The capital of Ukraine is a surprising destination to be explored in the fall, when the season transforms autumn leaves into striking hues of golden yellow, red and amber. The city center that staged Ukraine’s revolutionary demonstrations and protests awakens to a beautiful and serene existence. After the political turmoil that shook the country in 2014 and affected its entire tourism industry, a visit to its glowing capital is a powerful and overwhelming insight into the wind of change blowing over Ukraine.
When you think of a city break away, Kiev doesn’t instantly spring to mind. However, back in 2012, tourists and investors were flocking to the city and Ukraine stood proudly as the 8th most popular tourism destination in Europe welcoming 23 million visitors. No wonder really, the “Mother of all Slavic nations” is steeped in history, rich in culture and culinary delights.
Meet the Locals
“Babushkas” are the stronghold of the nation and the best place to interact with them is the local markets. The influence of the former “friendship of nations” is particularly obvious in street food stands held by these hard-working ladies wearing colorful headscarves. Their resilience, endurance and wise outlook on life is an immense source of inspiration, a local experience that plunges us in an entirely different world.
Former center for craftsmen and merchants, Podilskiy, one of the oldest parts of Kiev, is an ideal starting point. Home to the imposing soviet-era structure, Zhytniy market, it is a feast for all senses, teeming with jostling babushkas displaying home-grown vegetables and all sorts of pickled, potted or dried berries and nuts. For a country that has been no stranger to famines, it produces in its rich and dark soil some of the most flavorful fruit and vegetables.
At the entrance of the covered market, we meet Natasha, our local guide and University Professor of Tourism dedicated to sharing her passion for her city’s history. Although the first impression of austerity on the faces of passersby and the absence of spontaneous smiles is undeniably noticeable, Ukrainian hospitality is sincere and generous. Natasha is a perfect example, she has a carefree and humorous attitude typical of urban Ukrainians.