KYIV

This city has always been one of my imagination. As a child I saw pictures of its golden domes, and wide looks over the Dninpro river and its islands. It's on a crossroads in Europe, just fascinating and interesting for me. In 2013, when I made a month-long trip through Ukraine, I didn't get to visit Kyiv. I could have, just like I could have visited Crimea and kind of regret I didn't. But, instead, I went to the port of Odessa and crossed the Black Sea to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. So, six years later, Ryanair started flights between Sofia and Kyiv. Now I wouldn't be the adventurer I call myself if I didn't book immediately. And two weeks long, that is. Finally, and I looked forward to it so much, counting down the days and eventually tracking the progress of the flight on Maps.me when I was on the plane. And so I landed and went into Kyiv.

At first, I spent a few nights in Kyiv, in the Raziotel. It was just perfect for me as a solo traveler but I underestimated the distance and time spent getting to the center. Basically it was about ten metro stops but the distances between stops are significantly longer than in for example Sofia. And the trains are absolutely packed at each hour of the day, also unlike Sofia. That meant that, at midnight when I returned to the hotel, I'd have to stand for half an hour after walking nearly 30 kilometres each day. But it was all fine, just that it's better to stay in the center or at least the left bank. Obviously, this hotel was cheaper and luckily did cater to all my needs.

In regards to this hotel, it's part of the Reikartz group. The largest hotel group operating in Ukraine. In Chernihiv, the other city I visited on this trip, I also stayed in the Reikartz, which was a bit more luxurious yet both were completely great for me.

Each and everything I saw in Kyiv was fantastic. I was absolutely in love with the city and it would be my favourite city so far, possibly before or after Istanbul, even though they are hard to compare. Kyiv is an absolutely massive city with large distances, even though most distances can be covered on foot. Yet it's so big you'll definitely use the metro at least a few times. At 8 hryvnias (0,27 EUR as of June 2019) it's a great price per ride, and you can switch as many times af you want. You just take a token, "zheton", and insert before descending down the endless escalators. The metro stations are all quite interesting, some rather communist but especially on the red line they are pieces of art. Also you can visit the second deepest metro station in the world, Arsenalna, at 105,5 metres deep. The deepest metro station in the world is in Pyongyang, North Korea. The Kyiv metro will get you absolutely everywhere, even to the city's beaches around the Hydropark station.

What impressed me the most about Kyiv is the awesome Kreshtyatik boulevard, with the Independence Square and Avenue of Heroes next to it. There's a designated alley to those who lost their lives in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, which is very deeply ingrained in the memory of the Kyivans. Many young people died on the square and around and the war is still going on in the Eastern sections of the country. In this regard, I was also deeply impressed by not only the Motherland Statue in Kyiv, but also the museum underneath it. It had a display of conflicts in Ukraine, from the Second World War all the way to the conflicts in the East and on Crimea. Some gruesome accounts and inventions such as human-made gloves by the nazis, but also an ambulance used in Eastern Ukraine. It makes it all so close and horrible. Deeply impressive and a must-visit.

Ukraine's golden domes are everywhere. The church complexes are everywhere and you definitely need several days to see the most impressive ones, as they are all dotted around the city. But the must-sees are around Pecherska, where you also find the cave complexes underneath them. Check the Wikitravel Kyiv page to see more about the main sights. One of the pleasures of Kyiv is that it has the upcoming food scene that has already made its entry in Europe's other main cities. So Kyiv is on the forefront. It has restaurants and bars popping up continuously and what I loved most is that the national traditions are kept in high regard. There are many fancy places that re-invent their local cuisine and give it a whole new touch and feel. Paired up with some excellent Ukrainain beer or wine, this makes for a great meal no matter what you try. The young people make Kyiv into a bustling metropolis and they have the country's future in their best interests. I loved Kyiv and would even love to live there!

Update 2020:

Visited Kyiv with my parents for Christmas. Although Orthodox Christmas is celebrated in January in Ukraine and Russia, there was definitely a festive atmosphere. We stayed in an AirBnB apartment near the National Opera of Ukraine. We even witnessed a performance in the opera. But because I took the cheap tickets, we couldn't really see anything. The construction of the seats was such that you could only see other people's backs. Beautiful building nonetheless. Even to see the inside it's worth it to buy a ticket. These are available online.

We also got to visit the Yanukovich Residence. Look it up to find more information about it. It's a truly interesting place to see. Do spend a whole day for this trip. There's a huge complex with a zoo, parking garage and immense gardens. The whole are is very well maintained, as if Yanukovich was still living there. The complex now functions as a museum.

We got there by taking a 'marshrutka' from Heroiv Dnipra metro station. Outside, there's shopping center and there you'll find minibuses to the region north of Kyiv. You'll only need the keywords 'marshrutka' and 'Mezhyhirya', the village where the residence is in. The minibus will drop you off at the entrance. We waited about an hour for the minibus to come. It's harder to take an Uber to the residence. It's quite far from the center of Kyiv. Drivers will only take you if they desire so, because the chance of picking up a client back to Kyiv is slim. We did manage to take an Uber back, probably a driver who lived nearby. Since my camera was broken, I didn't take pictures during my second trip. Except for with my phone. I put some videos at the bottom of this page though. Also of the Yanukovich Residence.

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