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A Couple of Days in Kiev

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I don't post here much but thought I'd post a few notes on a recent trip through Kiev as you don't see too much posted here.

I lingered here for a couple of days for sightseeing in early December after concluding some business in Sumy, a medium sized city in NE Ukraine. I arrived by train from Sumy on a Wednesday afternoon and returned to the US flying out on Saturday morning via CDG.

I stayed 3 nights at the Hotel Khreshchatyk, located just off the maydan Nezalezhnosti, Independence Square where much of the Orange Revolution played out a year ago. My room was clean and comfortable with a firm double bed and a small balcony overlooking the Kreshchatyk, and surprisingly quiet with the double glazed windows. Cost 500 UAH just under $100/nt.

One morning I skipped the basic hotel breakfast for the buffet in the Empire Room atop the Premier Palace Hotel—nice selection and a great view for 135 UAH. Kiev seems to have an ample number of international restaurants but I stuck to Ukrainian and Georgian fare, prices very reasonable and food consistently tasty and filling, especially the soups and pickled vegetables. Pork fat, called salo, is served in cubes or slices as an appetizer for the health conscious. Two places I especially liked were Minimo’s, located in the Podlil, or Lower Town (Georgian), and O’Panas, a rustic Ukrainian restaurant with live folk music located in Shevchenko Park.

Weather was great for walking around, considering the time of year, mostly clear with temperatures about 0-5C. I had no problem using the Metro; you buy individual plastic tokens for 50 kopecks at the stations, many of the major central stops are indicated in both Cyrillic and Western but it does help to be able to understand the Cyrillic characters if, like me, you are not a Russian speaker. To avoid the mafia taxi rates ($30-40) out to the airport on departure day, I rode the Metro from Khreshchatyk back over to the railway station and caught a shuttle bus to the airport for about $4.

I rate the 11thC Monastery of the Caves (Pecherska Lavra) a not-to-be-missed site while in Kiev. I spent about 4 hours on the grounds and in the caves. There are two cave complexes containing the mummified remains of Orthodox monks as well as a huge network of underground passages and chapels, not recommended though, for the claustrophobic. Topside are the stunningly refurbished Cathedral, although the interior is not open to the public and two notable museums, the Historical Treasures Museum (treasury of precious stones and Scythian gold artifacts from Black Sea burial mounds), and the Museum of Microminiature—a small but interesting display of microminiature artist N. Siadristy’s works (complete chess set on the head of a pin; flea shod with golden shoes, etc.)

Volodymyrsky proyizd connecting the blue and gold St. Michaels monastery complex with the bell tower and golden domes of St. Sophias Cathedral is perhaps Kiev’s most beautiful streetscape, I visited both. I also visited the National Museum of Ukrainian History, near the top of Andrew’s descent—some interesting exhibits updated to include Orange Revolution events but no English translations of displays. Andrew’s descent is the winding passageway from the Upper to Lower Town lined with souvenir, craft, Soviet memorabilia stalls.

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