Exactly one year ago today, I flew from Berlin to Kyiv to meet Andrew and Shane for adventures in Chernobyl as well as general sightseeing in Kyiv.
Central Kyiv is a colourful and vibrant city. Perhaps it was more vibrant whilst we were there because they were two weeks out from the opening of the Euro Cup, which they were hosting last year, and as with most European countries, were very excited about. There was a massive queue in the cbd for people to have their picture taken with the Euro Cup ahead of the competition. There were militsia everywhere (in addition to regular police).
We didn’t find our lack of Ukrainian to be a problem (I speak basic Russian… Andrew and Shane know “thankyou”). Most people who work in hospitality/tourism know enough broken English to communicate. The hotel front desk staff speak very good English. Nobody seems to have change for anything higher than a 20, so try not to carry big notes around (the ATMs give you denominations of 200 Hrivna… yikes).
Everyone drives like maniacs, cutting off others whilst changing lanes at high speed is quite common. Also nobody wears seatbelts. Yet nobody seems to have accidents. Parking is very difficult to come by, so everyone parks on the nature strips. Taxis don’t have meters, they just make up the fare upon your arrival at your destination, so make sure you negotiate a cheap price before you get in. One of our taxis didn’t have a back windscreen. No biggie.
One highlight was definitely the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, a memorial to the soldiers and civilians who died during the Nazis invasion of Kyiv during the Second World War. Kyiv, being the eastern-most city of the Soviet Union, was the first port of call for the Germans, and having not enough soldiers to hold them off on their own, were joined by the peasant civilians. They lost, but not without a fierce battle. They are very proud of their contribution in defending the USSR in WWII, and this is evident in their War Museum. Despite being able to read almost nothing in the museum (all exhibits and artifacts have captions only in Ukrainian; there is a laminated A4 card at the beginning of each room giving you a synopsis of that room’s history in English) it was an extremely moving experience. The museum is topped by a 62m stainless steel statue, Mother Motherland, a symbol of strength and victory which watched over Kyiv. The total height of museum and statue is 102m. I can’t describe how awe-inspiring it is in person. The pictures don’t really convey how huge it actually is.
Go further out from the city centre and Kyiv becomes less colourful, and much more evidently poor. The apartment blocks are exactly how you picture them. Many of them look as though they might collapse with a gust of wind.
The cathedrals are stunning; so many golden domes. Everything is cheap cheap cheap (mmm vodka). Beggars are plentiful, but we didn’t get any trouble from them.
Can’t wait to go back.
x Kitten of Doom