We’re nearing the end of 2019. It’s been a long and memorable journey that has taken us to many different countries. We experienced new cultures, embraced new beginnings, and made the best of what we had. But there isn’t cause for celebration yet as we still have one last place to tick off: Ukraine.
Considered one of the first fully established cities in Eastern Europe, Kiev is the capital city of Ukraine that’s located along the banks of the Dnieper River. It was declared a capital city when the Ukranian National Republic declared independence from Soviet Russian rule back in 1918. While Kiev is the city’s common name, most locals and public officials often use the Romanized version Kyiv, after the legendary character Kyi who is said to have found the city with his brothers Khoryv and Shchek, and his sister Lybid.
Serving as the country’s financial and tourism hub, Kiev is home to famous landmarks like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Security Service of Ukraine Building. While visitors are not allowed within government complexes, these structures are still quite the sights to behold due to its architectural beauty and historical significance. The buildings are located just within the city center where people are free to take photos of the façades and can easily get a taste of the hustle and bustle of Kiev’s lively streets.
Another worthy attraction is the House with Chimaeras or the Horodecki House, a former apartment building designed by Wladyslaw Horodecki that’s now being used as a presidential residence for official and diplomatic activities. The art nouveau building is dominated by various chimera sculptures of dolphins, frogs, rhinos, mermaids as well as other mythological creatures and big game animals made by Italian sculptor Emilio Sala. The interior, on the other hand, is complete with grand living rooms, private kitchens, foyers, laundry rooms, boudoirs, stables with adjacent apartments, gardens, and four wine cellars.
The House of the Weeping Widow, on the other hand, is another art nouveau building, architectural landmark, and presidential residence designed by architect E. Bradtman. It earned its name through the building’s distinct sculpture of a woman who appears to be crying when it rains.
Kiev City Limits
Ukraine’s Khreshchatyk district is an essential stop for shoppers everywhere as it offers a mix of high-end boutiques and historical buildings. As Kiev’s main pedestrian street, Khreshchatyk spans from European Square in the north to Bessarabska Square in the south. Main attractions include Independence Square, Kiev Passage, Besarabsky Market, and Golden Gate.
Maidan Nezalezhnosti, simply known as Maidan, is Kiev City’s main square located halfway along Khreshchatyk Street. One of its most distinctive features is a two-hundred feet tall Independence Monument to commemorate the liberation of Ukraine. Other attractions in the area include the Hotel Ukrayina, Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine, and the famous Globus underground shopping center.
Meanwhile down in Kiev Passage, visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll on the narrow street between the two buildings of the apartment complex located on 15, Khreshchatyk Street, complete with traditional cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and souvenir shops. Tourists are also free to rent an apartment at Kiev Passage for a reasonable price.
If you’re looking for a fresher outlook in Kiev, Khreshchatyk district also offers garden-fresh fruits and vegetables, organic products, and quality meats at Besarabsky Market. In operation since 1910, the market is located in Bessarabska Square indoors so visitors can rest easy that they can shop under any weather.
Take a short cab ride and arrive at the Golden Gate, a large fortification that’s a reimagined design of the original 11th-century structure that was destroyed during the Middle Ages. Named after Constantinople’s Golden Gate, the fort houses a museum that showcases antiques from the era, the National Sanctuary “Sophia of Kyiv” Museum, a church, and a viewing deck overlooking the surrounding area. Tourists can stroll around the square or take photos in front of the Yaroslav the Wise statue. The Golden Gate is one of the three known gates of the once-wealthy Medieval Kyiv. The other two are Lviv Gates and Lach Gates constructed in the year 2001 at Independence Square.
Kiev Monastery of the Caves
One unmissable stop is the vast complex of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, an Orthodox Christian monastery in Kiev. A residential and spiritual area for over a hundred monks today, the complex is a UNESCO Heritage Site as well as a part of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine in 2007. Its name is derived from the word “Pechera” meaning cave and Lavra, a word used for high ranking monasteries for monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church which therefore translates as the Kiev Cave Monastery.
The monastery’s many churches are the Church of All Saints, the Concepcion of St. Anne Church, the Refectory Church with adjacent churches Saint Anthony and Theodosius, the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Church of the Live-Giving Spring, and the Dormition Cathedral, known as the complex’s main church, as well as many other structures.
Other attractions include the Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary, the St. Nicholas Monastery, the Debosquette fortification walls, and the Great Lavra Belltower which looms at over 96.5 meters high topped by a gilded dome. As the name suggests, the monastery also houses a system of caves with underground tunnels for easy navigation that leads to the monks’ sleeping quarters and chapels.
For tourists looking to learn more about the monastery’s storied history, they can always go to the museum that exhibits antique portraits, documents, manuscripts, ancient photographs as well as a collection of 16th – 20th-century textiles, embroideries, chalices, and crucifixes.
As residents of a tropical country, experiencing snow on Christmas has always been a faraway dream, so it’s been a common practice to travel in winter. Luckily in Ukraine, you can expect a blanket of snow when you arrive just in time for the holidays. The country’s largest ski resort called Bukovel is located just within the border of the Carpathian Mountains. Bukovel is both a spa and ski resort as well as a hotel with 5-star chalets, a personal skiing area, garage, sauna, and private pool.
Book a trip anytime between December and April to enjoy the resort’s estimated 68 kilometers of slopes with varying degrees of difficulty. The resort owns over 16 cable ride lifts for easy access going up and down the slopes.
Aside from skiing, guests can also indulge in horseback riding, snow biking, dog sledding, and paintball. Their facilities include rentals for skis, quadricycles, zorbs, snowmobiles, snow tubes, an ice rink, and an artificial lake. Several restaurants and bars that serve authentic Kievan cuisine and local liquor can also be found within the resort.
2019’s Last Hurrah!
As the year comes to a close, we reflect on the year that was. All the experiences, memories, and people we’ve met and learned from complete our journey to whichever destination we’re aiming towards. Let’s propose a toast and wish everyone a good year ahead.