Inspired for a short holiday, I scoured my travel notes and played airfare/lodging costs games, a favorite sport for me. The winner? Kiev, Ukraine’s capital and a destination that has piqued my curiosities for some time. School has begun for Anna Grace, and Tony is of course in the office, so I and my favorite son set off for a three-day city break.
We flew Ukraine International Airlines, a respectable carrier save for not offering any complementary in-flight services except for water (that is, unless the flight attendant skips your row with the water cart).  Listening to every message in three languages (Ukrainian, English, Russian) got a little tedious perhaps, but the planes were new; the Economy seats comfortable and spacious; the flight attendants friendly; and the flights punctual. Really, can anything more be hoped for with modern cattle-class air travel?
Our flight arrived near midnight, so we were not treated to this view over Independence Square from our hotel balcony until morning. More on the Ukrainian definition of “Five-Star Hotel” in a later post.
With a do-it-yourself walking tour guide, a street map in both English and Ukrainian and full tummies from the traditional Ukraine breakfast at the hotel, we were out the door.  Now, Kiev is a city built on hills, and over the course of our holiday we walked a little more than 43 kilometers (~28 miles or 53.000 steps), all of which I am convinced were uphill.  The reward for the uphill climbs was worth it, though.
Saint Andrew’s Church.  Photo-taking inside all but one church was absolutely forbidden. The Babushkas hired as patrol made certain of that.

Saint Michael’s Monastery.

Saint Sophia Cathedral complex is believed to be where the Kievan Rus’ was first established, the loose tribal units from which all Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Russian peoples can trace their cultural lineage, more than 1.000 years ago. The mosaics and painted walls on the interior defy description.

 Saint Volodomyr Cathedral, an active house of worship, was the only church to permit interior photos.

Perchersk Lavra is a Kievan monastery that stretches over a series of hills to the south of Kiev proper. Like Saint Sophia, it was established over a millennia and is the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church for Eastern Europe. And entire day could be devoted to exploring the myriad of churches and the extensive cave system (where important Kievan Orthodox priests are entombed) that comprise the complex.  We walked the grounds, in awe of the beauty.

 We visited Pechersk Lavra on a Sunday afternoon, the park and lanes filled with worshipers moving between churches and families picnicking on the grounds. Hard to believe this country is at war with Russia.