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Capital of Ukraine and one of the most important centres of eastern Europe, Kiev has seen its fair share of upheaval both during the Soviet years and since into the 21st century. The early part of 2014 saw a popular revolution centred around the city's Independence Square, which had barely subsided by the time we arrived. It was however a highly successful trip, spent exploring the beautiful city in the unseasonably warm spring sunshine.

The pretext for our visit to Kiev was, naturally, to eat chicken Kiev, a lofty goal which we achieved only on our last night in town. There were of course also various higher-culture drivers for our lads' holiday to the Ukraine. As the trip drew nearer and the situation deteriorated further, it was touch and go whether we'd actually make it. As it happened, Kiev had calmed considerably by the time we arrived in late March 2014, although Russia annexed Crimea on the second day of our trip.

Kiev colourful rooftops

Colourful rooftops of the district of Poshtova, which despite our schoolboy translations actually refers to the post office in the area. We stayed in the Dream House hostel in this gentrified district, which was one of the best hostels I've ever stayed in.

St Andrews Church looms over Poshtova in a very eastern fashion. The church was built in the 1800s and sits at the top of Andriyivska Hill. We wandered up there past the market stalls selling all manner of Soviet memorabilia.

St Andrews Church, Kiev

Ministriy of Foreign Affairs

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the top of the Kiev Funicular Railway, seems to have a picture of none other than Rabbie Burns displayed with the national flag and the EU flag.

On the approach to Independence Square, there were seas of flowers and little coloured glass candle holders, in memorial to those who lost their lives in the revolution a few weeks earlier.

Flowers near Independence Square

Maidan, Independence Square, Kiev

Independence Square is the centre of the city, and was the centre of the 2014 revolution. Also known as Maidan locally, it was still heavily occupied when we wandered through the makeshift tents and barricades.

A message spelled out in paving bricks in Maidan, using the colours of the national flag. My Ukrainian is not very good, but the words I recognise are "stop propaganda" and "no fascism".

Stop propaganda

Burnt building and statue

The founders of Kiev, Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv, stand in effigy in front of the Trade Unions Building. It was set ablaze during one of the fiercest nights of revolutionary fighting in February 2014, and had since been paintballed pink for some reason.

During the battles on the streets, paving blocks were ripped from the ground to build barricades and use as missiles.

Lifted paving blocks in Maidan

Bullet casings in Independece Square

A display of bullet casings found in Independence Square. The text мирна зброя беркуту reads "mirna zbroya byerkutu", which I'm having difficulty translating but is along the lines of "peaceable weapon golden eagle".

Looking east from Maidan towards the Hotel Ukraina, and the winged statue on top of the column, which remained untouched during the revolution.

Hotel Ukraina

Khreschatyk Street

Just a few yards from Maidan, Khreschatyk Street transforms from revolutionary battleground to Kiev's equivalent of the Champs Elysees.

We descended into the Kiev metro system, down the typically deep tunnels of Soviet-built metro systems, designed to double as bomb shelters. These are some of the world's longest escalators.

Kiev Metro


Things were much more cheerful at the Ukraine State Aviation Museum, a playground for any aviation nerd such as the one seen getting into character here.

Upon seeing the MI-26 helicopter, I exclaimed "that's the biggest helicopter I've ever seen". And indeed, it is the biggest helicopter the world has ever seen. Spot the tourist in front of its bulk.

MI-26 helicopter

Supersonic nucelar bombers

A series of supersonic nuclear bombers sit quietly on the apron. Machines such as the TU-22M seen here, could deliver their payload over four thousand miles away, peaking at a speed over mach 1.8.

The Soviets had a knack for resplendent inelegance in design, sacrificing aesthetics for function at every possible occasion. This is an example of one of the most bizarre looking aircraft in the museum, an Antonov AWACS aircraft looking like an airfix model gone wrong.

Crazy aircraft


Back in town, I spotted this plaque of none other than Leo Tolstoy on a Kiev street corner. Being as literally challenged as I am, whilst I can tell you that he wrote "War and Peace", I can't claim to have read it (any of it) or know what his connection to Kiev was, if any.

The Presidential Palace was being conspicuously guarded, and was looking in pristine condition when we wandered past.

Presidential Palace

House with Chimaeras

Opposite the Presidential Palace is the House with Chimaeras, an obsessively designed edifice which also goes by the moniker Gorodetsky House, named for its architect. He has been known as the Gaudi of Kiev.

Back on Khreschatyk Street, this was an impressive example of a Stalinist apartment building.

Stalinst apartment building

Golden spires

Golden spires of a Russian Orthodox Church in a park by the Dnieper River.

Russian dolls for sale in a market place on a Sunday morning. The more you pay, the more doll stages you get.

Russian dolls

Sweeping up around the tanks

Keeping the tankways spick and span in front of the Ukrainian Museum of the Great Patriotic War.

I really like the energy and determination in the faces of communist statues, staring boldly ahead into the future. I've seen other great examples in Beijing, and these are no exception.

Soviet carved soldiers

Rodina Mat, the Motherland Statue

Rodina Mat, the Motherland statue, presides over Kiev on the shores of the Dnieper River. She is cast in stainless steel, and carries the emblem of the Soviet Union on her shield.

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2014