Around Kyiv – Part 1

Greetings and salutation,

Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of man landing on the moon with lots of reminders in the media of the significance of the feats of the astronauts as well as the thousands of people that help make Apollo 11 possible. As I finalize this post, I can’t help but think about the adventures we have here on earth whenever we “discover” or explore someplace new; the anticipation, the excitement the wonder and yes, sometimes the anxiety. This was our first foray to Ukraine so we sort of felt like the astronauts making our first steps in a new country. Last week, I took you on a walking tour of the major sites in central Kyiv, lots of new steps for us where others have trod before. This week and next I’ll take you back to some of these sites with a little more depth.

It was the last weekend in May and it was Kyiv Day also known as Day of Kyiv by the locals. This is a two day observance and a special time to honor the anniversary of the city’s founding. There are lots of activities such as street performances, fairs, carnivals, cultural exhibitions, open air concerts, and fireworks displays. On Saturday and Sunday mornings we walked over to the area around St. Andrew’s Church and the historical street, Andriyivsky uzviz, or Andrew’s Descent in English.Around Kyiv-8521 Around Kyiv-8497Around Kyiv-8494

The main street leading to St. Andrew’s was closed to traffic and filled with merchants selling their wares. Some items were used, some were new, some were made by local artisans while others appears to be imported!Around Kyiv-8520Around Kyiv-8500Around Kyiv-8472Around Kyiv-8469Around Kyiv-8493

Some of the items reflected the local humor and politics such as this pyramid of Putin toilet paper featured by several merchants!Around Kyiv-8519

Then there were the many booths selling Babushka (grandmother or old woman) dolls or Matryoshka (little matron) dolls or in English, nesting dolls. I honed in on the merchant that featured the Green Bay Packer nesting set with number 12 Aaron Rodgers as the main doll. I was a little disappointed that number 12 Tom Brady was on the shelf above Rodgers, I was tempted to switch them around to give Green Bay the superior position but I’m guessing the moment I touched one of them, the merchant would have put on the hard sell! As you can see in this photo, there are all kinds to appeal everyone, take your pick.Around Kyiv-8518

These photos are for my photography friends, I was amazed at all the old cameras that were for sale, mostly Russian made. I’m not sure what the tennis balls have to do with cameras except they are both for sale! Buyers could also purchase military medals by the dozens, someone told me that the Russians gave out a lot of them, my guess that the Ukrainians were trying to shed themselves of reminders of Russian influences.IMG_5346Around Kyiv-8513

The Eldest is pictured here trying on a traditional Ukrainian headdress. These headdresses are worn by women and children to pay homage to their homeland and spread the knowledge of Ukrainian culture throughout the world. I think she bought the red one to match the traditional dress she bought in Lviv.IMG_5340IMG_5333

Another merchant modeled a more elaborate version of the headdress, nice but a little over the top!Around Kyiv-8526

As we walked along Andrew’s Descent, I noticed this huge mural on the back side of a couple story building with an open lot in front of it where musicians were playing. I didn’t find out the significance but it was beautiful and seemed to fit the neighborhood.Around Kyiv-8533

This young lady was busking with her lute like instrument along the street. She was quite talented in both singing and playing what I think is called a bandura that is played by plucking the strings, each with it’s note. It has a sound somewhat like a harpsichord but with a wider tonal range. Her mother was standing across the aisle keeping an eye her daughter, I asked the mom for permission before making photographs, she consented and I dropped some money in her bucket.Around Kyiv-8486

This women was at the bottom of the hill and off to the side of the other merchants. I wondered if she was either homeless or trying to sell something. She had several dogs sleeping next to where she was sitting. Not sure what the sign says but my guess is that she was trying to sell or beg for money to feed these dogs.Around Kyiv-8537

The booth in this photo was very popular with lots of people crowding in for a closer look. I had to look too, the vendor was selling some unique artwork! I didn’t buy anything but the crowd made me look!Around Kyiv-8543

After a delightful morning walking the market, it was time for some lunch and a nice cold beer to cool down from the warm sun. I can’t pronounce the name of this beer but I can vouch for it’s good taste!IMG_5351

Next we were off to meet Yuri Karpizenkov who would be our driver and translator for two days the following week. He wanted to make sure the four of us (the Son-in-law would arrive in a couple of days) would fit in his car. You’ll hear more about Yuri in future posts but be assured that he’s a delightful and interesting guy. IMG_5320

Yuri left us off at the Landscape Park that leads back to Andrew’s Descent. This park has a lot of whimsical features that are especially interesting to young kids. Here are a couple trying out the see saw bench!Around Kyiv-8465

With the Eldest off to a meeting at the university, my traveling partner and I made our way over to St. Sophia Cathedral for a look inside the compound and to climb the bell tower for a view overlooking Kyiv.IMG_5309

As I mentioned last week, St. Sophia’s is one of the most recognized and well known landmarks in Kyiv and is a World Heritage Site. It is built in the Kievian Rus style with influences of Byzantine architecture. The name comes from the great Hagia Sofia (Holy Wisdom) Temple in Istanbul that was in ancient times an Orthodox church then a mosque and now a museum. After paying a small fee to see the “territory” and enter the bell tower, we wandered the grounds and marveled a the beautiful architecture. Since we only had tickets for the territory, we weren’t allowed into the Cathedral proper but did get a peak inside when some other folks entered. It’s quite stunning and will be on the agenda for our next visit.Around Kyiv-8442Around Kyiv-8428Around Kyiv-8430

On one of the walls of the compound was a flag and a mural promoting European Heritage Days. This involves all members of the European Cultural Convention and encourages visits to important sites to promote the common European culture. Around Kyiv-8436Around Kyiv-8435IMG_5310

The bell tower was the highlight of our visit to St. Sophia’s but mind you, there are no elevators to take you up the four story tower! At each level, there are plenty of windows to see the scenes below. Here are some photos as we made the climb to the top.IMG_5315IMG_5312IMG_5313IMG_5318

The views from the bell tower towards St. Michael’s Monastery and the Dnieper River were impressive. IMG_5316Around Kyiv-8449Around Kyiv-8445

What would a bell tower be without bells?!! It was interesting that visitors could get up close and personal with the bells, they are usually off limits but not these!Around Kyiv-8461

The grounds and the tower were great places to take photos of people including this guy and his shadow and in the second photo, the window washer.Around Kyiv-8456Around Kyiv-8432

Once outside St. Sophia’s, we saw this couple having their wedding photos taken. Apparently, it’s a very popular to have wedding, family, and graduation photos taken at these cultural sites. For me as a photographer, I ask, is it about the people or the place?Around Kyiv-8501

That night, we walked by and couldn’t resist more photos of the iconic bell tower. Seconds after this photo was taken, we were deluged by pouring rain. Maybe the saints were objecting?!!IMG_5328

One last photo to end this post. One morning we were headed to breakfast when this lady approached my traveling partner and asked if she was American. She hesitantly answered “yes” wondering what was coming next. It was only kisses on both cheeks! The people of Ukraine are awesome!IMG_5330

Enough for now, stay tuned next week for more Around Kyiv.

Until then, happy travels!