VISITING UKRAINE. PART 2 – KIEV

Kiev is a big and beautiful city. You wouldn’t normally expect that from an Eastern European city that is not even part of the EU, but anomalies happen sometimes. Knowing how historically significant Kiev is and seeing how many interesting stories it has to share, I now think Kiev should more often be considered a touristic destination.

From Chernivtsi I took a night train to Kiev. It took me 12 hours and 15 dollars to get there. Although I had a free tea included in my ticket, I did not receive it and had to watch how others enjoy their own free tea.

As soon as I got off the train I saw a majestic cathedral and a likewise majestic McDonald’s. I decided to go to McDonald’s – the perfect place to go after a night of train riding.

I don’t know what you folks think, but in my opinion, the best method to meet and understand a new place is to visit its street markets. Kiev’s central station has one of these markets nearby, so I was happy to know that I can check out this important thing on my to do list so soon after arriving there. That street market had a large variety of things: toilet paper with Putin’s face, oily (although freshly made) donuts, fruits, kebab made by Egyptian or Uzbek vendors, lots of souvenirs for the Ukrainian nationalists, Kvass – a very popular drink in the former Soviet states, fake branded shoes and many colored clothes. A nice collection with antiques and objects from the USSR period – such as military decorations or a small book with Stalin, were also on display for potential buyers.

Care for a bite?
Care for a bite?

I was very eager to get to Maidan Square, the place where the Orange Revolution took place, as well as the large protests that led to Yanukovych‘s removal from office. As I was expecting, the place was very politically charged (and I will talk more about in my last article about my trip in Ukraine), but I was nevertheless disappointed and I found obscene to see young people costumed in characters from cartoons who were almost forcing people to take pictures with them in exchange for some money. But maybe I was too harsh and what they were doing had its own political significance; or perhaps it was not opportunism, but a result of the hard times they are living.

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Walking in the central area of Kiev is an eye pleaser. There are many attractive women and beautiful buildings. And if you like coffee, you shouldn’t be worried, because you will meet ambulant coffee vendors at every street corner. Actually there is only one thing you will meet more often than the coffee vendors – the churches. Kiev (as well as Chernivtsi) seem packed with churches. If one would make an experiment, I think one would soon realize there is no point in Kiev from which you can see less than 5 churches or cathedrals.

And while we’re in the subject of churches, I think I can start here my list with places that I visited while in Kiev

Kiev Pechersk Lavra

This is Ukraine’s most important monastery – almost 1000 years old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this large complex I visited a museum with micro sculptures, a collection of old Eastern Orthodox Christian icons and, of course, attended a religious ceremony. It was interesting for me to see how several religious ceremonies were held at the same time in different parts of the complex. Women had to have their head covered when entering the monastery. Bellow you can check some images I captured there:

Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum

Contrary to my expectations, I left this museum with a good vibe. Although it is considered a major disaster, the accident from the Chernobyl nuclear plant also had positive outcomes. As the people left the Chernobyl area soon after the explosion, animals started to reclaim their territory and nowadays the wildlife is flourishing there.

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There you will also see personal belongings of the people who were evacuated from that area, many pictures, a nice display with the name of all the localities that were abandoned after the explosion, a restored church and newspapers with the coverage of the events. For instance in the picture below you will see that, while the event got covered on New York Times’s front page, in the Soviet media it only got the bottom of the 4th page.

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And do you know there is an amusement park that was supposed to open just a few days after the explosion?

Arsenalna subway station

This is the deepest subway station in the world, reaching more than 100 m in depth. The station was built during the Cold War, so it was supposed to work as a bomb shelter also in case the situation required it, thus the depth of the Kiev subway network. It takes so long to reach the subway station that people will sometimes sit down on the electric stairways.

Arenalna Subway Station
Arenalna Subway Station

The National Museum of the History of Ukraine during WW2

I think this museum has some identity problems – and that is somehow symbolic for the identity problems faced by Ukraine nowadays. This museum opened its gates in 1981, during the USSR, and it was set to glorify the Soviet victory in WW2. After the fall of the USSR there were several attempts to give Ukraine a more relevant role in the story – the most recent one (July 2015!!!) is changing the name from The museum of the Great Patriotic War in The National Museum of the History of Ukraine during WW2.

This open air museum welcomes you with some Russian tanks that were apparently recently captured by the Ukrainian army in Eastern Ukraine and stand as proof for Russia’s involvement in the conflict there.

Inside the museum you will see a lot of war machine (tanks, planes, helicopters etc.) from WW2, but also from the WW1; as well you will find sections dedicated to the Cold War or to the Soviet War in Afghanistan. Several statues depicting scenes from the WW2 will make your walk even more enjoyable.

Powerful images, right?The Soviet artists knew what they are doing.
Powerful images. The Soviet artists knew what they are doing.

The landmark of this museum is, for obvious reasons, the Motherland Monument – a 102 m tall structure weighing 560 tons.

The Motherland Monument
The Motherland Monument

Another perk for this open air museum is that it offers a perspective of how the river Dnieper splits Kiev in two.

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A few days after, I again returned to Chernivtsi with another night train. This time I received my tea and I was happy about it.

Photo Gallery

National Opera of Ukraine
National Opera of Ukraine
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In front of a church
Peacekeepers
Peacekeepers, The National Museum of the History of Ukraine during WW2
Have a glass of kvass in case you will visit the former Soviet states
Have a glass of kvass in case you will visit the former Soviet states
Nostalgia
Nostalgia
You can see coffee vendors like this all over Kiev
You can see coffee vendors like this all over Kiev
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These places are no longer habitable

3 Comment

  1. great post Mihai, very insightful!

  2. Thank you for you own vision and not only brightfull, but also real look on Ukrainian capital and Chernivtsi. One remark I’d like to add: Kiev is divided into 2 parts by river Dnipro, not Don:)

    1. Thank you Olga for visiting my blog and noticing the error. Already made the correction 🙂 😉

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