Our traveller –you, for example– came to Kiev and felt dizzy, as if getting off a boat or crossing a swinging bridge. The effect came from the crazy layout of the streets in the Ukrainian capital: blocks in the shape of triangles or ovals or without any defined form at all come together in a characteristic chaos that is accentuated by the noise and the many cars.
Our traveller began by slowly traversing Maidan –“the plaza”– looking for somewhere to get a good cup of coffee. Dozens of tastefully decorated places extended their designer arms in welcome, but he resisted entering any of them, what with the wonderful show he had in the street.
“How strange people are here,” he thought as he passed a tall young dark-haired woman with a very pale face, lots of makeup, who was holding the arm of an old woman who appeared to be her living opposite. “And how confidently she struts her extravagance. Am I perhaps the foreign element.?”
As hard as he tried, he couldn’t imagine those streets submerged in the predawn hours silence of other cities. A street market here, a newsstand there –and later an argument between a bus conductor and a man with a goatee who jumped out of an all-terrain vehicle– convinced the visitor that this was a permanent situation in the city: a kind of grotesque and mesmerising theatrical performance in which everyone was an extra.
Finally he sat down in a sidewalk café with a good view of that comedy theatre and ordered the same dish as what the person next to him was eating. It turned out to be борщ (borscht), the typical Ukrainian beetroot soup. The first spoonful burned his tongue a little. While he was savouring the second spoonful he looked up toward the colourful street, waiting for the second act to begin.