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Friday, 01 January 2016

Kiev, Ukraine: Golden Domes, Shimmering Spires and Bohemian Spirits of Freedom - Page 2

Written by Lesley Williamson
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With a strong desire to highlight the monumental political changes that rocked her country after the 2014 uprising, Natasha begins her tour in front of St. Michael’s Golden-domed Monastery. A showcase of the new military equipment handled by young soldiers on the esplanade is a clear hint of cautious optimism hanging in the air of a country embroiled in a military conflict. Like a whole generation of Ukrainians, Natasha is not bogged down with political correctness and her inability to take things lightly is reflected in the way she emotionally recalls the sacrifices of protesters killed by the crushing force of riot police. Hundreds of young men’s portraits,  honored with flowers and candles in a public tribute to the nation’s heroes, stand as poignant evidence that a newly independent country is emerging from its Russian legacy, timidly establishing its own unique identity.

We enter the spectacular dazzling blue St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, built in 1713 by architect Rastrelli, with its soaring domes, mosaics and bright paintings. A fine approach to the smells, sounds and ancient traditions of the Orthodox church. 

Saint Michaels Monastry

We head across the boulevard to Kiev’s oldest standing church, Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, a true masterpiece of art and architecture built in Byzantine style and transformed in the baroque period. Built in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise and modeled on Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, this majestic 13-cupola sanctuary opens up a magnificent world of buildings, a museum and treasures of rich mosaics and frescoes, almost intact a millennium later. 

St Sohpia

Religious devotion strikes throughout the city’s churches and the UNESCO World Heritage caves monastery is its spiritual heart. Even though we try to escape from the usual things to do on this trip, the must -see Kiev-Pechersk Caves Monastery, perched on the pictorial hills of Dnipro River turns out to be a spiritual, yet spooky experience.  Not recommended for the tall or claustrophobic, we descend with candle light through a network of ancient underground tunnels and chambers connecting coffins of mummified monks’ relics, revealing glimpses of blackened hands and fingers. Headscarves and long skirts for women are compulsory for worshipers and visitors alike. 

View Of Caves Monastry

The views over the city’s startling scarlet, purple, gold and orange shades, blazing across Kiev’s three hills and sweeping into the valley are breathtaking. Rising from these leafy hills are two memorial centerpieces:  a gigantic Brezhnev-era Motherland statue bearing sword and shield, casting her all-encompassing eye over Kiev and the “Friendship of Nations Monument”, a concrete rainbow arch over the Dnipro river. 

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Last modified on Friday, 01 January 2016

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