St. Andrew's church, more than enough eye candy to combat the rainy weather's effects!
Announcing to my peers that my next destination was to be Kiev
, the Ukrainian capital city, prompted the inevitable references to chicken Kiev, perhaps, ironically, the one Kievan export which a fair number of people tend to identify with the most. Well, my pre-departure images of the city were far greater than a well-prepared dinner, and I had visions of coming across gold-domed church roofs, Soviet-style architecture, men in furry hats and a massive city which could easily qualify as an urban explorer's dream. Happily, most, if not all, of these myths were true, but along the way, I am pleased to report that Kiev also portrayed a highly liveable side too, which led me to believe that, for a country which has suffered so badly in the past, the extent to which Kiev has developed is part of a happy reality which I was more than delighted to have had the opportunity to sample.
Colourful building fronts in the Podil district.
The urban terrain covered from the airport to the central train station was typically former-Soviet / Eastern European-style development, and the stalls, kiosks, office and apartment blocks suggested to me that I was about to take on board the sheer scale of Kiev in just 3 and a half days, and sample its numerous highlights along the way. Indeed, highlights were multifold, and Kiev's most glaringly obvious tourist draw card is the Lavra Caves Monastery, literally the kind of complex which floors you on first sight, and leaves you transfixed with its delectably ornate-looking and intricate features, not to mention the gold-domed roofs. The Lavra leads down to the Great Patriotic (outdoor) War museum, where the statue of the Motherland (Rodina Mat) is perched atop a plinth and is visible from far away.
Kiev's most unconventional-looking building, the House with Chimeras.
Another must-do tourist experience in Kiev is riding the funicular to St. Andrews Church, and walking down Andrew's Descent into the area known as Podil, where artists sell their wares along the cobbled streets on the way down. The shopping culture in Kiev has been rendered more complete not only by the numerous shopping malls, but also due to the fact that many of the prominent underpasses and corridors leading to metro stations are now filled with shops, many of which sell attractive Ukrainian souvenirs. A night out at the Kiev circus proved to be totally commendable fun, and extremely popular among local families, and the Express Hotel which I stayed at during my stay was a conveniently-located property, if somewhat nondescript in terms of its exterior allure.
The bright lights of Independence Square, as evening descended.
Kiev's main thoroughfare, Khreschatyk, is the location of the Kiev institution, the Tsum department store, and leads to Independence Square, where the the grand and stately nature of much of the city is emphasized well. All in all, I can honestly claim to have been won over quite firmly by the multiple charms of the Ukrainian capital city, and my time in Kiev felt like a privileged opportunity to check out what I'd deem one of Europe's most underrated and shockingly low-profile cities. As I headed towards the airport armed with a souvenir 5-in-1 doll, furry Ukrainian hat, many photos and a firm sense of satisfaction as to how I had spent the Easter break, next year's choice of destination will be a trickier one, especially if I keep aiming to avoid repeat destinations, but this year's pick will keep my systems buzzing with positive vibes at least until my next foray into overseas territory.