Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend in Kiev

Fountain of light brightens Independence Square in Ukraine's capital


I traveled up to Kiev for the weekend with some other students. We took the night train out of Odessa and arrived in the capital city early Sat morning. I wasn't sure what to expect of Kiev--I was pleasantly surprised with abundance of trees and parks. The city is also quite well kept and easy to navigate. There is a metro here--something Odessa desperately needs--but the all the public transport was jammed packed even on the weekend.
A church in Kiev Pecherska Lavra--a.k.a. Caves Monastery. This is a located on 28 hectares of land on a bluff overlooking the Dnipro River. This was quite a big complex with numerous churches of various sizes scattered about. We went into the caves deep below to visit the mummy monks in one of the subterranean churches. The monks were in these very narrow labyrinths deep below the ground where it was super dark (only candles in your hand), hot, and claustrophobic. They say the monks bodies are believed to have healing powers and the pilgrims will bow and kiss them. I had to be careful not to light the woman on fire in front of me with my 12" candle as she continuously bobbed her head up/down as she paid respect to the monks. You could even see an occasional protruding finger or decimated hand.

So if you are a woman in the Ukraine...you must wear a head scarf and a skirt to go into a church--no long pants or shorts. BUT a mini skirt the size of a large belt with fishnet stockings and stiletto heels is acceptable too...as long as you have the head scarf.

We met Vladimir on the train. He is originally from Tajikistan but now lives in Ukraine. He decided to show us around the city but we still had to look at the map to find our way around. He has worked on several cruise ships and was applying for a job on another. He was going to have to take an English test so by spending the day with us he got to brush up by speaking English to me the American, James the Brit, and Simone/Anett--the Germans.

The independence monument overlooks downtown Kiev

St Michaels Monestary. The original (circa 1108) was torn down by the Soviets in 1936 and this reconstruction replica opened in 2001.

The Rodina Mat (a.k.a Nations Mother, I think) stands proud raising her sword high above Kiev. This monument is a monstrous 62 meter tall hunk of steel sitting on top of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War of WWII. It seemed as big as the statue of Liberty (well...I was only 4 yrs old when I saw that) and completely dominated the sky line. The first thing I thought when I saw it was: "what the hell is that thing?". The area was littered with old soviet military tanks, helicopters, cannons, missiles, etc.
Just another view of Rodina Mat just to get an idea of its imensity.

Several art displays lining the main streets of Kiev. This one had several pics of various forms of trash. I think Ben and Patrick would appreciate this...I wasn't quite sure what to think.

No need for bussing the tables here--pigeons did the job at most outdoor cafes.

An old emergency vehicle sits in front of the Chernobyl Museum.

We visited a museum dedicated to the victims of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion. It was quite moving and very sad as we viewed identity cards and photos of those killed in the aftermath of the explosion and video of firefighters who went in to clean up immediately after the disaster with minimal protection from radiation.

Chernobyl is about 60 miles NW of Kiev and on the Dnipro River....which flows into Kiev. You don't drink the water but I think they swim in it though. It was very fortunate for Kiev that the winds during the days following the meltdown were away from the city but unfortunately the heaviest radiation fallout went into Belarus. You can take tours in the 10 km exclusion zone around the power plant. This gal Elena Filatova has an really interesting website about riding her motorcycle through the zone. Check this out: http://www.kiddofspeed.com/