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Where to go and what to see in Kyiv

Khreshchatyk, the beautiful many-faced, brightly-lit main street of Kyiv, hasn't always been like this. Originally it was Khreschata Dolyna covered with forests and ravines. At the beginning of the 19th century the first wooden houses were built there, later stone buildings were erected. Practically all of them were ruined during the Great Patriotic War but later were restored by the Kyivites. The street leads to Independence Square, the main square of Kyiv which now together with Khreschatyk, is the favourite place for entertainment for the citizens and guests of the city.

Museum lovers will find hundreds of beautiful exhibits in the Museum of Ukrainian Fine ArtsAvhose 21 galleries contain valuable collections of Ukrainian icons, pictures and sculptures from the 14th to the 20th century, including some works by Taras Shevchenko. His other paintings, manuscripts and per­sonal belongings can be found in the Taras Shevchenko State Museum in Shevchenko Boulevard and in the museum in Kanev, his burial place. Another rich collection of pictures and sculptures can be seen in the Russian Arts Museum, which is the third largest after those of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Theatre-goers will never be bored in Kyiv as there are theatres to all tastes: the Taras Shevchenko National Opera and Ballet House with wonderful singers and dancers, the Ivan Franko Ukrainian Drama Theatre, the Lesya Ukrainka Russian Drama Theatre, the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, the Kyiv Philhar­monic Society, the Musical Drama Theatre and many others, all with wonderful highly-professional performers.

Kyiv has always been a very important scientific, educational and cultural centre. Among the best known higher educational establishments there are Shevchenko Kyiv National University, Kyiv Poly­technic University, International Independent University «Kyiv-Mohyla Academy», Kyiv State Conservatory and many others. Kyiv is the home of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and hundreds of research institutes. It is also a huge industrial centre but the air in the capital does not seem to be very, polluted due to the nearness of the river and plenty of greenery.

Wherever you go in Kyiv, you will see either a beautiful old building or a monument, a green park or an amazingly decorated church - it is so full of places of interest that it's difficult to name even half of them.

The present and the past live side by side in Kyiv, and both lovers of history and people who are interested in the contemporary life of the capital, will find something to their taste in the busy streets of Kyiv.

Answer the following questions:

· Have you ever been to Kyiv? If yes, when? How long did you stay there? Why did you go there? Do you have any relatives or friends living in Kyiv? What did you do there? What places of interest did you visit? Which of them impressed you most of all? Can you say that you have seen all places of interest in Kyiv? Would you like to go to Kyiv again? What would you like to see?

· If you haven't been to Kyiv, can you say that you would like to go there? What would you like to see?

· If you are a theatre-goer, which of Kyiv's theatres would you like to go to and why?

· Which of Kyiv's museums do you want to visit? Why?

· Which part of Kyiv are you interested in more: the old or the modern one?

· If you go to Kyiv, will you visit Kyivo-Pecherska Lavra? Yes/No? Why?

· Would you be interested to go down the Dnipro by boat as far as Kanev? Yes/No? Why?

What we love and don't love about Kyiv

In the spirit of the 10th annual Best of Kyiv awards, Kyiv Post staff members offer our opinions about what we love and don’t love in this ancient capital, home to more than three million people.

The Kyiv Post’s Best of Kyiv awards is a tradition that annually honors the outstanding people and places that make Kyiv such a great place to live. But exactly what is so great about it?

There are sharp divisions on the newspaper’s staff. I am among those who wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I get disbelieving reactions from many Ukrainians when I say this.

But, as an American, I have been to many of my nation’s big cities and lived in its capital, Washington, D.C., only 10 blocks from the White House. I found it charming, but also boring, self-important, sterile and expensive. I also once turned down a job in Moscow, where I’ve spent a lot of time. I like its grandeur, but it’s just too cold, too big and too impersonal.

The world has almost 200 national capitals, and I have been to less than 10 percent of them. So, somewhere in the world, there may be a capital that feels more like home than Kyiv. But after getting a taste of Minsk, Almaty, Colombo, New Delhi, Vienna, London, Paris, Budapest, Prague, Vientiane, Bangkok, Amsterdam and Brussels, I can say that they don’t measure up to Kyiv, despite all those “quality-of-life” indexes that put Kyiv closer to the bottom.

Of course, my view is not shared by many Ukrainians on the Kyiv Post staff, some of whom are longing to live abroad. ‘I would prefer loving Kyiv from some faraway place,’ said staff writer Svitlana Tuchynska.

But all of us found plenty to love and also not to love (hate is such a strong word) about this place.




Kyiv is renowned for its beautiful but crumbling and neglected buildings and streets. We love the House with Chimeras, St. Andrew’s Descent, Khreshchatyk, Yaroslaviv Val, Prorizna, cobblestone pavements, St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral, St. Sophia and St. Michael squares, Reytarska Street, Volodymyrsky Park near the Foreign Ministry, Park Slavy… and more.

Dnipro River ambience

Everything about the city seems to be laid out perfectly for a nice walk — a compact, historic center; a great world river coursing through the center; hills and valleys. Having the Dnipro River splitting the city helps create an incomparably pleasant ambience. Staff writer Maria Shamota finds the Dnipro hills wonderful to climb and a good place to enjoy wine. I like the view from the River Station and the street cafes along the banks in the summer. Others like the islands. The city is still green and not overdeveloped. It has chestnut and fruit trees, charming parks, abundant flowers and hidden corners to enjoy and explore. Even when your feet fail you, you can get to any corner of the city on cheap public transport.

Cost of living

Living in a poor nation means millions are on the edge of survival as poverty brings its own special misery. But Ukrainians know how to survive and to be frugal — and those are skills worth emulating. If you avoid living like a wasteful Westerner, you can get by remarkably cheap here by knowing where to go and what to pay.

When you think about it, the government policy of cheap vodka, cheap bread and cheap utilities makes sense in a way. This isn’t India, after all, where millions live on the streets. It’s just too cold for that, and the basics simply don’t cost much.


Most of the foreign men I’ve met here since 1996 have either been in love, are in love or hope to be in love with a Slavic femme.

Beauty comes in all forms and is found everywhere. Beauty also varies with taste. But much of the male world has weighed in decisively that the Slavic Ukrainian variant of feminine beauty is exceptional.

It is why men vacation here. It’s also why others put up with the corruption, rot, lower living standards and lower wages than they might be able to make elsewhere. You can be rich and buy a big house and a big car somewhere else, perhaps, but what does that matter if you don’t have a happy personal life?

The downside to all this male attention is the ugly advent of the sex tourist, or “sexpat”, which made it on to the list of worst aspects of Kyiv from some staff members. “Foreigners who think they can pay any girl to have sex with them” is one of the worst 10 things about Kyiv, said Nataliia Protasova, the Kyiv Post’s subscription manager.

The choices are so good here that, in my view, men have to have a lot wrong with them to be alone in this city and in this nation.

The beauty is not just skin deep. While there are people of horrendously bad character in both sexes, and while women share blame with men for all that’s wrong with the world, many men will find that — if they pay attention — Ukrainian women can teach them a lot about the meaning of life, proper values and being happy even when life is stacked against you.

“The women aren’t afraid to be themselves,” said staff writer Mark Rachkevych, a Ukrainian-American. “They can still compete with men, yet retain their feminine allure.”

Women on the staff also recognize their gender’s strengths.

“Many women are beautiful, and some of them are quite intelligent at the same time,” said Tuchynska.

“Girls wearing spiked heels and short shirts even while walking in a snowstorm,” said staff writer Kateryna Panova, in praise of women.

One women’s group — Femen — even uses its femininity to challenge the authorities. They may have their critics, but by whipping their clothes off they certainly draw attention to their causes.

Better food

We would need more scientific studies to back us up. But it seems to us that America and other places have shot their food full of hormones, chemicals and artificial additives. Maybe that’s one reason why America is fast becoming a nation of obese blimps. By contrast, Ukraine’s black earth yields up tasty and organic vegetables, fruit and meat that make us all healthier.

Rebel spirit

Although it manifests itself in the ugliest of ways, Kyivans have created a culture (or are victims of one?), in which no one knows for sure what’s going to happen from day to day. Everything is so unpredictable. Even when there are rules, they seem made to be broken.

There are more downsides than upsides in this sort of environment: Who will go to jail today? How many people will get run over and killed by speeding motorists? Will the hryvnia collapse? Will I lose my job? But not everything that happens is bad. For adrenaline junkies, and those who thrive on chaos, spontaneity and reading tea leaves, this is the place to be. It’s also a good news town, which is why many journalists from other parts like working here. It helps if you pretend there is no tomorrow.



We could go on and on about what and whom we love in Kyiv. But for the sake of balance, let’s run down what we don’t like. These may be on everyone’s list. But here’s ours:

Verkhovna Rada

This is our shorthand reference for the corrupt and primitive culture that pervades Ukraine. These (mostly) guys are above the law — amazing in its contradiction and insolence alone. They fight. They steal. They evade. They are, in the eyes of many Ukrainians, the single largest club of unpunished criminals. Is it any wonder that corruption spreads out from parliament to infect all other elements of society? Add pandemic bureaucracy to this formula and you will feel our pain.

Ukrainians say that government puts up Olympic hurdles in order to register a business or just get a birth certificate. Foreigners for their part are so overwhelmed with registration permits and the like they often want to run back soon after passing immigration at Boryspil.

No law and order

While police aren’t as vile as during the era of ex-President Leonid Kuchma, when officers would routinely patrol the streets looking for anyone of non-Slavic appearance, foreigners and defenseless people to shake down, they are still by and large not here to serve and protect the public. They behave more like a private police force protecting the rich, powerful and politically connected. Justice almost never happens, keeping Ukraine a half-step above the law of the jungle.

Bad service, rudeness

“Were you born in a barn?” is a retort directed at the unwashed and uncouth. It seems, in Kyiv, many people fit this category. Many simply have no idea what good manners are — and many of these are working in a service profession, such as government employee or waitress! Kyiv, at times, resembles a big village rather than a cosmopolitan capital. Why, in the 21st century, must Kyivans stand in line for hours to buy train tickets or make simple banking transactions? “Even some of the biggest Ukrainian banks do not have online banking and, even if they do, they have really lousy customer service,” notes staff writer Olesia Oleshko.

This sort of disrespect extends to people who talk on their cell phones wherever they want, or who push past you without so much as an acknowledgement or apology. Too many also seem to violate a notion of “personal space” that should not be invaded physically without invitation.

General filth

From the garbage on the streets to dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets and people (mostly men) who rarely shower, one of Kyiv’s great downfalls is its general dirtiness and unkempt appearance. Granted, when three million people live on top of each other in high-rise apartments in a concentrated area, it’s hard to stay clean. But too many people aren’t even trying.

It would help if government bought more trash bins, but, of course, it would take much more to instill a culture of civic pride that is clearly absent. As for the lack of personal hygiene by many of its citizens, it is hard to understand how to solve the problem — so keep a bottle of perfume or air freshener handy.


It is truly astounding that in the 21st century many workplaces and most bars, nightclubs and restaurants cater their businesses to the minority of clientele who are addicted to a disease that will send them to their graves 10 years earlier than non-smokers. We are still waiting for the non-smoking majority to rise up and demand 100 percent smoke-free air in public places. This is one peaceful revolution we support. We have many smokers on our side in this battle as well.


Especially this time of the year, the shades of grey that Kyiv presents are innumerable — from the pavement to the sky and everything in between. It doesn’t help that so many people choose to dress in black and grey either. Battling depressing conditions will be an ongoing struggle from now until May. But even in spring and summer, the bland Soviet-era architecture and monotonous high-rise apartment blocks remain with us.

Animal haters

We know that Kyiv is full of irresponsible dog owners. But it is also clear that tolerance for animal abuse is abnormally high. Just look at the morbidity statistics of your average inhabitant of the Kyiv Municipal Zoo, an international disgrace. But then there are the thousands of vicious, hungry and diseased dogs who roam the city in packs — sometimes taking human life and limb. It is another sign that medieval Kyivan Rus lives on.

Bad drivers

Take your pick, from extortionist taxi drivers to speeding motorists in tinted-window luxury cars or dangerous marshrutka drivers in public transport, the situation is always the same on Kyiv’s mean streets: dangerous. Hostility for the pedestrian is endemic. Still, I’d rather be on foot. I like being able to get from one corner of the neighborhood, city, nation and continent to the other without having a car. To have an automobile culture, you have to have the road and bridge infrastructure to handle the volume. Kyiv doesn’t. Hello, Moscow-style traffic jams.

Expensive basics

While many staples (bread and beer) are cheap, it defies explanation that many other consumer items — a meal in a restaurant, or clothes, or dry cleaning — are priced high while their quality is low. We think the explanation is the lack of a truly competitive free market, created by the nation’s oligarchs and enforced by its government bureaucrats.

More good than bad

Ukraine has, undoubtedly, one of the most traumatic national histories. Even two decades into its existence, many (we’re talking to you, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin) do not think it’s a real nation. Its territory has been carved up and suffered the two biggest despots known to mankind — Hitler and Stalin. Its people have been murdered by the millions, in war and through forced famines.

Six million Ukrainians live abroad, leaving fewer than 46 million to build a nation. You would have to be cold-hearted not to be inspired by the Ukrainian struggle for survival and nationhood. We grieve every day for what was lost and what might have been. And we don’t know why so many, including many of the political leaders, don’t seem to love Ukraine as a nation.

As our lifestyle editor Yuliya Popova put it, it can only get better from here. Let’s hold on to that thought. Kyiv is an ancient capital of three million people from across Ukraine, Europe and, indeed, the world. That mix creates a dynamic and ever-changing atmosphere.

Yes, we may have gripes and complaints, but the good must outweigh the bad, or else we’d be thinking about leaving.

! Typically Ukrainian Superstitions


Being a Ukrainian means being super­stitious. It’s a feature of the national character with very few exceptions and even the most modern thinking people have a pet superstition they can never get away from. Here we present a small guide to a selection of the most common superstitions.


You might have noticed that Ukrainians don't like to show their newborn babies to anyone. They nei­ther photograph nor video them until the child is at least 3 months old. This is due to superstition number one: someone can sglazit the baby or give it the evil eye. The term sglazit stands for bringing bad luck whether intentional or not. People with dark eyes and hair are apparently more likely to cause sglaz. As a result of sglaz the child starts crying desperately and hysterically, stops eating and becomes irritable. The only way to get rid of this, according to Ukrainians, is to invite babka (a woman who can allegedly cure an illnesses without medicine) to the home. When the child is 3 months or older, you could still be a potential source of danger, so when you see a mother with a beautiful baby, don't even try to compliment her. Instead you should say “Tfu, tfu, what a bad boy/girl!” Fortunately more and more modern Ukrainian mothers have forgotten these archaic superstitions.


College students have superstitions all of their own. Every student in Ukraine has a special record book, where all the grades are carefully written down. As soon as the exams come, students don't allow any­one except teachers and professors to open it. They are afraid that their shara (unexpected luck) will desert them. There is a special ritual, when a stu­dent takes (his/her credit book, goes to a balcony in the middle of the night on the eve of the exam, opens it and calls, "Shara, fly here!" - (Shara is believed to be able to fly). Sometimes the professors, aware of this tradition, play special tricks. Every student has probably heard of a similar story to the one where a professor of some university in Ukraine came to the auditorium, opened a window and said: “Shara has flown in.” Those who managed to open their record books and gave them to him got excellent marks, while the rest had to take a very serious exam.

Students also believe that five kopeks in the right-footed shoe brings good luck, so finding one of this coins of the day of an exam can prove quite difficult. Graduates even sell their lucky coins to freshmen! Some Ukrainian students refrain from washing their hair before the exam, to prevent all their knowledge flawing away with the water. They also wear the same clothes to all of the exams if the first one was passed successfully.


Of course there are loads of superstitions that apply, to any age, social and sex group of Ukrainians and pertain to many different occasions as well as to friends, colleagues and visitors. If you visit a Ukrainian household, remember never to shake hands across the doorway (it brings bad luck), only bring an odd-numbered bouquet of flowers (even numbers are brought to funerals and cemeteries) and when, drinking don't leave an empty bottle on the table. Touch wood and spit, three times when you talk about your plans for the future, or say that everything goes fine right now. Otherwise you could become another victim of sglaz.

Don't be surprised by the fact that Ukrainians do not unveil their plans for the future, since they are afraid of sglaz too. The horseshoe on the door, in fact, is aimed at keeping all the evil spirits outside. Ukrainians are likely to refuse to return home or to the office if they've forgotten something there. If they have no way of avoiding it, they will make sure they sit on the table/desk and look in the mirror, otherwise the day will go badly wrong. It is believed to be a good sign, when the first per­son you see in the morning is a man carrying a full bucket; if it's a woman carrying an empty one, you can be pretty sure that your day is already spoiled. The same happens when a black cat crosses your street; Ukrainians believe that you should take a different road as this one could be dangerous.

When it comes to dreams, there is no better way to find out about your future. If a woman sees a fish it means that she'll get pregnant soon. If you see a pair of shoes or boots, you’ll meet a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. Think hard, as to whether they were pair fancy or not, since the quality will tell you what kind of person your new friend is likely be. Water means that people will be talking about you: clean water — favourably, dirty — nastily. If you see someone naked or wearing black — it's a sigh of illness. Teeth mean illness too. On the other hand, if you suddenly see excrement — you'll get rich! Coins mean tears, and paper money guarantees fun. A young girl symbolises unexpected news, while dead relatives or friends being alive — weather changes. A dog traditionally means a friend, and a cat — an enemy.

So, bear all this in mind, it could make all the difference to your week!


Maryna Suponina



Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1580

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