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5 Awesome Things to do in Kiev

I think that everyone should visit Kiev! It’s a beautiful city with a great history, and if you have Euros or Dollars, it’s all very affordable. One of the nicest perks of Kiev is that it’s a fairly centralized city. All of the things I’m about to list are within walking distance. Or if you prefer to hitch a ride, a taxi should never cost more than a couple of bucks. Finally, I love travelling in Ukraine, and I have lots of cool Kiev photos (Odessa and Lviv too) that I definitely think you’ll like. Alright though, let’s get to it!

1. Rodina Mat

Rodina Mat in KievIf you’re going to travel to Ukraine, this massive statue is a must see! At 102 meters, Rodina Mat is truly impressive, especially as she holds up her sword and shield to the river. In Russian, Родина Мать, is bit awkward to translate, but it comes out as something like “Mother of the Country” or “Mother of the Homeland”.

Under the base of the statue is a comprehensive World War II museum that’s filled with interesting relics from the war. You’ll also find some items from the significantly more modern struggle in Donbass. On top of helmets and pictures, there’s also a captured Russian tank. It’s parked out right out front and has been painted in Ukraine’s national colors (blue and yellow).

It’s also worth noting that if you take the metro to Rodina Mat, you’ll get off at Arsenalna Station, which is the deepest metro station in the world. Getting from the Metro car, up to the entrance of the station, takes more time then trying to pick a movie to watch on Netflix! If you visit Kiev, you can’t pass up this opportunity.

2. Maidan

Maidan in KievIf there was an award for most transformed public space, Maidan would surely take first place. This telling photograph illustrates how bad things got, and how nice it looks now. Maidan is one of Kiev’s main attractions, and the whole area is a wonderful place to hang out. The protesters are long gone, order has been returned, and there’s only hints of what took place there in 2013.

One of my favorite things to do in Kiev is take the metro to Maidan, then “гулять”. This is a Russian verb which doesn’t have a definite English translation. Strolling comes close, but it sounds a little bit too whimsical.

Regardless, at Maidan you can “stroll” around and discover a large, underground shopping mall or one of the many restaurants nearby. If you’re not sure where to go, I suggest Park Shevchenko, which is a 15 minute walk away, and directly next to Kiev’s elite National University (which happens to be painted bright red).

3. St. Andrew’s Church

St. Andre's Church in KievWhen it comes to Kiev sightseeing, you have to check out St. Andrew’s Church! I say that for two reasons. First, the church itself is beautiful. A magnificent work of art. The blue spires give way to gold, which is all complimented by the beautiful white body of the church. You can stand next to it and see far off into the distance (Kiev is a very hilly city).

The second reason that you’ll want to check out St. Andrew’s is the area. All around it is a large park which will offer you various opportunities to find some tranquility, or get your picture taken with a great background of the city. Those will be some some Kiev photos that you’re happy to have later on.

4. Kiev Opera

Another one of the Kiev’s attractions is the opera house. Situated less than ten minutes from Maidan, it’s right downtown. The building is old and it has a visually imposing appearance. It sits in a large, open square which defies the traffic and buildings all around it. The opera in Kiev is also nice because it’s affordable. Tickets can run somewhere around $15, although you will need to buy them in advance (and in person, I’ve heard their online system is nearly useless).

5. Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Chilling at the Fiji LoungeThankfully, you don’t have to be able to pronounce the name of this street to find it. You can do a quick Google Maps search and find out right where it is. This street makes the list of top 5 awesome things to do in Kiev because it’s jammed with some of the best bars and restaurants in Kiev. There’s the Fiji Lounge Bar, which may be my favorite place in all of Kiev to hang out with friends. They have great food, cheap drinks, hookah, and there is a hidden club in the basement that can get crazy on Friday and Saturday nights.

Another good spot to check out is the Shooters in Kiev. They’re located a minute or two from the Fiji Lounge Bar, and it’s a popular place for tourists to visit. Good drink specials and lots of local party goers means that everyone ends up having fun. Regardless of your tastes, you’ll definitely find something interesting on Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Where to Stay in Kiev

If you’re going to travel in Ukraine, you’ll want to find a good place to stay. As far as I can tell, there are four major hostels in Kiev, and I’ve stayed at three of them. The hostel that I always recommend to friends is The DREAM House hostel. This place is freaking sweet! It’s only a year or two old, they have a cafe / bar directly built in, the beds are super comfortable, there’s a big common area, the staff are nice, it’s only two minutes from Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Some people prefer Kiev Central Station though. This hostel has a totally different feel. Staying here, I frequently felt like I was living in a college apartment. It’s laid back, it’s on a quite street, and there is a fridge full of beer in the common room. Whichever hostel you choose though, you’ll still only end up paying about $8 a night. Kiev is a very affordable destination, and one that I recommend everyone check out. To learn more about Ukraine, and see video reviews of the two hostels that I mentioned, be sure check out my YouTube page.

Kiev Almost Killed This Man

I’d like to introduce you to Benny. This is exactly how he looked as his flight home was taking of from Kiev’s international airport. You may notice several things, like the filthy shirt and the somewhat haphazard manner in which he’s sleeping.

What you can’t see are the lack of a wallet, telephone, and impressive facial reconstruction courtesy of several unknown fists. After a heavy night of partying Benny was mugged, and as Benny himself pointed out;

“This is going to be a good story to tell in a month or two.”

The Party Animal

Benny checked into our hostel on Monday night and as soon as it got dark outside he left. The next morning he came back sometime around 7, which set a pattern for the days to come.

After he woke up in the evening, I took him out for steak and then we ended up going to a few bars around Kiev. When we came back to the hostel at midnight I was ready to call it a night, but despite partying till past sunrise the night before, Benny wanted more.

So he went to the club and I went to sleep.

This story continued to repeat itself. Benny would party till sunrise then sleep till 6 pm. He would eat something and go out again. He never once actually woke up early enough to go see anything in the city nor did he ever allow his liver a chance to recover.

After the fourth day in a row of this he felt sick, couldn’t eat anything and looked pale.

“I ate some bad soup” he said to me. “Dammit, why do I always get bad food at restaurants?”

“Maybe it’s just that you’ve been getting drunk every night and your body hates you?” I asked pleasantly.

“No, I don’t think that’s it. I’m pretty sure it’s the soup..”

A Last Chance Resolution

Sunday afternoon, his last day in Kiev, Benny resolved to do something cultural and enlightening. He reserved a ticket to the opera and left sometime around four. Well the next day rolled around and at 7 am, his usual return time, he still wasn’t back.

8 came and went.

9 came and went.

The owner of our hostel suggested he just took off without paying. “Sometimes people just go and all we find is a crummy backpack with some bad clothes.”

Curse you Benny! I thought to myself, while secretly at least slightly pleased that I would get to keep his beat up copy of The FountainheadBut then we looked at his things and saw his British Passport. That was a clue something was amiss.

“He’s in jail!” I said in Russian to my friend.

Benny Returns from the Dead

10 was just about to come and go, when I walked down the stairs to the common area and there was Benny, stumbling drunk and looking like hell. His shirt was wrecked with dirt, his face had been worked on, and I had trouble imagine the amount of alcohol that this seasoned drinker must have taken in to be walking like Ernest Hemingway at an open bar wedding.

“Worst night of my life!” He said to me in his English accent. “Worst fucking night of my life!”

He got himself seated on the couch, then he broke it down.

“I went out and I was at the bar. Then after that I saw these homeless guys and I thought yeah, that’s cool you know. So I bought them three bottles of vodka and we all drank together. And it was all chill you know. But then one guy asked me for 50 Grivna and I said no. Then something happened and he punched me, and I punched him. And it was like crazy! But he had this really big friend and he came and punched me. And then there was like a million guys punching me and it just sucked! But I showed them though. When they were going for my phone I didn’t let them have it.”

At this point he mimed picking up his phone high in his hand..

“I took it up and smashed it on the concrete so they couldn’t use it, and then before they could take my wallet I bent up my ATM card so it’s useless. They still took all my money though, so I guess they did sort of win in a way.”

Minutes after this he went into a vodka induced coma from which we were physically unable to rouse him. I have a video of us trying to get him to wake up but I’ll keep that to myself.

Needless to say, Benny did not make his flight back home..

Curse you Kiev!

You can blame who or what you want, but I think the root of the problem here is clear..

What kind of city sells beer for a dollar at any bar anywhere in the city!

Obviously whoever created this policy didn’t take into account that some people come from places where alcohol is expensive. When they arrive in Kiev they simply don’t know how to conduct themselves.

What is for some of us a blessing is for others a curse. Benny was in Kiev for a week and I don’t think he ever saw anything besides the inside of bar. We have no idea if he ever made it to the opera or not.

My Friends Got Their Heads Lit On Fire!

Another crazy night out in Kiev. At some point I’m actually going to have to adopt a more civilized lifestyle and stop being a Gatsby. For now though, that party continues.

At the moment I’m in an amazing position. I’m volunteering at a hostel in Kiev, which is turning out to be a fantastic way to meet new people. Every day some people leave, and some other people come in from all parts of the world. Yesterday some cool Canadians arrived, and they wanted to have a night out in Kiev.

The Local Kiev Bar

My boss suggested we all go to a local bar which sells $2 steaks and $1 beer. Obviously that’s where we went. The steak turned out to be delicious, and we got more than we bargained for in the way of entertainment.

The bartender grabbed a few of the Canadians. We had no idea what was happening, as he wrapped them in a large coat and put helmets on their heads. The mystery increased when he started putting alcohol soaked rags on the bar, and then a wrench, and that’s all I’ll say. You’ll just have to watch the video.

Cool right..

Another fun night partying in Kiev. I’m really glad I’m here right now and I have the chance to see cool stuff like this. Although I gotta say, the reason I’d go back to this place isn’t that they may light me on fire, it’s the sheer awesomeness of being able to eat a steak and drink a beer for a total of $3.

Ukraine is where it’s at!

Partying in Kiev Till Sunrise

Last night I got back to my hostel somewhere in the vicinity of 7am. It was the first time I’ve ever gone on an all night party. And after that experience, you can be damn sure it won’t be my last time!

I’m going to actively try to make it happen more often. Experiencing both the sunset, and sunrise, without any sleep in between them is great. I really feel like I’m missing out, having never done it before.

For me, all of this is possible because of Kiev. This city really is amazing, as if I haven’t said that before. There is something here that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. The people are alive and interesting. The food and drinks are cheap. There is an overall feeling of forward progress. I can understand why Ukraine would consider joining the EU. Despite the fact that most people here speak Russian daily, the attitude is more Western than Russian. And I for one support the citizens of Ukraine who want to rid themselves of the Russian influence.

I’ve lived in Moscow, and I’ve lived in Kiev. I don’t want more of a Russian influence here, I like it just the way it is.

I’m Not Alone

It’s been interesting to find out that I’m not the only person who is impressed with the city. My two new German friends both feel the same way.

Yesterday we spoke entirely in Russian for about eight hours. Thanks Zhena, for being so awesome at enforcing the no English rule.

A topic that came up more than once is our mutual love of the city. And to that end, we all have future plans here. Next year Zhena wants to study Russian here for six months. Myself, I’m going to rent an apartment here next summer and live it up. By then I’ll be fluent in Russian, and fluent in my second language as well.

Sergej also wants to come back to Kiev next summer, and there’s a decent chance that if he does, we will rent an apartment together. I think that would be awesome because if I choose to study German as my next language, I’ll be able to practice with him. After I become fluent in German, me, Zhena and Sergej will all be tri-lingual in the same three languages. How freaking sweet is that!

The Secret Party

Our first bar last night was actually an underground pub. If you’re not familiar with Eastern Europe, I’ll be the first to tell you that underground bars and restaurants are really common in Kiev and Moscow. In fact, my favorite restaurant in Moscow, Papa’s Place, is only accessible by walking down a staircase into the basement.

Same with our first pub of the night.

After losing a few people, the three of us changed venues. Me, the American. Zhena, the German. Sergej, the German, Russian (he is very particular about this point).

We moved to a new bar and smoked hookah and drank for two hours. At one point, after speaking exclusively in Russian for 45 minutes, we broke into English for thirty seconds. The people at the table behind us started in surprise.

“Они говорять по-английски!” (“They speak English!).

Shortly afterwards, at 2am, our bar closed and we were back on the street. I don’t think we walked a block before we found a new spot. Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but it fit the main criterion, it was open.

We drank for a minute then I walked down into the basement to find the bathroom. I found it, and I also found the real party. Below the ostensibly boring above-ground of this bar, the real party was in the basement.

A DJ, lights, people dancing, and Russian karaoke.

I went back upstairs, grabbed my friends and we all went down to the basement. By the time we left, it was light out and the sun was near at hand.

The Long Walk

I don’t remember the reason, something about Zhena going home, but despite being five minutes from our hostel, we began to walk in the opposite direction. Kiev is a hilly city and I think we climbed all of them. It paid off.

After forty-five minutes we had an incredible view out over the entire Eastern part of the city. I wish I could have taken a picture but my phone had died hours ago. (Жена, исли ты читаешь это, у тебя есть фото?)

Six in the morning, partying all night, and ending it with an incredible view of Kiev.

I’m in Love with Kiev After One Day

This morning I flew out of Moscow, which has been my home for the last eight months. To be honest, I was ready for a change. I’m so fucking happy that I made the choice to go to Russia, I would do it again in a heartbeat. However, I had had enough.

Teaching kids is really fucking difficult. Their behavior can be so terrible, and their needs so high, that I often found myself acting more as a baby sitter than as a teacher. This whole month I’ve been counting down the days till I could leave.

Today was that day. Before departing, I had several concerns. First was the reduction in my worldly belongings. I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the last eight months, but I’ve picked up a few things along the way too. That meant that I had to get rid of almost half of my stuff. Most of it was easy, except for loosing a few pieces of clothing that I really liked.

Adapt or die, the saying goes.

My Final Preparations for the Trip

My second concern was my new backpack. The thing has more straps, buckles, and dangling pockets on it than a paratroopers survival pack. All that hardware is great for every day life, so convenient! But I was worried that along the way, some of it would get caught in a conveyor belt at the airport and my pack would be shredded like a politician’s tax return.

So this morning, I wrapped my pack in a role of pilfered scotch tape, crossed my fingers, and dropped it off at the airport.

Fast forward two hours, I’m in Kiev and there’s my bag, the same as when I dropped it off.

The Cutthroat Taxi Business at the Airport

Before I had even walked the hundred steps to the money exchange counter, I had a guy asking me if I needed a taxi (нужно такси?) I ignored him, got my money changed, and then gave my business to the second guy who asked me if I needed a taxi. He was the lucky one I suppose. I got to my hostel, checked in, found a map, chatted for a while in Russian, changed my shirt, and went to explore Kiev.

It turns out that my Hostel is located ideally downtown. I’m a three minute walk from the main square! In New York, first off a hostel could never afford to operate in such a location. Second, hypothetically if it did, it would cost $75 a night.

Kiev prices: about $15 for two nights. How amazing is that!

My First Impression of the City

I’ll give my first impressions of the city. I like it better than Moscow. That could change as I learn more, but here’s why I feel like that now.

Everyone seems to smile a little bit more. God, the soul crushing frown of Russia was starting to get to me. I’m not saying people are happy go lucky in Ukraine, but it seems that everyone’s spirits are at least mildly improved.

The city is beautiful! It seems very European, with cool architecture and a nice theme. Moscow is very nice too, but I feel like Kiev has it beat.

The food is better. I had some traditional Ukrainian food (couldn’t tell you the name to save my life) and it was like biting into god’s dinner. What a fantastic treat! You can be sure I’ll be going back tomorrow.

Those are my three impressions for the day. Tomorrow I’ll walk around more, go visit some parks, find out what the Metro is like, and try to get a data plan for my phone.

I’ll leave you with some pictures from today. I actually came at a perfect time. The weather is outstanding and it happens to be Kiev day! The main road was closed off, flags were everywhere, and people were having a blast. Kiev couldn’t have possibly have made a better impression on me if it tried.

It’s 7:20 In Kiev

So Many Candles, I Couldn’t Tell What the Shape Was Though

There Were a Bunch of Kids Playing in this Cool Fountain

Some Pictures from the Recent War

That Star, and All It Represents