Think of Communism, and I would associate it with a yellow star in a bright red background. Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire in the 1900s' until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. As I flew over the Atlantic Ocean to Kyiv, I was envisioning a city full of golden domes donning the blue skyline.
I did not arrive at my hostel till 8 at night. Feeling hungry, I took a walk along Chervonoarmiis'ka str., where the hostel is located. I was surprised to see (at least) five Japanese restaurants on that street alone! I decided to try one. The host was a young man in an oversized coat as I approached him. Unlike New York where you have to wait to be seated, here in Kyiv you are free to seat anywhere. The menu was sushi and Italian pasta with a twist of Japanese flavor. I ordered a soup plate of green pasta noodles with sliced chicken, and yakitori. Unfortunately, the meal was not good at all.
I started the next morning to Andrew's Descent. As I walked up the steep and winding cobblestone road, street vendors were beginning to start their business as usual activities - setting up tables, and unloading their merchandise from their vehicles.
At the top is Saint Andrew's Church. There are steps that lead up to the Church. Dark green dome with decorative spires decorated with ornamental details made this Church a landmark in this historic Podil neighborhood. Walk further away from here, you could see an ornate white bell tower standing majestically. This is the St. Sophia's Cathedral. It is the oldest standing church in Kyiv, built in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, who incidentally was laid to rest here. This majestic 13-cupola sanctuary adjoined Yaroslav's Palace has become a holy place of worship for the Kyivites. Today the entire complex is protected by Ukraine, and receives support from UNESCO. Directly opposite St. Sophia's Cathedral is St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral. Its sky blue exterior and glittering golden domes add a stunning layer to the cityscape around the entire area. Exit out from the cathedral to your right is a monument to the victims of Holodomor (starvation); a sobering reminder of Stalin's inhumane policies.
Having time on my side, I headed back to Andrew's Descent, and took the metro to Kyivo-Pechers'ka Lavra-Caves Monastery. The Monastery which made Kyiv the 'Rome' of Orthodox Christianity receives pilgrims from all over Europe and attracted droves of visitors yearly. It is 28 hectares of land with churches, towers and museums. The most interesting and holy site is the Underground Caves, where priests were mummified naturally, and laid in glass caskets. Women are required to wear scarves to cover their head before entering. Candles are given to some visitors to guide them through the tunnels.
Not far from the monastery, lies the Museum of Great Patriotic War. There are painted battle tanks, and other artillery and monuments surrounding the area. One of the monuments that stands out is the Mother Motherland monument, shining brightly as it reflects the beams from the sun. It is made of titanium, and measures 102 m (203 ft).
I ended my day at the Independence Square. This is where history was made in November 22, 2004, where the Orange-clad demonstrators gathered to protest the results of the run-off vote between two political candidates.
The unthinkable happened to me on my last day in Kyiv. I was pick-pocketed while riding the metro. It nearly spoilt my entire day. Not to be deterred, I went to the Golden Gate (Zoloti Vorota). It is the remains of the ancient Kyiv's main gate that were originally constructed during the height of the Kyivan Rus, and is considered as one of the most unique architectural archaeological sites in Kyiv.
The Kyiv Metro is the first rapid transit system in Ukraine. Riding the metro itself is a joy and its interior is amazing: decorated elaborately, it shows the postwar Stalinist architecture blended with traditional Ukrainian motifs. It has one of the deepest stations in the world, Arsenalna at 105.5 metres below ground. The best part is, a single ride costs only 2.00 hryvnia which is less than a quarter in the United States.
I went to the main train station to relax my tired feet before my departure to Lviv.
Despite the misfortune incident, I had a really good time in Kyiv. I believed Ukraine has the most influential atmosphere from the former Soviet Union era. Now, I have added gold and dark green to my palette of yellow and bright red when I think of Communism.