AMBASSADOR'S BLOG - IS KYIV WORTH A VISIT? GUEST BLOG FROM FROM MARY AND DETLEF GOLLETZ

Kyiv
06.10.11


The following is a guest blog from Mary and Detlef Golletz, friends of mine who visited in the summer.

Kyiv?” friends asked quizzically as we discussed plans for a short break.  A reasonable question, given that it proved impossible to buy local currency in the UK and our 2008 Lonely Planet Guide said that the city did not have a tourist office.  Most of our co-passengers clapped as we landed at Borispol airport; was this a good omen?
 
What we found was a huge, impressive city able to assert itself with style, grandeur, lots of history but also lots of contrasts.  We saw magnificent monasteries, ancient cathedrals and spectacular terraces on which to sip cocktails as we watched the sun set over Kyiv.  We walked through fantastic parks overlooking the Dnipro river and past huge monuments glorifying different periods of Ukraine’s war-torn history.
 
We also found the tourist office: through a side-door to the town-centre Khreschatik metro station were two cupboard-sized rooms with racks of free tourist information and friendly young English-speaking staff eager to help.  Posters advertised trips to Chernobyl and tours of the “Caves” Monastery.  Souvenirs ranged from fridge magnets advising you against drinking too much vodka to T-shirts with an ominous luminous radioactive symbol.
 
So is Kyiv worth a visit?  Yes, definitely.  It is unlike other European cities; a place of contrast and contradictions.  After 20 years of independence Ukraine is creating its own identity; rebuilding monuments destroyed under Soviet rule; preparing to welcome the world to Euro 2012, yet hiding away its tourist office.  Ukraine in 2011 is friendly, open and welcoming: establishing itself as an important European country while rebuilding its eastern European heritage.
 
Returning home, credit card transactions in Kyiv were listed on our bank statements as “unknown currency”.  Perhaps that sums it up.

Leigh Turner

 



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