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Published: September 13th 2010
St. Sophia's CathedralYOU CAN CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE IT AND THEN GO THROUGH THE PHOTOS (CLICK ON THE NUMBERS AT THE TOP) IN THAT ENLARGED FORMAT, THEN RETURN TO THE JOURNAL BY CLICKING YOUR BACK BUTTON OR THE NAME OF THE BLOG ON THE RIGHT OR BELOW THE PHOTO - DEPENDS ON YOUR COMPUTER.
Construction of Kiev's oldest church began in 1037, has 13 cupolas is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and functions as a museum
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Kiev (also spelled Kyiv), Ukraine August 17 - 20, 2010.
Kiev was the first stop on our ten-day (August 17 - 26), three-city tour: Kiev, Moscow and St. Petersburg; the latter two will be dealt with in another blog since I have so many photos to share - I don't want to overload you.
Unlike Russia (see next
Mosaic of Painted Eggs
A Kiev artist did this amazing portrait of the Virgin Mary out of painted eggs; we saw another of her pieces in a park at the cave monastery
blog) we didn’t need a visa for the Ukraine. We flew from Berlin, where we are living this year, to Riga, Latvia, and then on to Kiev. We met up with our group at our centrally located and quite nice hotel in Kiev. At this point the group was small, just six of us: Bernard & me; the Chong family consisting of the grandparents, Lishan and Ken, with eleven-year-old granddaughter, Amber, from Honolulu, Hawaii; Brian, originally from Newfoundland, a geologist working for Exxon and living in Doha, Qatar.
Our guide, Natalia (or Natalie - all the guides gave us their real names, then an Anglicized one we might find easier to remember and pronounce),
was superb. She obviously loved her country and showed it to us with pride. The weather was generally lovely and though we had a van for transport, we walked as much as possible. Most afternoons we had lunch at very nice (lots of atmosphere) Ukrainian restaurants. Ukrainian Food.
The food was very similar to the Polish fare Bernard had grown up with and I’d learned to enjoy, but with local twists of course. For the Chong family
2 x Dougherty, 3 x Chong & 1 x Davis, Brian
it was a bit ‘heavy’ in that they were used to many more vegetables and fewer potatoes and breaded meats. A big hit was the borsht - Amber would forego the rest of her meal if she could get another bowl of borsht, which was not just made with beets, but had lots of vegetables and interesting spices and herbs too, albeit a bit heavy on the dill - it was in everything. Kiev Sights
For our three days in Kiev we visited churches, churches and more churches, with a monastery, central city walking tour and outdoor folk life village thrown in. Our very first stop was at St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral
where the mummified body of St. Barbara
could be seen. Well, not really ‘seen’ in that it was in a closed casket, but you could kiss the glass over the casket, and many women did. There was a cloth to wipe off one's lip prints, but still the sanitation of the ritual was a bit suspect. Many venerated icons in the many churches and cathedrals were also ‘kissed & cleaned’ by a steady stream of believers; mostly old women, but young people were also represented.
The main reason we did a tour to the Ukraine and Russia was because they use the Cyrillic alphabet, plus we don't speak Russian or Ukrainian. Bernard and Amber got a handle on the alphabet and were able to decipher signs, eventually
My favorite was St. Sophia's Cathedral
(named after the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople), which is now a museum and where we saw, among many other beautiful works of art, a painted egg mosaic portrait of the Virgin Mary. Kyivo-Pechers’ka Lavra Monastery
is definitely a highlight of Kiev. ‘Pechera’ means ‘cave.’ When first founded in 1051 by monks Antony and Feodoslyl, they and their followers worshipped, lived and were buried in caves where a cool and humid atmosphere enabled their bodies to mummify naturally. This apparent miracle further enhanced the monastery’s reputation.
After being closed during the Communist times, the monastery has been returned to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (different and separate from the Russian Orthodox Church) and is once again operational in the form of Kyiv (Kiev) Theological Seminary and Academy. Studios for icon painting and creation of mosaics have be reestablished. There are many museums, chapels and shops within the 28-hectare/84-acre compound.
The highlight of the monastery was the cave complex
- deep, very narrow passages maneuvered with only a candle for light; small windows looking into monks’
The word is actually STOP, just like in English, only in Cyrillic letters
chambers, which were tiny and had ‘beds’ carved out of the rocks. Some monks chose to have themselves bricked into their chamber
with only a small opening for food (precious little) and water to be passed through. They would either die or eventually ask to be let out. Of course we asked where their toilet was. The answer, and I'm not sure this can be true, was that they didn't eat enough to have to 'eliminate.' Strange, all very strange.
Occasionally a narrow passage would open into a chapel or pray room carved out of the stone, and gave much needed breathing room for us with a touch of claustrophobia; I wasn’t disappointed to mount the long stairway out of the caves into the clear, cool light of day.
Our guide warned us that the monks at the monastery don’t like tourists, even when we wore the required head scarves and modest clothing, which of course everyone did. Seems the monks are almost totally dependent on selling the icons and mosaics, to tourists mostly, but still hold them in contempt and don’t hesitate to show their scorn. We didn’t really
This is the monastery with the caves - the setting was awesome
see any of that, but why not limit the access for tourists; just allow them into areas they’d be welcomed and then, well, welcome them??? More Unhappy People.
Several of us in our group had the unfortunate experienced of being yelled at. When Amber asked a cashier for some bubble paper to wrap a ceramic mushroom she'd just bought, the owner of the store started yelling at her. She kept gesturing enthusiastically with her upraised hand and shouting "one" in Russian. Amber and Lishan didn't back down - they could see the bubble paper - until another clerk came over and wrapped their purchase for them. The owner meanwhile was not only yelling at Amber and Lishan, but at the young clerk too.
In a park near the parliament building there was a tent camp set up by some women who wanted to build a church and were living in the park until they got permission. I took a photo of the camp (no people in the shot), but an old lady saw me and came running over all irate. Naturally I couldn't understand her, but Natalia told us she had been very upset about my taking photos,
Inside the Monastery
With 28 hectares/84 acres within the compound, there were many beautiful structures above ground, with the catacomb of caves below
to which Natalia told her it was a public place; we'd been taking photos all of town; and for a religious person she sure was mean. Natalia said all of this with her ever-present smile, but you could tell the old lady was still really angry. Oh well. Overall impression of Kiev:
Beautiful, vibrant city (population around 3 million) with very pretty girls. I suppose that was brought to our attention whenever Brian spotted another beauty and his eyes would pop. Proud history, struggle with current ties to Russia and past ties to the Soviet Union. For example, they have an impressive monument to the 1930s famine which was brought on by Stalin's collectivization of the farms (very complicated issue, but 5-10 million people(!!) were thought to have perished during this time). Many of the Russians who visit, and this actually happened when we were at the monument, scoff at the whole idea of the famine being Stalin's fault - wouldn't even go inside the building where the museum had historical data, a film, etc. Our guide overhead the Russians saying the whole monument was a farce. This is the kind of reaction the Ukrainian people get rightfully upset
Inside a Monastery Cave
This was one of the larger nooks within the the cave complex where mummies of monks lined the walls
about. Recently Ukraine attempted to have the famine declared 'genocide' because not only did the famine kill millions, it took place against a backdrop of persecution, mass execution, and incarceration clearly aimed at undermining Ukrainians as a national group. To top it off, Stalin was exporting wheat - the wheat he'd taken from the Ukrainian farmers. While there was some famine all over eastern Europe at that time, there is no denying it was disproportionate in the Ukraine.
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