Off to Ukraine

Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, is the centre of Ukrainian culture. There are a wealth of theatres, museums, religious sites, modern buildings and ancient ruins. The Monastery of the Caves, founded in 1015, and Saint Sophia Cathedral, founded in 1037, are World Heritage Sites. The Museum of the Great Patriotic War, topped by the massive Motherland Statue, provides gorgeous views of the city below.

Built mostly on hills overlooking the Dnipro River, travellers to Kyiv are advised to carry a strong pair of walking shoes. The beautiful parks, flowers, tree-lined boulevards and green open spaces mark it different from other cities of Europe.

A trip to Kyiv is incomplete if one has not visited Pechersk (cave) Lavra (monastery) or the Monastery of the Caves. For Orthodox Christians, the Pechersk Lavra is the third most important religious site, being the birthplace of orthodox Christianity, in the world after Jerusalem and Holy Mount Athos.

Pechersk Lavra is comprised of two parts, the Upper Lavra and the Lower Lavra. The Upper Lavra consists of museums and historical cultural monuments of national importance, and the Lower Lavra is a working monastery under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox church. Plan to visit both parts and give yourself a whole morning or afternoon to fully appreciate all the interesting sights.

Wear appropriate clothing if you want to enter the caves or religious buildings. Men are required to wear trousers and women are expected to cover their heads with a scarf or shawl, both of which can be purchased next to the ticket booths at the entrance. Being a working monastery, it is important to be respectful during the visit.

St Sophia’s Cathedral is situated in an area of outstanding beauty. The beautiful Cathedral and its entire complex is full of interesting museums and calm places. The Cathedral was built in the Byzantine tradition but influences from Bulgaria, Georgia and Armenia can be observed.

Beautiful mosaics and fantastic frescoes decorate the walls, pillars and vaults. The Cathedral is the only structure of this period that still stands and retains, at least in the interior, something of its original form. It is one of the finest and most important examples of early Kyivan Rus. As one of the few architectural structures still in existence from that era, the Cathedral represents a tangible connection to Kyivan Rus, giving it both a significant religious and national importance. The site ceased to be an active church in 1934 and has been a government-owned museum.

St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery is another stunning Cathedral within a complex of beautiful buildings. In 1108, Prince Svyatopolk built a stone church dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. It was later renamed after him as St. Michaels Golden Domed Monastery. The white and blue building topped with dazzling golden domes glow in the backdrop of the blue sky. There are beautiful icons and paintings in the Monastery. The Bell Tower (Sofiiskaya Belfry) is nearby and visitors can take some lovely photos looking across at St. Michaels and Kyiv from the top of the belfry.

Kyiv is a city full of energy, a romantic city where old-fashioned values run deep in the culture. Golden domed churches and Soviet Statues share prominence with new modern buildings heralding an era of modern independent Ukraine.

There are more than 100 museums, innumerable theatres, ballet, opera and art galleries. Kyiv is a city geographically at the centre of Europe, looking both to the East and the West as the legacy of communism and the Soviet era are being overtaken with the modern-day capitalist society and mass consumerism.

Some good news for Indian tourists – If you are missing the paneer, mutton tikkas or want to bite into a hot samosa in Kyiv, then the Indian restaurant Himalayas is just the place to visit. It is a legendary place, open since 1997. It is a meeting point for Kyiv’s Indian diaspora. The hot and spicy vegetarian, as well as non-vegetarian dishes, garlic bread and different dishes with minty sauces are superb. Their clay tandoor ensures authenticity in taste. The portions are quite big. The address is 80, Chervonoarmiyska Street. It is easy to find as it is opposite the Olympic Stadium, on the same street, a little further down.

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