how to spend 48 hours in Kiev, Ukraine

I usually love to see new places, no matter how little time I get to spend there. So, whether it is a full week sipping cocktails on a beach or just a short week-end in a European city, I take in everything around me. This particular time, I had a week-end to spend with a friend in Ukraine. So… here it is… how to spend 48 hours in Kiev, Ukraine.

Last time I was in Kyiv… I had a very memorable encounter with the Ukrainian customs police. The lady at the counter wanted to know what my business was in Ukraine and made it her purpose in life to not let me through until I explained to her, in detail, about my company and my reason for being in Kyiv, in December :))

I am happy to report that, this time, the memorable encounter was not with the customs police, but with the bus drivers of the airport.

Apparently, you can only drive in Kyiv if you are an amateur car racer – the guy that took us from the plane to the airport terminal certainly was. I fell 2 times during that 5 minutes ride – I actually did not mind, I fell in the arms of the poor guy that was sitting next to me. I did not have a chance to find out whether he minded  😀

Even though, while planning the trip, I was warned about the unstable political situation in Ukraine, especially after the Ukrainian Revolution from 2014, I decided that it was worth seeing how the city had changed after my last visit.

The first thing that made my heart melt in Kyiv was… the food. After I managed to escape unharmed from the bumpy airport bus ride, after getting the phone number I wanted (oh well, all those falls in the bus did lead to something :)) and after meeting my dear friend Katja, I ended up in a large mall, with a lot of food choices. That is always “bad” for me (here you have to read – extremely wonderful! 😛

Being in Kyiv, I decided to try out local food – which is absolutely, utterly delicious. Ukrainians are gourmands and their dishes are influenced by cuisines from Central Asia, a reminder of the time spent by Ukraine as part of the Soviet Union. What I chose for my Friday dinner was rabbit meatballs with a side of shaved potatoes with cheese, cooked in the oven.

The desert was even more delicious, a combination of three types of sweet cheeses, mixed together in a sort of donut, served with sour cream. It was absolute food porn.

Ukrainians are also good at making all kinds of baked goods, such as pies, whether sweet or savory. The multitude of the types of pies made me dizzy, on Saturday, when we went out for our breakfast. If you go to Kyiv or Ukraine, you definitely need to try out some local food. It is extremely delicious.

With a coffee in one hand and a pie in the other, we set out to our Saturday walk.

Although the plan was to participate in some walking tours, we ended up walking around Kyiv city center, for about 22 km. You can hardly imagine how my entire body felt after this walk – my fitness coach was very proud of me! 😛

I drank my first coffee in a park. When you say park, you would expect some benches, some children playing around and people walking their dogs. Well, this was not the case with Golosiivsky Park.

I was so impressed with this park, that it is hard for me to explain what I enjoyed more – feeding the ducks, drinking my coffee with the most amazing lake view or walking around the forest like portion of the park, trying to catch a glimpse of some squirrels.

Located in the city, the park offers entertainment for all ages, as well as peace and quiet for those who seek to get away from the hustle of the city. If you do not realize it at first, you soon come to the conclusion that all you want to do is grab a book, read and listen to the sounds of nature.

Although sorry to leave the park and having missed the walking tour start, because of the ducks, we decided to visit some of the most important churches in Kyiv. Now, what I realized in the short time that I spent in the city is that Ukrainians are faithful people.

The way the Ukrainians understood to show their faith could be seen in the grand architecture used for building their places of worship.

Whether a cathedral or a mere church, I was left speechless by the intricate designs of the outside of the buildings or the gold details of the altars.

Moreover, each of the cathedrals and churches I visited seemed to have a personal history, which brought even more fascination to people visiting them.

Their Orthodox heritage can be seen throughout Kyiv, in the way the churches are built, how important these churches are to them and, mostly, how fiercely they are attending the mass.

I must admit I was impressed by the multitude of people who were in church on Saturday afternoon, both young and old, trying to connect to the higher power they believed in.

 

I was surprised to learn that during the Ukrainian Revolution, in 2014, one of the cathedrals, St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, was turned into a hospital, where injured people were brought from the “Maidan”.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Independence Square, is the central square of Kyiv. It was also the central point of the clashes between the protesters, riot police and unknown snipers that killed more than 50 people.

Today, in the cathedral’s belfry, you can see pictures of those events and also objects pertaining to the wounded or already dead people that were brought to the cathedral.

The cathedral outer walls are covered with pictures of men and women who died, fighting for Ukraine’s independence and autonomy, not only in Kyiv, but throughout the entire country.

Also in the belfry, as a reminder of the place this cathedral had in history, is a mock-up of the original cathedral. The original cathedral was demolished by the Soviet authorities in the 1930s, but was reconstructed and opened in 1999, following Ukrainian independence in 1991.

I saw a lot of people on the streets of Kyiv. Since I was there on the week-end, I came across a lot of laughing wedding parties, taking pictures, to mark the event. I took a shot of one of them, just to remind me of the incredible joyful atmosphere that I experienced here.

A lot of foreigners, just like me, were visiting Kyiv and there was a constant buzz on the streets, from the various languages spoken, the street vendors calling out their merchandise or from the street performers.

Most of these performers were singing old Ukrainian songs and they had the gift of taking you to the old Ukraine, before war and political unsettle.

I was also overjoyed by the street art that I encountered during my walks from one church to the other. I realized that the Ukrainians are very creative – I did not know which part to look first, it was so enchanting.

In the most incredible way, after walking the entire day, we decided to go out for a bit of dancing. What do you know!? Kyiv also has an amazing night life, for those who enjoy going from bar to bar, dancing and wanting to have fun.

There are a lot of wine bars, restaurants, cafes and dancing clubs to choose from, mostly located in the city center. A diversity of music played, joyful customers and a wide selection of alcohol are sure to make you enjoy yourself on a night out in Kyiv.

We chose a small underground dancing club, called Buena Vista. They played salsa music and most of the patrons seemed to know each other, greeting one another and cheering the band playing live music.

I discovered that Ukrainians are very friendly people – apparently, if you wear red lipstick, smile a lot and dance even more, you get free drinks 😛

Recovery mode was activated on Sunday, when I had to leave Kyiv. After waking up pretty late in the morning, I had time to do a little shopping in one of the many malls that Kyiv has (although, don’t get your hopes too high, since there are a lot of brands that do not have stores in Kyiv :(, H&M being one of them!) and to drink the mandatory coffee, without which I would not have been able to function. Together with my coffee, of course, I had to have some “forbidden” dish, so I chose Cinnabon – they are very popular in Kyiv.

It was a short and intense trip that I would be delighted to take again. Kyiv was such a pleasant surprise that I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who asks. Just be prepared to look up and wonder of the things around.

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