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Ukraine


Kiev, Ukraine, USSR - June 1990

V. Blitz



We arrived in Kiev, after an evening flight out of Moscow, and a long bus ride in the dark. It was midnight when we checked into our rooms. The rooms weren't much but I'd rather have a good-night's sleep than a pretty room any time. We were only there for two days but we had a good experience with great meals and the people were kind and friendly. There was a lot of dark humor about the near-by Chernobyl atomic plant melt-down there but the people seemed to be keeping an up-beat attitude. After all, during World War II the Ukraine lost 5 million people of the 27 million people killed in the entire USSR and one gets the impression that they take pride in their strength.

Quoting from the travel brochure: "First mentioned in Russian chronicles in the year 860, Kiev rivaled Rome and Constantinople for nearly 300 years as the capital of the East Slavic state of' Rus'. Though heavily damaged during World War II, Kiev was quickly rebuilt and many of its architectural and historic monuments preserved."

It is funny what little things will stick in my mind, but here is one. In the restaurant of our hotel where we had most of our meals during our stay, was the most interesting wall. They had a collection of beautiful ceramic plates, plastered right into the wall. I had never seen that done before nor since and it was so unique and beautiful that I took pictures of it and considered doing the same to one of my walls when I returned home. Then it hit me just how expensive that would make that one wall and dropped the idea.

Our city tour took us to the Kiev Monument to Friendship, the lovely 18th century St. Andrews Cathedral and a high point overlooking the city and its broad and beautiful Dnieper River. But then we visited St. Sophia.

St. Sophia was built in the 11th century by Yardaslov the Wise. One of his daughters married the King of Norway, another married the French King and a third married the Hungarian King. We weren't told about the fourth daughter. During WWII the Nazis turned St. Sophia into a stable, which is probably what saved this magnificent structure from being destroyed like the other churches in the city. There was no way to get a picture of the entire "church" because of its size but my picture of this model will give one an idea of its enormity and beauty.

The area is renown for its hand-painted eggs. They say there are no two alike and they are such a work of art that one of the museums had hundreds of them in glass cases. So when I came across them for sale at the St. Sophia gift shop, I bought 14 of them to take home as gifts. Those real eggs had black backgrounds with gaily colored designs on them. I was so pleased with my purchase because they were small, easy to pack, and I wouldn't have to be looking for any more gifts for the remainder of the trip. Wrong! Those real eggs had not been hard boiled and 2 or 3 would break each time we moved on to the next hotel so that by the time I arrived home, of the 14 eggs, there were only two or three unbroken ones remaining.

When the Nazis pulled out of Kiev, as they had done with Peter's Palace in St Petersburg, they stripped the Ukranian Tsarist Palace of anything of value and blew it up. By 1990 the Ukranians had rebuilt the palace but did not have the funding to restore the interior. Perhaps, someday they will make the palace into a museum.

The Monastery of the Caves also known as the Kiev-Percherskaya Monastary was another interesting tourist attraction. In the 5th and 6th centuries, people lived in the caves we were to visit. Then in 1051 they left and the monastery was built adjacent to the property. Crypts were dug into the sides of the caves where the bodies of priests were then buried and because of the environmental conditions those bodies became mummified. We walked down a long covered path into the caves, were sold candles so we could see and then went through the unlit caves to see the mummies but the mummies were covered so we couldn't see them. Then we walked up another long path and came out at -- what else? -- the monastery gift shop. Surprise!

Later we had some free time and some of us took the subway to the down-town area, toured that part of the city, took pictures and interacted with friendly locals. These two days had really been a nice experience. Kiev is a modem European city and the rumors we had heard about the food were totally wrong. Every meal we had was quite delicious and we were glad this city had been on our tour.

The next morning we were up at 5:30 a.m., bags out in the hall at 6:00 a.m. and on our way to the airport by 6:30 a.m. We had breakfast at the airport. Then we were off to Georgia, Uzbekistan, Siberia and, lastly, St. Petersburg.


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