Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kiev City Tour

Since my friend Amr could not accompany me around Kiev, her mother asked several people to give me a quick tour around the city. After the sport tour with Mbak Ida, I had the city tour with Dima, a young handsome Ukrainian :).

We began the tour at the Mykhaylivska square, in front of St. Michael monastery. On one side of the square, statues of Grand Princess Olga, Apostle Andriy, St. Cyril and St. Methodius stand tall to welcome the visitors. Princess Olga ruled Kyivan Rus between 945 and 964.

 Princess Olga is in the middle

Then we entered St. Michael monastery complex. The first thing I noticed was the shape of the cross, which is different from the Christian and Catholic cross. It has three horizontal crossbeams, with the bottom crossbeam is slightly tilted. 

The Orthodox Cross (I snapped this at Pechersk Lavra, which I will tell later)

When I asked Dima about it, my dearly guide (aha!) patiently explained that it was the symbol of Orthodoxy, which came from Byzantine. So the Christianity in Ukraine is a bit different because they followed the older, more ancient form of Christianity.

St. Michael's exterior

"Is it okay if I go inside? But if there is a mass, I don't want to disturb it," I said. 
"I don't think there is a mass. Women should cover their hair if they want to enter the church, but I think you're already eligible for that," he said, smiling.

We went inside and I was completely stunned! I was not allowed to take pictures, but if you key in "St Michael Kiev interior" in Google, below is just a sample picture you'll find...

Found here

Then we climbed up the bell tower just five minutes before 12 p.m. Dima said that the bell would ring every 30 minutes, so when we reached the top of the tower, we got to see and hear the bells tolling in such a harmonious melody. Ahh, it was such a beautiful music:).

For us the bells toll :)

The church has a museum that tells about what it has gone through during the wars, occupations and crises. It is just amazing that they could restore the church back to its original form.

A replica of archangel Michael that is placed on top of the church

Then we walked to St. Sophia cathedral, which is located just a few hundred meters away. The cathedral's name came from the 6th century Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople (what a coincidence!). Hagia Sophia means Divine Wisdom, and this St. Sophia cathedral is actually dedicated to Divine Wisdom, rather than a specific saint named Sophia. We also went inside, but taking photo is not allowed. Oh man, I wish I can take pictures...

St. Sophia

Dima took me to the Metropolitan House, which was located inside the St. Sophia complex. I was a bit confused with the term of Metropolitan, but it is actually a title for the Orthodox priest. I saw the big stove and the furniture a Metropolitan would use. There is an information box in every room, so we can press the button and learn more about the stuffs being displayed in the room.

Inside the Metropolitan's House

We left the St Sophia's complex afterwards. Near the St. Sophia's square, there is a statue of a horseman holding bulava (a spiky ball on a stick). Dima said that it was Bogdan Khmeltnytsky, a Cossack who led some kind of freedom movement (I don't exactly remember what he said, sorry).

I took a good look at the statue and asked, "I read one of Nikolai Gogol's books, Taras Bulba, when I was a kid. The book has a picture that looks like that man." He was a bit surprised to hear that I read Gogol. "Although Gogol gained fame in Russia, he was from Ukraine. Actually Taras Bulba was inspired by Bogdan Khmeltnytsky," he said.

Oh. Wow. Where have I been?

From St. Sophia, we got back to the car and Sasha, our driver for the day, drove us to Rodina Mat (Mother Motherland), a part of World War II Memorial in Pechersk. I'd call her The Steel Wench :). If you want to learn more about Rodina Mat in numbers, click here.

 Rodina Mat

It suddenly rained when we were there. We quickly ran under the nearest roof. I was worried about my camera, but Dima looked very happy. "I like it when it rains," he said. 

He got a phone call from office, so we headed to Otto Schmidta street because Sasha should drive someone home. But before that, we made a very quick stop at the House of Chimaeras, an Art Nouveau house built by architect Vladislav Gorodetsky. It used to be a museum, but now it's President Ukraine's residence, so we couldn't see the interior.

 House of Chimaeras

The one interesting fact is that although cars are barred to come near, people can walk up to its front door. Dude, there is no way we can do that here. The presidential bodyguards will take you down even when you're still 300 meters away.

Then we're going to the office, which was undergoing some cleaning activity. I waited in the lobby and chatted with an Indonesian woman who just arrived in Kiev two weeks ago.

"I still use Jakarta time on my watch. My colleagues have asked me to inform them if I have changed it into Kiev time," she said, laughing.
"Hey, I still use Jakarta time on my watch too. It's only a four-hour time difference, anyway," I said.

I thought the city tour would end after Sasha was back, but nope, Dima beckoned me to follow him to the next destination: Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Cave Monastery), a historic Orthodox Christian monastery. Pechera means cave and lavra is used to describe high-ranking monasteries for monk of Eastern Orthodox Church.

 Kiev Pechersk Lavra

The Bell Tower

Dima explained that the priests lived in the underground caves and usually stayed there for years to study on a particular subject. "The priests can get married," he said. Upon hearing the last sentence, I checked around if there were any cute young priests in the vicinity. Well, why, of course there were! :)

The older, senior monks wear some kind of a veiled hat

 The young monks are going to the mass

I saw women wearing headscarves but still wore tank tops, and I found it odd. In Rome, besides wearing a headscarves, women should also wear knee-length skirt and cover their shoulders. Oh well, this is not Rome, anyway.

As we walked around the monastery complex, the time was approaching 5 p.m. and suddenly, the church bells started to ring. Oh, how beautiful the sound was! The bells rang reciprocally, just like Indonesian gamelan.


The last stop was the Golden Gate, which was a historic gateway into the ancient city fortress. Then we went home. Phew! What a day.

 Golden Gate

 Spasiba, Dima!

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