: We arrived in Moscow Friday morning, stiff from the long trans-Atlantic flight. After clearing customs with relative ease, we claimed our belongings and plunged into the heart of Moscow by train. Drab Soviet highrise apartments began to punctuate the forested landscape miles outside of the city center. In Moscow, we scarcely had time to catch our breath before heading to the ticket office to pick up our tickets to Kiev, Ukraine. Sprinting from the office, we arrived at Kyivskaya station just in time to catch our sleeper train to the Ukrainian capital. Moscow will have to wait.
Slept well on the train. Arrived in Kiev early Saturday and met Michelle's friend Michael. Michael, a Peace Corp volunteer from Philadelphia, has spent the last 20 months teaching English in Lutsk, a town in Western Ukraine. His Ukrainian is impressive and, with his help, we were able to secure a wonderful apartment in the historic center (complete with a full kitchen for making our meals). We dropped our bags and set out in search of a more serene and relaxing environment amidst the bustle and noise of the crowded city. Sanctuary was found in the Pechersk Lavra, a shining complex
of golden domes and white washed churches. Bearded monks, clad in black robes, walked with purpose about the grounds, stopping occasionally to be kissed on the hand or cheek by a pilgrim. Heavenly choir music wafted from the churches as a light rain set in, imparting a sublime feeling of tranquility. Our spirits lifted, we left the Lavra and continued to walk Kiev's busy streets.
This is not your father's Kiev.
Babushkas hobble past crowds of teen hipsters promoting the latest techno clubs and night spots. Glitzy, modern buildings stand shoulder-to-jowl with Soviet-style monoliths. Creative expression pours from the accordions of street performers and from numerous public artworks in the city's many shady parks. Young women strut through crowded shopping malls dressed in the latest fashions from America and Britain.
But the great history of this place is not forgotten. Sarah and I visited the Rodina Mat on Sunday. This 62 meter statue depicts (personified) Ukraine holding a shield (bearing the Soviet insignia) in one hand and a sword in the other, commemorating victory in WW2. The site is littered with old tanks, anti-aircraft weaponry, and other heavy military equipment, as well as statues of Ukrainian soldiers
marching forward with hard, resolute expressions. After lunch, we hurried to St. Sophia cathedral and summited the bell tower for awesome views over the city. Meandering down to the market, we did some light shopping before being forced to flee from heavy rain.
We're on our way to Lutsk now. Stay tuned comrad.
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