Robin's Website

Kiev (Kyiv)

Please note: This page has been replaced by a newer page based on a more recent visit to the city in 2015. The newer page may be found Here.

Kiev is the capital and largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. At just under 3 million people, it is the 8th largest city in Europe. During the Soviet era, it was the third largest city in the USSR after Moscow and Saint Petersburg. For further reading, click here; on this webpage, I will point out a few of the many things to see in Kiev, followed by my photos and then at the bottom of the page give a few observations from my visit to this majestic city.

Some of the main sights I went to look at are described as follows and shown in the photos below in the same general order:

Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings. Forming part of a UNESCO world Heritage Site, the cathedral was designed to rival Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. It symbolizes the 'new Constantinople', capital of the Christian principality of Kiev, created in the 11th century in a region evangelized after the baptism of St Vladimir in 988. A complex of monastic buildings are also to be found on the site. Built originally of wood in 1633, the buildings were destroyed by fire in 1697 and reconstructed in stone.

Khreshchatyk. This is the main street of the city which stretches some 1.2km in length.

Statue of Lenin. A red granite, 3.5-metre high statue, constructed in December 1946 just after World War II ended. On June 30th 2009, 11 years after my visit to Kiev, the nose of the statue and part of the left hand were destroyed, although the Communist Party of Ukraine arranged for its restoration and it was re-unveiled later that same year. However, on December 8th 2013 , during the Euromaidan protests in Kiev, the statue was toppled and destroyed. Euromaidan is the name given to a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine which began on the night of 21st November 2013 with public protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti ("Independence Square") in Kiev. The protestors were demanding closer integration with the European Union.

Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Founded in 1834, Ukraine's third oldest university and unmistakeably red in colour.

Saint Andrew's Church. A major Baroque church, often mistaken for a cathedral, constructed in 1747–1754, to a design by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. It is part of the National Sanctuary "Sophia of Kiev" as a landmark of cultural heritage.

Friendship of Nations Arch. This stands 50m (164ft) in diameter and is made of titanium. It is dedicated to the unification of Russia and Ukraine and was opened on November 7, 1982 to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the USSR and the celebration of the 1,500th Anniversary of the city of Kiev. From this location, there is an excellent view across the river of the East side of the city where the outer suburbs and forests extend for miles.

Last Photo. The radio in the hotel room. The front shows the official symbol of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow; the parallel lines represent lanes of track thrusting upwards to the Moscow skyline above the Olympic rings. Why am I pointing this out? Well, I do believe they were placed in every hotel room in the USSR at the time, and to anyone whom is familiar with intourist hotel rooms from the past will recognise it as an iconic symbol of a former era.

Some Notes from My Visit:

The city's Metro system is very impressive and due to the geographical terrain either side of the Dnieper River, it ends up very deep underneath the city centre (photo 18 above illustrates the terrain). Consequently, I will never forget getting off the train at one of the stations, Arsenalna (Арсенальна). It is the deepest station in the world  at 105.5 metres. Basically, you traverse one escalator, thinking you have just been on the longest subterranean moving staircase ever in your lifetime, only to turn a corner and find yourself traversing on an equally long ride. In total, the escalator rides at Arsenala metro station take approximately five minutes each way.

During the time of my visit in 1998, Russia was suffering a financial crisis. The result of this was the Ukrainian currency, the Hryvnia, was also plummeting in value on the foreign exchange markets. Armed with US dollars, finding an exchange office was not a problem: 1. Look for very long queue of people 2. Say you have dollars 3. Go straight to front of very long queue 4. Change Dollars for Hryvnia 5. Go back later in the day, because the exchange rate would be better than the morning.

Another memory of the visit was being told by a taxi driver not to wear a seatbelt because it was cool and later finding out that it was due to a mentality of living for the day resulting from a turbulent past and an uncertain future.

That was then. A lot of things have changed in Ukraine since my visit in 1998, particularly recently with the Pro-European protests, the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the current situation in the East of the country. Ukraine certainly is an interesting and wonderful country and at the time of writing one can only pick up the newspaper and wonder where it will all end.

(Text: 2015)

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