For years and years and years – seriously, I think since my senior year of high school – one of the clasps on my sunglasses case has been about to break off. This morning, it finally did. Did I retire the box and pull out the new one that Fossil sent me several months ago? No way: I still have one more clasp holding that lid on. This baby is still good to go another decade.
Svitlana, Yura, Russlan, and myself all went for a walk to introduce me to Kyiv. I believe we got off the Metro at Pecherska and then went northeast, toward the obelisk commemorating World War II. From here we got extensive views over the Dnipro River, and we turned northwest to stroll through the parkland which led up into the city’s core.
We passed through Maydan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), which is the place which is always on TV whenever Ukraine makes the news. It’s a beautiful square and not at all what I expected. Most squares in Europe tend to consist of large flat slaps of pavement. This area, however, had some character: an arc of separate buildings on the northern end; an arc formed by a single building on the other end. Angels perched at each end looked down upon the crowds. There were multiple fountains, and the terrain raised toward the southern end. The southern building was set within the terrain, so you could stand on top of it for marvelous views over the entire square.
We continued westward and only a couple minutes walk further, Yura and Russlan led us along a cross-street a couple meters and into a very nice restaurant. We wound through a couple rooms of the restaurant and I was a bit confused about what was going on, when suddenly we arrived at toilets. Free toilets, and as I would later learn when I returned here that night to use them: clean toilets. Free, clean, and almost totally to yourself, since only locals and restaurant patrons could ever track these down.
Shortly after here, the guys parted with us; and Svitlana and I continued along vul Kreshchatyk – the main street. I was quite impressed that this roadway becomes a huge pedestrian mall on weekends. It is decorated with what makes it feel like Christmas, but the decorations are actually of the chestnut trees that the city takes much pride in. This city has far more greenery than the cities in Russia, and might even be able to give quite a number of western European cities some good competition.
We walked to bul Taras Shevchenka, named after the country’s revered poet. If you think Philadelphia over-does it with Benjamin Franklin and William Penn, well Ukraine is about at the same level with this guy. It’s like if you’re ever asked a question about Christian theology, you can always reply “Jesus.” If you’re ever asked a question about Ukraine, just reply “Shevchenka.” Back to the street: it was a beautiful roadway with trees lining along the median.
Our next change direction was onto vul Volodymyrska, where we grabbed some food near the Golden Gate and then the two of us went different ways. I went up into the Golden Gate, which really wasn’t all that fantastic. Neighboring buildings and trees block the view from the top. I continued northeast until I reached St. Sophia’s Cathedral, set within a lovely walled park. The interiors of all the buildings were closed by the time I arrived, but I dawdled about the park a bit before continuing toward St. Michael’s Monastery.
St. Michael’s Monastery was also set upon beautiful grounds, and with the bell tower still open: I climbed on up and grabbed a bunch of photos of the great view. The sun was beginning to set, setting St. Michael’s Church aglow with pretty colors.
My next move was northward toward Andriyivsky uzviz… which I guess you could translate as Andrew’s Street. This is apparently one of the most beloved streets in the city: its cobblestones wind about as it traverses along a hill between the upper and lower parts of the city. By day it can be a bit tacky, as souvenir and snack stalls spring up along its side; but in the evening it certainly has a distinct charm.
Reaching the bottom, I wrapped around the hill and paralleled the river by following vul Borychiv Tik over toward Poshtava pl. Metro station. I continued along the hill and eventually climbed up to the Statue of Volodymyr the Great. From here, I returned to Maydan Nezalezhnosti and hopped on the Metro back to Kharkivska – where Svitlana’s apartment is located just a 5 minute walk away.
It was fun speaking with the entry guard, with whom I resorted to German as an intermediary language. I rode the elevator up and then, before knocking on the apartment door, instead went out to the common area’s balcony – which looks northward across a masse of other apartment towers. It was pretty, the way the buildings all twinkled with lights being turned on and off. This view looks drab and Soviet by day, but was oddly beautiful by night. I pondered the way cities can form, as here I was located in a huge expanse of pretty much nothing but residential properties – thousands and thousands of units, with a couple banks and grocery stores intermixed between. What if some offices were located here? Could that offset some of the demand on the highways and Metro system? I’ll spare this journal the whole 20 minutes I spent standing there, thinking.
I returned to the apartment just shy of midnight and, being a work night, only Svitlana was still awake. After I got a shower, we chatted a bit and were soon off to bed.