Kiev – golden spires and post-communist boom
Kiev - the birthplace of the Russian Orthodox Church, a site of political instability and turmoil, and the site of the Orange Revolution… On paper, Kiev may seem daunting, formidable and scarily post-soviet, but in the flesh, it’s golden domes, cobblestone streets and flashy monuments override any doubts about this city’s credentials.
It is after all, the home of the first great Slavic civilization, the capital of Ukraine and also the mother country of Russia and Belarus. Add to this centuries of survival under the Mongolian Golden Horde as well as Lithuanian and Polish invaders, and you have a city with a history and culture as rich (some even say richer) than Moscow.
No wonder some have hailed this city from far-Eastern Europe the new Prague – after all, Kiev did recently play host to the infamous Eurovision contest.
In Kiev’s streets, you’ll find glittering domes, the greenest European city in summer and the whitest in winter; a grand riverbank and flashy populace intent on moving forward. The grandness of her past is contrasted with her darker years – spot Byzantine mosaics and spires; in hues of turquoise, blue and gold, standing out against the drab post-World War II buildings and post-communist high rises.
What to see
Take a closer look at the golden domes at the St Sophia Cathedral with her 13 blue and gold domes – inside you’ll find Byzantine mosaics and frescoes dating back to the 11th Century. If that’s not enough, there’s also the grand St Vladmir’s, with the stunning 19th Century canary-yellow exterior and (surprise) blue domes… Finish off with the 20-or so churches and a 317-foot bell tower in the oldest Orthodox monastery in Russia and the Ukraine, at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (Caves Monastery). This is after all, the home of the Russian Orthodox Church – plenty of golden domes and bell towers to go around…!
Enough of the religious pilgrimage? Then scrounge the markets near St Sophias, where you’ll find old war junk and Soviet war collectibles. Wander around the vibrant Andriyivsky Uzviz (Andrew’s descent) district. You’ll find small galleries and antique stores in post-soviet 19th Century brick buildings – as well as plenty of that new Kiev looking forward.
What to eat
Ukranian diet is without doubt hearty. Try local specialties like borscht, cabbage rolls and sausages for a good feed. Vereniki, Ukranian ravioli, is a great dish to try as well. Find great restaurants on the main street, vulitsya Khreschatyk; or good budget options at Dva Gusya a popular local chain.
Where to party
Bars are open from early evening, so start early if you’re into bar hopping! Grab a beer from one of many street stands (beer is almost considered a soft drink in the Ukraine!) and head towards the maydan Nezalezhnosti, which always seems busy. The really trendy head to the Opium Dance Club (Saksahans’ koho 1 G) to dance the nights away to house music