Having arrived in Kiev at 11 PM, we were excited today to go and explore the city. As our first day in Europe, and not knowing what to expect from this former Soviet country, we set out to explore the neighborhood.
We stumbled onto this stunning church; St Volodymyr’s Cathedral. It isn’t in the guidebooks, but it was really worth a visit. It was atmospheric, with muted light, candles flickering and impressive murals. I couldn’t resist and paid the photography fee.
On our way to the Metro station stumbled upon a farmer’s market. We were so excited to see tables filled with cheese, charcuterie, pork and pastries. It felt like heaven after being in India! Unfortunately almost everyone refused to have their picture taken or even their stall photographed… it’s really too bad because some of the butchers were quite memorable!
We hopped on the Metro (which went down even deeper underground than the one in Moscow) and headed to the UNESCO recognized Pechersk Lavra, the Caves Monastery. Apparently a visit to Kiev is incomplete without them, and we were looking forward to exploring creepy caves (catacombs). The monastery has been around since 1015, and is a preeminent center of the Orthodox Church. The monks keep an apple orchard there, but we were too early for blossoms.
As it turns out, you couldn’t photograph inside an of the churches nor the tunnels, which were quite small and filled with the tombs of the remains of important priests and saints. People stopped at each coffin, and usually said a prayer and/or kissed the glass top of the coffin. We felt a little out of place, but it was great to see.
From the monastery we had a great view of Rodina Mat – the “defense of the motherland monument”. She’s also affectionately called “iron lady” and “tin tits”, and she is huge!!!
Here are some random things we have learned about Kiev / Ukraine today:
– They love coffee. There are coffee shops everywhere.
– Beer is cheap and beer is good, and there is way more of it than there is coffee.
– Markets are hard to find, especially those selling a wider variety of food.
– Men uncover their heads to go to church, but women cover theirs with a shawl.
– Most women going to church carry a small bouquet of herbs and flowers with them. Oddly enough, these are not donated but kept.
– The 80’s fashion is still alive and strong! And it does not seem like a comeback, but rather like it never left.
– Hair crimping is in.