16 June 2010

Kiev, or the city where everyone is happy but still speaks Russian

Four days after my return from Lithuania, the group set off for Kiev, Ukraine. Again traveling by train, this was to be our last group trip of the year.

The first day we had a little bus tour around the city, stopping at several points of interest along the way. Our guide was very talkative and seemed to know everything about every little street corner. He also was able to talk about Kiev without getting all political and anti-Russian, which was nice.

The People's Friendship arch. The statue below is a Russian and Ukrainian holding the Soviet Order of Friendship of Peoples.
Kiev is just so friendly.
(No, but really.)

On tour.

Our hostel is somewhere down there...

St. Andrew's church.

A historic area of Kiev, right by St. Andrew's. It was very quaint and crumbly.

After bidding farewell to our guide, we were free to roam the city. There were lots and lots of people out on the streets, enjoying the warm weather and festivities for the May holidays - May 1st, International Worker's day, and the upcoming Victory Day, May 9th. Aside: why does the U.S. have it's labor day in September instead of when the rest of the world does? Glad you asked, for it turns out the inspiration for International Labor Day on May 1st actually came from the U.S. but then things got a little silly (aka it was the Cold War) and in 1958 Congress declared May 1st "Loyalty Day." How lovely.
Anyways, the streets of Kiev were filled with people, and the group noted how happy everyone seemed. We also noticed that people weren't always in a rush to get somewhere, and in the metro one could even stand on the left side of the escalator without fear of getting plowed over by a Moskvichka (Moscow woman) rushing to work. It was very refreshing.

Group of free-style dancers near the McDonald's.

Khreschatyk Street, the main shopping street.

It seemed like there was music and people dancing everywhere we looked. Kim and I decided to join.

Day two from more excursions to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra (monastery of the caves) and the Great Patriotic War museum.

While walking to the monastery, we stopped by the monument to the Great Famine, also known as Holodomor ("death by hunger") of 1932-1930. Records are apparently still iffy, but estimates of the death toll have gone as high as 10 million.

This was one of my favorite monuments; it gave me the chills.

The group at the monastery.

The Great Lavra bell tower, which was the tallest free-standing bell tower when it was built in the 1700s.

Kiev from the monastery.

We went on a boat later that night: The monastery at sunset.

After the monastery we walked up what seemed like millions of stairs to Rodina Mat ("The Motherland") and the Great Patriotic War museum.

Rodina Mat, the protector of the Motherland.

"Their heroic deeds will live eternally, their names will be immortal."

Workers and farmers.

Inside the museum: the papers are fill-in-the-blank letters informing people that their loved ones had died. The table was lined up and down with them.

The last event of the day featured a boat ride in the sunset.

Our last day we went to the Chernobyl museum which was both interesting and slightly terrifying. We also had an excursion at Mikhail Bulgakov's (Soviet writer and playwright) apartment. I admit, my favorite part of this excursion was not the interesting details our guide told us of Bulgakov's life/books, but the tea we drank before the excursion. It was seriously the best tea I have ever ever had. The teas were actually Bulgakov's family recipies, and were served with deeeeeelicious varenya (fruit preserves) of pumpkin, berries, and my favorite, a varenya made of a fruit which is like an apple and a pear. Moral of the story: if you go to Kiev, go to Bulgakov's apartment and drink tea. ...and then you can think about touring his living quarters.

The Kiev trip was one of my favorite trips of the year: it was sunny and warm, the trees were freshly green and flowers were blooming, the people were all happy and relaxed, and the city was beautiful. I definitely want to go back to Kiev someday, and although I was only there for three days, I found myself wishing that I could have also studied in Kiev as well as Moscow.


  1. kara iam really eager to read your final thoughts about russia.. maybe u could answer so many of my questions of why I love russia so much.. questions wich i yet havent find answer to myself... are u returning to russia? =)

  2. I can't really answer why I love Russia... :) But read the last post, maybe it helps a little? I don't know when I'm going back, but someday, I will. Definitely. Thanks for reading!