Day 1 involved some 35,000 steps and with a little bit of greed and some FOMO, we had managed to cover most of the major attractions in the city, save two. For me, the day started with a walk to St. Sophia’s Cathedral – one of the landmark sights of Kiev. Just a short walk from the reconstructed St Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery is this original from the 11th century. The cathedral is wonderfully preserved from the inside and the parts of those wonderful paintings that are damaged by time, have been amazingly restored. The restored part is painted a little darker than the original to highlight the difference. Unfortunately, photography is completely prohibited on the inside and it is strictly enforced. Fortunately, it is also beautiful on on the outside and there is a bell tower to walk up to and get some amazing shots. Unfortunately again the front facade has a number of trees right in front, making a good shot nearly impossible. The biggest thing you miss is still the colourful 11th century paintings depicting the life stories of Jesus and parts of the structure exactly as they were about 900 years ago. Time has taken its toll but its only made this masterpiece more timeless.
The walk from the Cathedral to my next destination, the Andriyivskyy Descent was full of surprises. The most noticeable thing is of course the street art. Full sides of multi-story buildings being painted in most colourful art. I was walking right past one such masterpiece and taking some pictures of some random buildings till an old lady who spoke no English pointing this out to me. Truly communication needs no language, she told me what I needed to see in Ukrainian, I didn’t get a word of what she said, I thanked her in English, she had no clue. But we both understood!
Further up, was the Indian embassy, which isn’t much of an attraction but still cool to see and then a little past it, the Golden Gate – not the bridge, just a real gate to the city, from the 11th century. This too, like so many “historic” buildings in the city was constructed as a replica of the original in the late 1900s. It’s small and seems to be straight out of a game of Age of Empires. Not worth going all the way to see, but worth stopping and taking a few pics if you are already there. The restaurants around it seemed interesting, though I didn’t stop.
The Andriyivskyy Descent itself is a site to see – quintessential European cobbled street with lot of art shops, the charming coloured buildings on the side and that feeling of it never being crowded, ever. The art being sold is actually quite cool and most of it relatively affordable. One funny incident was related to the roadside paintings – the guy quoted a price of $5000 for a painting on a roadside! I guess he was either just having a bad day, or was joking and I didn’t get it or he just didn’t like me. The decent ends in a beautiful church that was under repair at the time I visited. Its honestly a very fun place to be, I had a glass of beer at one local cafe and the place had a very vibrant feel about it.
The last few hours in Kiev were spent chasing something very specific. The city is home to one of the deepest metro stations in the world and it takes a total of just under 5 minutes down (or up) two flights of very high speed escalators to go from the ground to the platform. It is quite amazing to go down the 346 feet at Arsenalna station and outside of North Korea this is the most pleasure you can experience, if going down metro stations is your thing. A lovely lunch and a long stroll got us back to the hotel, to begin our journey back home. We did try look for the “Bridge of Lovers” on the way back and it should suffice to say that it has hard to be more disappointed. A little away from that is the Monument of the Military Pilot, a solitary life size statue of a military pilot just sitting on a rock. The view of the city from right next to it, is worth a glance.
It is a city trying to catch up to its lost decades and getting confused between the 900 year old history and the diverse present, but confusion is not always a bad thing.