Kiev #1: Churches and Museums

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December 26th 2019
Published: June 13th 2020
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I was going to do a Kiev walking tour, but after having a pretty terrible night's sleep. It was a struggle to get out of bed. I decided to just take it easy and have a wander around the city instead. After filling myself up with a late breakfast, I headed out to have a look around Kiev. I knew roughly the direction that I needed to go in. First, I headed up to the pedestrainised area that I had took a walk through the previous evening. It was a lot quieter as most of the stalls were closed and there were few people about. I walked along to the end of the street as there were some things to see there. The first was the Princess Olga Monument. In the tenth century, she took over the throne of Kiev after her husband's death. She avenged her husband's death not once, but twice. First, when the Drevlians (the tribe that controlled the area around Kiev) tried to make her marry their prince Mal, on the surface she appeared to agree, but when Drevlian boats arrived she had her men carry them from the Dnipro River to a huge pit and bury the boats and their people alive. Then she got the tribe to send their best men to the city, under the ruse that they had to convince the people of Kiev that she should be allowed to marry. When the men arrived, she sen them to bathe in a bathhouse, which was then locked up and set on fire, so the men perished. She also prepared an army to attack Iskoroten and burnt the city down. Not a woman to mess with. Beyond the monument is St. Michael's Golden Domed Monastery. It is a gorgeous pale blue and gold building built in the Ukrainian Baroque style. I had thought about entering the monastery, but there were a few women hanging around outside trying to flog stuff, so that put me off and I headed off to look at the artwork on the wall next to the church. The artwork was, of course, religious and showed what I presume to be scenes from the bibles. The artwork was beautiful and I loved the bright colours. Next to the artwork was the Monument to the Victims of Famine in 1933. I knew a little about the Holodomor, the man made famine that was created by Stalin's regime which caused millions of Ukrainians to lose their lives, from an exhibition I had seen in a museum in Tallinn back in February. I had hoped to visit the Holodomor Genocide Museum whilst in Kiev, but ran out of time.

From here, I walked past some government buildings and then shops and restaurants. I passed by some beautiful buildings. I ended up taking a wrong turn and walking down a side street that seemed to lead to nowhere special. However, I did come across a building that had one side covered with a giant mural, so it wasn't a wasted trip. I got back on to the main street and at the end of it, it seemed to really change in style as it opened up onto a small square and seemed to be a lot quieter and also looked more touristic with small stalls selling tourist tat. It was a quite day and I really felt for the vendors having to stand out there in the cold and the damp as there probably wouldn't be a lot of passing trade. I came to a statue of two people dressed in some rather old fashioned clothes. This is 'Pam'yatnyk Za Dvoma Zaytsyamy: Pronya Prokopivna Ta Holokhvastov' according to google maps and the people are characters in the film, which was a USSR comedy. I thought that the location may have been random, but the movie's finale was shot nearby. Just behind the statue, I could see St. Andrew's Church. It was really beautiful even on a bleak day like this. I loved the place bluey green colour flanked with white and trimmed with gold. Since you had to pay a fee to enter not only the church, but its grounds, I decided to skip it. I continued on down the steep street and came to the Taras Shevchenko Monument. Taras Shevchenko was a famous Ukrainian writer and poet. While I was walking, I took a wrong turn and ended up getting rather lost. I ended up walking around the Vozdvyzhenka Barrio for a while. There were lots of immaculately beautiful, well painted houses and quite a bit of construction work going on here. Later, I did some research on the place and found it was an oligarchs' ghost town as the houses were built and few people moved there. I did like how quiet it was.

After trying and failing to get myself in the right direction, I retraced my steps and passing a couple of theatres and the Mykhailo Bulgakov Memorial Museum. At the end of the street, the end of one of the buildings had been covered with a gorgeous mural. I really wish I could have done a street art tour in Kiev as I bet there is a lot to see and it would be great to hear some of the backstories behind these pieces. I came to the One Street Museum, which is a small museum I had read about. It didn't have the greatest reviews online, but it had piqued my interest and since the entrance fee wasn't a lot, I thought it would be worth a bit of my time. The museum is really small, only two or three rooms. The house was filled with memorabilia that the owners of the house had collected over the years. It was interesting to look art all the stuff they had on display especially the clothes and little knick-knacks, some English explanations would have been nice, but I wasn't paying extra for the English pamphlet.

From the museum, I headed down to Kontraktov Square. There was a big Christmas market/festival set up in the middle of the square. I took a walk around the edge of the square, seeing the Church of Saint Catherine and lots of other grand buildings. I made my way around to the other side of the square and down a street to reach the Ukrainian National Chornobyl Museum. There was a great mural on the wall above the Dux Bar, which had been created by the Brazilian artist, Nunca, in 2015. I really liked it. I headed to the entrance of the Ukrainian National Chornobyl Museum, the guard was out having a smoke break and stopped to usher me in, I felt guilty for taking up his break time. I paid the regular entrance fee for the museum and I also decided to pay the extra camera fee so that I could take some pictures inside. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster is well known throughout the world and how the Soviets initially covered it up. I have read a bit about Chernobyl, but wanted to see and understand a bit more before heading to the actual site in a few days time. The museum is really well done, there may not always be a lot of English explanations, but by looking at the exhibits, you can see and understand more. I really liked looking at the IDs and pictures of people that were on display as it really humanised the tragedy for me, as often it is easy to feel removed from these types of things. There was a really moving art piece of a cot with a tree growing above it. On the tree's branches were photographs of people who had lived in the exclusion zone. The museum didn't just focus on the terrible tragedy, but how things had moved forward and there was a really informative display about the New Safe Confinement that was rolled into place in 2016 to cover the original sarcophagus which had been designed to limit the radioactive contamination of the environment after the nuclear reactor disaster. There was also a small exhibition about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

After the museum, I took a walk around Kontraktov Square. It was very similar to the square near where I was staying as it seemed to contain the same food and beverage stalls, and also had a Ferris Wheel. There was a nice Christmas Tree in the square and I liked the super sized traditional pots next to it. I was hungry by this point, so decided to just walk back to my hostel. The walk took quite a while, and since I'd gotten lost and stopped off along the way, I couldn't accurately tell how long it would take. I got better views of St. Andrew's Church as I made my way up the street, it was definitely worth getting out of breathe for. Near my hostel, there was a small supermarket that had quite a good selection, so I stopped off there to get some things for dinner and some beer, so I could spend the rest of the evening relaxing and planning what to do the next day.

Additional photos below
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13th June 2020
St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery

This church looks so serene and beautiful despite the weather... or maybe because of the weather :) I liked the sound of the Chernobyl museum too.
14th June 2020
St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery

The gold shines through the dreary weather. The museum had pretty polarising reviews online, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Glad I found it enjoyable.

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