pinterest verify Globerovers Travel Photography: Kiev - Ukraine: Walking the Khreshchatyk under the piercing eyes of "Mother Motherland"

Kiev - Ukraine: Walking the Khreshchatyk under the piercing eyes of "Mother Motherland"

Kyiv (also spelled "Kiev"), is the bustling and scenic capital of the Ukraine located along the banks of the Dnipro River. With a population of almost 3 million people, it draws visitors with its authentic Eastern European charm. While the flavor in the air is still very reminiscent of its less glorious past as part of the USSR, its on course to integrate within the European Union. Explore this city with its shining golden domed Orthodox churches and ancient monasteries before it falls prey to mass tourism and Western cultural influences. Join Globerovers for an unforgettable exploration of Kiev –-- stuffed with historical buildings, strong religious traditions, quiet leafy parks and wide boulevards crisscrossed by narrow cobblestone walkways....  
Tourist Visas: No Visa required for citizens of most Western and selected Asia-Pacific countries who stay for less than 90 days
Founded more than 1,500 years ago, the city of Kyiv was destroyed in 1240 by Mongol-Tatar invaders. Once a powerful force on the European scene, Ukraine's fate in modern times has been decided in far-away capitals. As a result, modern Ukrainian history, for the most part, has been defined by foreign occupation....Russia most notably. Kyiv suffered severely during World War II, and many architectural and art treasures were destroyed. Earlier in the 1930's the Soviet authorities (mainly under Stalin) systematically destroyed many churches and other places of worship. Even so, Kiev is one of the historically richest cities in Eastern Europe.

How to get there: Several airlines fly directly into Kiev from major European cities and selected North American cities. Daily trains make a long journey from Eastern European neighbors, mostly, via the Moscow bound trains.
Thousands of Jews were also executed in both Kiev and the western city of Lviv. In April 1986, the nuclear reactor at nearby Chernobyl exploded....just over 100km north of Kyiv. Don't fear, Kyiv is free of (noticeable) radiation. Generally considered the birthplace of the Slavic civilization, Kiev was long considered an important provincial capital in both the Tsarist and Soviet eras, which came to a sudden end on August 24, 1991, when Ukraine proclaimed its independence from the former USSR after an aborted coup in Moscow,

Getting around: For non-Russian/Ukrainian speakers, the best option is by foot and by underground train. The underground is efficient, extensive, and with some creative guessing, you will arrive at your destination. Try to avoid taxis which need some upfront bargaining and you as a foreign tourist will likely be on the losing end.
Walking the alleys and boulevards in Kiev is very reminiscent of Russian cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg – yet the exact similarities are subdued. Don’t be turned off by less than friendly service workers who may come across as being outwardly rude towards foreigners. The language barrier is not well managed by older people who often may shrug you off rather than to make any effort to communicate. Locals seem to be enjoying their lives full-heartedly. This is also a city which is home to some of the most incredibly pleasant and helpful people, not to mention some of whom must be amongst the most beautiful people in the world. While household incomes are generally low, locals spend a great amount of money on their appearance and wear fashionable clothes. There are no signs of poverty on the streets. Be prepared to see many people walking the streets with a bottle of beer in the hand, as spirits (particularly Vodka) are very cheap. These people enjoy their lives, particularly during the short summer months. The average tourist will find that a week in Kiev is not sufficient to completely explore this city. Include in your planning one to three day trips outside the city.

Language: Your only hope of communication in English is with the younger generation. Russian and Ukrainian are widely spoken. Most, if not all, of the street signs are in Cyrillic characters so make sure to learn the basics before arriving.
For probably one of the most soulful experiences in your life, start your visit at the sacred pilgrimage site for Orthodox believers - Kiev Pechersk Lavra - also known as the Cave Monastery. Plan to spend a full day in this vast complex of monasteries, cathedrals, and underground catacombs. Founded during the times of Kievan Rus' (1051 A.D.), the monastery has remained a major center of Orthodox Christianity in the Slavic world. In the underground passages of the "Lavra catacombs", people come to worship the "imperishable relics of the most holy monks" displayed in wood and glass-lid coffins along the very narrow passages. There are dozens of these mummies and many have dark, dried-out, hands and feet sticking out from under their garments. These saints are believed to have healing powers. People, including many clerics in long black robes and beards, walk with candles, kissing the feet of the mummies through the glass lids, and praying out loud. This is an experience no visitor who's interested in the spritual life should miss. Take in the atmosphere and remember to be extremely discreet and respective of the worshipers. If you’re into medieval onion-domed Orthodox cathedrals, you will have an endless choice to discover and explore. Most of these buildings are still in use and visiting during a prayer service offers experiences you will treasure for ever. Across Kiev, don’t miss St. Vladimir's Cathedral, St. Sophia's Cathedral, St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, The Pirogoshcha Church, St. Flor's Convent, St. Andrews Church, and the many cathedrals in the Cave Monastery including the Cathedral of the Domitian, Refectory Church (of St. Anthony and Feodosiy), and the awesome murals inside the Trinity Gate Church. If you have time for only two: It must be the Ukrainian Baroque style St. Sofia's Cathedral founded in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 17-18th centuries. Also don’t miss the Cave Monastery (Kiev Pechersk Lavra).

Safety: While there are more dodgy clusters of people than dodgy areas, it is better not to explore the unknown late at night or with any obvious wealth displayed.
Kiev is blessed with many baroque style theatres (in particular the National Opera Theatre) where opera, ballet, operettas, and other cultural and musical performances can be enjoyed at a ‘give-away’ ticket price. For those who want to seek out some exotic artifacts from the Soviet era such as the typical Stalinist colonnaded subway stations, massive bronze monuments, giant statues of Lenin and others, and elegant 20th century buildings, you won’t be disappointed in Kiev. The outskirts of Kiev offers an insight into life under the USSR with the landscape swallowed up by gloomy apartment blocks.

Spend a full day, and a few evenings, slowly strolling down Kiev’s main boulevard - Khreshchatyk street. This broad avenue is lined with giant trees and grand Stalinist brick buildings. Khreshchatyk is often off-limits to vehicular traffic on weekends at which time it becomes the playground of those who want to see, and be seen. Believe me. You want to be there!
The Dnieper river runs through Kiev and nearby parks offer leafy paths and splended river walks. If narrow cobblestone walkways are your fantasy, head for the Andriivsky Descent. This narrow winding street is one of the oldest in Kiev and is home to many art galleries, artists at work, street art markets, and lazy cafes.

Also visit the impressive Mikhail Bulgakov museum, the Chernobyl Museum, Mariinsky Palace built in 1752–55, and several other smaller museums and quaint galleries. Several restaurants serve up a traditional Ukrainian meals with typical Russian and Ukrainian dishes. Make sure not to miss the borsch (cold beet soup) and the varenyky dumplings with cabbage, potatoes or meat. Vodka should be your friend and if not, you will be introduced daily to the locally distilled and very affordable horilka (vodka) which comes in at least 50 different brands.
Before you head for the border and wave goodbye to the giant steel woman with a sword and shield in her hands, stock up on a few bottles of horilka. Your new friends in the neighboring countries will gladly accept a bottle of Ukraine's best. Say “Bye” to Ukraine’s Mother Motherland (Rodina-mat), the 200-foot-tall statue leftover from the dreaded Soviet-era. She will protect you unless she kills you! If you venture through Tblisi (Georgia) and Yerevan (Armenia), you’ll encounter her two sisters. So, get packing and head over to Kiev, Ukraine!