Day 2: Walking Dnipro and taking in the sights and architecture.
I am always fascinated by cities, both modern and historic; I love city views, architecture, buildings, and how beautiful our man-made population centers can really be. It is a different kind of beauty than what nature provides, a stark contrast and yet a perfect compliment.
Dnipro, Ukraine is a very interesting city. There have been various settlements in this area since over 1000 years ago, and the city now known as Dnipro, has been known by many names, since long before the soviet era. Most recently, it was called Dnipropetrovsk.
Only just recently, Ukraine passed laws to decommunize itself, and as part of that, Dnipropetrovsk was officially renamed Dnipro on June 1, 2016. This change is very recent at time of this writing, and Google Maps as well as many people simply are not aware of the name change yet.
With a long history as Dnipro has, it is no wonder that the architecture takes on many styles and forms. There are classic influences from the time before the soviet era, as well as soviet era apartment bloc housing which is simplistic in design and permeates the residential landscape of the city. Most recently, many post-modern style buildings, shopping malls, plazas, and more have been built, often right next to older, more classic architecture. This mix provides an interesting character.
As a foreigner myself, visiting a city not exactly known for tourism, it was interesting to see how much English is used in and around Ukraine. Many businesses have English signs, even big shopping malls, and names of plazas such as the Cascade Plaza are in English as well.
Further, English has seeped in to the Russian language and one can recognize, in cyrillic letters of course, words such as "Supermarket" (супермаркет) which are written in Russian (or Ukranian, which is highly similar). Culturally I found this interesting and somewhat refreshing, as I am not the only one who has a hard time speaking Russian without infusing it with English words!
This was, unsurprisingly, much more prevalent in Kyiv and in Odessa, but these are much more well known cities with more tourism and, particularly in Kyiv, international business travelers as well.
Of course, I am a photographer, and I want to find that which inspires me, and capture the essence and the beauty of the places to which I travel.
On this first real outing in Dnipro, I did not take my gear bag, or my tripod; rather, I had my trusty Canon 6D paired with the tiny yet sharp and very good EF 40mm f/2.8 STM "Pancake" lens, so called because it is tiny and flat. I use it as a lens cap sometimes! This allowed me to explore freely, with camera in my pocket for walking around shots.
This also proved to be an interesting challenge, as came upon the view you see pictured below. I wanted a long exposure shot of this beautiful view of industrial-looking Dnipro along the bank of the Dnieper River. This view opened up after we had walked through the beautiful T.G. Shevchenko Central Cultural Park, at which time I realized that I would need to come back the next day with my tripod!
Nevertheless, I liked this view so much I could not pass up using the snow-covered ledge as a place to keep the camera still for this long-exposure shot.
This, to me, really shows thee industrial aspect and also thee size of Dnipro as can be seen by the long road following the river, all the way into the distance, far away.
By the way, I had not mentioned, but It was quite a cold day, with sub-zero temperatures and some serious wind chill - it was about -13 degrees Celsius, or roughly 8 degrees Fahrenheit. It was not warm, at all! Walking around for hours, especially standing around and taking photos, in this weather, can make it seem even colder. We made sure to stop in every so often to some cafe and order tea or coffee, just to get inside somewhere and warm up, before continuing the adventure.
We walked a lot on this second day/night, saw soviet era military displays which, due to the history of Dnipro having been a big soviet military city, will be getting their own blog post.
I felt a familiarity in Ukraine (even though I never lived there, but only visited as a child to Odessa, there is no denying that cultural similarities exist between Russia and Ukraine, as well as general familiarity due to heavy soviet influence in this region of the world.
On day 2, I was still just beginning to understand the magnitude of importance that this trip would carry for my life. I had just arrived, and was exploring, and still quite cautious in speaking my broken Russian with the locals. Similarly, I had not really had the time for introspection yet, with regard to my own roots.
Finally, I had never been to Dnipro and did not know much about this city prior to my visit, unlike Odessa which is where my family used to spend most of ours summers when we lived in Russia, in my early youth. Thus, the first "leg" of my Ukraine 2016 trip - the Dnipro leg - was a sort of introduction, a getting my feet wet sort of experience, when it comes to my personal journey of going back to my roots, reconnecting with who I am, and reconciling that with who I, well, actually am today.
Couple that with the fact that I was spending most of these first few days surrounded by English speaking Ukranian friends, it made the idea of working on my Russian fluency (maybe after a few more trips, I can call it that!) kind of a distant afterthought.
Back to the photography,
The next day I came back with my tripod and shot 2 of my favorite photos from the trip. The first one, "Entrance" is below.
The other one, that is for another post ....
Until next time!
Dmitriy Khaykin | World Traveler | Photography