I had become more and more excited about seeing the capital city of the Ukraine – I was expecting a Soviet feeling mixed with a desire to be part of Europe. My curiosity had been piqued about what the buildings, the cars and the fashion would look like.
And boy were we impressed!
Yes, there are many of those seemingly soul-less tall concrete blocks with apartments in them.
Yes, there are many large imposing Soviet buildings in the city centre – but they are so grand and beautiful. And more than a handful have GUCCI or PRADA shops in them.
Yes, you have many Lada and Volga cars from the “good ol’ times”, but you have as many Peugeots and Volkswagens.
The people are beautiful – the men and the women. Although I was fascinated by the tall leggy women walking arm in arm with their tracksuit-pants clad boyfriends. Mmhh…
What can I say about visiting Kiev and the Ukraine:
I enjoyed learning the Cyrillic alphabet: many words are similar once you decipher them into Roman letters. And it certainly makes it interesting to be able to identify certain buildings or adverts (and helps on menus and in the metro).
English is not spoken everywhere, but most young people ad those in touristy areas that we approached could get by with English – very lucky for us!
The food was fabulous! I must confess to being a survival-eater (i.e. I eat so that I do not die; 3 tablets a day would be very useful for me). But Polly likes exploring different foods, so we had a few fantastic meals and experiences.
Borsch (the traditional soup), Varenyky (dumplings filled with meat, veg or sweet things), and some Hamburgers & Hot Dogs. And compared to Germany and the UK the prices were very reasonable (we seldom paid more than EUR20 for a decent meal with a drink or 2).
Where did we eat?
Krym – on the main square, had good local foods and was very affordable
Varenichnaya #1 – for a super selection of dumplings and nice ambience
Baraban – a spot we discovered far too late (maybe that is good, or we would have gone nowhere else). Super atmosphere with live music, friendly people and good food.
The (local) wine… is best left in the bottle…
The one Honey pepper vodka (horilka) we tried sounded great on the menu, but to me tasted like a mix of paint stripper and battery acid… I am sure there are other better brands!
The berry compote, mors and uzvar were great and refreshing (even if they are served at room temperature). These are non-alcoholic.
Not being a beer-drinker, and not wishing to partake of any more of the wine, I was pleased to discover that most watering holes offered ciders!
The Hryvna is divided into 100 Kopiyok. In pratice though, I only ever received kopiyoks in change in supermarkets. The Hryvna starts with notes of 1, and goes to at 500 UAH notes. It was roughly 10 UAH to 1 EUR at the time of travel.
Where we stayed
We read over and over again that apartments are the way to go when visiting Kiev – and did rent a 2-roomed apartment for 2 nights. It was very spacious, with a kitchen, enclosed balcony and space for 4 people. It cost just shy of EUR 200 for 2 people for the 3 nights.
It gave us great flexibility to come and go, to prepare our own meals and to have lots of space to move around. The location was fantastic – we went most places on foot.
We rented an apartment from airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/334943
There is so much to see here, and most of it is possible on foot. When you get tired, then the metro / underground is quick, cheap and worth a visit in its own right. Kiev and Moscow must have the longest escalators in the world – the tracks are so deep in the ground!!
– St Sophia’s Church and the museum complex are on most people’s list. The inside of the church with its cast iron floor and 1’000 year old paintings on the wall are impressive. As is the 7 metre by 7 metre easter-egg rendition of a religious icon picture…
– The large square in front of St Sophia’s is one of those spaces where the youth, the bridal parties and the tourist co-exist with arm-in-arm lovers and a statue of a revered Cossack;
– Opposite is the no-less beautiful St Michael’s Gold-domed Monastery – we heard a homeless woman sit outside this church and sing… one of the most amazing voices I have heard;
– The main square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) and the main road in town: Khreshchatyk Street (which is a pedestrian zone on weekends!);
– Babyn Yar (or Babi Yar; see my separate post on this);
– Chernobyl and Pripyat (also in a separate post on this blog)
– Just wandering around the city, having a drink and people watching
– Andriyivsky Uzviz (translates to “Andrew’s Descent”) is a colourful and lively road from the top of the hill down to the river side – with live music, Soviet curiosand newspapers as well as more traditional souvenirs.
– Art Club 44 for live music
– The little square around the Golden Gate (Zoloti Vorota) is the perfect place to buy the best caffe latte (1 Euro) from a vendor in a pink snail – and then sit on a bench watching the world go by.
– The Metro which is massively deep!!
There are so many other sights to see, which just means that we will have to come back again.
I really cannot recommend this city enough.