Kiev: A Profile of Mini Moscow
In various guide books, Kiev is described as a mini Moscow (mini indeed, as Kiev’s 2,8 million population is nearly ten times smaller than Moscow’s) yet parts of its old town, particularly the hilly and charming Andriyivsky Descent (Andreyevsky Spusk), bears similar traits in mood and style to other Slavic cities such as Prague or Bratislava.
For time-pressed visitors seeking a compressed impression of Kiev’s most romantic side, a walk down this famed cobblestone street will present you with dozens of local artists selling their crafts (even in the snow). Andriyivsky’s Descent leads into numerous squares featuring beautiful gold-domed Orthodox churches, and most notably Thekyiv-Pechersk Lavra citadel, an Orthodox version of Vatican City packed with museums.
The fact that everything is in Cyrillic might be daunting to roman alphabet readers, though increasingly translations appear underneath public signs as well as stop announcements being made in English on the elaborate and very cheap metro, known for its long, steep escalators not unlike Moscow’s.
The biggest country in area entirely situated inside Europe, Ukraine was slower in its communism to capitalism change-over marked officially by the Orange Revolution of 2004/2005.
Ukraine has two languages, Ukrainian (leaning towards Polish) and Russian, meaning the country is split down the middle between pro-Europe western Ukrainians and pro-Russia eastern Ukrainians. The result has been a troubled political theater: the incumbent president Yanukovych is popular amongst Russia supporters but deeply unpopular amongst pro-Western Europe supporters, while the European Union refuses any official dialogue with him due to the imprisonment of his political opponent Tymochenko.
However, plagued politics should not deter the enthusiastic traveller from this otherwise modern and affordable city. To say Kiev is cheap would be inaccurate. Unlike neighbouring Russia, which maintains strict and convoluted travel visa requirements, thereby losing billions of dollars in tourist revenues, the erstwhile president Yushchenko abolished all such restrictions quickly after taking office in 2005.
This smart move yielded a surge in investment in the country, resulting in the UEFA European Football championship games being staged in Ukraine and Poland in 2012, proving a great success and garnering excellent world PR for Ukraine.
This also means that prices enjoy a wide range from cheap to expensive, but for the budget traveller Kiev can still be much less demanding on the wallet compared to Western Europe’s major cities, often by half. With Kiev’s newly shiny renovated Borispol airport – a highly efficient gateway to the rest of Europe and beyond – Kiev’s future holds promise.
by Thomas Lundy