The odd Russia site
At the risk of seeming stuck in Soviet-era ideology and/or great Russian chauvinistic thinking, I include this section on the capital and one province of a nation that prides itself on its independence from Moscow. Nationalists from both sides can argue about, whether Kiev has ever been truly part of Russia, but one thing is for sure - it was the capital of Rus', the first eastern Slavic empire and, prior to the Tatar-Mongol yoke, united many of those princedoms which were later to be united under Muscovy.
Centuries of occupation by Poles and Lithuanians had their effect on Ukraine's culture, and by the war of liberation of 1648-54 it was distinct as a nation, known generally as "Little Russia". Having thrown off the Polish yoke, Ukraine was sold down the river by its (Polish) leader Bogdan Khelmnitsky, i.e. reunited with Russia. From that day until two years ago, with the exception of the utter confusion of the Civil War years, Ukraine has been a kind of semi-colony, semi-province. Today, much of the eastern and central areas are populated by Russians, many of whom voted for independence for economic reasons and are now seriously worried about the consequences.
So who knows where Ukraine is going today? Let's just accept that much of Russian culture, both ancient and not so ancient, exists within its frontiers.
Most of the things that can be said about Russians can be said about Ukrainians too, and there is an even greater tendency among them to be hospitable. But there are some very noticeable differences too, probably thanks to the greater infusion of Tatar blood into the smaller nation. By appearance they are generally smaller, darker and swarthier than Russians and by temperament - cunning and good at bargaining - they are often mistaken for their Islamic neighbours. They work hard on the land, though centuries of being milked of their best produce by Moscow has left them little to show for it.
And yet life in a rural provincial backwater of the Soviet Union, as Ukraine effectively was, has made them an object of condescension to more cosmopolitan Russians. The "khokhol", as Russians call the Ukrainian because of the single tuft of hair Ukrainian warriors used to have on their otherwise bald heads, has become the butt of many jokes.
The womenfolk fare better. If anyone can make a more perfect wife than a Russian, it is the "khokhlushka". with her tasty cooking and undying devotion.
FOOD AND DRINK
The fertile pasture lands of Ukraine, known as the "Bread Basket of Europe", have given the country much greater scope than Russia for developing an interesting national cuisine. If you eat exclusively at Kiev's restaurants you certainly won't go hungry, but there are better ways to appreciate Ukrainian food. Preferably take a trip into the countryside (south is better, north is Chernobyl) and get taken in by a Ukrainian "babushka". Even the experience of Russian hospitality won't prepare you for what's in store. Not that you'll come to any harm - upset stomachs have been cured in this way.
Here are some of the things you might expect to be plied with:
salo (pronounced saalo): regarded as the Ukrainian national dish, this can only be described as pure pig fat, salted and spiced, not to everyone's taste by a long chalk, though you might have difficulty turning it down.
vareniki: a version of Russian pelmeni, these are larger and tastier, and can come with potato and mushroom, tvorog or cherry filling for vegetarians.
borshch: this actually originated here, and there are 30 different types in Ukraine alone. Have fun trying to spot the differences. In the Poltava version, this includes galushki, a type of dumpling.
yushka: another nutritious soup, with potato, marrow, tomato and onion.
domashnyaya kolbasa: fatty, garlicky and hot pork sausage.
A variety of meat cutlets, baked fish dishes, and of course the famous Chicken Kiev, are generally prepared with greater imagination and flair here. Ukrainians are not as heavy drinkers as Russians, they prefer to work. But that doesn't mean they don't know how to drink. Their liquor, known as "horilka" is stronger and spicier than most Russian vodka.
Wine is drunk more here than in Russia, it's main source being the Crimea, home of the delicious Massandra ports and madeiras. Ukrainian mainland wine is rarely of the same standard.
Kievan beer is one of the best in the former Soviet Union. Podilske seems to be the tastiest.
One of the most obvious observations you can make about Kiev is that it is almost impossible to describe. It has so many different aspects, different flavours - the old world merchant city in Podil with its quiet hillside: Baroque churches; the modern, frantic bustle of the Khreshchatyk, its animation seemingly fuelled by the coffee sold on every corner; the Bohemian feel of Yaroslaviv Val; the luxurious mansions of Pechersk.
All are so far removed from one another, separated by hills, valleys and parks, vast expanses of greenery unthinkable for modern cities. Viewed from the air Kiev is virtually invisible.
But for all the beauty of its ancient monuments and wide open spaces, and that great and gracious river, the Dnieper, that runs through its midst, Kiev has a dark side. Spiritualists say there is something wrong with the magnetic fields here, and there is indeed a heavy, cloying atmosphere. Maybe it's the economic situation turning ordinary people into angry animals, or resentful mobs, pushing and shoving in lines or on public transport (much worse, it seems than in Russia), or maybe it's something more permanent. Satanists are strong here, and Kiev is the home of the crazed, fanatical sect of Maria Devi Christ, a self-proclaimed messiah whose posters dressed in shepherd's garb seemed to have reached any town and village in the CIS.
Whatever the reason, Kiev is a sad and angry city today, but then people don't come to any Russian city for comfortable, easy holidays. Enjoy the greenness, the chestnuts in autumn, the antiquity, the fascinating architecture, the soft Russian accent, the strong gritty coffee, and the faces of the beautiful girls.
For all their anger and frustration about the state of the country and its leaders, the people of Kiev are somehow more detached from it all than other citizens of the Ukraine. Unless you meet him with his nerves frayed by a packed trolleybus, the chances are that your Kievan acquaintance will prove tolerant and calm. Kievans are neither as aggressively nationalist as western Ukrainians nor as proletarian as their eastern neighbours from Kharkov or Dnieperpetrovsk. Political issues are decided in Kiev, but not by Kievans - they prefer to float down the river Dnieper oblivious to the outside world. Kiev has its own pace, it always has had,and always will.
Kiev dates back to the 5th century A.D., a settlement by tribes called the Polyanians and Drevlianians. it gets its name from Kiy, the eldest of three ruling brothers of the Polyanians. In the centuries that followed, a powerful princedom grew up here, uniting local tribes in what was known as the "Russian Land".
By the 9th century, Kiev's prosperity had aroused the envy of its northern neighbours in Novgorod. The latter's prince Oleg came to look, and was so enthralled that he killed the local princes and made Kiev his own capital, calling it the "mother of Russian cities."
Kiev's development was unusual - three separate settlements grew up which are as divided as ever today. But this did not prevent its growing rich and powerful. In 978 Vladimir Svyatoslavovich took the throne, a fanatical pagan who swallowed his pride and christianised Rus', thus bringing it into the modern world. There was no stopping Kiev now, and throughout his reign, and that of his son Yaroslav the Wise, it became a respected nation, with trade and diplomatic links all over Europe. Its closest ally was Byzantium, much of whose appearance and ways it adopted.
Prosperity lasted half way into the llth century, and another period of strong stable rule in the 12th by Vladimir Monomakh and Yuri Dolgoruky revived its flagging fortunes for a while. But the inevitable squabbling between the offspring of the great princes damaged Kiev's repututation, in the end permanently. By the close of the 12th century, Rus' was hopelessly divided. In 1240, it was an easy prey for the Tatar hordes of Batiy Khan.
Kiev remained semi-extant and demoralised for most of the next four hundred years, invaded and occupied successively by Crimean Tatars, Lithuanians and Poles. Ukrainian unification with Russia, however, gave it the boost it needed. Peter the Great built an invincible fortress here, and the city blossomed culturally, a new architectural style, Ukrainian baroque, providing a bridge between Western and Russian styles.
The mid 19th century saw another burst of prosperity in Kiev - with a new planned city centre, a vast bridge over the Dnieper and administrative control over most of southwest Russia.
During the Russian Civil War, Kiev changed hands with amazing regularity and speed. Neither the Germans, the Reds, the Whites, nor Batko Makhno's "Green" partisans from the forest could hold it for long. When the Bolsheviks finally gained control, they were so sick of Kiev'a unruly spirit that they made Kharkov Ukrainian capital, a status it retained until 1934.
As might be expected, Kiev took a battering in World War Two, but its former appearance was by no means destroyed, completely. The Podil area survived almost intact, and restoration work elsewhere has helped the city to retain much of its charm.
The events of August 1991 in Moscow swelled an already powerful separatist movement in Ukraine, and soon Kiev found itself capital of a genuinely independent country, for the first time in over 300 years.
Kiev remains devastated by a corrupt leadership, the breakage of economic links with Russia and a deepseated resistance to the reforms which could save it. As one museum attendant put it, "All we have left are our beautiful girls". She may not be too far from the truth.
WALKING THROUGH KIEV
l.The Upper Town, Khreshchatyk and the Cathedrals. Starts metro Zoloti Vorota, ends metro Universitet.
Exit the metro to one of Kiev's most ancient monuments, the Golden Gates, the huge triumphant entrance to the city built in the llth century. As well as a powerful defensive structure, they included the Annunciation Church on top, its cupola in gold leaf, thus giving the gates their name. What you see today, though, is a reconstruction, built up in 1982 around the remaining walls of the gates. A museum inside tells the story.
From the quiet square, turn left up the hill along the road called Yaroslaviv Val, but not before you have taken a look at the ruined building lower down, on the corner of Prorizna and Volodimirska. This is the former Leipzig Restaurant. A whorehouse before the revolution, it achieved fame later as the Soviet Union's first jazz venue, a long time before conservative Moscow caught onto the idea.
The stately and peaceful road you now find yourself on is another integral part of ancient Kiev, the rampart of Yaroslav's city. But the street today has a very different feel - a wealth of western embassies and Polish gothic architecture from the end of the last century. At No.l is the magnificent romantic castle of Baron Shteingel, with its balconies supported by chimeras, mysterious gothic archways and slender spire. Slightly further is an even more extraordinary building, the Karaite temple, commissioned by tobacco barons the Cohen brothers at the turn of the century and built by the talented local architect Gorodetsky, who thoroughly mastered the necessary eastern style and even added Arabic script to the facade. The building is now the House of Actors.
The road continues to Lvivska Ploshcha, site of another gate of Yaroslav's town. Nothing remains of this ancient building, and in fact the square is thoroughly modern. Now filled with offices of western firms and a flashy new western-style department store, it was not so long ago one of the centres of bohemian life in the city. Here is the House of Artists, centre in the 1980's for avant-garde exhibitions and concerts, and nearby on the edge of the square, a local hippy grew cannabis trees right under the nose of the militia.
Turn right onto the busy Zhitomirska Vulitsa and return by it to Volodimirska. Turning right will bring you to Sofiiska Ploshcha, dominated by the statue of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Ukraine's dubious hero in a pose vaguely reminiscent of Falconet's Peter the Great in St. Petersburg. Mikeshin's statue, however, comes a hundred years later in 1888.
Behind the statue you will see a huge intricately carved baroque belltower, part of the 18th century ensemble that surrounds Kiev's most ancient cathedral, St. Sophia's. Enter the museum reserve from the entrance round to the left. The cathedral seems at first sight to differ little from the other structures - its white walls with side supports and nineteen bell-shaped cupolas being much later than llth century. Go inside, though, and you'll see the church as it used to be. This was Yaroslav's greatest achievement, a great church to unite the newly christianised state of Rus, doubling as a royal palace, where he received foreign guests.
The first things to strike you are the mosaics. Staring across at you from over the altar is the Virgin of Orans, a bright and seemingly indestructible figure with very eastern face and clothes. St. Sophia's mosaics and frescoes were painted by Byzantine masters, long before Russia had its own schools. Many of the frescoes have been restored or have survived intact. As well as the usual saints and angels, some depict historical scenes like Yaroslav's conversion to Christianity or the visit of Princess Olga to Byzantium. One other treasure in the cathedral is the carved marble coffin of Yaroslav the Wise, situated in the northeast of the church, early Christian symbols indicating its Near Eastern 5th century origin.
Nearby in the fine 17th century Metropolitan's Chambers is a history museum, particularly interesting for its exhibition on early church architecture in Rus'.
Leaving the cathedral grounds, cross Volodimirska and walk down Sofiiska Vulitsa into the modern centre of Kiev, a part of the city that has only appeared in the last few hundred ysars, and was then bombed in World War Two. You descend into Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the city's central (Independence) square. Formerly October Revolution Square, this was where countless demonstrations by the Rukh nationalist movement gradually set Ukraine on a course for breaking with Moscow. In the distance on the left, however, is a Utopian monument proclaiming just the opposite. A steel rainbow on the horizon, it is a modern commemoration of the uniting of Ukraine and Russia.
Turn right onto the Khreshchatyk, Kiev's main street destroyed in World War Two and rebuilt by German prisoners of war in true stalinist monumental style. All that remains of the old part is a small and elegant side street called the Passazh, just off to the left through an archway. Walk to the end of the main street, itself very short, but always teeming with shoppers and lined with cafes and expensive boutiques so loved by noaveau riche Kievans. The square at the far end on the left is dominated by a pre-revolutionary building, the art nouveau Bessarabsky Market.
Turn right past the Lenin statue up Boulevard Tarasa Shevchenko, named after the 19th century poet who became a national hero. He must have as many if not more statues and monuments here than Lenin, one of which is in the little park on the left hand side before you cross Volodimirska Vulitsa. A museum to the poet is at no.12.
Soon after on the right hand side you come to St Vladimir's Cathedral, built in the 1880's in the then popular neo-Byzantine style and ever since then the city's main orthodox church. Celebrating the 900th anniversary of Christianity in Rus', it also produced a brief but successful revival of Russian religious art.
Since the 17th century, icon and fresco painting had been in decline in Russia, replaced as the main visual art form by the portraiture and landscape styles of the day. However, Abramtsevo artists like Viktor Vasnetsov and Mikhail Vrubel began experimenting with religious themes again, and Vasnetsov wan invited to paint this cathedral. Along with other Russian, Ukrainian and Polish artists, he gave ten years of his life to what he considered his main creation and moral duty. Vasnetsov's bright visual style, more commonly associated with fairytale themes, makes a powerful impression in such works as the 'Baptism of Vladimir' and 'Baptism of the Kievans', the opening themes of the cathedral's paintings, devoted in their entirety to Christianity in Russia.
The metro entrance is slightly further up the boulevard on the left-hand side.
2.Andriyivsky Uzviz and Podil. Starts metro Poshtova Ploshcha, ends metro Kontraktova Ploshcha.
Begin this walk with a trip on the Funicular Railway, despite its modern looking appearance first built in 1905 and extended down to the river in 1928. Note also the main street here (Volodimirsky Uzviz leading into Vulitsa Sahaidachnogo), the site of Russia's first electric tramway, built just 13 years earlier. The funicular will take you up to Volodimirska Hirka Park, most famous for its statue of Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavovich, sculpted by Klodt and Demut-Malinovsky in 1853, towering over cliffs and the river below. From the square at the top of the railway, turn right down Desyatinna Vulitsa to the top of Andriyivsky Uzviz.
The beautiful baroque church at the top is St. Andrew's, a masterpiece by St. Petersburg architect Rastrelli completed in 1761. It is built on the site where Andrey Bogolyubsky first predicted a great future for the city. Despite the presence of the glitter and finery that is associated with him, Rastrelli also took local styles into account, using the standard Ukrainian cross-shaped five-domed design. The interior is a museum, with similarly ornate iconostasis, and a particularly lavish dome.
Just opposite are the foundations of one of Kiev's first churches, the Church of One Tenth, built in 989 and so-called because Prince Vladimir spent one tenth of his income on it. It collapsed in 1240, under the weight of people on its roof, taking refuge from the Tatar invaders.
Now descend the winding cobbled road between them. Andriyivsky Uzviz has something of a turn-of-the-century aura, indeed it was once inhabited by the writer Mikhail Bulgakov and many of the cultural intelligentsia of his day. Most of what you see now is a reconstruction, and indeed cranes still hover as a reminder of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, when several major Soviet cities were given a facelift. Initially, the artistic atmosphere of the Uzviz was revived, but now commercialism has taken over, with souvenir sellers and a host of art galleries competing to snare the tourist.
This does not detract from the street's history, or its unusual architecture, like Richard's House, a Gothic castle at no.15, or the mansion at no.34 with its extraordinary bulbous domes resembling deep-sea divers' helmets. Both were used as flats, where artists had their studios.
About half way down are two small museums. The first, on the left, describes life on the street and the families who lived there. If it's open it'll almost certainly be playing 1920's music for the passers-by.
Slightly further, on the right, is no.13, a plain little house where Mikhail Bulgakov spent his teens and twenties - his family rented the 1st floor flat. There is a plaque on the wall, and a rather dull museum, whose greatest treasure is a collection of revolutionary posters written in Ukrainian which have nothing to do with Bulgakov. And yet the writer did find inspiration here - just as "The Master and Margarita" is a great novel to know Moscow by, so is "The White Guard" and its dramatized version "Day of the Turbins" (a tale of the life of a Kiev family during the Civil War) a great way to discover Kiev. Typically, Bulgakov staged his novel in this house - you can even see the gap in the buildings where Nikolka Turbin hid his weapons.
Continue the descent almost to the bottom then turn right onto Borichiv Tik, an extension of the restored zone with views over the southern Podil area. While unable to boast any really outstanding works of art or architecture, Podil is a very pleasant lower city, its pretty market square and quiet hillside churches in the local baroque style, the best reminder there is of that first-flowering of Ukrainian culture.
Walk down past the picturesque Intercession Church and follow Pokrovska Vulitsa to the main square, Kontraktova Ploshcha. This is so called because of the Contract House, the classical building on the north side, where, apart from signing contracts, local citizens would attend concerts, masquerades, balls and court sittings. Also note the Sampson Fountain, built in 1743 as part of the city's first water piping system and the huge 1840s Gostiny Dvor in the centre.
Turn left off the square down Mykilsko-Prytyska Vulitsa to see the tiny St. Flor's Convent on the left. Like much of Podil, this once prosperous nunnery burned down in a disastrous fire of 1811. However, what is left is lovingly looked after and a small group of nuns has returned.
Return to the square via Konstantivska Vulitsa, passing on the way an unusual columned 17th century building known as Peter the Great's House, used by the Tsar when he passed through in 1706-7.
3. Pechersk and the Laura. Starts either Botanicheskaya train station or metro Druzhby Narodiv, ends metro Teatralna.
One version of this walk begins with the quiet Vydubitsky Monastery, reached by following Naddnepryanske Shose north from Botanicheskaya station and turning left when you see the cupolas through the trees. This used to be a pagan sanctuary devoted to the god Perun. With the arrival of Christianity, the idol's symbols were cast down into the Dnieper and carried away. Perun's followers, of whom there were still many, called for the statues to float to the surface of the water. The word they used was "vydubai", hence the monastery's name. However, the statues' heads were made of silver, and by the time they reappeared, it was too late to save them.
Today, this is an ideally quiet and beautiful spot, hidden in the trees above the river. The St. Michael's Cathedral dates from the 11th century, when the monastery was founded by Yaroslav's son Vsevolod. Frescoes painted soon after the founding were recently discovered in the cathedral.
Around the monastery is the Central Botanical Gardens, famous for their dozens of species of lilac. Come in late spring to see them blossoming.
Continue north to the major road junction, leading to the Paton Bridge (Mist Patona), built in 1953 and in its time the longest steel bridge in the world. If you're joining the walk from Druzhby Narodiv metro, any bus east will bring you to this spot, unforgettable for the huge Motherland statue on the hill above.
Climb up the steep hill to this invincible giant steel woman, erected as a war memorial but associated in the minds of many with the devil. Notice that the sword in her left hand has had its top part removed. Monks from the nearby Pechersk Laura complained because the statue was 5 metres higher than their belltower, and warned of impending evil - a symbol of war was dominant over a symbol of peace. The top of the sword was sawn off, but local witches remain undaunted and gather hare regularly for their covens.
The statue is part of the Great Patriotic War museum complex, a very solemn shrine to the fallen, with eternal flame and patriotic songs piped continuously through a loudspeaker. 200,000 Kievans died during World War Two and the city spent over two years under German occupation. There are dozens of memorials throughout the city, of which this is the largest.
Continue through the park to join the road you see ahead, slightly to the left. This is Vulitsa Sichnevogo Povstannya, which will take you directly to the entrance of the Pechersk Laura, one of four Russian monasteries given the highest status in the orthodox ranking.
The Laura was founded in 1051 as a cave monastery by the now canonised monks SS. Antony and Theodosius, but its main period of prosperity came in the 18th century, when it grew comfortably rich from lavish royal gifts. Catherine the Great curbed its power, fearing it would soon swallow up her land around St. Petersburg. The Upper Laura is now a museum, the Lower used as a monastery by the Moscow Patriarchate.
Enter the Laura by the Trinity Gate Church, the oldest intact building on the site, dating from 1108. Its appearance changed greatly in the 18th century, when the current lavish floral carved patterns round the windows and exterior paintings were added. Inside, the old cruciform structure of the church is visible, but the old frescoes lost. Note the wooden seats - the church was frequented by aged monks who couldn't stand. They would rise only when the metropolitan entered, supported by the backs of their' chairs.
Entering the courtyard you see ahead of you a ruined church. This single dome and a few walls are all that is left of the once great Assumption Cathedral. Just look at the decorations on the Trinity Church, and you can imagine what its much larger neighbour must once have been like. However, it was blown up during World War Two, and nobody is yet quite sure whether by the Nazis or by Stalin's secret police. The Ukrainian government has decided to rebuild it.
On the right is the famous baroque belltower, built by the architect Schadel in 1745. Only Ivan the Great in Moscow is taller. If you feel young and fit enough, climb the steps for a great view of the Pechersk area and the river.
Just to the right of the Assumption Cathedral is the Trapezium Church of SS. Antony and Theodosia. Built in the late 18th century, its wide round dome is more typical of Byzantine than Russian architecture. The interior painting is unusual too - side walls displaying huge scenes from the life of Christ. The central iconostasis, oddly, is designed by the modernist architect Alexey Shchusev.
Just outside the church is the grave of Pyotr Stolypin, Russian Prime Minister at the beginning of the century and seen by many as the last great hope for the Tsarist regime to reform itself. While proposing changes in land law that would have gradually increased peasant ownership, his authoritarian rule made him a target of revolutionaries. He was assassinated in a Kiev theatre in 1911, and was buried, as he requested, in the city where he died.
Walk down to the Lower Laura. On the outside, there is little to attract the visitor to this part - a few rather plain in Ukrainian baroque churches and some very busy looking monks. However, here is the entrance to the huge network of caves of which a small section is open to the public. Take a candle from the nearby stall and join the group excursion (provided the weather is dry). You will be taken into underground churches and will see the mummified remains of the original community. There are 150 bodies in all.
Returning to the Upper Laura, turn right before the Assumption Cathedral and head towards the All Saints' Gate Church, another baroque church with 19th century paintings inside. The murals in the entrance stairway are especially interesting - views of the city with strange tree-like structures rising from the fortification towers.
Leave the Laura and visit another ancient church nearby. The little Church of the Saviour-in-the-Birchwood is believed to be 11th century, built in the suburban residence of the Kievan princes. Part of the Laura museum, it contains frescoes; from the 12th, 14th and 17th centuries, the earliest on the back wall of the nave. In the left chapel is a symbolic sarcophagus, put here in 1947 to commemorate Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, who was buried here. Recently, however, remains of the original coffin were dug up outside and will be reassembled. They are currently in the right chapel.
Take a no.20 trolleybus three stops to the north and walk on to the next right turn. The large modern building on the corner houses the Ukrainian government. Just beside it on the right is the Mariinsky Palace, the second of Rastrelli's works in Kiev. Built in 1752, it doesn't match his lavish St. Petersburg palaces, but it's the only one of its kind here. Tsars frequently stayed here and in 1917 it became headquarters of the Bolshevik Party and local worker's soviet.
Take the next left down Sadova Vulitsa, right onto Institutska, then left again onto Bankova. Half way down this street on the right is the so-called House with Chimaeras. This is another work by the architect Gorodetsky, built for a concrete factory owner whose daughter had drowned. Often described as a "fairytale in stone", it has to be seen to be believed. The walls and rooves are carved with fabulous creatures, and the latter so lavishly decorated that the walls appear to be peeling and fraying at the top, as if in some great heat.
Continue through the hilly residential area of Pechersk, home of top government officials and the president, and descend via Kruglouniversitetska Vulitsa to the Khreshchatyk and metro Teatralna, on nearby Vulitsa Bohdana Khmelnitskogo.
St. Cyril's Church
Out in the northwest of the city, this 12th century church, founded by Prince Vsevolod of Chernigov as part of a monastery, is a museum containing 12th, 14th and 19th century frescoes. The war themes of the earliest reflect the mood of Vsevolod, then in the process of capturing Kiev and making it his own. In the 19th century Professor Prakhov, the coordinator of work on St. Vladimir's Cathedral, organised the restoration and repainting of some of the murals. The work was carried out by Mikhail Vrubel, famed for the psychological penetrating force of his faces. Several of the church's icons are also his.
To reach St. Cyril's, take tram no.11, 12, or 19 from Kontraktova Ploshcha to the Spartak Stadium. The church is hidden behind the stadium on the hilltop to the left, and is reached from the other side. Be sure to use to right entrance - steps up and a museum sign, otherwise you'll end up in the grounds of Kiev Mental Hospital.
Ukraine's main museum of folk architecture and life is in the village of Pirogovo at the south of the city. Anyone who has been to such museums in Russia will be astounded by the difference here. It is very large, and demonstrates the extraordinary diversity of village life in this country, much greater than in Russia. Many of the buildings are open to the public, and are beautifully fragrant from the drying of herbs.
Start with the Cherkassy Sector, a neat and compact village with whitewashed and thatched clay huts, often divided between barns and living quarters. One is a hut belonging to the poet Taras Shevchenko's uncle. The village square, or maidan, includes the pretty wooden Pyatnitskaya Church, and a school, now an excellent souvenir shop.
Enter the Poltava Sector. Here are some of the best interiors in the museum. You can see how potters, rich cossacks and soothsayers lived, or how a family would prepare for the marriage of their daughter, in a room beautifully painted with flower patterns.
The Polesye Sector covers the northern forest areas, around Chernigov. Here you can see some unique wooden buildings, like a horse-drawn buckwheat mill from Mamekino. Notice the way barn sections are built, their walls made of fine woven twigs.
In the Carpathian Sector, again mostly wooden, rooves are much higher, their elongated shape designed to cope with heavy rainfall in this mountainous western region.
Finally, walk back to the entrance through the Podolye Sector, with its brightly painted stone houses. One blue house has a fine moulded flower pattern at the sides of the doors.
The museum is not the easiest place in the world to get to. Take the metro to Libidska, then the no.11 or 12 trolleybus south to the Exhibition Centre, then by no.24 or 61 bus (the latter wil] drop you off at the 'Institut' stop, and you will have to walk another l/2km along a minor road to the left). By car head southwest on Prospekt Akademika Hlushkova to Odessa Square, then turn left onto Vulitsa Akademika Zabolotnogo. The museum in signposted, a left turn past Feofaniya.
During the German occupation of Kiev, one particularly offensive act committed here was the Babiy Yar massacre. 100,000 Jews were rounded up and gunned down in this ravine, in the northwest of the city. A granite block now stands here as a monument, and the ravine is a park, planted with birches, firs and rowan trees.
Reach the site by taking the 27 trolleybus from Petrivka metro to the "Shevchenkovsky Univermah" stop.
Urban Public Transport
Kiev never received the ample central budget funds for its metro that Moscow did, and had to rely on republican money alone to build it. Consequently the system doesn't adequately serve the city. However, there are three lines in operation, the north-south blue line, a red line running from the right bank suburb of Darnitsa to the railway station and beyond to the western limits, and the newest, green line, also connecting the right bank with the centre.
The overland transport system is not well-oiled, let alone able to cope with routes not served by the metro. You're probably better off taking taxis.
Suburban and Inter-city transport
Vokzal (metro Vokzalna): trains on all suburban and long-distance routes. As well as Moscow and St. Petersburg, tnere are regular trains to Italy and Germany via Hungary and Slovakia.
Avtovokzal (metro Libidska, then one stop by any southbound trolleybus, Ploshcha Moskovaka, 3): buses to nearby regional centres.
Richniy Vokzal (metro Pochtova Ploshcha): suburban hydrofoils and terminal for Dnieper cruises to the Black Sea at Odessa.
Borispil Airport (by bus from the Aeroflot office on Prospekt Peremohy, nearest metro Vokzalna): flights to Moscow, St. Petersburg and other CIS cities.
Rail: Boulevard Tarasa Shevchenko 38/40.
Air: Aeroflot, Peremohy Square.
Main city ticket office, Karla Marksa 4.
The magnificent Bessarabsky Rynok at the end of Khreshchatyk is a pleasure to shop in, though also the most expensive. Try also:
Zhitny, Vul Verkhny Val, metro Kontraktova Ploshcha;
Tsentralny, Vul Vorovskogo 17, metro Universitet;
Pechersky, Pecherska Ploshcha. 2, metro Klovska.
THEATRE, CONCERTS ETC.
Lovers of opera and ballet may be disappointed by their visit to Kiev. The Taras Shevchenko Opera and ballet Theatre (Volodimirska 50, metro Teatralna) is really nothing special. For entertainment, you're probably safer with the Circus (Peremohy Ploshcha, metro Vokzalna).
For concerts, the main venues are the Kiev State Philharmonia (Volodimirsky Uzviz 2, metro Maidan Nezalezhnosti) or the Large Hall of the Conservatory (Khreshchatyk 11, metro Maidan Nezalezhnosti). For acoustic excellence, visit the Republican House of Organ and Chamber Music (Chervonoarmiyiska 75, metro Respublikansky Stadion), a former catholic cathedral.
If you're a Russian and/or Ukrainian speaker, the two communities have a theatre each which thrive on mutual rivalry. The Lesia Ukrainka Theater (Bohdana Khmelnitskogo 5, metro Teatralna) is the last Russian language theatre in the city. The Ivan Franko Theatre (Ploshcha Ivana Franko 3, metro Khreshchatyk) is in Ukrainian.
Kiev doesn't present any problems when it comes to recreation - most of the city seems to be made up of parks. For more natural surroundings, try older parks like Holoseyevo Forest (metro Libidska, then any trolleybus south), the botanical gardens near the Vydubitsky Monastery, Pervomaisky Park, Frunze Park or Pushkinsky Park.
Inevitably beaches in Kiev are highly polluted but, again inevitably, Russians being Russians, and Ukrainians being Ukrainians. they swim there anyway. The most popular area is the collection of islands in the Dnieper, the so-called Hydropark (metro Hydropark), and Trukhaniv Island just to the north across as the suspension bridge.
This northern forested region of Ukraine has more in common with Russia and Belarus than the lands to the south of Kiev. But with the capital it has links going back to the llth century, when Yaroslav the Wise's brother ruled, the local princedom. A hotchpotch of nations has developed here, rather conservative and Soviet-orientated.
THE LEGACY OF CHERNOBYL
In April 1986 disaster struck Ukraine, the Soviet Union and indeed, most of Europe. One of the reactors of the Chernobyl atomic power station exploded, sending radiation north to Minsk and south to Kiev. Chernigov was right beside the scene of the accident, just 70km away. And yet the city was not seriously affected. The spread of radioactivity has often been compared to a pair of pants: while it blew out through the two legs, Chernigov was lucky enough to be positioned in the crotch.
However, the local people remain closely involved in the tragedy and its after-effects. Just 50 minutes train ride to the west is the new town of Slavutich, inhabited by workers at the power station since the disaster. Built in 1987-8, it replaced their former home at Pripyat, now a deadly radioactive ghost town.
Strange though it may seem that a new Soviet town could be of interest to anyone except masochists and students of architecture, Slavutich is still worth a visit. Built by seven former Soviet republics - and divided into quarters with the names of their capitals, it contains every conceivable brand of detached house and high rise block they have to offer. This is the vanguard of modern town housing, CIS style.
Leaving the rail station, an oversized white structure resembling one of the more recent pavilions at Moscow's All-Russian Exhibition Centre, the immediate ugliness of Slavutich is striking. Much of it, particularly around the station forecourt, still resembles a building site, and the pioneer architects have long since left, replaced by less imaginative box builders.
Add to that the absence of almost any kind of social life - one seedy and supposedly Georgian cafe sits tucked away unobtrusively in the Tbilisi quarter - and you won't want to stay here more than a few hours.
Though the multi-ethnic nature of Slavutich is really only a superficial appearance, it nevertheless takes some creative forms. The contrast between the well-ordered bungalows of the Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius quarters and the more extravagant apartment blocks of the Yerevan quarter at the other end of town is distinctly national.
Slavutich people, meanwhile, seem to fall into two groups. Demoralisation is rife. Many have had their lives destroyed by the disaster. Others have gone to the opposite extreme - they carry on in a kind of frenzied normality, sure to the point of complacency that everything ib okay, that dangers are small or non-existent.
Radiation levels here are high, but Slavutich has to be seen to be believed.
One of the earliest cities of ancient Rus', Chernigov rose to fame soon after the conversion of the country to Christianity by Vladimir Svyatoslavovich. It became a bishopric, second only to Novgorod, and then a princedom, headed by Yaroslav's brother and rival for the throne of Kiev, Mstislav.
At the height of its power, Chernigov's authority stretched almost unbelievably far - to the Oka river in the north, and the Caucasus mountains in the south, but the Tatar invasion changed all that. After a heroic defense and the martyring of the last Chernigovan prince Mstislav Vsevolodovich, the city submitted to the dark ages.
Sacked by Tatars, occupied by Lithuanians, reunified by Russians and bombed by Germans, Chernigov's history has been closely linked to Kiev's ever since.
Today, Chernigov is an attractive provincial town with ornate squares and abundant greenery, though it's still not really woken up to tourism. One hotel, the Czech-built Gradetskaya on Ulitsa Lenina is habitable, the Ukraina on the same street very much second best.
Start looking at the town from the enormous main square, Ploshchad Kuibysheva. It should be fairly obvious which way to go - the linear park culminating in the fine baroque St. Catherine's Church gleaming white in the distance. This was built in 1715 by Yakov Lisogub, a Russian hero in the Turkish war waged by Peter the Great, who captured the fortress of Azov.
But the real treasures of Chernigov are just away to the left through the trees, behind the 18th century battlements. Here is the ancient fortress, or Detinets, the home of the various Mstislavs.
To look at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, with its very unrussian golden spires and general 18th century aura, it's not immediately obvious that this is the oldest Russian church in existence. Begun in 1036, it preceded Kiev's St. Sophia's by a couple of years, but was given a major overhaul in the 1790's. Now a part of the local museum, it is the burial place of the first Mstislav, and also Igor Svyatoslavovich, hero of The Lay of Igor's Host and Borodin's opera Prince Igor.
The later SS. Boris and Gleb Cathedral (built 1123) stands alongside. Simple and bulky, it seems truer to its original appearance - with six columns and a single crossed dome, it served as a prototype for Chernigov architecture of that period.
Returning to the centre of town, and turning right past the theatre, you come to what is arguably Chernigov's most beautiful church, the Pyatnitskaya, built at the end of the 12th century. It is a truly magic place, and indeed a centre for superstition. If a girl couldn't find a husband, she could come here and circle the church twice, after which she would shortly encounter the man of her dreams.
Slender and single-domed, festive in its brickwork and standing alone on an expanse of green in the former market area, it is reminiscent of the ancient merchant churches of Novgorod. As if in sympathy with that devastated city, it too was destroyed by the Germans in 1943, and had to be rebuilt virtually from scratch in the 1960's. Now it is a functioning church.
To the south of the town are two monasteries. The Yeletsk Convent, with buildings dating back to the 12th century, though again almost unrecognisable, has been restored to its 18th century magnificence and is now functioning again.
Near the Trinity Monastery meanwhile, at the foot of the Boldin Hills, there is a system of caves leading from the Church of St. Elijah's. Once an underground monastery, it was then transformed into a system of churches unique in the orthodox world. As you descend into the bowels of the earth, chilly bare white altars and the odd crumbling monastic bone confront you, a reminder of the terrors of the Crimean Tatar invasion.
In the north of the region, this beautiful little town on the Desna river dates from the 11th century, built as a fortress by Prince Vladimir and later turned into the capital of yet another princedom. Its name comes from its first inhabitants, settlers from Novgorod the Great.
Stretching eastwards as far as Kursk, this at the end of the 12th century was the realm of Igor Svyatoslavovich, a feudal prince brave to the point of stupidity. Not content with attacking Kiev and being disastrously defeated, he led a campaign single-handedly against the then common enemy in the east, the Polovtsy. He obviously had something to prove - he'd neglected to take part in Kiev's very successful crusade against them a year before.
In 1185, he made a triumphant exit from his citadel, and a few weeks later was surrounded and captured. Novgorod Seversky was sacked, and a furious Prince Svyatoslav in Kiev was barely able to save the rest of Rus' from disaster.
But the foolhardy Igor had proved a valid point. Russians were no good divided, they had to unite to achieve anything. This was borne out in the medieval Russian literary masterpiece, "The Lay of Igor's Host, based on these events. From this also came the famous Borodin/Rimsky-Korsakov opera "Prince Igor". In 1969, a film of the opera was made in Novgorod Seversky.
Though almost on the Russian border, Novgorod Seversky has a Ukrainian feel - a vast village connected by steep winding asphalt roads (they'd be unmetalled if it was in Russia), teeming with cyclists and geese.
None of Novgorod Seversky's ancient monuments have survived. At Zamkova Gora, former residence of the princes, only earthworks remain. At the southern end, the picturesque Transfiguration Monastery, built on a hill above the Desna, was once the site of stone 12th century churches. It was rebuilt in the 16th, its grand classical cathedral designed by Giacomo Quarenghi. Now virtually derelict, the monastery contains a museum about "The Lay of Igor's Host".
While you're here, take a look also at the Triumphal Arch, built in honour of Catherine the Great's visit, the dominant central Assumption Cathedral, with several valuable 17th-18th century icons, and the St. Nicholas Church, a masterpiece of Ukrainian wooden architecture of the l8th century.
This extraordinary dendrarium was created by Ivan Skoropadsky, descendent of an 18th century Ukrainian hetman (the name given to Ukraine's autonomous rulers after unification with Russia).
He acquired the estate by marriage in 1833 and set about building himself a palace, planting trees, and later changing the relief of the landscape, to create conditions for yet more exotic species. His legacy is a 350 hectare park filled with almost 700 species of tree and bush. Of the palace, just a few outhouses remain.
To see the dendrarium properly, you'd need 2 or 3 days here, but for a short trip there are some places that shouldn't be missed. Visit the welcoming Hallway Meadow, with its taste of the variety of Trostyanets, the amazing hilly-trunked fir covered with hideous lumps, and the anchor-shaped western thuja, its trunk dividing into three at ground level, are just two of its treasures.
Another meadow contains an impressive array of cedars, beyond them great 150-year-old oaks, dating from the founding of the park. Across the Great Lake, meanwhile, is an area known as "Switzerland", where after decades of painstaking shifting of soil, Skoropadsky created an Alpine-type landscape, with "alps" 30 metres high.
Returning to and recrossing the Great Lake, turn left to the Swan Lake, where the graceful birds live in specially built huts. They are just one of many types of bird in the park. Wild animals - hares, deer, even occasionally wolves, prowl here too.
The best time to come to Trostyanets is, quite obviously, autumn. It has just the right mix of coniferous and deciduous trees to leave the visitor breathless from its colours.
How to get there
Chernigov: by daily train from Moscow's Kievsky Vokzal, previously 15 hours but now sometimes held up longer by frontier checks, from Kiev three hours by bus, four by train. By car, it is just off the M20 Kiev-St. Petersburg road, so if coming from Moscow take the M3 Kiev road and turn off just before Kopti.
Slavutich: 50 minutes from Chernigov by train. By car, take the Chernobyl road west and turn off after Pakul.
Novgorod Seversky: the daily train from Moscow takes about 18 hours, alternatively take a Kiev-bound train to Voronezhska (11 hours), then carry on by bus, changing at Shostka (another 2 hours). From Chernigov over four hours by bus. By car turn right off the M3 near Glukhov.
Trostyanets: from Chernigov take local train to Priluki, then bus or train to Ichnya, then local bus. By car from Chernigov take the P15 through Nezhin to Talalayevka, then turn left onto the P21, which takes you virtually all the way.