понедельник, 15 декабря 2008 г.

A journey into Kyiv oblast: hidden gems on the outskirts

One of the biggest collection of ceramics is a proud of Trypillya culture museum

This pot is two or three thousand years older than the Yin-Yang found in China.

A bird from straw is an ancient Ukrainian averter.

Museum is a two-stored building, located in Trypillya village on the bank of the Dnipro River.

There clay figures symbolise a Foremother whom trypiltsi worshriped.

This power plant is located on the place where legendary Dragon or Zmiy burst out having left famous Dragon Walls or "Zmiyevi Valy".

Sviato-Pokrovska church in Parkhomivka village, 30 kilometers south of Bila Tserkva town. Researchers discovered antique, pagan and Byzantine architectural motifs in it that are supposed to symbolize the unity of all religions. The church was a technical miracle of its time, with boilers in the basement to heat the floor and the church.

But the greatest treasure of the church is its mosaics by the iconic Russian painter Nikolay Rerikh.

     There are plenty of travel options for a weekend break in Ukraine, but one that Kyiv residents often seem to overlook is the closest: Kyiv Oblast.

     You may be surprised to find that in the distance of no more than 100 kilometers from the capital, you can look at: the remains of one of the oldest civilizations, in Trypillya village; the legendary Dragon Walls, created by ancient people to protect themselves from enemies; a church with mosaics by famous artist Nikolay Rerikh in Parkhomivka village; and Oleksandriya dendrological park – a beautiful and romantic place for a walk in the town of Bila Tserkva. All these places are a part of the “Golden Ring of Kyiv Oblast” tour conducted by art agency Territoriya A and the government as part of preparations for Euro 2012, the soccer championship that will have games in Kyiv.

Trypillya culture museum

     Imperfect roads and a lack of good hotels and cafes should not be an obstacle for someone who is able to appreciate the unpolished pearls of the Kyiv province, almost untouched by the tourist business.

     After a half-hour trip by a small bus or car along Novoobukhivske Shose, you won’t notice anything remarkable about the two-storyd brick house in Trypillya village 40 kilometers from Kyiv. However, you may notice the diverse landscape that surrounds it. The building, which accommodates the museum of Trypillya Civilization, is located on the picturesque bank of the Dnipro River which does not seem to work with a view of a power plant with fuming pipes. Next to the building is a clumsy imitation of an ancient Trypillyan two-storied house of wood and clay, with a gate that looks like a two-horned arch. 

     The museum has one of the biggest collections of ceramics and ancient tools gathered by private collector Oleksandr Polishchuk. It is located near the place where archaeologist Vikentiy Khvoyko discovered a new archaeological culture in 1896. It was named after the nearest village of Trypillya.

     The most intriguing thing about the Trypillya Civilization is the challenges it presents to official science. Trypillya traces its origins back by 7,500 years, which makes it older than the Egyptian civilization. It existed for 3,000 years. It occupied a large territory of the present day right-bank Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Hungary.

     “It was 25 percent of civilized Europe at that time,” said Denys Olenchenko, a young and enthusiastic museum guide. “[One historian] even said: “Ukrainians, search for the beginning of all Europe around your Middle Dnipro.”

     There is evidence that people from this ancient culture were the first ones to invent a wheel. “Archeologist found a small clay bull-toy on wheels. If there was a toy with wheels, than a real wheel also existed but it, of course, rotted as it was wooden,” said Olenchenko.

     One of the pots in the museum boasts an ornament that looks almost like the famous Chinese Yin-Yang symbol. But this pot is two or three thousand years older than the Yin-Yang found in China.

     One of the museum’s exhibits is a collection of Ukrainian embroidered shirts, many of which inherited symbols of the Trypillya culture: there you can see a Foremother with elevated hands and a swastika, the sun symbol.

Dragon Walls

     After the museum, the tour took us to Zmiyevi Valy (Dragon Walls), located a few kilometers from Trypillya. We got off the bus on top of an unremarkable hill littered with garbage, and our guide told us a myth that every Ukrainian kid knows. In the old times, a Zmiy (Dragon) lived here and killed people. Then ancient hero Kyrylo Kozhumyaka (Cyril the Tanner) from Kyiv risked his life, saving Kyivans from the dragon. He harnessed the creature and made it plough. The two big hills appeared as a result. In the end, a tired and thirsty Zmiy went to the Dnipro and drank until it burst. “And that happened somewhere here,” he pointed down from the hill to the place where the Stuhna river flows into the Dnipro, and where a power plant stands now. “It’s remarkable but this power plant is a symbolical reminder of that Dragon.”

     The hill or, more precisely, an earth wall we stood on was one of the fortification structures created by a civilization that came after Trypillya to protect themselves from steppe nomads travelling from the south. 2,000 kilometers of those fortifications, six to eight meters high, remained in the Kyiv region on the right bank of the Dnipro.

Sviato-Pokrovska church

     Another under-explored site of interest in the Kyiv region is Sviato-Pokrovska church in Parkhomivka village, 30 kilometers south of Bila Tserkva town. 

     Typically Ukrainian villages have wooden churches or baroque-style churches painted white. But this church is quite different. Researchers discovered antique, pagan and Byzantine architectural motifs in it that are supposed to symbolize the unity of all religions. But the greatest treasure of the church is its mosaics by the iconic Russian painter Nikolay Rerikh. The mosaic above the main entrance depicts Pokrova, the protection of the Virgin, who covers people with a carpet. The mosaic is mostly done in blue and white smalt, special non-transparent glass that shines and glints in the sun. Rerikh and architect Volodymyr Pokrovskiy conceived the idea of this church on the tomb of their friend, landlord Viktor Holubiev, who built schools in Parkhomivka and was adored by his peasants. The church was a technical miracle of its time, with boilers in the basement to heat the floor and the church.

     The floor of the choir loft is slightly inclined to create a marvelous acoustic effect. The church survived some tough times. During the Soviet rule, it was used as a warehouse for fertilizers and corn. Currently, it is a working church where marriages and christenings are performed every Sunday.

Oleksandriya landscape park

     On your way back to Kyiv you can make a stop in Bila Tserkva and visit Oleksandriya, a vast park on the north-western suburbs of the town, 80 kilometers from Kyiv. Though to explore the biggest landscape park in Ukraine, you need a full day at your disposal.

     Today anyone can visit the park. But 200 years ago, when the park was a brand new creation of the Branytskiy family, only their guests and members of the royal family could walk its lanes. It was designed in a romantic style with few artificial landscape changes. Nearly every pathway in the park was made from wood chippings and clay, not asphalt or concrete. The park is located along the river Ros and has a system of beautiful pounds with swans, waterfalls and bridges. It’s a perfect place for a long romantic day out.

Trypillya culture museum Ancient Aratta – Ukraine
Trypillya village (1 Rybolovetska, 520-9444).
Near Vydubychi metro station, take the marshrutka to Stayky or Rzhyshchiv, Bukryn, Kaniv (through Rzhyshchiv) to “Shkola-Internat” station in Trypillya village.
Open Tue-Sun, 10 a.m. till 6 p.m.
Tickets are Hr 10, for students Hr 5, for pupils Hr 3
Extra fees: Hr 7 to take pictures, Hr 15 for filming.
A guide is provided for free for a group of 10 or more (non-English speaking). 

Oleksandriya landscape park
Bila Tserkva town (8 (04463) 4-05-51, 4-05-47)
Tours around park from Hr 100
Tickets to museum Hr 6, for students and pupils Hr 2
In the winter, the park is open Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. till 5 p.m.
Starting April 15, the park is open daily, except Tuesdays, 9 a.m. till 5 p.m.

Oksana Faryna for "Kyiv Post"

Photos: Serhiy Anishchenko

Musical portrait of jazzman Avishai Cohen

     Israeli jazz musician Avishai Cohen is only 38 years old. But he’s a fast-rising star in his profession.Cohen played in Kyiv on Oct. 18 during the “Jazz in Kyiv” festival, sharing the spotlight with such performers as the legendary Al Jarreau and the great Dave Holland.

     A “jazz visionary of global proportions” is what the American magazine Down Beat called Cohen. Bass Player magazine called him “one of the 100 most influential bass players of the 20th century.” Legendary pianist Chick Corea dubbed him “a great composer” and “a genius musician.”

     After his concert, Cohen discussed how his career formed from childhood. As it turns out, one of his great influences is music imported into Israel by Russian Jews.

     “After the World War II, many Russian people came to live in Israel. There were people from Poland and the Czech Republic, too. They brought songs and melodies of the Red Army with them. All of them were military songs. But the melodies were so beautiful that they came up with lyrics in Hebrew for them,” Cohen said. “Young people now don’t even know they are Russian. It’s funny that Russian people don’t like these songs because they are about war and stuff. But I took some of them as they are so beautiful, so well-composed.”

Oksana Faryna
Photo: www.e-warsaw.pl

пятница, 12 декабря 2008 г.

SALO guide: All you need to know about Ukrainian delicacy

A gift from Kyiv


One of the biggest salburgers was presented at Ukrainian Salo Festival on Nov. 2, 2004.

Salo in chocolate

Salo in Chocolate bar

     After borsch and varenyky, salo is the most famous Ukrainian national dish. Around the world, salted pork fat is associated with Ukraine. Some even find it annoying, since there is much more to Ukraine than salo with vodka. While true, we can still pride ourselves in this legendary national product. Most nations use melted salo, or lard, while Ukrainians customarily eat slices of salo with garlic, onion, bread and pickles.

Cultivating salo part of nation's traditions
     While Ukrainians are not as mad about salo as others think (women who keep an eye on their figure certainly aren’t), it may be fair to say that something like a cult of salo certainly exists in Ukraine. For example, there is an annual championship of salo lovers, “With Love … to Salo,” in Volyn Oblast’s Lutsk. At this year’s championship, the biggest salo sandwich, or Salburger, as it was called, was presented and got included in the Ukrainian Records Book and The Guinness Book of World Records. The Salburger was 28.7 square meters and became the world record for a sandwich. It was made of 105 kilograms of salo, 180 loaves of bread and consisted of 2,200 sandwiches with salo. In a contest of salo eaters, which also was held during the championship, Volodymyr Stryhaniv won by managing to eat one kilogram of salo in 23 minutes.

     “A Law about Salo” was proposed by parliamentary deputy Serhiy Teryokhin, a member of the Reforms and Order Party, on April Fool’s Day in 2003. This idea defined the historical mission of salo as humanistic and a social moral guide.

     A confectionary plant in Odesa invented “Ukrainian Sneakers,” a bar of chocolate with salo, which was called “Salo v Shokoladi” (“Salo in Chocolate”). Famous Ukrainian film director Oles Sanin recently shot a documentary about Salo. And, of course, there are lots of anecdotes about Ukrainians who love salo more than anything. For example, the one about a Ukrainian student writing in his letter home: “Send me salo, hello mamma!”

Salo health diet
     Another joke depicts a conversation about two friends or kums, as they are called in Ukrainian. “Kum, do you know what Russians call our salo? – What? – Cellulite!” This joke refers to the widespread stereotype that salo, consisting of 88 to 94 percent pure fat, is harmful to one's health and may cause obesity and atherosclerosis. “In fact, salo contains only traces of cholesterol that causes atherosclerosis and obesity,” said Valentyn Rybalko, academician and doctor of agriculture science. “One hundred grams of pork has 60 grams of cholesterol, ham has 67, butter has 244 and cod-liver oil has 570.” He has been studying salo for almost 40 years and came to the conclusion that 50 grams of salo a day with fresh vegetables and apple or grape vinegar is not harmful, but rather healthy and helps to remove radioactive nuclides from a person’s system. Salo contains irreplaceable fatty acids. One of them is arachidonic acid, which plays an important part in cholesterol metabolism and helps the heart muscle work. If you put a piece of salo between your cheek and gum, it can cure your toothache. Melted fat is helpful for joint pain and varicose veins. Even a rind of salo is good for memory and increases potency.

Where it came from
     A simple historical fact explains why salo became a national treasure in Ukraine. It became popular because the majority of Ukrainian people were poor and could afford meat only during Christmas or Easter, while salo could be salted and used during the whole year. Peasants took salo with bread as their lunch during field work. In past centuries, salo was a very important nutritional element as it could retain its quality for a long time without freezing.

     You may be surprised to find that salo was not invented in Ukraine. It was first prepared in the city of Kolonnata on the territory of Italy 3,000 years ago. Slave owners invented a recipe of pork fat with spices and garlic as a cheap and high-calorie meal for slaves, who worked in marble quarries. This famous white marble that resembles human skin was used for antique sculptures, palaces and colonnades. Salo lovers say it was the beginning of salo’s contribution to modern civilization. This Italian lard salted in big marble baths was so delicious that not only slaves but patricians loved it.

Salo markets
     Now it must be clear even to skeptics and diet-followers that salo is at least worth trying. The cheapest way to do this is to go to one of the city markets and ask the vendor to give you a piece of salo to try – which is a natural thing to do before buying it. But if you don’t buy anything, no one will be bothered. The Kyiv Post decided to taste salo at Bessarabka, the most expensive and most central city market, naturally offering only the highest-quality homemade salo in Kyiv. And we were right. A pleasant woman handed me a piece of salo with a slice of bread and then held out a towel for me to wipe my fingers. This piece was moderately salted and seemed to melt in my mouth. It tasted very good and nourishing, especially since it was cold outside. One kilogram of salo at Bessarabskiy market (2 Bessarabska Square) is priced from Hr 30 to Hr 50. But these are evening prices. In the morning, the same salo is Hr 60. “You must like it from the first glance. It is the same as with people,” a saleswoman said, teaching me how to choose salo properly. She took a knife and started to stick it into a piece of salo. If the knife sinks deeply into salo, it means this is a mild and high-quality product. When the knife gets stuck, it is not so good. Another vendor told that it’s necessary to try salo along the full length of the piece because it might taste differently in different parts.

     When it comes to eating salo the usual way, you can make a sandwich with salo and mustard or use a more complicated recipe. Take 300 grams of salo and rub it with black pepper, paprika, salt and put it in a fridge for a couple days. Then cut it into slices and eat with bread. Another tasty option is to mince salo and mix it with salt, seasoning, garlic and grated carrot. Then spread this paste onto a slice of bread and you will get a quick and nutritious snack.

Salo-Bar and other places to partake
     Another way to try Ukraine’s national “treasure” is at a bar or restaurant. Salo-Bar seemed to be the most radical place to go to experience salo in all its varieties. There you will find an assorted salo plate (Hr 29) which consists of salo with pepper, fresh salo, smoked salo and bacon. Or you can order separately fresh or fried bacon (Hr 19 and Hr 31), fresh and smoked salo (Hr 19) and salo with garlic and herbs for Hr 15. Anyone ordering dinner at Salo-Bar will receive a small snack of minced salo with bread for free.

     Naturally, salo can be also found at Ukrainian cuisine restaurants in the city.
For example, at Pervak restaurant, you can try a “Ukrainian Kiss” – freshly salted pork fat stuffed with garlic (Hr 18 for 100 gm). Salo with garlic can be found also at Tsarske Selo (Hr 18) and O’Panas (Hr 14). Minced salo on toasts is served at Penthouse restaurant at Hr 16. Pickled salo on rye bread toasts served with homemade horse radish is proposed at Riviera in Podil (Hr 20). Zamok Vydubychi has toasts with salo and garlic on its menu as well (Hr 8).

    Fried salo or “shkvarky” (cracklings – little fried bits of salo) is an obligatory element of other national dishes such as varenyks, borscht and baked potatoes. O’Panas restaurant even has varenyks with cracklings. At Dukhmyana Pich, varenyky with potatoes and mushrooms (Hr 21) and with meat (Hr 25) are served with cracklings, fried onions and sour cream. Cracklings are also often served with deruny (potato pancakes), which are fried at Penthouse restaurant for Hr 13.

     Ukrainian borsch with mashed salo, garlic, herbs and pampushky (Hr 30) is a pride of Riviera in Podol. There are potatoes baked with bacon and beans (Hr 24) at Pervak, baked potatoes with salo (Hr 24) at Tsarske Selo, and potatoes with bacon and onions at O’Panas (Hr 14) and Trypillia (Hr 36).

Salo in Chocolate
     The aforementioned Salo in Chocolate can be ordered at Tsarske Selo for Hr 18 – you’ll find it at the top of the dessert menu. The receipt is an invention of the restaurant’s chef Andriy Valenchuk. Salo is cut into small strips and hot chocolate is poured over it. These bits are served on skewers with Baileys liqueur. Surprsiginly, the secret technology used by the chef allows to create a harmonious tasty dish out of sweet chocolate and salty salo. According to Valenchuk, you would not know the dessert contained salo unless you were told.

Salo-Bar (5 Anri Barbyisa, 8(096)341-4040)
(2 Rohnidynska, 235-0952, 246-7784)
Tsarske Selo
(42/1 Sichnevoho Povstannia, 288-9775, 280-3066)
(10 Tereshchenkivska, 585-0523, 235-2132)
Dukhmiana Pich
(4 km of Novoobukhivska route, Lisnyky village, 406-3673)
(58 Chervonoarmiyska, 289-4682, 289-4394)
Riviera on Podil
(15 Sahaydachnoho, 581-2898)
(21 Prospect Radyanskoyi Ukrainy, 463-5130)
Zamok Vydubychi
(5 Naberezhno-Pecherska, infront of Vydubychi monastery, 525-0793)

The mystery of the Lybid River

 What does an average Kyivan think when they hear the name Lybid? It is a three-star hotel in the city center, on Victory Square.

     A lady sharing that name is part of a famous monument on the Dnipro bank. She stands on a boat together with her three legendary brothers Kiy, Shchek and Khory, the so-called founders of Kyiv.

     The boat they stand in is sometimes referred to by Kyivans as “Noah’s Ark”, or “The Titanic”. The monument was erected in 1982 as a part of Kyiv’s 1,500-year anniversary festivities. Another version of this boat – but a lot smaller – appeared on Maidan Nezalezhnosti after its latest reconstruction in 2001.

     But there is one site of interest that tourist guides mention but don’t show: the remains of the ancient river Lybid.

     Legend has it that the river was named after the only girl among the four siblings who founded Kyiv. The river’s name was first mentioned in chronicles dating back to 968 A.D. In those times, it was a full-fledged river, 20 meters deep and a kilometer wide that could sail big boats. It marked the southern border of the city.

     Today, it is a pathetic brook 0.5 meters deep and between 1.6 and 3.5 meters wide, flowing mostly underground in pipes or a concrete shell through the city’s industrial area and quietly sabotaging the extension of the underground line south of Lybidska station.

     Of course, it took the river many years to degrade to its present state, and there were a few attempts to save it. During his visit to Kyiv in 1850, Russian Emperor Nikolai I decreed the construction of a canal along the Lybid leading to the Dnipro, and the erection of a boulevard where Naberezhno-Zhylianska Street now runs. But the Crimean war that broke out soon after, and then the Czar’s death, halted the work.

     In 1891 the city council, or Duma, considered a plan for creating a boat channel that would make Kyiv a bit like Amsterdam. The channel was supposed to be 5 kilometers long, 4 meters deep and 32 meters wide, and become the main waterway communication channel for the public and merchants between the Dnipro and the railway station. The cost of this engineering miracle was estimated at 250,000 rubles, 10 times the size the city budget. This time World War I kept the endeavor a concept only.

     The concrete shell around Lybid was built in Soviet times after the flood of 1937. Spring waters overflowed the banks and submerged large areas of the city between today’s Povitroflotskiy Prospect and Victory Square. Many houses were flooded, the water having reached a meter above sea level in 22 houses. For 12 days, Kyiv resembled Venice with boats on the streets.

     The disaster forced the city government to strengthen the river bed with concrete panels and build a water collector. It was then that the Lybid received its tame and industrial look.

     There is only one place in Kyiv where you can see the remains of the Lybid river in a pleasant and natural setting. It is Vidradniy Park in Solomyanskiy district of the city. You can get there from Heroiy Sevastopolya Street or from Vidradniy Prospect. There is a beautiful pond with willows growing along its banks. An unremarkable carved rock next to the pond reads: “This is one of the spots where the legendary Lybid river starts.” Vidradniy tributary flows into the Lybid in this place.

     Beyond this pond, the river dives into a pipe to start its 16-kilometer journey. Another source of the river is located near Karavayevi Dachi railway station, just behind the Radio Market.

     Vidradniy Park is a favorite student hangout for the National Aviation University, which is located nearby. Romantic couples, families with children and pensioners are also regular park visitors. The park’s pond is a good place for fishing in the summer.

     By the way, the park improved significantly after the reconstruction, completed a couple days ago. Its reopening was dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Kyiv from Nazi occupation, observed on Nov. 6.

     The park now has new footpaths and benches, flower-beds and a pretty iron gate at the main entrance. When this Kyiv Post reporter visited the park, workers were still busy welding the letters of the park’s name to the gate.

     But if you prefer a more extreme sightseeing tour of the Lybid, there is a popular route just for you. Flowing in its shell under Lebedeva-Kumacha street, Lybid crosses Industrialna and reappears above ground near Zaliznychna Street. From there it flows through an open concrete bed. Lybid flows along the railway on Naberezhno-Zhylianska, and once again hides in a collector on Saperno-Slobidska. It resurfaces by Vydubychi metro station, runs along Promyslova Street and flows into the Dnipro.

     The river’s longest open stretch is along Naberezhno-Slobidska street. It was no accident that the railway line was built along this route. It was built along the river bed to avoid cutting through Kyiv’s many hills. A section of the Lybid on Naberezhno-Slobidska between Moskovska square and Ivana Fedorova Street is the favorite place of graffiti artists. The concrete walls running along the river have essentially become a graffiti gallery known as “The Hall of Fame.” There you can see splendid examples of street art by authoritative graffiti groups “Psya Krev” and “Interesni Kazky”.

    The easiest way to get to the graffiti gallery is to go under the railway bridge between Lybidska and Moskovska Squares. You can take a walk along the river and come out around Ivana Fedorova Street.

     People who have walked this three-kilometer route claim it is safe. Ivan Siyak, editor of “Nash Kyiv”, an internet site, advises to avoid the route soon after the rain unless you want to be completely covered in mud. In any case, wear something casual so that you don’t have to worry in case you get a little dirty. Be nice to the homeless people if you find them sunbathing there, and they won’t bother you.

     The historical river was once an important waterway, but now it’s a symbol of new urban life.
However, it is still important for the city. It helps to drain large flat areas of the city, including parts of the city center and the planes where the railway station and the central bus station are located. It sucks up the brooks that still flow under a number of industrial giants, including Dairy Factory No.1, “Kyivhuma” rubber plant, a confectionery, a margarine plant, and two power plants.

Oksana Faryna for "Kyiv Post
Photo: mytabor.blogspot.com; Angel & rose at samodelki.kiev.ua

Legends of Lypky villas

    Moody autumn is the best time to walk around the city, to recall its past times and legends. Strolling around the most prestigious district in Kyiv, Lypky, is especially pleasant on weekends, when the streets are quiet and there is much less traffic. Previously, this territory was occupied by the lime trees and mulberry gardens of Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery. When streets were laid here in the first half of the 19th century, the new district derived its name from the word “lypa” – Ukrainian for “lime tree.” Only the richest merchants and aristocrats could afford to build their villas here. These masterpieces of architecture impressed common people with luxury and became quickly surrounded by gossip.

      Probably the best way to start your walk is at the entrance to Khreshchatyk metro station. There are several of them, but you need the one that opens onto Instytutska Street. Take the second turn on your right and you’ll find yourself at Bankova street, where the Presidential Administration is located. Right away you’ll see the first of the most interesting buildings of Lypky. It is all grey, decorated with different fantastic creatures – mythic nereids on dolphins, frogs, lizards, the heads of elephants and rhinoceroses. The House with Chimeras, as it was called by Kyivans, was built in 1903 by famous architect Vladyslav Horodetskiy for his own use.

The House with Chimeras
     People like to say that the famous architect built the house dedicated to sea creatures in memory of his drowned daughter. In truth, this is no more than a beautiful legend. The architect’s daughter, Helena, outlived her father and died in Switzerland. It probably was Horodetskiy’s own hobby that induced him to seat all those creatures on the building. He was an experienced hunter, or “sportsman,” as it was called at the time. He hunted in Ukrainian Polissya, the Caspian steppe, in the Alps and the Siberian taiga. After finishing the House with Chimeras, he fulfilled his old dream and went hunting in Africa in 1911, a luxury affordable by the likes of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt or Count Stanislav Pototskiy. As people told, after this voyage, Horodetskiy would stroll down Khreshchatyk with a tamed monkey or trained giraffe. It is, of course, another fable.

     The real fact, however, is that the legendary architect was one of the first people in Kyiv to own a car. Horodetskiy’s firm was very profitable, and apart from luxurious building projects, it made the first sewers in Kyiv. He was also a stockholder of “FOR” cement plant, which gave him cement for free just to advertise new building materials. Could there be better advertising than such a masterpiece as the House with Chimeras? Another fact is that the architect bet his colleague that it is possible to build a house on a steep hill. And he won. You can also bet a tourist that in Kyiv there is a house with three floors on one side and six on the other. It might be hard to believe, but the House with Chimeras is a "living" proof.

     Horodetskiy moved to a new house when he was 40 years old. He said to the impressed guests at the first reception: “I understand that the building looks a bit wild, but nobody who walks through will stay indifferent.” The architect lived in only one of its apartments and rented out the rest. To have fresh milk for his morning coffee, he even built a cowshed. He placed it in such a way that the bad smell couldn't reach the living rooms and wouldn't bother guests. Today, the House with Chimeras is used for official presidential receptions while Mariyinskiy Palace is being reconstructed.

The House of Grieving Widow
     Flags of foreign countries from time to time appear on the front of the building on 23 Lyuteranska Street. Honorable guests stay there while visiting Kyiv. The building doesn’t strike you as something special from the first glance. But if you look up its front you’ll see a bass-relief of a woman’s face. There are small holes in the apple of her eyes. The rain and snow falls in special holes in the back of her head and flows out like tears from her eyes. Due to this, the building is called The House of Grieving Widow.

     Historian Dmytro Malakhov recalls a legend from his childhood about the building. People said there was a train carriage in the yard where the master invited his guests to stay at night. There were bed linen and tea glasses like in a real train. The carriage could even shake, imitating a moving train. Another story says that there was a room designed like a train compartment in the building. The master of the house wanted to have such a room because that’s how he met his beloved wife – on a train. When he tragically died, his wife built a house with a crying woman on the front. In reality the room with the compartment really exists, but it’s located in the house of Kovalyovskiy’s family on the next street. The House of the Grieving Widow was built by a merchant of the second guild, Serhiy Arshavskiy, in 1907. He lived peacefully with his family and planted a couple of paradise trees in the yard. Why the crying bass-relief appeared on the house of a happy family, even historians can’t tell.

Chocolate House
     Now the merchant of the first guild, Semen Mohylyovtsev, from the neighboring Shovkovychna street, was the one who really lived a lonely life. Go up on Lyuteranska, take a turn on your left and you will see his brown two-floored villa under the number 17 built in 1899 by architect Volodymyr Nikolayev’s project. Kyivans could not believe that such a rich entrepreneur and patron, member of the city council, director of the city credit association and head of Kyiv's stock exchange committee didn’t have a wife and made up a legend that he was fall in love with a rich married woman from another city and built a house for their romantic meetings. Wether it was mere coincidence or fate, after Mohylyovtsev died, in 1960s-80s his villa was used as a Wedding Palace (a common name for administrations were marriages were registered in Soviet times).

     Due to its rich brown color, the building became known as Chocolate House. “It really smells like chocolate when you stand near the house,” – a friend of mine said after we went past the Chocolate House together. Indeed, it is said that you can feel a taste of cocoa in your mouth if you watch the brown front of the house for a while. Since 1989, Chocolate House has been closed for restoration. So we can judge about the interior only from photos. The building had a Gothic dining room, Baroque cabinets and rooms in modern, Moorish and Russian styles. It was decorated with stained-glass windows, marble window sills, carved doors, and painted walls. It was one of the richest villas in the city. It desperately needs restoration, but for the last twenty years, the city administration has been unable to find money for it.
Oksana Faryna for "Kyiv Post"
Photo: Olena Pavlova