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Underwelming and Depressing

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View Back in the USSR on MikeinCairns's travel map.

From this point, I am changing format a little. I will not detail each and every day, but summarise each location. This blog starts with Kiev, Ukraine.

Firstly, let me say this blog will probably offend Ukrainians - apologies in advance. It is our honest opinion of our first impressions of the country. Secondly, let me note that Russia is a hard act to follow, and we will invariably be making comparisons with our recent experiences in Russia.

Sometimes it's best not to have any expectations when visiting a new place. Like when we thought we would hate Beijing and then were very pleasantly surprised and had a great time. We had high expectations for Kiev and this might have been a problem. We booked 5 nights in Kiev which was at least three too many. We also had the only Airbnb we have walked out of in many years of Airbnb.

Really there is not much going on in Kiev (or at least not much of interest to us). It is a dirty city with horrible infrastructure, terribly overcrowded public transport, and is not particullary welcoming to tourists. It has a "trendy" city centre full of outrageously expensive tourist restaurants. It has no real "heart", no pedestrian malls, no nice parks or gardens. In a word it is depressing.

LATE EDIT 12 Sept....Just discovered the Kiev that was in my imagination....it's a town called Lviv in Western Ukraine. Magnificent architecture, a great old city, cobblestoned street cafes and magnificent views. We basically stuffed-up. Should have spent 1 day in Kiev and 5 days in Lviv!

So here is a quick wrap of what we did on Kiev. Mostly from recommendations of internet blogs.....

1. Stay around the station, "it's convenient" says the blogs. Wrong. We arrived at around 10pm at the Kiev central station. It was a bad vibe. Heaps of black african and indian youths everywhere (wtf) and a very seedy area. Just out of interest apart from that first night we never saw another black african in Kiev (wonder where they all go in the day time). Made a big mistake booking an Airbnb in the area. It was part of a high rise shared by some very dodgy hotels and even worse characters. Next day we checked out and moved to Golden Gate district which was much nicer.

It migh tlook garish at night, but it is fact a beautiful railway station to rival any in Russia.

2. "Go to VDNKh park" said the blogs to see great soviet architechture. Having enjoyed the one in Moscow, we thought it might be fun to see the one in Kiev. What a bad joke. If you had not seen the one in Russia, it might have been interesting to see a few crumbling neglected buildings of the old days, but for us it was just depressing. There was virtually no one there. It was like an abandoned theme park.

Where is everyone??

3. This site made Mezhygorie sound so interesting it was high on our to-do. Unfortunaetly, it is a scam. A really expensive park where rich Ukrainians go to do selfies and Instagram shots. The day we went there must have been at least 50 wedding parties there. Hire bikes were 2-3 times the cost at other places. The house of the corrpupt politician is a no-go area, you just look from the outside. And we never found the garage of expensive cars. Two hours was certainly enough to see the nice gardens.


Nice gardens- pity it was just an expensive tourist trap

4. Water musuem - not a museum - more of an educational centre for kids. They let us make big bubbles with soap, make sand castles and feed the fish. Hmm.

5. Motherland Monument. Now this was great. Although I am surprised it is still standing since Ukraine has legally banned all symbolism from the Soviet days. See it while you can.


560 tonnes of stainless steel. Seriously impressive.

6. Peoples Friendship Arch. Another magnificent soviet structure that will probably be removed. Built by the Soviets to celebrate the friendship of nations (ironical in todays political climate). It now has a painted on crack to represent the current situation between Ukraine and Russia.

The not-so-friendly peoples arch

7. Petchersk Lavra. Probably the best thing in Kiev. A monastery complex and collection of beautiful churches. And a bell tower with a spectacular view over all Kiev. Some blogs suggested a full day, but you would need to be a serious church buff. We spent 2-3 hours and enjoyed it.




8. Golden Gate. An interesting reconstruction in the centre of the city and historically significant for Ukrainians. It is a popular meeting spot for locals. Worth a 15 minute look.


9. St Sophia and St Michael churches. Truly beautiful churches with so many golden domes. To be honest we were a bit "churched-out" after Russia, but enjoyed them regardless.


Some nice churches in Kiev

10. Kiev Funicular. A 10 minutes ride up the old funicular to the park was nice for an evening activity.


11. Kiev Metro. A very, very poor cousin to Moscow. Not only were the stations boring and unatractive, they were covered in advertisments of all sorts and occasional graffiti. The metros were always packed to rafters, day and night. However we learned that Kiev metro is the deepest in the world, and has the fastestest escalators (at least, the half that were functioning).





Some of the more interesting metro stations

12. Independance Square. Really nice central square with fountains (actually running fountains with water!! Many public fountains have been switched off to save money), some impressive monuments, and the towering soviet Hotel Ukraine.


13. Monument to the Frog. Enough said.


For us, Kiev seemed like a run-down, depressed city, ashamed of their past and not ready to move to the future. It needs serious investment to maintain and renovate the city and its infrustructure. Apparently Ukraine are keen to join the EU (understandably to get protection against Russia) - who knows if this will help the situation.

We are definetly hoping the Ukraine country side is more interesting.

Posted by MikeinCairns 10:36 Archived in Ukraine

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