March 31st to April 7th, 2012
Saturday, March 31'st
I am leaving by train at 9.28. 3½ hours later I’m at Copenhagen Airport. They are busy, so check-in and security takes some time. The Ukrainian airline Aerosvit leaves at 3.40, and with a 2 hour flight and a one hour time-difference, it’s about 7 pm before I arrive.
Best Kiev Apartments is waiting for me, to take me to my flat, which has been rented for the week. It’s very central so it’s easy to go out for something to eat. It’s not as easy to find my way back. I get lost, and it’s raining, so I’m soaked when I arrive back to the flat. Not a good start to this trip
Sunday, April 1’st
My first day in Kiev as a tourist. First thing to do is to find a vending-machine to get some cash, so I’m able to pay for my rent. 50 Euro a day for a central 40 m2 flat is a bargain. When the company is paid – with cool cash and no receipt – I’m heading out for my first walk in the city. First I go to Zoloti Vorota – The Golden Gate – a strange construction that reminds me of something from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It used to be a part of the defense wall of Kiev.
Then I continue to the nice church of St. Volodymyr. Onion domes and bright colors. I don’t go inside – there’s a show going on and I don’t want to interrupt. Then a short walk to Schevchenko-park, some shopping streets before it starts to rain again. That – combined with windy conditions and temperatures around zero – force me back to my nice cozy apartment.
Tour no. 2 later on the day is in better conditions. First I visit the old St. Sophia Cathedral just around the corner. It’s very nice and colorful. There are onion domes and plenty of gold inside. At the other end of Volodymyrsky is St. Michael’s Monastery. It’s painted in bright blue colors. It looks old, but was in fact finished in 2001. The old monastery was destroyed back in 1937, at a time where monastery’s was not welcome in this part of the world. Outside there’s a sign telling you not to bring balloons, so I have to let my balloon go.
Dinner is at a nice local place. As most places they are not fluent in English, but pointing at the dishes is ok.
Monday, April 2’nd
The ticket for the Metro is a blue plastic-thing. I put one in at the gate at the station, and take the escalators way down deep into the underworld of Kiev at Teatralna. Then it’s 2 stops to Arsenalna, and another 5 minutes up by escalators, before you are out again.
From here there’s a 20 minute walk to Lavra – the tourist highlight in Kiev. There are 2 parts – Upper Lavra and Lower Lavra. Upper is a very nice area with several churches and other nice buildings. There’s also a funny little museum full of miniatures. The miniatures are so small that you have to use a microscope to see them. One of them is a chess game build on top of a nail.
Then I head down for Lower Lavra. This is the religious center in Ukraine. There are lots of pilgrims and priests down here. They are all Russian Orthodox. There are churches as well, and a cave with dead monks in sarcophagus made out of glass. This is creepy.
Then it’s time for a walk uphill to the station and the Metro back. I buy a late lunch and return to my apartment.
Trip no. 2 is down Khreshchatyk – Kiev’s main city street. All houses were destroyed during WW2. No one really knows if Hitler or Stalin is to blame. But it was rebuilt during Stalin, so the architecture is Soviet. It is solid, uncharming and with a wide boulevard good for parades.
Then I head back home again, before dinner at a local Irish Pub at Golden Gate. They speak English and serve decent food and good beer – but are much more expensive than the Ukrainian restaurants.
Tuesday, April 3’rd
My first trip takes me to Podil. Central Kiev is located high above the river Dnipr. Podil is down at the river, and is almost like a city in the city. I thought I would walk down there via the famous street of Andriyivsky usviz. But the street is a mess, roadwork all over – and not possible to walk. Instead I take the cableway just beside St. Michaels. It takes you down for the price of 1,50 Hryvnya – which is dead cheap.
Podil is a lovely area to take a stroll. I find a local monastery called Florivsky which is nice. There’s also a Chernobyl Museum. They have lots of photos and other things from the terrible accident at the nuclear plant. There’s also an illustration showing how extremely lucky Kiev was with the wind conditions. It the wind had been in another direction things would have gone terribly wrong in Kiev.
Late lunch is at a strange restaurant, where the neighbor table is smoking a water pipe as if we were at an opium cave.
Then I head down for the river itself. There’s not much activity down here. Just one boat is passing by.
Then up to Central Kiev again with the cableway, and back to my apartment. There will be no trip 2 today. Just a short walk for dinner at a local Ukrainian place. This is a typical place. They have a buffet to choose from, and you just point at the things you want to eat. That’s a nice feature when you don’t speak the language. 4 Euros for a 2 dinner course with a beer is also decent.
Wednesday, April 4’th
First trip takes me to the area called Lypky. The highlight here is a strange building called House of Chimeras. It was built by the architect Wladislaw Horodecki in the beginning of the 20’th century and is decorated with lots of strange animal figures. Toads seem to be a favorite.
On the opposite side of the street is the Presidents administrative building, and not far away is the Ukrainian Parliament. Both building show great power. Then I head on to the park called Askolhova Mohyla. From here there are nice views across the river. In the park you pass the stadium of Dynamo Kiev and Devils bridge, which is full of padlocks set up by lovers. Finally you reach the bizarre monument called The Nations Friendship monument. The nations were Ukraine and Russia, and the monument was built to honor the aggregation of the 2 nations back in 1654. It’s a strange arc made out of steel with a monument of Brother Ukraine and Brother Russia hand in hand underneath. It’s pretty vulgar if you ask me. Then I head downhill again to Khreshchatyk, for a lunch at my favorite Ukrainian spot, and a break in the apartment.
Trip 2 is a walk in my local neighborhood. There are lots of people walking here. You walk a lot in Kiev. The busses are few and small, and the Metro stations are located far from each other – and I don’t think I have seen any bikes. So you have to walk or take your car – which in the center is almost slower than walking.
In the evening there’s a circus show in front of the Sophia church. It’s a French company and it’s very spectacular. Musicians and trapeze-artists are hanging in a strange construction high above the place. Renault is giving out balloons, so they are probably the sponsor.
Thursday, April 5’th
Springtime has arrived in Kiev. Temperatures have risen from zero to 15-18 degrees the last few days. I take the metro out to Arsenalna once again, this time for a visit to the Museum of the Patriotic War – aka WW2.
8-10 million Ukrainians is suspected to have been killed during the war. The museum describes the life before, under and after the war and pays tribute to the heroic Ukrainian people in their fight against Nazis. Not a bad word about Stalin is to be seen at the place. On top of the museum there’s a huge sculpture called Rodina Mat – The Nations Mother. It’s visible from most parts of Kiev.
Then I head back home and pick up lunch on the way.
Trip 2 is through the busy citycenter of Kiev and end up with some shopping at a Supermarket called Balla. Dinner is at a buffet-restaurant. It’s a great concept when the purpose of dinner is to get something to eat.
Friday, April 6’th
Today is Good Friday, so things in Kiev is a bit more relaxed than normal. The weather has changed again. No more nice spring weather – it’s damped and rainy today instead. I start the day going to Babyn Yar. Its 2 stops on the Metro to Dorohozhychi. Then you head down Vul Melnykova, pass the TV-tower and turn left at no. 44. There is a ravine and some simple monuments. But the place has a terrible history. On the 29.th of September 1941 the Nazis gathered all 34.000 Jews in Kiev and shot them within 48 hours. Not much has been done to tell the story here, and there are hardly no visitors – only locals walking the park with their prams.
After this visit I head back to the center again for a lunch at my favorite place.
The late walk is once again in the local area. In front of the Sophia church there are shops with expensive clothes. The clerks stand ready to open the doors for rich Ukrainians that arrive in big cars with black windows. I don’t think I have seen as many cars with black windows as here. It’s probably mafia – or other people that has something to hide. You don’t have to go far from here before things look different. There is a house that looks like a ruin and people asking you for money. On every corner you see freezing people selling coffee to the business-men. The differences in this country are huge.
In the evening I watch soccer and US-Masters in golf at my flat – and read a little in my book brought for this trip – Edward Rutherfurds New York.
Saturday, April 7’th
At 10 am a car with black windows shows up in front of my apartment. It will take me to the airport at Boryspil. It’s good for about 50 meters. Then a blonde Ukrainian woman turns up from the side in another car – taking no concern about us – hammers into the side – and the trip has finished. There is only material damages, but the driver has to call his boss to have this settled, and put me on a taxi to the airport instead. This takes place without any more accidents, which is quite surprising taking the local traffic-culture into account.
Aerosvit takes me safe and on time to Copenhagen. And even DSB – the national Danish railway – is on time today to bring me to Aarhus. I’m back home at 7 pm, and this completes my trip to Kiev.