A well seasoned approach to travel and food

Chasing Churchs In Kyiv

July 29, 2019

I’m a big fan of taking time off when traveling.  Not every day has to be go, go, go.  Maybe you need a little more sleep, maybe you need to catch up on social media, maybe you need to catch up on your writing, and just maybe, you need some downtime off your feet.  It doesn’t matter the reason, it is OK to take some “me” time. 

This morning, I needed to sleep in a bit past 7:00a, do some laundry and write.  A few hours to myself, I was ready to hit the cobblestones once more.

Since it was my last day in Kyiv (insert sad face emoji here), I wanted to check out a couple of the churches/cathedrals I hadn’t yet been inside.  Of course, all of them were up the hill, so I set off in the now well-traveled direction.

First stop?  My navigational beacon – St. Andrew’s.  This 18th-century beauty no longer holds services but has been a museum since 1968. 

Unbeknownst to me, despite several trips past its gates, St. Andrew’s is undergoing intense interior renovations.  Other than a quick peek before being shooed out by craftsmen, I didn’t get to go inside.  From the several seconds I stood in the entryway, it was beautiful before and will likely be equally (or more) lovely upon completion).

Renovation meant that I had to be satisfied with taking more photographs of the gorgeous teal exterior and the cityscapes offered by the expansive observation deck surrounding the church.  I was not disappointed.

I continued walking through the streets up above Podil (the old town area where I’m staying), passing shops and restaurants.  Beer and pork seem to hold a special place in Ukrainians gastronomy – here’s a restaurant that combines both.

My next destination loomed ahead of me.  Across the square stood the bell tower for Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, Kyiv’s oldest standing cathedral. 

Named for the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, much of the exterior Byzantine architecture was replaced with Baroque detailing in the 18th century. 

However, many of the 11th-century frescoes and mosaics inside are original.  As with all the other churches, Saint Sophia is undergoing some restoration as more and more of the frescoes are being brought back to life.

The mosaics, artwork, and icons are nothing less than spectacular.  I wandered around slack-jawed most of the time. 

Initially, I was of interest to security personnel as I lingered in front of this fresco and that fresco, but once they saw I wasn’t using a flash to take my photos, I seemed to blend into the walls.  Fine with me, as I like to be left alone to marvel at great art.

Speaking of art, I found my way up a back staircase to a few museum galleries.  One held artifacts from St. Andrew’s Church (probably due to its ongoing restoration).

One held artwork of Volodymyr Slepchenko, which I particularly liked.

The last gallery though was my favorite.  Taking up the far wall was a giant mosaic of the Virgin Mary’s face reflecting into the glossy floor below.  What’s special about this mosaic, done by the artist Oksana Mos, is that it is made of individually created/painted Ukrainian Easter eggs.  Each egg is a masterpiece unto itself, but when combined, the picture that develops is phenomenal.  As you walk around the room looking at the mosaic from each angle, Mary’s eyes seem to follow you – maybe it was my own vivid imagination.  I loved this art installation and can’t imagine that I almost didn’t see the staircase leading up to the upper galleries.

I spent hours in the cathedral and walking its grounds – so long that the weather had changed.  It had rained a bit, but the clouds looked ominous.

I figured there was enough time to get into St. Michael’s Monastery (St. Michael’s Cathedral was on another hill too far away), before the rain started. 

I miscalculated a teeny bit; the rain started with me about 100 yards from the entrance.  I and about a hundred other people dashed to take refuge in the main church.  Another gorgeous interior welcomed me in.

Mass was underway (it seems mass is always underway), so I found a bench on the side of the main apse from which I could marvel at the beauty, hear the low rumblings of mass in Ukrainian, and people watch. The rain didn’t let up for about 50 minutes, so I had a good amount of time to take it all in.  Out of respect, I waited to take photographs until the priest finished saying mass. 

Back outside, the rain had passed and the sun reappeared.  I took in the grounds of the monastery before I started the long walk back to the hostel. 

Since the weather had cleared, I decided to bypass the hostel, take a walk down the pedestrian road leading away from the “big white wheel” to see where it took me.

It took me across a busy street, through a large square, past a McDonald’s with a melty ice cream cone for a roof and to the riverside.

I stood for a long time watching tourist boats dropping people off and picking up a new batch for a cruise up and down the river. 

I contemplated buying a ticket and getting on one myself, but I was enjoying watching others too much that I decided to keep it for a future trip.  There will be a future trip – Kyiv has truly captured my heart.