Saturday, July 29, 2017

Give Kyiv the ability to produce conditions on the ground (S.Hrg.114-77)

For my last three-day weekend in the United Kingdom, I made a dog-delivery trip to settle in Sage at our next post, Kyiv. TJ was asked to arrive a month earlier than I could depart London, which meant we would have different home leaves, but at least I wouldn't have to haul Sage halfway around the world and back in a span of less than a month. Plus, I got the chance to preview the Ukrainian capital.

TJ knew the best way to make a good first impression would be to start me off with a drink, so after I dropped off my bags at our apartment, he took me to Old Bar, a hidden spot with a huge amount of beers on tap and in bottles (top left). It was here that I first became familiar with Tzipa Brewery, which has a tiny tasting room in Besarabsky Market (top right). It's a convenient location, as customers can procure a charcuterie plate by simply stepping out to the nearest vendor stall (bottom left). It's the more up-scale and touristy market, as compared to Zhitny Market, the locals shopping center in Podil (bottom right). 
I did my part, too, by finding out in advance about a Craft Beer Fest, where we actually snacked on some charcuterie (top left). Inside the Expo Center, the event seemed like any other beer festival I've attended: You buy batches of tokens to exchange for varying sizes of beer at brewers' booths (top right). But this was the first beer festival where the adjacent grounds were filled with beanbags where tasters could drink, or eat from variety of food trucks (bottom left). A little drizzle didn't deter most of the attendees, whose perseverance was rewarded with a dazzling rainbow (bottom right).
Beyond the rainbow, Kyiv is generally a colorful city, much to my surprise. I thought I would see a lot of large, grey Soviet-style buildings, but instead, I saw Taras Shevchenko University, a Russian classicist number in rose (left). The administration building sits right across from Shevchenko Park, whose central statue of the father of Ukrainian literature is often surrounded by market stalls (right).
The center of history in the city, both literally and figuratively, is Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosty (left). In case you can see it, the slogan in the background reads, in English, "Freedom is our Religion." Although it is named in honor of the country's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it continues to be ground zero for ongoing freedom movements, such as the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution and the 2014 Euromaidan revolution. Despite its independence, symbols of the city's Soviet past still linger, such as an outlet of TsUM department store, a Russian-based company, located a few blocks from the square (right).
Even before independence, Ukrainian cities established events to mark their cultural distinction. The capital declared its first Kyiv Day in 1982; it is celebrated each year the last weekend of May, which happened to coincide with my visit. Most of the festivities were held in Sofia Square, home to St. Sophia Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (top left). From the square, it is a short stroll to St. Andrew's Church (top right), which marks the apex of Andrew's Descent, a winding street that some people say shares a vibe with Paris' Montmartre (bottom left). We emulated the Bohemian lifestyle of writers such as Mikhail Bulgakov by stopping for a bit at a streetside cafe (bottom right).  
The road funnels pedestrians into Podil, a historic neighborhood that has become a hipster haven. The district's revitalization is apparent in its many building murals, including "Vidrodzhenia," or Renaissance (top left). Podil abuts the city's river port, where tourists can board ships for river cruises. TJ and I opted to stay on land and head over to Trukhaniv Island, a "summer resort" accessed by a pedestrian bridge (top right). From the center of the span, we could take in the extent of the Podil skyline from which we walked -- and where we likely would be visiting again many times in the future (bottom). 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

These attractions could bring many more visitors (113Cong.Rec.)

A work contact once told me that his city's claim to fame was that it was one of the few in the United Kingdom that were younger than the United States. I had to chuckle because, as I was walking around London, I often would be struck by the realization that almost everything around me was much older than my country. But of course, when you look around the city, you can still see many modern touches. 

The view from the Golden Jubilee Footbridge alongside the Hungerford Railway Bridge is definitely a metropolis skyline (top). Two recognizable landmarks are The Shard, a multi-use high-rise finished in 2012 (middle left), and The Gherkin, a slightly older but perhaps more distinctive building (middle right). The two structures stand like sentinels on either side of the Thames in line with London Bridge. If you look west instead of east from the footbridge, the major landmark is The Eye, which was the world's largest observation wheel when it was built in 1999 to celebrate the millennium (bottom). 
With its many cultural influences, London has evolved over time. Ethnic enclaves fill the urban area: Afro-Caribbean in Brixton, Scandinavian in Rotherhithe, and Middle Eastern on Edgware Road. Brick Lane, which is always bustling with locals and tourists alike, is a base for South Asians (top left). The road intersects with Fournier Street, which was named as such by the Huguenots who once lived there; the corner building started as a church, then was a synagogue and now is a mosque (top right). Chinatown is another cultural destination for tourists, mainly due to its proximity to Picadilly Circus, the Times Square of London.
Even traditionally English neighborhoods have been updated to attract modern Brits. Neal's Yard, a small area of the Seven Dials section of Covent Garden, was a derelict collection of warehouses until the 1980s, when an entrepreneur opened Neal's Yard Remedies and launched its gentrification (top). Carnaby Street, a main artery in Soho, used to be the center of the city's counter-culture: the home to plague victims in the 1600s, a hangout of Jimi Hendrix and The Kinks in the 1960s, and the lexus of punk in the 1970s. Now, it is a haven for hipsters with its trendy boutiques, restaurants, and public art (bottom left). Similarly, Covent Garden Market, once a local fruit and veg source, attracts the up-and-coming with a Jamie Oliver restaurant and a Charles Petillon art installation (bottom right). 
Even the more traditional markets have been modernized. Leadenhall Market, which started out as a simple stone structure, didn't gain its distinctive glass and wrought-iron design until the the late 19th century, and it didn't move its poultry market to make room for high-end shops until the late 20th century (left). Most likely, there were small shops along Hay's Wharf, where tea clippers unloaded their cargo in the 19th century; now, Hay's Galleria has been enclosed and covered to accommodate kiosks and cafes (right). 
Right outside the wharf is anchored not a clipper, but the Golden Hinde II, a replica of the galleon Sir Francis Drake landed on America in the 16th century (top left). (In case you're interested, the Cutty Sark, a famous tea clipper, sits in dry dock in Greenwich.) St. Katherine Docks is where Gloriana, the royal rowbarge, rests when it is not in use (top right). Perhaps the most modern maritime attraction is the HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy cruiser that was part of the initial German blockade during World War II (bottom). 
But by far, the most modern structure on the river is the Thames Barrier. The feat of engineering, completed in 1982, protects the city from tidal flooding (left). A pair of impressive engineering masterpieces lies under the river: The pedestrian tunnels at Woolwich and Greenwich were dug mostly by hand in the early 20th century to replace ferries as a means for South Londoners to get to the wharves and businesses on the north bank (right). 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Culture, international education, and the promotion of British arts (149Cong.Rec.S3084)

If you ask me, the biggest celebrity of the United Kingdom, royal or not, will always be William Shakespeare. I was a little surprised by the limited homage paid to the playwright in London. A statue of him in Leicester Square goes almost unnoticed as people head to M&M's World (top left). And when a friend and I visited Shakespeare's Globe (top right), which is a reconstruction of the original that sat only a little ways away, we were in a small group touring the seats and stage (bottom left). Despite their appearance, the columns on the stage are made entirely from wood (bottom right), which is why the original theater burned to the ground in less than two hours after a stage cannon caught the thatched roof on fire. 
Of course, Shakespeare has to share the spotlight with other impressive icons of the arts. A beer tour I took started at Bunhill Fields Burial Grounds, where there is a monument to Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe (left), and the grave of William Blake, writer of "The Tyger" and "The Lamb" (right).
And London surrounds you in the works of some titans of architecture. The Temple Bar Monument marks where architect Christopher Wren's Temple Bar once stood as a stony symbol of the entrance to London from Westminster (left). Right down The Strand stands the only building that survived the Great Fire of London. The lawyers' and journalists' Wig and Pen Club closed in 2003, and it is now a Thai Square restaurant (right).
The bulk of the country's history -- artistic, architectural, and especially archaeological -- is housed in the British Museum (top left). The museum's pièce de résistance is the Rosetta Stone, which is swarmed so much by patrons that it can hardly, ironically, be read (top right). The most controversial display, perhaps, is the Elgin Marbles (bottom). In the 1980s, the Greek government started asking for the Parthenon sculptures, which a British ambassador removed to the United Kingdom in the early 19th century, to be returned.
Often, UK museums are as much pieces of art as those they contain. That is certainly true for the Tate Britain, which houses mostly British art (top left), as opposed to the Tate Modern, which has a large collection of international works. The main gallery was built on the site of the penitentiary that housed prisoners on their way to Australia (top right), but it has had many additions, including a wing that now features a sculpture made entirely of toast. Not every museum is buttoned-up, as was clear through the prints at the pop-up Mr. Men Little Miss Mini Museum (bottom left). They didn't even mind when I stroked the book covers of my youth with nostalgia (bottom right). 
Even the most functional buildings in the city could be included on the cover of Architectural Digest. Charing Cross is named after one of 12 Eleanor Crosses marking the funeral procession of Edward I's child bride; the monument outside the railway station is a replica of the cross from Whitehall (top). As its name would indicate, Victoria station was erected in honor of the famous queen (middle left). Waterloo station, a testament to 20th-century high-tech design, once was the UK base of the Eurostar (middle right). The high-speed train from Paris now arrives at St. Pancras (bottom left), which connects via a stunning tunnel to King's Cross station (bottom right). 
Amidst all this amazing architecture lies loads of green space, such as Victoria Embankment Gardens (top left). The park, which is near Embankment not Victoria station, puts out ping-pong tables for fresh-air fiends in the summer (top right). The hoards, however, head to Hyde Park, where they can skirt the Serpentine (bottom left). If strollers continue west into the adjacent Kensington Gardens, they will eventually come upon Albert Memorial, a monument to Queen Victoria's husband whose design was based on the Eleanor Crosses (bottom right).