Heading eastward on my round-the-world bicycle tour, I passed through villages in southwest Ukraine. Here, the humble bus stop has been elevated to a position of civic pride and collective creative outlet. These colorful bus stops appear at regular intervals along the road and provide delight and orientation in the flat, open landscape.
The southwest Ukrainian farming villages are on the edge of the former soviet empire. They are laid out on a grid system, and very few of them have a central civic space like those in Western European villages. The main road is often the village's only central public space. Perhaps this is one reason the bus stop takes on special significance.
The bus shelters perform several functions. Hitchhiking is a common form of transport, and drivers often stop here to offer lifts. The shelter can also be distant from the village it serves, so drink stalls appear. These, in turn, attract more people to chat and rest, making the bus stop a destination in itself.
The bus shelters vary in style but have common elements. They are generally covered spaces, with plenty of shade from extended roofs, and a set of toilets to the rear. The intricate patterns of colored tiles make these simple buildings extraordinary. The bright patterns and pictures vary but all have a distinctly Russian constructivist tone. This style of angular, abstracted, and vivid images is used throughout the region. There are strong patriotic overtones, with many of the images depicting farmers, fishermen, and surveyors in heroic poses.
It may be that with the collapse of communism these messages are no longer considered relevant and hence their apparent neglect. This is a shame because they provide a bright reminder of the nation's history.
On the road in Ukraine,