Kiev 2018: Thur 1st (day 2)

Having woken up early, I went back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 9.15, which left only three quarters of an hour to get up, get dressed and eat breakfast.

Breakfast was fine – cherry juice alongside orange for once, the usual assortment plus bread & butter. What was difficult was finding a seat. All the tables are for four to six and hardly anyone was even in a four so more than half the seats were unused & unusable. I walked at least two circles of the place looking for somewhere to sit.

Afterwards I got ready, put on some socks, packed a few snacks and went out into Kyiv. First stop: Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kyiv’s main square and site of the Euromaidan revolution of 2013/14. Half the square is a memorial to the people killed in the Revolution of Dignity and so is half the street leading down from Хрещатик. I declined to buy a length of woven Ukraine ribbon from a man who materialised right behind – the ribbons are tied on and around all the memorials. I went to cross the road to the other half of Maidan and discovered that Хрещатик – the street, not the metro station named after it – is six lanes of traffic and generally to cross roads here you go underneath. And underneath Maidan is a huge shopping centre. You want books? Make up? Medicine? Clothes? A guitar? It’s all down here – as is a Billa. So I did the day’s shopping. Ukraine really likes crab-flavour crisps.

With food on my back, I headed back to Хрещатик, only to be caught by a girl with white doves perched on her arms. I shouldn’t have stopped. I shouldn’t have touched the doves. I definitely shouldn’t have let her put one on my hand and the other on my shoulder. But I did refuse to let her take a picture of me with them (“I’m not a gangster, you know”) and handed the birds back and fled for Хрещатик, where I soon spotted three men doing the same thing with little grey monkeys in children’s coats.

I walked down Хрещатик, took a wrong turning in another underground shopping centre – put one anywhere you might want to cross a road – and eventually found myself at the Olympic stadium. Having seen it on my map, I’d said I wouldn’t be walking that far and now I had but at least 1) I knew where I was and 2) there was a metro station there. I got on the Blue Line and traveled two stops north to Майдан Незалежності, the Blue Line station connected to my Red Line Хрещатик. I emerged and came home for lunch.

After lunch I set out again, this time bound for Арсена́льна, the deepest metro station in Kyiv, Ukraine, Europe and the entire world except the one in Malaysia. I think it’s Malaysia. No, it’s not. It’s Pyongyang. I was disappointed. It’s two escalators deep but neither of them felt as long as the deeper one in Хрещатик.

But before I got there, I encountered a police or army roadblock right outside the hotel. You could cross at the top or bottom and walk up by the yellow buildings but both sides of the road were lined with people in green uniforms and yellow jackets and there were police cars at the top. Not much going on – a planned road closure for a parade?

I walked down the street, past the WWII memorial and the Holodomor memorial and then to Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, the monastery of the caves. I paid 30UAH (83p) to go in. It’s a mass of gold-domed churches, one of the holiest places in Ukraine. You can go into most of the churches as long as you wear a headscarf and don’t take photos, which is a pity because they are spectacularly gold inside and there are monks everywhere – mostly wearing puffy jackets over their robes. I went into the big Dormition Cathedral, a recent reproduction of the 11th century original which was destroyed in 1941. It’s very big and very gold. So very gold.

Outside, I prowler the Upper Lavra and then went down the hill to the Lower Lavra, which is smaller but contains the caves. I went into the Nearer Caves for the price of a candle (3UAH/8p) although some people just used their phones for light. Oh, the fun of juggling a lit candle & a headscarf in a confined space! I dropped one drop of wax on my finger but I didn’t set fire to anything or anyone. And actually, other than the fun of using a candle for light, the caves were a bit underwhelming. They’re tunnels, not caves and there are a few chambers containing mummified bodies of saints and then you’re out the other end. I’m not even convinced they’re actually underground. I think there’s a chance they’re just built into the walls of the church.

I headed for the Further Caves via the walkway and then the viaduct. As I went into the viaduct, a priest was trying to come out and we both tried to get out of each other’s way. As I walked up the viaduct, I saw him walking outside. He saw me see him and put his hand through the window so I now have something chocolatey as a present from a priest. I didn’t go in the Further Caves – I couldn’t figure out how to get into anything except the Prayer Pass Only so I went back to the Upper Lavra and explored another church.

By then my feet were tired and the sun was getting low – not that you could tell because Kyiv’s been covered in a grey mist all day. I walked back to the metro and came home. The army or police were gone when I got back and there was no sign of anything in or around the road.

Tomorrow I’m heading for St Sophia’s Cathedral and Andriyivskyy Descent.

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