Kiev, Ukraine: My Kind of Town
A native of Kiev, Anna Shevchenko finds the Ukrainian capital is the ideal city for banishing the January blues. It`s the best place to banish January blues, as the celebrations stretch well into the month, finishing with...
A native of Kiev, Anna Shevchenko finds the Ukrainian capital is the ideal city for banishing the January blues.
It`s the best place to banish January blues, as the celebrations stretch well into the month, finishing with the Old (Julian calendar) New Year`s Day on January 13.
What do you miss most when you are away?
My family – I was born in Kiev. I also miss the golden domes of Orthodox churches, gleaming against the blue skies.
What`s the first thing you do when you return?
Go to the Bessarabka market (top right) to taste, drink and smell the city.
Where`s the best place to stay? The Hyatt, 5 A. Tarasova Street (0038 44 581 1234; www.kiev.regency.hyatt.com; doubles from £267). Pricey, but if you ask for a room on the top floor, overlooking the Saint Sophia cathedral, you will be rewarded with the view of the Old City. The Premier Palace, 29 T. Shevchenka Blvd (244 1201; www.premier-palace.com; from £176), though refurbished in a nouveau-riche style, is convenient if you want to be close to Kreschatik, the main street, and to good food, as both the Bessarabka market and some of the best restaurants are just a short walk away.
Alternatively, for £65 a night, you can experience the Soviet era at the Ukraina Hotel, Institutska 4 (279 0347 or 278 6675), with a babushka on the floor guarding your keys, militiaman checking your documents and waitresses ignoring you at breakfast.
Where would you meet friends for a drink? The OK bar (Chervonoarmiyska 94; 225 0220) has glass walls that allow you to people watch and admire the Polish cathedral outside without braving the January temperatures. There is no set cocktail list – you choose the ingredients.
Where are your favourite places for lunch?For reasonably priced, traditional Ukrainian food – borsht (soup), varenyky (stuffed dumplings) and true "chicken Kiev" – you cannot beat Budmo (Mikhailivska 22a; 229 6193). Or try Vulyk – the "Beehive" – (Chervonoarmiyska 44a; 230 2642) for the honey-based menu in a small hata farmhouse.
And for dinner? Opanas (Tereshen-kivska 10; 235 2132), if you want to be served by men in red, full of Cossack spirit. Try roasted wild boar or stuffed pike with honey vodka.
Where would you send a first-time visitor?
Pechersk Lavra, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is one of the oldest monasteries in Eastern Europe and home to almost a hundred monuments and museums: from Scythian gold treasures to a micro-scopic flea in golden horse-shoes. Also, Andriyivsky Uzviz (above right) – often called Kiev Monmartre – for the artists, galleries and souvenir shops.
And what would you tell them to avoid?
High heels. The streets of the Old Town are all cobbled.
Public transport or taxi?
Take the metro – it`s clean and warm and the stations are marbled. Buy a plastic token at the entrance, valid for one journey only. But beware: station names are in Cyrillic.
Handbag or moneybelt?
Moneybelts under winter coats are awkward. Just hold on tightly to your closed bag on crowded transport.
What should I take home? The Orthodox Chants CD by the Pechersk Lavra choir from the Lavra shop; Rushniks – embroidered festive towels (colours and stitches have hidden symbols of life, joy, love and eternity); Dynamo Kiev shirts from the souvenir shop of the Dynamo stadium, as Kiev will be hosting the Euro 2012 football championship. And don`t forget a bottle of Horilka, spicy vodka infused with chilli pepper, at the airport. Italians claim it to be the best aphrodisiac.
Anna Shevchenko is the author of a cultural guide to Ukraine. Her first novel, `Bequest` (Headline, £19.99),
is out now.