Visiting Ukraine in 2013. Part 3. Kiev (Kyiv).
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
I traveled to Kiev in August 2013. It was part of my trip to Ukraine, where I had not been for five years. I shared my first impressions of visiting other cities of Ukraine in Part 1 (Artemovsk) and Part 2 (Gorlovka). Living in Kiev was a wonderful experience of my life. I escaped to Kiev in 2003 to find better opportunities and improve my lifestyle. I found what I came for. Despite all the challenges, I felt so free when I lived in Kiev. I met very interesting people there; and I grew personally and professionally. Kiev is more than 1400 years old, so for anyone interested in history Kiev is an endless field of discoveries. Looking back, it feels good to know that I have made the right decision moving to this beautiful city. Then life brought new challenges, and I had to move again. Over this time I dreamed of my trip to Kiev, and I did not know what to expect.
Kiev in summer 2013 seemed pretty quiet compared to recent events (December 2013 – February 2014). First thing that drew my attention was the beauty of the buildings. Getting used to a cookie cutter style of many businesses and places in the US (plazas, malls, schools and cafes) – Kiev seemed like a piece of art. Two adjacent buildings or businesses never looked the same. Just walking along Kiev streets was a tour in itself. I re-visited some of my favorite places in Kiev: Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), Podil (Podol), Mariyinsky Park and Andriyivsky Uzviz (Andriyivsky Descent). It was a very strange feeling being there… as if I traveled in a time machine. I could not even think that four months later, Kiev would never be the same… The world saw gruesome photos and videos of recent violent events, and now it is really hard to write about Kiev without talking politics. But I won’t. I have been closely watching the events that happened in Kiev over the last three months – like many other Ukrainians, no matter where they reside. I support peace. I express my condolences to all people who lost their relatives and friends during these tragic events. I pray for Ukraine and Ukrainian people, and despite all odds, I hope for the miracle. I am confident that Ukraine has a great potential, it just needs the right people to lead it.
Kiev will always be in my heart, and I know its people deserve a bright future.
To check recent and current events and updates on what is going on in political life of Kiev, please google Euromaidan or Maidan. You can read the timeline of recent events in Kiev here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euromaidan and make your own opinion regarding the events.
And here are my summer photos from August 2013. Some of them are already history as certain parts of Kiev need to be rebuilt.
I would like to start with one of the most beautiful churches located just a few blocks from the city center – St Volodymyr’s Cathedral built in Neo-Byzantine style in the 19th century. This was one of my favorite churches to go to. Beautiful inside and outside, it provided a special spiritual atmosphere for its visitors.
Another beautiful church is Mikhailovsky Cathedral, or St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery. Here one can witness lots of wedding couples almost any time of the year. This square is located just a few blocks up from an Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti).
The Statues of Princess Olha, Apostle Andriy, St. Cyrill and St. Methodius. Located to the left of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery:
Monument to the millions of Ukrainian victims of the Great Famine (1932-1933) and one of the National symbols of Ukraine Kalyna blossoms (Viburnum opulus). Located next to St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery:
Across from the Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery is a monument to Bohdan Khmelnytskyi at St Sophia’s Cathedral:
I re-visited one of my favorite street – the steepest hill – a historic descent Andriyivskyy Uzviz. I prefer ‘climbing’ it, i.e. moving from its lowest point to the upper one, that brings you up to St Andrew’s Church. Do not get surprised if you see girls wearing heals. It is a cultural thing. On both sides of the descent you can enjoy beautiful historic buildings, art galleries and antique shops. You can take a break from walking and eat in cozy open cafes and restaurants. Street vendors are offering handmade souvenirs, art, antique and ethnic items. This time I enjoyed visiting a chocolate cafe ‘Lviv Handmade Chocolate’ at the lowest part of Andriyivskyy Uzviz. You can buy aromatic coffee and chocolate as souvenirs.
- While walking along Andriyivsky Uzviz, you may feel adventurous and explore one of such stairs.
If you do, you will be rewarded with such view:
I could not resist getting an embroidered linen dress – a national Ukrainian dress – that I purchased in the underground ethnic boutique.
The lowest part of Andriyivskyy Uzviz is also closely located to the historic old neighborhood Podil (Podol). The Kiev Funicular helps to direct passenger traffic up from Podol to the city’s historic Uppertown where you will be taken to the St Michael Golden-Domed Monastery.
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is a must-see for any visitor. One of the wonders are caverns, which are narrow underground corridors with quarters and chapels. Here many christian monks and other notable historic people were buried. You can see parts of their bodies (mostly hands), and a lot of christian people come here to pray. Covering head and long skirt is a must for women, but you can borrow wide long scarves there, which can serve you for both purposes. For men, taking off hats is necessary. You are given a lit candle that helps you move through some dark areas. I have been a few times there, and would recommend it as a tour, thought not sure if it can be suitable for claustrophobic people.
Another impressive tour is given at the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine on the territory of Kiev Pechersk Lavra. I was naive to hope to run through all the exhibition halls, instead I was spending a lot of time before each exposition in admiration. No photos are allowed there, so you will have to just trust me that it is a must-see.
A view to the river Dnipro from Kiev Pechersk Lavra:
It is believed that some sacred places have special powers. Goloseevo Monastery is one of them. Many pilgrims come here to pray and leave a note with the prayer or request similar like they do in Jerusalem (Wailing Wall).
Churches and monasteries will always be one of the most amazing places of visit in Kiev. No matter how often I visit them, every time is like the first one. They do have a special atmosphere about them.
From churches to other beautiful buildings… I revisited this street just to enjoy the beauty of this building, a National Bank of Ukraine.
After violent clashes between opposition and police in 2014, Institutska Street, where the bank is located, was renamed to “Heroes of Heavenly Hundred”.
Just a few steps from it one can see the most bizarre building of Kiev: House with Chimaeras. It is an Art Nouveau Building, which top is decorated with fantastical gargoyles.
Both buildings – National Bank of Ukraine and House with Chimaeras – are located near the President of Ukraine’s office. So, during riots those areas were occupied by the protestors and the police.
One of the oldest historical monument is an ancient city fortress – The Golden Gates of Kiev. Built in 11th century, it was one of the main entrances to the ancient city of Kiev. Now it can be visited as a Museum (worth climbing all those steep stairs inside!)
After a tour you can relax in one of the cafes at the bottom of the Golden Gates:
Across the Golden Gates you can see another piece of art – Rennaisance Kiev Hotel:
The area around it is very busy. The metro station Golden Gate is located here.
An interesting detail of the building facade:
Kiev Metro (subway) has a lot of beautiful stations with mosaics or large chandeliers. The underground trains go frequently, and can save your time instead of being stuck in traffic on the ground. During rush hours one should be extra careful and watch your belongings.
The main street of the city center is Khreshchatyk. It stretches from the European Square through the Maidan to Bessarabska Square.
A few months later since the photo was taken, this area will turn into smoke, fire, and barricades.
People’s Friendship Arch dedicated to the friendship of Russia and Ukraine is located next to the European Square. From there you can see the river Dnipro and Podol area (a lower city). Or you can go up the stairs to the park.
A world famous Maidan:
It has witnessed a lot of demonstrations and protests. Right now these photos are more of a history as after winter riots of 2014 some areas of it need to be rebuilt.
One of the buildings in Khreschatik (near Maidan Nezalezhnosti):
Some additions to already busy streets of Kiev made the city look cluttered. It is clear that such small businesses taking large space in a high traffic areas bring in high profits… In my opinion, they do not go well with the style of the surrounding buildings especially when they are are so bulky.
The most beautiful ballets and opera performances are held in the National Opera House of Ukraine:
When I lived in Kiev, we used to go there to enjoy ballet performances accompanied by live orchestras.
Kiev has a lot of picturesque parks, where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of a noisy city. I re-visited Mariinsky park which is located not far from Maidan. The principal residence of the Ukrainian President is situated on its territory. Since year 2004 (Orange Revolution) it was repeatedly used by the protestors for setting up a tent camp. Parts of the park were destroyed during the protests of 2014. I hope this park will be renovated soon for visitors to enjoy its beauty again.
Love lock Bridge (partially burned down during riots of 2014 in Kiev).
While walking up the hill from National Opera House building to St Sophia’s Cathedral square I turned into side curvy streets, where I discovered these cute statues.
How cute is this ballet dancer?
Summers can be very hot and dry in Kiev. So, on weekends residents and visitors escape to the beaches, parks or dachas (country houses). Ironically, during my visit it was chilly, so we used a fireplace to warm up. This is one of my favorite places in Kiev – dacha of my relatives. Thanks to my Aunt, she created a real retreat out of a seemingly simple place. In summer this dacha turns into oasis full of vibrant flowers in pots and in flowerbeds, berries, vegetables and hospitality. My Aunt is very talented, and the house is crammed with lots of handmade items, from embroidered pictures to decoupaged wooden souvenirs. One thing I can never resist there is meals. I pig out without any shame. Kiev with all its beauty would not be the same for me without my relatives who were there for me when I needed them. Indeed, it is not about where you live but who you live with and who you are surrounded by… My trip would be incomplete without visiting this country house.
Nothing tastes better then home baked rolls made from scratch:
I hope that Kiev will keep uniting its people, bringing them only peace and harmony.
God bless Ukraine and Ukrainian people!
The Amateur Expert.
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Author: Elena White