Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hillman Comments

During last week's IAAP congress, I was privileged to sit in on a session where James Hillman participated. "An image is its own norm, as modern art teaches us." Our view of the right kind of birth, mother etc. can prevent the healing process sometimes. The image is the teacher, and we should let it show us how prejudiced we are, our unconscious biases, according to Hillman.

Hillman (pictured above) also spoke of the dangers of empathy. "Empathy is the gift of the psychopath" because it allows the psychopath to know what the other person wants. He noted that Jung believed emotion can be very negative.
Another analyst at that session said that 98 per cent of what we absorb from the environment is unconscious. Deep stuff, as were all the sessions. Proof if it was needed that the Jungian project is still alive and well.

Monday, August 30, 2010

St. Sofia's Kiev

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Facing Multiplicity

That was the theme of the 18th Congress of the International Association for Analytical Psychology, which ended Friday in Montreal. (Full disclosure--I attended as a volunteer.) The event attracted close to 700 people, including two of the best known living Jungians, James Hillman and Jean Shinoda Bolen. Both have written many books--Jean Bolen is best known for Gods in Everyman and Goddesses in Everywoman, while Hillman has addressed issues of psychotherapy, vocation and others.

The conference got off to a rollicking start with some local analysts appearing in costumes celebrating their heritage. Yvon Riviere and Guy Corneau were especially handsome as 18th century French cavaliers, dressed in lace and satin.

Attendees were invited to a special lecture on Jung's recently published Red Book by the editor, Sonu Shamdasani, and to a performance of the Jung-White Letters by four analysts. The Red Book is an exploration of Jung's own unconscious process during the period when he was suffering from something close to a breakdown, and is adorned with well-crafted pictures of some of the characters he encountered in the underworld. The Jung-White letters were exchanged between Jung and Father Victor White, an English Dominican priest in the 1940s and 1950s. The performance was well-received and offered an interesting insight into this sometimes volatile relationship.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

South Dakota hotel bargains

My cousin Pat travels frequently to the praries and badlands of the U.S. West, and usually finds great bargains. One recent find is the historic Ortman Hotel in Canistota SD (ortmanhotel@goldenwest.net) where a single room costs $25 without television, $30.50 with television.

The Silverado Franklin (www.silveradocasino.com) is another historic hotel, built in 1903 in Deadwood SD. It has hosted celebrities like Teddy Roosevelt and John Wayne, and continues to welcome guests to its renovated Victorian-style rooms. The hotel is now part of a gaming complex. A quick check online showed rates for rooms start at $99, but you can probably find better rates by booking ahead or through various bargain hotel Websites.

For those who have forgotten, South Dakots is most famous for Mount Rushmore with its carved heads of four American presidents.

Who said there are no bargains left in American travel?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dnepr River surprise

The beauty of the Dnepr River was one of the surprises of Ukraine. I had expected the Dnepr would be similar ro large rivers in Western Europe, crowded with freighters and barges and its banks lined with port facilities, factories and other eyesores. Instead, in many places the Dnepr resembled the peaceful river of Wind in the Willows--banks lined with cattails and grasses, a few small fishing boats, nothing visible ashore except trees or the occasional house.

I did spor some factories in the distance in certain spots, especially around Dnepropetrovsk. Ukranian law prohibits building on the river banks, and the economic crisis has reduced commercial river traffic to near zero. During five days on the river, I saw only one or two large barges. Not good for the economy of Ukraine, but a boon for river passengers.

The Dnepr is as wide as the upper reaches of the St. Lawrence in places, with no banks visible on either side. It also boasts a number of locks, including one that measures 100 metres and is, they told us, the second lowest lock in the world, with the lowest being in Khazakhstan. Altogether, a very scenic and interesting river for cruising.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Viking Lomonosov

The Viking ship Mikhail Lomonosov is a reconditioned river boat from the Soviet era (I heard she was commissioned in 1970.) Unfortunately the ship is showing her age in some ways. My tiny cell-like cabin had a mildly unpleasant odor.

The ship carries 202 passengers and my sailing was almost entirely full. About half the passengers were German-speaking and half English-speaking, and each group had its own dining room, except at breakfast when we all ate together. The English-speaking group was mainly British but there were also a number of Americans and a few from other countries.

Average age of passengers must have been over 65, and most were couples. Luckily there were also a number of friendly women travelling alone. Most of the few young people were travelling with their parents. It was a well-travelled crowd that included many teachers and retired teachers.

River cruising is different from ocean cruising, with less entertainment and fewer facilities aboard. The emphasis is on shore excursions. Unfortunately, a number of the more interesting shore excursions required extra and substantial payment. It was also possible to wander alone on shore, or hire a taxi but because of the langauge problem I don't think many people did this.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Leonid Brezhnev at the Wheel

When I checked into the Rus Hotel, they told me the rate I was paying entitled me to return transfer to the airport. I said that was great, except that I would be going to the river port when I left. They agreed to provide a transfer there as a substitute.

The day came when my cruise on the Mikhail Lomonosov was leaving, and I took advantage of the offer. The hotel provided a large van and a driver who could easily have passed for Leonid Brezhnev and who spoke only Russian. Both those factors made me a little nervous, but he seemed to know his way around. When we arrived at the river port the Lomonosov was nowhere in sight, and I had no idea how to find it. Finally, however, the driver was able to ascertain that it was docked directly behind its sister ship the Taras Schevchenko and was therefore invisible from above. He carried my suitcase a long distance to the ship and made sure I was properly installed.

Just goes to show, looking like Brezhnev does not necessarily mean acting like him.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sex Tourism in Ukraine

When you're travelling in Ukraine, it's likely that a lot of the middleaged men you see are there not on business or as regular tourists, but as sex tourists. Ukraine and Russia are both major destinations for this. Marriage agencies flourish across the country--there was one just down the block from the Rus hotel. I suppose some are legitimate, but many are covers for prostitution or other scams. Even the Bradt guide to Ukraine warns about them.

And even with the legit ones, there is the question of disproportionate means--rich Westerners compared with poor Ukranian women. True, many Ukranian women are gorgeous, and I suppose some of these deals work out well. One older American man I met admitted he was planning to meet five or six women in Odessa after our Dnieper River and Black Sea cruise was finished. He hoped to find someone to marry, or so he said.

You see very few western women looking for Ukranian men to marry. Ukranian and Russian men do not have great reputations, and alcohol is usually the culprit. There are some hunky guys in these countries (think Vlad the shirtless one, Baryshnikov, etc.) and in addition some of them are very smart, but not many women are looking for heavy drinkers.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Walking in Kiev

Kiev is a great walking city, with lots of tree-lined streets and pretty churches. There are some of the infamous perekhod's (underground passageways) found in many ex-Soviet cities, but the traffic is a lot less frenetic than in Moscow or Petersburg.

One of the nicest streets for walking is Khreshatyk, a broad avenue lined with trees, fountains and sidewalk cafes. On my first venture down the street there was a big fuzzy dog cooling off in one of the fountains, and I asked a middleaged woman watching him proudly if it were her dog, thereby exhausting two of my three words of Russian. She said yes with a smile, and I grinned back inanely and took another picture of the dog.

As you walk toward Independence Square, there is a set of steps that rises steeply under an archway. If you climb the steps and follow the street for a couple of blocks, you come to the House with Chimeras at 1-3 Bankova 10. Most of Kiev was levelled during World War II, and this is one of the few buildings that survived from the Jugendstil period. It has a weeping face on the facade, elephant trunk storm drains, and various animal forms made of cement, a new material when it was built. There is also a handsome gate with a stylized curved design. The hosue belonged to a rich and imaginative Kievan at the turn of the last century, and is a must for those like me who love this period of architectural history.

Khreshatyk itself boasts some of the finest Stalinist-style buildings in the city. Despite what you may think, not all Stalinist style was bad. Most of it was actually much better than the bland buildings of the Khruschev era that succeeded it. Stalinist buildings are normally of modest height and solid construction, often with interesting decorative details.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kiev continued

One important thing I learned was that the Ukranian capital city is pronounced Keev, not Kee-ev as most Westerners pronounce it. It is a very hilly city, and my hotel the Rus was atop a fairly steep hill. Not a problem in summer, but I wouldn't like to try it in winter.

The hotel has a ginormous breakfast room and a large and tasty assortment of food--areas for fruit, for cereals, for breads, for cheese and cold meats and hot dishes. The hot dishes always included scrambled eggs and bacon and blinis. One morning I shared a table with a German couple who asked if I were German--very flattering. Ego boosts are necessary when travelling abroad alone, I find, especially in a place like Ukraine where the language (Russian) is so challenging.

For the most part I was able to walk from my hotel to the sights I wanted to see. I first visited St. Volodmyr's Cathedral, a beautiful yellow church topped with star-spangled blue domes. A service happened to be going on, and I heard some nice singing by a group of young people. This is one of the less historic churches in this very historic city, the cradle of Russian civilization. It was started in 1862 and finished in 1896, when the ill-fated Czar Nicholas II presided over its opening. Paintings by renowned Russian artists of the wanderer school cover the walls.

The next day I visited St. Sophia's, a walled enclosure that was formerly a monastery and is now a museum. It is up a short steep hill from the McDonalds on Independence Square. It is the oldest church in the city, dating from the 14th century. A turquoise and white bell tower marks the entrance, and inside green-domed white buildings include the church that holds the sarcophagus of Yaroslavl the Wise and many other historic artefacts. There is a fairly steep admission fee of 40 hrvynias, about 4 euros. There are plenty of shady benches where you can relax on the grass and escape Kiev's blistering summer heat.

Friday, August 20, 2010

First day in Kiev

These are random jottings from a journal I kept on the trip:

Arrived in Kiev yesterday from Munich. In Munich took the Lufthansa bus downtown to the Hauptbahnof and walked around for a half hour or so around the train station and through a parched Botanical Garden. Munich looks very rich, much richer than Berlin. Everything is sparkling and there is hardly an old car in sight.

On the route in from the airport passed the new Allianz stadium, which appears to be made out of white quilted patent leather, like a Chanel purse. Stopped at the city tourist office, where you have to pay even for a city map. The bus to and from the airport cost 17 euros. I was in the museum district of Munich but had no time to visit any museums. At least it was better than sitting all morning in the airport, which is a lot less frantic than Frankfurt.

Lufthansa switched the gate for the flight to Kiev twice and the equipment once, but we arrived just a little late. Met a nice young man named Michel on the plane--he's from Brussels but speaks English with a perfect British accent, and works in IT.

Cab from the airport cost $40, not hundreds as my guidebook said might be asked. Gave the driver a $10 tip, but still not bad. Slept through the night that first night, almost beating jet lag.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Hotel Rus, Kiev

I stayed at the Hotel Rus in Kiev for four days, and found it to be a decent, well-located place for the price of around $75 a night. The room was quiet and adequate, the breakfast buffet was enormous, and it is within walking distance of the main square in Kiev, though it is a fairly long walk. Front desk personnel speak English. As a former Soviet hotel, it is an enormous tower block on top of a hill and lacks that gemutlich quality. But for a first time visitor like me, it was a fine choice at a reasonable price.

Getting to the hotel was less difficult than my guidebook said it would be. The cab drivers at the airport did not demand enormous sums of money, just more or less what it would cost in Montreal, and the distance is considerably greater. Locals probably pay less than I did, about $40, but that is the penalty for being a non-Russian speaking first timer.