Day 1: Backpacking Kiev, Ukraine

Saturday morning, I arrived at Kiev Boristol International Airport. It was roughly 2 hours flight from Ankara, Turkey. Ukrainian Airways has promotional roundtrip fare for 100USD from Istanbul with few hours layover in Ankara.

To the city center, I left the airport through the airport shuttle service for 3 Euros, but in local currency, Ukrainian Hryvnia. Shuttle service day trips leave every half an hour, and less frequent during evenings.  It takes 40 minutes from the airport to Kiev Main Train Station.

For currency exchange, ATMs and currency exchange booths are available at the airport.  Take note that ATM withdrawals charge international withdrawal fee and currency exchange booths have unfavorable rates. I guess the best option to save from fees is to take enough cash from the ATM for the whole duration of the trip to avoid multiple international and bank fees, however, your discretion still applies.

To get to the city, walk through the train main station building and exit the station’s back door.

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From where the bus left me, it took me 30 minutes to find my hostel. Along with cheaper hostels, luxury hotels are also available around Kiev.

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After I checked in, I went straight to the northern part of the city, Podil. It is a historic neighbor in Kiev as it was the birthplace of the city’s trade, commerce, and industry. Although it was a quite area of the city, it has a few attention-grabbing tourist attractions.

I first headed to an old fountain with a dome; locals call it the Fountain of Samson. Next was to Hostynnyi Dvir, a 19th-century building that has been used as trade complex during the Russia occupation. Currently, the building is under renovation.

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The part of  Podil where I wandered around was home to Kontractova Square (Square of Contracts) which has several buildings from the Russian Empire such as the National University of Kiev-Mohyla Academy.

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By walking towards Petra Sahaidachnoho Street to the south, an old historical postal square of the city can be found. Near the area is an operating funicular which takes commuters from the lower grounds going up the slope and vice versa. Most parts of the Old Kiev are located on the upper grounds of the city.

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Public transport in the city is almost free when compared to other European capitals. (One way cost is  0.15 euro only.)

Tickets can be purchased at kiosks near stations, however, since Kiev is a non-English speaking country, purchasing something not just transportation tickets is quite challenging. To purchase a ticket, try to give the money first to the kiosk attendant followed with hand gestures to complete the purchase.

I took the funicular from the lower ground and as quickly as the funicular left, we reached the upper town station. Near the station is the welcoming golden dome of St Michael’s Golden- Domed Monastery which is overlooking the historical commercial quarter of Podil.

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Originally, the dome was built in the Middle Ages but demolished by the Soviet authorities in 1930’s. After gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine rebuilt this structure according to the original plan and opened it in 1999. At present, it is open to visitors and religious practices.

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As for my active imagination, the view of the monastery from the outside looks like a “smurf house”,  (if you know what I mean) its bright blue color appearance is very entertaining. Inside, its impressive walls and ceilings are covered with vibrant religious frescos depicting the life of Christ and other important figures of the Christian belief. Most of the paintings are framed with gold plated outlines.

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The Monastery ground is connected to the main square with a magnificent gate tower with same blue color.

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From the Volodymyrs’kyi Passage, I walked towards west until I reached the Statue of Bohdan Khmelnytsky which is known to be the central square of the Old Kiev.

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Bohdan Khmelnytsky Statue is placed in a square bounded by the walls of St. Sophia’s Cathedral ground. This cathedral is one of the first religious pieces included in the UNESCO’s heritage list along with Kiev Cave Monastery.

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The Monastery is part of a religious complex which includes a bell tower, a house of Metropolitan, a lodging and etc.

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Admission to the monastery is UAH 50 for adults and UAH 25 for children. Access to the tower is allowed with additional fee.

From the bell tower, there are several streets to the city square, locals call it Meidan. Meidan Nezalezhnosti is the central square of Kiev that houses several historical sites. The Pedestrian zone of the square has a monumental arch gate called Lach Gates, built in 2011. The gate has a sculpture of Archangel Michael, the reigning symbol of Kiev City.

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The pedestrian zone has two neighboring edifices surrounding the area. In the right, it is the Main Post office, a large imperial-style building. On the left, is the Trade Unions Building.

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Straight ahead is the Khreschatyk Street that holds some of the most important historical buildings of the city, the Kiev City Council, the State Committee of Television and more. Located at the city square is the iconic Independence Monument that stands at a towering height of 61 meters with a statue of Archangel Michael on top. It welcomes the city’s visitors with pride and beauty since 2001.

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After finishing the walk around the square, I lied down on the grass in front of the Conservatory building. I felt exhausted and decided to head back to my hostel for a proper sleep.

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I took the Prorizna Street on my way back to experience more of the must-see locations in the city. Walking around the streets of Kiev is very pleasant because of the traces left of its history back when it was under the Soviet occupancy.

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On my way, I had a chance to see the Golden Gate, a replica of the 11th-century fortifications of Kiev. The gate is an imitation of the Golden Gate of Constantinople in Turkey.

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The original gate was dismantled so the existing structure of it now is a portrayal of how the Soviet authorities pictured it as it was which made a stir of controversy.

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Along the Yaroslaviv Val Street is Karaite Kenesa, built as a synagogue in 1898, but later turned into a theater after the Second World War.

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I stayed in my room for the rest of the night while trying to recover from the travel fatigue, thinking of my next adventure for the next day.

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