Day 1: A Kiev city walk
We arrived late last night, installed ourselves in the excellent apartment and went straight to bed.
The apartment is situated on the main street of Kiev, the Khreshchatyk street close to the main square. Hired through www.bestkievapartment.com, it was very good value for money. The Guide, Oksana Tsupko showed up at the set time (actually she was 30 seconds late ). She told us that we would have to use her car to get around because Kiev is a large city, spread over a vast area.
The Saint Andrews Church:
The first stop on the tour was the The Saint Andrews Church, which is one of the landmarks of Kiev, situated on top of “Andriyivska Hill” overlooking the historic Podil neighbourhood and the Dnepr river. It was commissoned by Empress Elisabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, designed by the famous Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli who also the designed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.
The church was buildt for the Empress private use and has no parish and no bell tower. The exterior was finnished in 1754 but the interior was not completed until 1767, five years after the death of the Empress. (Wikipedia.org)
The Statue of Love:
Close to the St. Andrews Curch there is a statue of a couple – an aristocratic lady being courted by a kneeling man. This statue will assure you eternal love and happiness if you touch in all the right places. Judging from the wear and tear there are a lot of happy people in Kiev.
The Podil Neighbourhood
The Podil is one of the oldest parts of Kiev. It was tradditionally an area where craftsmen lived and worked (Potters, leatherworks etc) and archeologists has discovered settlements of this sort dating as far back ass the 10th or 11th century. The name means “downward hill” and the area sits on the slopes beneath the St. Andrews Church.
Today it houses lots of small shops, galleries, cafes and souvenirvendors. A nice area for a morning stroll.
In the center of Kiev you will find the Sofiyivska Square, one of the most beautiful squares in the city.
In one ende of it is the famous St. Sofia Cathedral with its bell-tower that is visible from just about anywhere in the city. The most impressive thing is the bell tower. In the square in front is the statue of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the revered Ukrainian hero who led the battle for independence from Poland from 1648 to 54. As he also was the man behind the treaty that united Ukraina with Russia ( Treaty of Pereyaslav 1654), his memorial also survived the brutalism of the Soviet era.
It is highly recommended to take a tour of the territory and then enter the cathedral to see all of its interesting relics. The admission fee to tour each of the sites ranges from UAH 3 to UAH 50.
Mykhailivska Square, which is exactly opposite the St. Sofia Cathedral, is an impressive site and a great place to take pictures. There you will see monuments to Princess Olha, Apostle Andrew, the saints Cyril and Methodius and the victims of the Great Famine of 1932-1933.(Famine may be a wrong choice of words here, as is was the planned starvation of the Ukrainian peasantry by the Stalin regime which resulted in the death of more than 3 mill people).
Every hour the square can hear the ringing of the unique Mykhailivskiy carillon, a mechanical bell unit operating in the Mykhailivska bell tower.
After a quick lunch of “Borscht” ( Ukrainian Beetroot-soup) and beer we set off to visit the major food-market in Kiev, the ” Besarabsky Market”. This huge circular building is located just off the Khreshchatyk street (I am sure I’ll learn to pronouce that some day). Inside there are a great variety of vendors, selling everthing from flowers to caviar to souvenirs. It was a busy place but for some reason it gave the impression of being mainly for tourists in as much as we soon discovered that the prices were rather high and that the vendors would overprice their goods grossly if you didn’t pay attention. A good advice would be; hold on to your Hrivnas.
The Gaudi of Ukraina:
House with Chimaeras or Gorodetsky House is an Art Nouveau building located in the historic Lypky neighborhood of Kiev. Situated across the street from thePresident of Ukraine’s office at No. 10, Bankova Street, the building has been used as a presidential residence for official and diplomatic ceremonies since 2005. The street in front of the building is closed off to all automobile traffic, and is now a patrolled pedestrian zone due to its near proximity to the Presidential Administration building.
Architect Vladislav Gorodetsky originally constructed the House with Chimaeras for use as his own upmarket apartment building during the period of 1901–1902. However, as the years went by, Gorodetsky eventually had to sell the building due to financial troubles, after which it changed ownership numerous times before finally being occupied by an official Communist Party polyclinic until the early 2000s. When the building was vacated, its interior and exterior decor were fully reconstructed and restored according to Gorodetsky’s original plans.
The building derives its popular name from the ornate decorations depicting exotic animals and hunting scenes, which were sculpted by Italian architect Emilio Sala since Gorodetsky was an avid hunter. The name does not refer to the chimaera of mythology, but to an architectural style known as chimaera decoration in which animal figures are applied as decorative elements to a building. Gorodetsky’s unique architectural style earned him praise as the Antoni Gaudí of Kiev.
Pirogovo Open-Air Museum
The final stop on this dong day of sightseeing was the Pirogovo Open-Air Museum situated on the outskirts of the city. It covers a large area and shows samples of everyday life in a rural community that is such a vital part of Ukraina’s history.
Throughout the musem there are small, nice shops selling all kinds of handicraft, ceramics, woodworks, paintings textiles….
There is also an area where you can picnic, whether you have brought your own or you wabt to buy your food from one of the stalls. The menu consists mainly of different sorts of grilled meat and beer, all very tasty.