Vagabonding in Kyiv, Ukraine……

"Motherland" statue.

I know this post is a bit overdue, but here it is nonetheless.  I am still mourning the loss of one photo I wish I had taken, but did not.  You see, every single day, my husband and I would walk through this one park around the corner from where we were staying and there would be all these old men playing chess, many of them wearing their Шапки (the classic fur hats) and drinking vodka.  The only day we did not see them out there was on our last day, when I said I would finally carry my long heavy lens and get a picture.  But when we walked by, there were no old men out playing chess……  

Kyiv – what an interesting city.  It emanates a bit of “the West,” but with that distinct post-Soviet atmosphere that I have come to love so dearly.  In winter, Kyiv is bleak and damp, with that sort of penetrating cold.  In summer, I imagine the city is very green and attractive, when all of the public parks are in bloom.  Kyiv is actually the third largest Russian speaking city in the world (behind Moscow and Piter, of course), so I was able to communicate well enough with people in my mediocre broken Russian.  The city is lined with beautiful cathedrals and as you come in on the train you cannot miss the behemoth “Mother of the Fatherland” statue on the hillside (she’s taller than our Lady Liberty).  I wanted to call this entry “Vagabonding in Kyiv” because that’s pretty much what we did for five or six days….. My husband and I wandered the streets, got lost in the parks, spent almost everyday looking through the market that winds down the Андреевский Спуск (St. Andrew’s Descent), and spent most nights at our rental apartment drinking cheap Georgian wine (something that cannot be bought in Russia for embargo reasons) and eating cheese and homemade matzo from the stellar Jewish Restaurant we stumbled upon in old Kyiv.  The apartment we rented for the week was super cheap and located in one of the classic Soviet era apartment buildings.  It had this pungent smell in the corridor….. we literally had to hold our noses at all times while in the hallway because the smell was so foul, it could bring one to tears.  We also learned a valuable lesson that week – when doing laundry, put the machine’s hose in the bathtub so as not to flood the downstairs neighbor’s apartment (this is also common in Russia, but not where I lived, so I was not aware this was normal).

Our original plan was to go to Pripyat, the now abandoned city that housed the workers (and their families) who worked at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.  From what my friends have told me, it used to be that you could arrange a tour anytime with an agency in Kyiv, but the laws changed shortly before we made our trip and you have to plan at least 12 days (not including holidays) in advance so that a permit may be obtained.  We were not able to go for this reason and it is still on our list of must-visit places in the future, although we did go to the museum in downtown Kyiv, which we thought was one of the most interesting museums we had been to and very well put together.

As for my overall impressions of Kyiv, I really want to revisit during a season with nicer weather.  The market on St. Andrew’s Descent was one of the best souvenir markets I’ve been to (outside of Moscow), and I definitely ate my fill of potato pancakes and borsch that week.  There was a great Jewish restaurant in the old Merchant’s district at the bottom of St. Andrew’s Descent that I would highly recommend if you want something different but authentic to the area and with some of the friendliest servers we have ever had.  The Monastery and Museum of the Great Patriotic War are must sees and located right next to each other.  Honestly, we did a lot of wandering and missed the one thing we really wanted to see (Pripyat), but Kyiv is a really interesting city and so affordable.  Plus, American citizens do not need a visa for tourist travel to the Ukraine.  However, we did run into a huge mess trying to get back to Saint Petersburg on the train – note, the direct train  to Piter does transit Belarus (something you think would be easy to find out ahead of time, but is not) and we did not have transit visas, which led us on a comical travel experience you may read about in my other blog entry “Only in the Ukraine.”  Seriously, for me it was the best part of the trip because I like a good laugh and we met some really stellar people, such as our taxi driver.

As for the rest, the pictures can do the speaking.  Here is Kyiv, the fourth and final “Hero City” we have now been to (there are twelve of them, 13 including Brest, and one day I hope to make it to all of the others).

Kiev, one of the Hero Cities.

“Mother of the Fatherland” statue.

love locks on bridges.

at the monastery.

St. Michael’s Cathedral.

Kiev Hotel.

Independence Square – the New Year tree.

Chernobyl Museum.

Chernobyl Museum.

Orthodox Christmas Day, Independence Square.

Orthodox Christmas Day, Independence Square.

The Soviet Style apartment complex we rented an apt. in.

The Tymoshenko camp downtown.

The Tymoshenko camp downtown.

remnants of the Soviet past (Museum of the Great Patriotic War).

the woman, staring at the tanks.

Monuments of the Soviet past (Museum of the Great Patriotic War).

color amidst the grey skies.

Graffiti. We went walking along this trail and got quite lost, but I found graffiti.

The Friendship of Nations Arch.

Salvador Dali on a trash can in the park.

Me and the giant teddy bear – I love teddy bears and I am probably the only adult who was that excited to have my picture taken with a giant stuffed bear.

walking through the Monastery.

Classic Vintage Car.

Inside the Monastery.

Stencil Graffiti.

Independence Square, Orthodox Christmas.

colorful park benches.

Rooster in the park.

McFoxy’s – Ukraine’s own take on McDonald’s fastfood.

the edges of the art market on St. Andrew’s Descent.

“Mother of the Fatherland” statue.


14 thoughts on “Vagabonding in Kyiv, Ukraine……

  1. Lindz, I recognize the black & white picture going down the alleyway in the monestary. At the end of the there’s a doorway that takes you down into the catacombs or something. I think I visited the monestary during my 1993 trip to Kiev to teach for two weeks at a Bible College.

  2. I went to Kiev around Easter a few years ago–I loved it, especially seeing all the churches celebrating Easter. Really enjoyed reading this post–I flew in so I did not have the train experience you did. Isn’t that Mother of the Fatherland statue something else?

    • That must have been a wonderful time to be in Kiev! I was in Piter for Orthodox Easter last year and it was such a hopeful and beautiful time. I would advice anybody who travels to Russia or Ukraine to take an overnight train just once (and ride in 3rd class or 2nd with locals). It’s a good way to meet people and see how they travel 🙂 And yes, the statue is very impressive – so strong.

  3. I miss Ukraine so much. We were there in 09 and the day i was to organise my trip to Prypiat before we into the villages we had no internet. And then we went to within 80km of it and i still didn’t get to go. But you photographed it Soo beautifully. what are you shooting with? I hope you are well.


    • Thank you! We hope to go back to Ukraine sometime next year and will definitely get to Chernobyl next time around. As to your question, I use a Canon 5D Mark II. I love it!

  4. thank you for the great post and photos of my beloved city:) You remind me that we have what to be proud of in Ukraine:) You definitely have to come to Kiev in May. The city looks like huge green garden.

  5. Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my
    4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back!

    LoL I know this is totally off topic but
    I had to tell someone!

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