Best time to visit:
from april to september
In a word:
Dream of the ancient splendours and glories of the city among the narrow streets of Odessa; Penetrate the tetra Chernobyl abandoned in a hurry and in fury after the tragic event; Experience the bustling capital of Kiev now that it is opening up to the West
Released in 1991 from the Russian authoritarianism, Ukraine, has encountered in recent years a fast modernization and westernization. A country rich in examples of architecture and Gothic, Byzantine and Baroque art, it offers tourists impressive monuments rich in history.
Since there is no longer a need for a visa to travel to this country, for European citizens, there has been a real race to discover a nation that for so long remained under the protective wing of Mother Russia.
We land in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine which is the soul of the country and has turned into one of the most welcoming and fascinating places in Europe, especially now that it is bureaucratically easier to visit. Economic growth and the cultural revolution have meant that it has established itself as the capital of luxury and fashion and has developed a charm and a unique character.
This is in contrast to its periphery which instead looks like a rib of the old USSR: gloomy and full of obsolete and gray hives where who knows how many people find refuge.
We stay at a nice apartment along Bessarabsky Street, the city center.
The area is full of bars, clubs, restaurants and everything is very nice, lively and alive, completely different from the sad suburb!
Those with a sweet tooth should try Roshen chocolate for sale in all the best bars and shops in the city. For those looking for a traditional and refined shopping, the Andriyivsky Uzviz is one of the most fascinating and picturesque places. It is a district of the center that allows you to walk to discover ancient cafes, traditional restaurants, art galleries and numerous artisan shops where you can buy local products.
Long walk along the Vulytsya Khreschchatyk avenue, from the Bessarabsky Rynok, an indoor market where the colorful display of fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers and caviar make it a true work of art and it seems almost a shame to ruin it by purchasing the goods.
This avenue is very rich and elegant, full of new and aristocratic palaces ... the very road that, during the Second World War, the Soviet army undermined by turning all the buildings into booby traps for the Nazi soldiers ... in the end they were almost all shaved to soil!
We reach Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square, fortress of fountains and the most popular meeting place in the city ...
It is made infamous by the 2014 uprisings where we watched it for days, via newsletters around the world, when it became the epicenter of the orange revolution.
Not far away is the Cathedral of St. Sofia, the oldest in Kiev, with a rather gloomy interior but with wonderful frescoes and very well preserved despite being built in 1017 to celebrate the victory of Prince Yaroslav against the Pecheng tribe .
The monastery of San Michele, with its golden and very picturesque dome, is an important stop as well as being the patron saint of the city.
It's very interesting also the long cobblestone path framed by stalls selling souvenirs, handicrafts, antiques or paintings of undoubted beauty as well as the many very original and cool bars.
Orthodox tourists and pilgrims flock to the Kyevo Pecherska Lavra, a wonderful monastic complex, now a UNESCO world heritage site.
We get there by metro, one of the classic Soviet undergrounds where the plastic token for entry costs 5 grynia (15 cents) and where you are led to the underworld by a very fast escalator ... more and more down to the point that you almost clog up your ears ...
Despite being only one stop from the Central Square "Maydan Nezalezhnosti", the background changes completely and that old Soviet meter, now painted in blue and yellow (national colors), as if to give it a more Ukrainian identity, seems to take us back in time!
The buildings, at the exit of the “Arsenalna” stop, are no longer cared for like those in the center, they are dull, gloomy, tired; there are old people who sell old objects that seem to have been found in a cellar and are displayed on sheets on the ground along with medals, rubles, books and stamps ... you can manage how you can.
The Kyevo Pecherska Lavra, dense complex of churches with golden domes, is a feast for the eyes. "Lavra" is a monastery built at high altitude, "Pecherska" means "of the caves"; yes, the underground labyrinths guard the mummified remains of the monks and are full of charm and mystery.
In the afternoon we reach the museum of "Chernobyl", to make all the horror of the biggest nuclear disaster in history is an arduous undertaking, but the small museum, obtained from an old fire station, tries to translate this purpose into reality .
The exposition of the photos and documents of those who lost their lives in the days following the explosion of the No. 4 reactor of the Chernobyl power station, which occurred on April 26, 1986. It is a sanctuary to their heroism.
I was impressed by the films of the time and a reconstruction of the toxic cloud that, for ten days, wandered around Europe terrifyingly.
With an internal flight we reach the magnificent city of Odessa. It looks like it came from one of those old Soviet novels with its pastel colored and often finely decorated buildings and its cobblestone streets that take you from one green park to another.
Its famous Potemkin staircase descends to the Black Sea and to the largest commercial port in Ukraine.
We will spend 4 days here in this relaxing and holiday-like climate; there are numerous restaurants, bars, bistros, clubs of all kinds that all seem to come from a design magazine! It is spectacular to admire the details each of which is embellished ...
During these days we enjoy the Ukrainian daily life with no plans, no rush and no stress.
A long walk leads us to the “Privoz Market", probably the largest peasant market in the country. A classic market of various chinoiserie, low-level clothing as well as dried Uzbek fruit, vegetables etc. I was very impressed by the sector dedicated to fish .. they sold all kinds, some never seen ...
We walk all over Vulytsya Derybasivska, the most important commercial street of Odessa, the pedestrian street full of restaurants, bars and clubs up to the Opera and Ballet Theater and the Archaeological Museum.
We decide to visit the latter. When you walk through the door, you seem to enter an old dusty Russian attic ... everything smells old and stale, even its archaeological finds seem almost contemporary to the background!
Everything smacks of old, from the many guardians in the air you breathe, up to the entrance ticket (paid 70 Grynia but with the price of 20 Russian kopeki printed on it ... Soviet memory)!
We reach the Predbrazhensky Cathedral (Cathedral of the Transfiguration), recently rebuilt and most important church in Odessa until, in the 30s Stalin did not destroy it. It is very modern and quite bare if compared to most of the Ukrainian churches that leave you open-mouthed for their elaborate carved iconostases, the walls covered with frescoes, the very high domes, the atmosphere and the perfume you can breathe in their indoor.
It's time to turn the page: we rent an old Skoda in Odessa to reach the capital of Moldova ... but first ... let's jump into the Nation that is not there.
Tomorrow we leave for Transnistria. Let the adventure begin.
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