird. The tall blue herons are in a large group today and may feel bolder than usual. The tiny snowy plovers have moved away from the surf. The curlews are so ever-present they hardly glance at my passing. I thread my steps back and forth, closer to the waves and then farther away, depending on what I guess is a polite distance from the wildlife. I guess wrong. The great blue herons are nervous – or maybe I made some unintentional noise. Away they fly.

The great blues are here in force today. It’s springtime, and the bird families are teaching their young to fish. Watch this one as s/he catches, swallows and catches again. See the lump in the long, long neck?

The night herons are back after a winter’s absence. For the first time, I notice how long their necks are stretched out full-length. More often I see them in a group, hunched down, facing the cold wind together. I watch their antics for a while, and wonder if these are a different kind of heron than I think they are. Newcomers?

Along my neighborhood walk, there is a majestic icon. Morro Rock, the stunning volcanic plug that anchors the 3-mile long beach, sits ready for a photograph every day. Sometimes the sun shines on the irregular surfaces, sometimes mist plays around the rock. Either way, it’s a fitting touchstone, and I use this as my turn-around point.

IMG_0310
End of the walk

I work my way back to my shoes, feel my thighs worry with the effort of walking through the dunes to the beach entrance. I think I’ll stop for a bit at the bench near the dunes, if the black bird will share it.

It’s springtime. Flowers have blossomed, the dunes-side bushes bloomed. But if you remember the colors of a month ago, you can see the fade already beginning. The surrounding hillsides have already changed from a full-mountain satin-ny green to a soft yellow. Wherever you are, I wish you peaceful neighborhood walks.