Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kiev (a couple weeks later)

Thursday, April 11, 2013 we flew to Kiev. It was an early morning flight and we thought we had planned enough time to get to the airport, but it took much longer to get there than we anticipated. They allowed us to quickly run through because we were not checking any bags. However, due to our haste I forgot all my Russian when we were at customs and did not understand even the simple questions. Then I thought she was asking a question about my address in Kiev and I responded, “some hostel in the center.” “No I don’t know the address.” Upon reflection I’m sure she was asking about my address in SPB for which I could have answered.

They let us through and off we went. We arrived at our hostel at about 1pm, but because we woke up so early we took a short nap before venturing off to the Zemphira concert. We ate at a small столовая (stolovaya – cafeteria-esque where you take a tray and pick from a variety of items) where we ate some traditional Ukrainian food such as soup, вареники (food wrapped in dough and boiled – could be cherries, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, whatever) and drank kvas (non-alcoholic drink like root beer, but not).

The concert was really good. I knew I liked her music, but now I appreciate it so much more. Despite the large venue and thousands of fans, Zemphira remains underground without radio play, without music videos, and there weren’t even stands at the concert from which to buy paraphernalia. The garb of the fans told us that even the most seasoned concertgoers did not have t-shirts from previous tours. She played her original set for about an hour-twenty and did the standard planned encore for another 20-25 minutes (5 or 6 songs). She had received roses throughout the concert (more like an orchestra performance than a rockstar), and during the encore she brought a small girl (maybe 6 years old) from the crowd onto stage. The poor girl was terrified, but she received one of the roses and after the song returned to the crowd. Zemphira then came out for a second unplanned encore at the request of the chanting fans and played another 3 or 4 songs for which she walked and told each of her bandmates what the song was prior to each song (indicating it was not with a set list). After more chanting she came out for a third encore for which she sang “Let It Be” while reading the lyrics off a phone. They covered a Russian song and then said “it’s late, let’s go home guys.”

For those of you who don’t know, Kiev is the start of Russia and the start of the Russian Orthodox Church when Vladimir I converted in 988; however today it is in Ukraine and their language is different than Russian (although most Ukrainians speak both). Friday we went to St. Sophia’s Cathedral (the birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy)here, which is currently a museum. Some of the frescos date back to the 10/11th centuries although most are between the 13th and 17th. A mosaic of Mary the Godbearer (mother of Jesus) stands behind the altar area at nearly 6 meters in a curved dome. The artist paid very careful attention to ensure that when entering the church she looked proportional. According to our guidebook St. Sophia’s contains the largest amount of frescoes and mosaics in the world. The central dome stands over where members received communion with Jesus in the top of the dome, followed by the proper hierarchy of the 4 archangels, the 12 apostles, the 4 evangelists, and then the 40 martyrs descending down from the dome to the walls, and then the arches to the floor. The sarcophagus for Vladimir’s son Yuroslav the Wise is located here, although apparently an unknown woman was buried with him and his bones moved to New York sometime during the 20th century although his sarcophagus is still in Kiev.

After St. Sophia’s we walked down the hill toward the “Golden Gate” which was the main gate built into the medieval wall that surrounded the city. We then returned up the hill past St. Sophia’s the short distance to the working cathedral St. Michael’s the Goldendomed. It is much more modern baroque, but still gorgeous frescoes inside and because it is a working cathedral one doesn’t observe it as a museum, but rather moving through it prayerfully. From there we St. Andrew’s, which was designed by the same architect that did the Hermitage and Smolney Convent here in SPB so it felt much more like SPB than Kiev. St. Andrew’s sits atop a hill and the road down is a windy road through the artsy district and it has Bulgakov’s house (author of "The Master and Margarita").

On Saturday we took the metro to the Pechersk Lavra (like a monastery) where the first monks lived in caves. We took the tour through the “Near Caves” where a couple lived and is for both prayer and tours, but then we did the prayer walk through the “Far Caves” which are not meant for touring, but only for praying with and/or to the saints there. They had glass coffins and were covered with some cloth (looked like velvet) and on some you could see the hand in some state between mummification and clammy dead, yet are proof of the fact that these saintly monks (at least the ones visible) from the 11th-12th centuries had not decayed. The caves are natural but there is a plaster layer between the rock and the air. Here. I also think of the Lavra as the style of "new city" that St. Basil started considering it practically was a new kind of city outside the regular city.

In the cathedral of the lavra there was a baptistery, which I really wanted to see inside, but we couldn’t because someone was being baptized and it appeared that it was for the private party only. I don’t know if they would have let me in anyway, but I would be really interested in seeing a medieval baptristy. We bought some honey and a jar of honey coated nuts and seeds, both of which have special purposes for health along with a bottle of mead that is meant to lower the blood pressure (the mead for calming you down just wasn’t as delicious).

We walked from the lavra up through the park alongside the river toward the center again where there is a large metal arch and as dusk hit we came into Independence Square, which we revisited Sunday morning. Since the map is not topographical the paths and roads through the park are not as clear as one might hope and so it was difficult to make our way through, but in the end we were successful. In addition to returning to the square on Sunday morning we took the pedestrian bridge to a park on an island in the middle of the river Dnipr. From the bridge we watched a bungee crew set up the jump and then saw a few people jump out over the river.

Some interesting facts I thought of about the city is that I now understand why Muscovites and Piterbergians (??? on the spelling) say their cities aren’t green even with all of their parks. Trees lined almost every street in Kiev and when you looked out it was as though it is an urban forest. The trees are thick, but so are the buildings. Quite a beautiful layout and I think many US cities could also follow suit (ahem I’m especially thinking of “environmentally friendly” cities like SF). We ate вареники every day there. It was delicious. The imperial style buildings of SPB are brick covered with plaster to make the various forms, but in Kiev, most designs are built into the brick and the brick is painted. It’s not as smooth as the plaster, but I give more credit to the builders having to lay the bricks out in such a fashion. During the 11th century Kiev was the second densest city after Paris (don’t know if just Europe or the world or what). In the end it is a beautiful city and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

View from the hostel window. Seriously, Green City.

Ok, most playgrounds have metal play sets here in Russia and the Ukraine, but this wooden set down the street from the hostel was pretty cool.
A dragon teeter-totter from the same playground.

St. Sophia's Bell Tower in the center (we went up 76 meters to the fourth tier), the horseman in the middle of the square, and the Cathedral on the center right behind the wall.

A view from St. Sophia's bell tower (3rd or 4th tier) looking over St. Michael's the Goldendomed (compare with the green domes of St. Sophia's below). The first cathedral of Kiev and one of the monasteries are only a short block away.

Sorry San Francisco, but Kiev had "the Golden Gate" back in the 10th century as this was the main entrance through the wall surrounding the city (about 2-3 blocks from St. Sophia's). Another part of the wall can be seen a block up and is definitely a few shops now.

The green domes with golden caps of St. Sophia's Cathedral inside the compound which you enter through the bell tower.

A view down the hill, over the river, across the island, and of other parts of the city in the distant backdrop. This from the bell tower at St. Michael's Monastery.

A closer view of the golden domes of St. Michael's along with a beautiful mural on the wall. There's one on the other side of the entrance/bell tower but I couldn't get both in one picture.
A view of St. Michael's from the Monastery's bell tower showing the golden domes and some buttresses in the lower left that reminded me of western gothic architecture.

St. Andrew's which belongs to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church instead of the Ukrainian Church under the guidance of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Daria in front of Bulgakov's house. You can also see here how the bricks are painted over in contrast to St. Petersburg which has plaster between the paint and the bricks.

Me on a hill overlooking the Dnipr River, the island/park, and the rest of the city.

Entrance to Pechersk Lavra with the bell tower in the background on the right. Medieval frescoes flank the right and left side as well as the front of the entrance. Unlike St. Sophia's and St. Michael's which you enter through the bell tower into the grounds, the Lavra's bell tower is found within the grounds itself.

The main Cathedral inside the Lavra and on the left side of the Cathedral is the baptristy. On the right of the picture in yellow is the bell tower (which we did not ascend since we felt two was enough to get the idea of the city). This Cathedral is also golden domed, but you will notice a different shape since this curves under and St. Michaels goes straight down.

A street inside the Lavra. Like I said, it's practically a different city (mostly walking too; cars only for special purposes).

All Saints Bell which supposedly we feel the spirits of all the saints (notice small 's') throughout time. The man in the back on the left is ringing the bell and we're all feeling the vibrations and listen to the ring.

A cool traditional picture on the side of the building opposite the city's main theatre.

View of the Soviet Era government building from atop a hill (and all the lights that overhang the street).

I promise, I'm not jealous of these lips kissing Daria. Found in one of the city's parks.

From one side of Independence Square viewing the column and gigantic hotel on the other side. I'm probably about half a kilometer away, if not more, and it's all the main square. Granted, unlike most squares, a street does actually run down it and is found between me and the column.

Daria and varenikii.

A view of the city and St. Andrew's from the island park.

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