Going to Eastern Europe, as an American, will challenge you if you are a person of strong convictions. This, in my opinion, is because you must understand that when you get far enough away from home there is a different influence on beliefs. This should not be viewed as something to to fear but in fact it should be embraced by both young and old. Yesterday was my first full day In Kyiv and this brought some great food and my new Ukrainian tradition – Eat way too much at breakfast and then go back to my room to write a blog post as there is not much more I can do for a bit until I let some food digest! The breakfast here at the hotel DNIPRO is great, buffet style or omelet on demand. I read on trip advisor some not so great reviews about this hotel but I chose to ignore them because of a few of the good reviews. Truth be told; great staff, good breakfast, rooms are twice the size of central London for half the price – but please do not forget price is all about location! While there were of course different influences on the interior this is a solid place to stay for those not needing luxury.
Yesterday morning I walked out to the river to grab some pictures and to simply enjoy the morning. After about an hour of walking around it was back to the hotel lobby bar for espresso. Coffee in Kyiv is not bad, not bad at all. I took advantage of this short respite and then headed to go pick up my ticket for my morning tour. The morning tour would be of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Monastery. This represented my first time lighting candles in a Orthodox Christian Church but perhaps the fun part was getting there. To start we went on the Kiev Metro, just one stop from the city Centre but it was very deep. Deeper than DC or London and perhaps this was done for political or military reasons as well, it would make a great bomb shelter. The metro line was nice, a work of art perhaps with older style trains. I was really happy to get a chance to ride the metro. Upon exiting the metro it was time to discuss the local buildings and the history of the city. My guides were extremely knowledgeable and ready to answer all of my questions political, social, general neighborhood construction. We walked along the roads and eventually came to the churches, it was quite interesting and this is a tour that I would recommend the company: http://freetours.kiev.ua/individual_tours.html and their individual tours, I will be using them again today. These tours are affordable, informative and perhaps fun.
I really enjoyed the ability to discuss Ukraine by year and the different wars and battles. It should be noted that what I was taught in school does not appear to match the facts on the ground. Before arriving at the churches we did have the chance to see some monuments to the different winters of famine due to political reasons and of course monuments to different wars or battles of revolutions. I was also pleased to be able to discuss the differences between Orthodox and Catholic Christianity. It was clear that I had misconceptions about eastern orthodox and my friends had misconceptions about Catholics and of course there were atheists. There are of course some differences but in the end there are of course more similarities of beliefs in all three groups. The architecture was unique and in the style of Ukrainian Baroque this seemed different to me from Western European Baroque as it seemed simpler and cleaner in ornamentation and form.
After this tour, that took several hours, I was asked if I wanted to go to the war museum tour as we were close and I thought it was a great idea so I said “sure”. The walk to the war museum was interesting. The discussions of the different world views and views on world events were amazing and dare I say enlightening. The Russian exhibit on their Afghanistan war was large and then of course there were World War II memorials. However, inside the museum there was only one room dedicated to WWII and the rest was of the great patriotic war. To have both WWII and such political changes all at once had to be hard and a walk through this museum proved this, from holocaust stories and photos to the massive loss of life in all of the battles.
I was curious about the relationship between Russia and Ukraine and I tried to see how people had felt, locals, did they feel like a colony or a Federal Russian state, for lack of a better word. So throughout the day I asked a simple question; if Russia was invaded would you go to fight to defend her. The answer was always very fast, “No.” in general I believe the majority view that they were more of a Russian Colony versus an equal state. Of interest and on my original tour – I saw a site of Russian Pilgrimage and looking back in history it is clear the Ukrainians see Moscow as being founded by Ukraine (Kyiv), so I guess I need to go to Moscow and see if those citizens would come to help Ukraine is they are asked in a conflict, I wonder if it would be welcome help.
Breakfast is digested, time to head out to the street, have a great day – here is a site with some history of the Ukraine.
I should add, when getting on a bus you buy a ticket. After buying the ticket you then have to find a ticket cancellation device on a pole and place your ticket in and cancel it, or simply get on the back door of the bus and use the same ticket every day and punch or never punch / void the ticket. (I voided my ticket) The citizens seem to all compliantly punch their ticket. Or at least all that I saw. Wouldn’t they be better off with a monthly pass system!