Two weeks ago, Muni and I decided on our summer vacation plans and we decided on going for some days to Lithuania to visit the grandma and family of Muni as last year. However, we thought about a short trip of 2 to 3 days within that time since the airport of Kaunas is at the moment the main international airport here in Lithuania since Vilnius is closed due to construction and renovation works for 3 weeks and moved all operations to Kaunas as well as the airport of Kaunaus is not far away and easy to reach. So, we had a look around for an interesting offer to an interesting destination and came across the cheap fare of Ukraine International for €100 return to Kyiv. After checking the prices for accommodation and finding a nice Airbnb arpartment for €30 a night in walking distance to the Maidan, we decided on going to Kyiv for 3 days.
The flight to Kyiv was pretty good with Ukraine International, after arriving at the airport we went to check-in counter to get our boarding passes and to register my Flyingblue card which went rather smoothly, also when the waiting queue was a bit chaotic and people trying to skip the lane we got our tickets and registered my card successfully. Afterwards, the typical procedure with security control and passport control to leave the European Union in a very modern terminal in Kaunas which was very pleasant also it is quite small. The seats have been comfortable and the aircraft was clean. However, also here the cost savings are clear with only a complementary paper cup of water and for the rest of food or drinks you had to pay which I kindly denied since the flight was only one hour and twenty minutes
Arrived in Kyiv, the adventure started. First through the passport and border control where we got our stamps which worked absolutely without any problem for us and getting the first Ukrainian money at an ATM, we went to the bus and taxi station of Borspil airport. We had not really a clue how to get to the place where we had to pick up our key for the apartment. We knew that there is a bus to the central station which we also found and which was quite cheap (about €2,5). However, we did not really have a plan how to get from the central station to the location and since we did not know anything about Kyiv’s infrastructure and how far or easy it would be to get there, I decided to ask how much a taxi to the location would be at the official taxi stand. There, we met a very friendly taxi driver who was speaking quite good english which offered his taxi (a Volkswagen Caddy with 650.000km’s) including a taximeter for 450 UAH which is around €15 and was certainly a good option for the 35km to the city centre. During the whole time finding out and discussing about what we are doing, a unoffical taxi guy was annoying us with his offer to bring us to the city. Luckily, I figured out quite fast what this guy was doing and was ignoring him directly from the beginning. He was quite pushy and after the fourth time of annoying us we send him to hell and took the offical taxi which we discussed in the mean time. So, lesson learned, also in Kyiv you have unofficial taxi’s like in Paris which are just a scam to the tourists and the official taxi’s are the fastest and safest way to get into the city with a fair price which is very cheap compared to other large European cities.
Once arrived at the place where we should pick up our key, we had to find where the address is located. Our host send us a picture of the entrance which was a bit of help. However, the location was located in the middle of the biggest shopping street in the city centre next to the Maidan and a lot of people and shops where around which did not make the search easier. After walking around for 10 minutes, we found the place and got in contact with the concierge who was taking care of the keys of the host women. Of course, he was an old almost retired man around 65 years old who did not speak a single word of English. And how should it be, of course we have been lost in translation. With hands, some words of Ukraine, a phone call with our host Leona and a big Daaaaa, we got our key and were on our way over the big Khreshatyk street towards the Maidan and our small apartment in a neighbor street of the Maidan. And to our surprise, the city was fully alive, a lot of modern shops and modern dressed women and men, very modern and expensive cars (Mercedes S-Class’s and G-Class’s, Audi A8, BMW 7 series … you name it), the streets and houses are in good quality and not many if any questionable people walking around.
After we found our apartment, which was not that easy since numbers were missing in the court of the building complex and the preparations of a Ukraine marriage of one of the neighbors confused us as well, we found the entrance and our apartment.
The apartment was a typical studio with a combined sleeping, living room and kitchen in one and a separate bathroom and was absolutely fine. It even had air conditioning! Therefore, we rested a bit and then started our first tour around the Maidan. Underneath of the Maidan is a shopping centre which is called Globus where we had some lunch in a Ukraine chain restaurant which was recommended on tourist webpages for good and typical Ukraine food. And indeed, it was very delicious and we only paid for two persons including drinks, main course and desert stunning €5,20. From there, we continued with our little evening exploration of the city towards some of the most beautiful churches of Kyiv: St Sophia cathedral, Mikhaylovskaya monastery and St Andreas church. The Ukraine people are very religious and a lot of people went to the church for the evening service and to do prayers. Fore sure, the churches are absolutely stunning in terms of design and colours.
We continued our little tour to a small little hill were we had a stunning view onto the St Andreas church and around the old town of Kyiv. Already at this time, we felt that these 3 days here in Kyiv will be quite exhausting since the city is very hilly with step streets and a lot of stairs. After a small walk around in the old town of Kyiv – and getting lost several times on the map and in translation – we had a beautiful walk along a closed city garden and ended up at a local brewery where we had a beer for about €1,50 for the half liter. After some resting there, we came to the golden gate of Kyiv where we found a Georgian restaurant and decided to try this one out. We had some very nice food there and with fully stomachs we finished our little tour via the Kreshatyk street and the Maidan to our apartment. In total, we walked 14 kilometers and made 26.000 steps that day.
The next day, monday morning, we woke up quite late and planned our trip. After a quick breakfast at Puzata Hata, the place where we had lunch the day before, we started our trip with the Kyiv Metro to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra also know as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. The monastery is directly at the hill next to river Dnepr which required quite a steep climb up to the monastery. The monastery, which has several churches includes also the caves where monks are buried in coffins which have a top of glass so that you can look into them and see the mummified dead monks. You can only walk around in the caves with a candle in your hand which gives you enough light to see. However, the caves have been so crowded with religious people, kissing every coffin and praying to the monks that there was plenty of light and I was very afraid to burn somebody with my candle.
After the visit to the Lavra, we went on our little expedition tour to the motherland monument where the national museum of the history of the Ukraine in World War II is shown as well. The monument is in a large park and our walk over there was again quite exhausting since we took most likely the worst and most indirect way there since our map was unfortunatly not really detailed and bad. Arrived there, we have been again lost in translation as there are very few signs if any which describe where to buy tickets. Of course, the little cashier desk which found in in a side room had only one counter with a Ukraine speaking women which sold us the ticket after finding out how it works, somehow. Actually, I wanted to go up to the 91 meters of the statue but it was closed since it was very hot and since the whole statue is made out of metal, you can think how hot it can become. So, we bought the ticket for the museum and for the lift up to the platform in 36,6 meters. The museum was very interesting and shows the story of the WW2 but also about the ongoing war in the eastern Ukraine with an exhibition of personal belongings of soldiers which have fallen in the last 3 years. Unfortunately, and this is a large problem for everybody who can not read cyrillic, all texts in the museum and also at the Lavra are in cyrillic and not translated into english. That means a lot of information is missing for us since we were not able to read it. Nevertheless, the view from the statue was quite impressive and the elevator ride up to it is an experience for it-self.
After our visit, we met two dutch guys out of Dordrecht which is basically one town further from Breda and had a little talk before we continued our walk around the park to a small airplane and war vehicles exhibition where I was able to sit in a cockpit of a MIG-23 and Douglas DC3. By around 35 °C, we have been at this point already quite exhausted and decided to go back to the apartment and skipped the botanic garden. Luckily, we found a bus which brought us basically directly back to our apartment for about 0,08 cents. We rested and had a little siesta before we went out for some dinner at a Ukraine place and finished our day with a walk around the city centre of Kyiv where we found a small little nice park and discovered a bit the night life before we went to bed.
Tuesday, our last day in Kyiv, we started the day with packing our suitcase and bringing back the key to the place where we picked it up where we found this time an old Ukraine women which of course did also not speak any english. We left our suitcase with her and headed for some breakfast at the Puzata Hata and some shopping thereafter. Around lunchtime, we had a walk to the Ukraine parliament and around the park with the Mariyinsky Palace before we headed back to the Maidan and Kreshatyk street around 15:00 where we picked up our suitcase and the old lady. We searched for the next taxi and went to airport way in advance to be sure on time for our flight in the evening at 19:30 back to Kaunas. The airport terminal in Kyiv Boryspil is very modern and new. The Check-in was fast and in perfect German language. Thereafter, through security and passport control where we got our second stamp for leaving the Ukraine before going to the gate. The flight back was not quite as enjoyable as we first thought, through a large family with very fluttered kids but had nevertheless a beautiful sunset to watch during the whole flight.
That was our small trip to Kyiv which we really enjoyed. What we recognized during our visit is that very few tourists from western countries or Asia are visiting the city. Much more local Ukraine people and Russians as well as from the Baltic states are visiting Ukraine as tourists. Therefore, the tourism in Kyiv is an emerging market for us in western Europe and therefore is a at the moment a perfect time to go there to see the city in its beauty before the commercialization for tourism which will come most likely since the city absolutely beautiful. Also, we never felt unsafe during our whole stay in any kind. Of course, you should not be lightheaded with your belongings as any large city but besides of this, Kyiv is as safe to visit as any other city in Europe. In addition, the city is quite reasonable in terms of prices, espeically for young students like Muni and me.