We travelled to Kiev for family reasons, taking five days. But the first and last days are ones of transition and transportation so they do not count. Days of packing and unpacking, presents going one way and holiday souvenirs and gifts going another. I bought myself a lovely new notebook at the airport and each morning before the day became scorching hot or in the evening when my restless legs could walk no more but my mind was not ready for sleep, I filled the pages with impressions and observations.
Kiev is a city of extremes, abundant with gold at every turn. But this is a city that is emerging from its history and the stark contrasts of poverty and wealth combined with the architecture will make you feel you are visiting a vibrant evolving culture. This is a city for walking, for exploring, for using every one of your senses and every transportation system.
Via Independence Square, constructed to commemorate independent from the Soviet Union we walked up Mikhailovskaya Street , past a statue of Lenin, to St Sophia's Cathedral.
With St Sophia's bell tower behind us we had a glorious view of St Michael's Cathedral. Both of which can be managed in one day.
St Sophia's is a UNESCO World heritage site. Entrance is through the sugary blue bell tower with a chance to practise your language skills when purchasing a ticket, then you are confronted with glorious Byzantine architecture with green and gold domes. Filled with mosaics and frescoes it is worthy of a few hours exploring the interior. Climbing the oddly spaced stairs, passing exposed brickwork that displays immersed clay vessels that help with the acoustics we viewed the adorned cupolas and decorated walls.
St Michael's is a working Monastery and therefore no entrance fee is required. We arrived when the bells were ringing. We stood outside for a full five minutes listening to the chimes and looking at the paintings on the brilliant blue walls.
Covering my head with a silk scarf I wandered into a service and was immediately absorbed into centuries of tradition and ritual. Chanting, singing and waves of incense all added to the abundant gold interior. With many opportunities for individual prayer and candle lighting this is a wonderful place for personal reflection and collective worship.
As well as visiting various coffee houses, eating ice lollies that melted quickly in the heat and buying bottled water, we needed food for our visit and what better place to go than the market opposite the Pinchuk Art Centre to top up our supplies and view another kind of rich display, this time an edible one. The entrance is through these strong geese adorned gates into the market. Taking a moment to gaze upwards at the frescoes we then wandered through the abundant stalls, stopping to observe the fruits, spices and caviar whilst stall holders tried to entice us to try and buy.
There is so much to see and do in this city that a return visit is required. But even in one day you already feel enriched, excited, informed but are left hungry for more.