Kiev and I did not get off to the best start. It was snowing lightly when I arrived on a Saturday in mid-January and then it proceeded to snow every single day for the next nine days. When it finally stopped snowing, no sooner had I started celebrating the fact that I could finally get outside and take some pictures, a deep freeze set in, with temperatures plunging well below zero Fahrenheit. Add in the fact that I spent the first two weeks living with a crazy woman and you probably wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t find that much to like in Kiev.
I did really like Kiev, but there wasn’t a lot that I absolutely loved – at least not in terms of sights or museums. That said, there were a few things that stood out above the rest:
1. Bell Tower at St. Sophia’s Cathedral
I have written before about how much I love to climb up tall buildings for a good view and the Bell Tower at St. Sophia’s Cathedral was no exception. On a sunny day just after nine straight days of snow, the view was tremendous, looking out over snow-covered Kiev. The climb up was a bit of an adventure too as many of the steps inside the tower were slippery from accumulated snow and ice.
2. Walking through the parks
I picked up a nice brochure from the tourist office called “Parks of Kiev” and used that to lead me on a walking tour of three parks in the center of the city: Volodymyrs’ka Hill, Kreshchatyi Park and Mis’kyi Sad. I enjoyed some great views from the top of Volodymyrs’ka Hill, passed several major monuments and walked across the Bridge of Kisses. I also got an impromptu mini-tour in Russian from an elderly man with gold teeth when I stopped to ask for directions.
3. Kievo-Pechers’ka Lavra
This monastery alongside the river in Kiev is best known as the Cave Monastery (“pechera” means “cave” and “lavra” is a word for “monastery”). Even though I somehow managed to miss one set of caves altogether, it was still a highlight of my time in Kiev. The monastery was founded nearly one thousand years ago and was a religious center in Eastern Europe by the 12th century. The grounds are enormous and include numerous churches, towers and, of course, caves, where monks once lived, worshiped and were buried.
4. Chernobyl Museum
If you don’t have the time or don’t want to fork out the $170 to take a day trip to Chernobyl itself, visiting this museum in the center of Kiev is the next best thing. A free audio guide is available which walks you through a majority of the exhibits, which include a model of the Chernobyl plant, a variety of belongings from first responders, including uniforms, letters, and medals of recognition, and several video clips from the same documentary I watched when I visited Chernobyl. Even though I took the day trip to Chernobyl, visiting the museum afterwards was a nice supplement.
5. Podil neighborhood
I spent my first two weeks in Kiev living in the Podil neighborhood and I kept returning there even after I moved to accommodations elsewhere. It was a nice blend of residential, commercial and tourist zones, with shops and restaurants centered on Petra Sahaydachnoho street and a large monument and outdoor ice-skating rink on Kontraktova Ploschad. From Podil, you can take the funicular up to the top of Andrew’s Descent – or walk up the steep cobblestone street lined with souvenir stalls starting from just behind Kontraktova Ploschad. Also, stairs from the middle of Andrew’s Descent lead to a hilltop providing a great view over the entire neighborhood.
Have you been to Kiev? What were your favorites?