A little bit of Russia in Germany: Potsdam and Alexandrovka

I found a city in Germany where I feel myself almost at home. About two weeks ago we have visited Potsdam. As it is the capital of the Brandenburg State, we had to go there for some documents in State Ministry of inner affairs.  Everything started in this Ministry. There were signs in Russian and they offered the handbooks about integration in German and Russian.

On the streets of Potsdam we met many times Russian speaking people that were the inhabitants of the city (naturally there were a lot of Russian tourists too). Some signs there were also in my language.

So we were not very surprised to discover a Russian village: Russische Kolonie Alexandrowka. The village is situated in the north of Potsdam and includes several Russian style houses, huge fruits garden and an orthodox church. The village has been built in 1826 by order of the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III and named after the Russian emperor Alexander I. Till 1945 the families of Russian soldiers and their ancestors lived there. Now the Russian colony Alexandrovka is an architectural memorial site included in the UNESCO World Heritage.

So Russians were in Potsdam long time ago and no wonder that they still keep coming :) I would also like to stay living in this city full of history and beautiful sites.

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The III International Poetry Festival MERIDIAN CZERNOWITZ, September 6-9, 2012

 

This year the festival in Chernovtsy will take place from 6th till 9th of September. The final program of the festival has been published just recently. I found there a lot of new and fascinating events.  It is dedicated to the modern Ukrainian and European poetry (of course! it’s the poetry festival) and includes poetry readings, lecture, musical and theatrical performances, screenings of the poetry films, poetry in animation, electropoetry and so on.  Last year I was positively surprised by the concert combining poetry and rock-music. This time there will be something similar, I guess.

The participants changed a little bit. No French poetry this year :( But there will be a lot of events performed by representatives of Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Romania and Israel.

One of the guests is Oksana Zabuzhko. I have never read her and heard about her just recently from my husband. It turned out that she is the most famous (and maybe only one) Ukrainian writer beyond Ukraine and her works are translated to other languages.

IMHO the highlight of the MERIDIAN CZERNOWITZ 2012 will be the day trips and the poetical events in Khotyn and Kamenets-Podolskiy – the towns with the beautiful impressive fortresses. I still dream to visit these towns one day.

Last year I enjoyed Chernovtsy and the festival and I hope that this year it doesn’t become worse.

The things that surprise me in Frankfurt (Oder)

I don’t know how it’s in other German cities but in Frankfurt on the Oder there are a lot of things that are very strange for me.  Here are some of them:

  • The trams go only every 20 minutes. After 6 pm some of them don’t work at all. On the weekend they go every 30 minutes. For not lazy people it’s easier and faster to walk.
  • The supermarkets close at 8 pm (only one in the center works till 10 pm). On Sunday everything is closed. When people go shopping if not after 8 pm or on Sunday? At least I always did like this in Ukraine…
  • People greet and say goodbye to other unknown people.
  • I’ve never met before so many people with the hair colored in red-pink-violet and with tattoos and piercings.
  • I hear Russian language very often (once even Ukrainian) though I’ve never spoken to any Russian speaker here.
  • The products are often cheaper than in Ukraine!
  • It is a problem to find green tea, especially in leafs, especially with some taste. I accidentally bought a package of the green tea with jasmine at one Chinese girl at the festival. I guess next time I will import it from Ukraine.
  • You can enter municipality, university and library freely. Nobody asks you for a document or a student card. You can attend any lecture.
  • There are almost no people on the streets, even in the evening or on the weekend.
  • There are no normal pavements! I break my legs every day.  Almost everywhere are the paver blocks, or the stones, or just the earth fill. They don’t think at all about the people! One can die on these streets!
  • Strange monuments and children playgrounds.
  • Frozen bread. Sausages in glasses. Pancakes in plastic packages… All food is just strange.

Hanse Stadt Fest – Bunter Hering

Last weekend there was a festival in Frankfurt (Oder) and Słubice. I don’t know why it was organized and why it has such a “herring” name. This was my first festival in Germany, so it was interesting to see. There were several stages with the bands playing various kinds of music. We were surfing from one stage to another hoping to listen to something nice, but nothing has interested us. There was also an amusement park for children from Berlin and A LOT of small shops with foods and drinks. Basically people were mostly eating and drinking all the time everywhere.

Russian shop

What surprised me the most was the fact that there are a lot of people in Frankfurt. Usually I meet few people in public transport or in supermarket, but almost no one on the streets. Even in the evenings or during weekend the streets are almost deserted. I have a feeling that people just hide in their homes and go out only to work or to the shop. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not used to live in a small town. But the days of festival the people were everywhere.

We also visited the Kleist museum during the festival. It organized different events like the theater plays, a children orchestra, the dances of 18th century and so on.  So we found there something for entertainment :)

Summer 2012

It’s only the beginning of July but I feel like the summer has ended. All I usually do at summer I already did. I was in Crimea for few days visiting my friends. I led a workcamp “Garden of Senses” in Kharkov, end of May – beginning of June. I tried to be a campleader for the first time and without any preparations to this and it was fun though I would like my volunteer group being bigger and more active.

The most important summer event in Ukraine, Euro 2012, has ended as well. Not that I was very enthusiastic about the tournament or participated in it somehow but still I was waiting for this as many others. I’ve been several times at the fan-zone in Kharkov and watched the Dutch parade on the streets of my city. Kharkov really turned orange that days! It was funny to watch Dutchmen in their costumes taking photos with Ukrainians and Ukrainians, most of them seeing the foreigners for the first time in their lives, taking photos with the Dutch. And now the long process of preparations and carrying out the championship is over. Is there life after Euro? Will be there something else going on in Ukraine?

Now I’m in Frankfurt (Oder) – a small German town near the Polish border. The center is nice but the outskirts are quite depressing. And the weather is depressive as well most of the time. So I really feel that it is the end of this summer. And it means that soon I have to start to do something serious like working or studying or whatever… Everything is so depressing.

Soroca: the Gypsy capital of Moldova

Soroca, a town on the Dniestr river, is famous for its Roma (Gypsy) district and is called “the Gypsy capital of Moldova”. Of course while visiting this town we couldn’t miss its well-known district. It made a strange impression on us. Big, expensive, gorgeous buildings, very bad destroyed streets, poor looking people… The strangest thing there is that most of the buildings are still under construction, but nobody finishes the construction. It seems that they are abandoned and nobody takes care of them. Though some of these “castles” are inhabited.

 

 

 

View on Soroca from the Gypsy hill

Bălţi or Belts – our first stop in Moldova

I continue to write about our Ukraine-Moldova trip.

After our nice time in Chernovtsi we took a bus from there to Bălţi – the third largest city in Moldova that is actually just a small town.  We had some troubles at the border because a Ukrainian customs officer didn’t know what to do with a foreigner with Ukrainian visa (i.e. my fiancé). But he let us go to Moldova even without asking to pay anything. In few hours we arrived in Bălţi. By the way it is pronounced as “Belts”. Our host – a German girl working for the Bosch foundation was supposed to meet us at the bus station, but when we arrived nobody was there. We didn’t have any Moldovan money, we couldn’t call her from our Ukrainian numbers and we didn’t know what to do. The bus station looked like very scary, with some suspicious characters and without any cash machine or exchange office. Thankfully after some time the German girl came for us and took us to her place.

Katja turned out a very nice couchsurfer – an attentive host, who shared her meal with us and gave a whole room at our disposal. Interesting fact is that we contacted a lot of couchsurfers  all over Moldova but almost only foreigners living in this country wrote us back. One local couple in Chisinau invited us but we already agreed with a German guy to stay at his place.  Moldovan people are not used to host travelers I guess.

The next morning we made a city tour with Katja. Balti is a small town with a lot of Soviet style buildings, odd painted monuments, some beautiful churches, a big central street with a lot of flowers and a small lake nearby. At the main square stands a monument to Ştefan cel Mare. I think it’s the only one important figure in Moldova, because his monuments are everywhere, main streets are named after him and he is drawn on all paper currencies.

 

We went to Katja’s working place, Alecu Russo State University of Bălţi. She teaches German there. We walked a bit trough the territory of the university and then she organized us a kind of excursion to a library. I was impressed by that library because I didn’t expect that in such a small university of such a small town there will be a big modern library with all the computer facilities. They even have there the UNO and NATO informational centers, museum and they organize different exhibitions at the library. I really liked it there.

 

After visiting the library we had lunch at a university canteen, had again a small walk through the town, bought some postcards and stamps and went to the bus station. Our stay in Bălţi was over and we took a bus to Soroca.

Photos from Bălţi