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© Ildrim Valley Portrait of a City:

Like London, Kiev, or Kyiv to use its Ukrainian name, straddles a river, the Dnieper. Like London, Kiev has an extensive underground metro network, boasting one of the deepest stations in the world.

Kiev is a fascinating mix of the old and new, with people in modern suits rushing along well-worn cobble- stones and past ancient churches.

No one will smile at you in Kiev. No one will apologize for bumping into you on the metro. You’ll be squeezed onto buses like one sardine amongst many.

Despite all the chaos, you will still be able to find moments of pause in which to reflect. You can quietly ob- serve the life of Ukraine’s capital and hardly speak a word yourself.

Yet underneath Kiev’s seemingly cold exterior lies a vibrant city where old and new mingle at every turn. There’s no better place to notice the contrast than near the National Opera House.

Standing at the downhill corner, you can take in the 19th century opera

pi magazine

TAMMELA PLATT explores the old and the new during her visit to Ukraine’s capital city hostility you may have experienced.


house, the cobblestoned streets smoothed by years of car traffic, and the shiny windowpanes of the new office buildings rising behind the old ones.

You can immerse yourself in Kiev’s modernity by visiting Khreshchatyk, the wide boulevard now featuring the latest designer shops which has been nicknamed Ukraine’s Fifth Avenue. Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, and many designer outlets can be found within an extensive underground mall, the entrances to which are sig- naled at street level with large glass domes.

If designer shops and boutiques aren’t your thing, immerse yourself in the past by exploring a triad of Kiev’s most iconic churches: the 11th century St. Sophia’s Cathedral, the Ukrainian baroque style St. Michael’s Monastery and the ornate 18th centu- ry St. Andrew’s Church.

When you see these brightly painted, golden-domed churches, rich with history and almost out of place in this rapidly changing city of three million inhabitants, you’ll forget any


Like many other old European cities, Kiev is one of contrasts. Wide 19th century boulevards lead into narrow, winding lanes, patches of groomed greenery dot this hilly city, and an old funicular still runs up one of the hills for views over the river. Bright- ly painted buildings and hole in the wall museums share the same streets, whilst modern German cars mingle with rickety Soviet-era vehicles on the roads.

It is these contrasts that are part of Kiev’s charm. Remnants of the past may never be fully erased and why would we want them to be in a city with as rich and complex a histo- ry as this one? There is so much to discover and each glance alights on something different. Look closer, ask questions and you might start to uncover the layers of this unique and complex city.

That’s not saying that people will talk to you willingly or even give you so much as a hint of a smile, but at least you’ll get a response from the taxi drivers.

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