Visit Kiev For An Untried Sophistication
'Kiev' is the spelling of the city's name from Russian. However, when transliterated from Ukrainian, it is spelled as 'Kyiv'. Ukrainian is the language of all official signage in the city, even though the majority of the more than 3 million people who live here speak Russian.
Kyiv was founded in the fifth or possibly the sixth century. Legend has it that four siblings founded the city on the Dnieper River. One of these siblings was named Kyi, and the meaning of the name Kyiv is 'city of Kyi'.
With its history dating back so far, Kyiv is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe. At various times the city was under Mongolian, Lithuanian, Cossack, Russian and then Soviet rule. However, it is now finding its place and identity as an independent, Ukrainian city.
There are different ways to get to the city. You can travel by international bus, by car, by train and even by boat via the Dnieper. However, the easiest if you're outside of Europe is to fly into Boryspil International Airport, located south-east of Kyiv's city limits. You can get from there to the city center by car. Alternatively you can take the Sky Bus from the airport to the train station and travel into the city center by rail.
Once you have arrived, you can take your pick of activities. If you love religious architecture and art, your first stop should be St Sophia Cathedral. This UNESCO world heritage site traces its history back to the eleventh century. However, there are many other churches and monasteries too that you may want to see.
For modern history, you can't go wrong visiting one of the museums and war memorials focusing on the Great Patriotic War. This is what the Second World War is called in the Ukraine. Like in many other European cities, the war had a profound effect on the Ukrainian people. Every year in September Ukrainians still gather at Babyi Jar to commemorate the lives lost there. At this site, in the region of 60 000 people, mainly Jewish and Romany, were killed by the Nazis.
A museum dedicated to an even more recent tragedy is the Chernobyl Museum, where you can learn more about the infamous nuclear disaster from the 1980s, which took place near the Ukrainian border. However, if this is too depressing for you, you can visit one of the many theaters in the city, including a marionette theater. You can also enjoy street performances and people-watching in the chestnut-lined Kreschatik Street.
You can also go shopping or clubbing or you can take part in various sports. After a busy day, you may want to try some borscht, a beetroot soup that is a Ukrainian specialty. For all these activities, you can join an organized tour of the city. Alternatively, you can visit Kiev on your own steam.