Free walking tours of the city and a picnic cruise on the Dnipro river.
22.06.2011 - 22.06.2011 24 °C
Since taking our first free walking tour a few days previous, in Tallin, we have now become familiar with the format – tip your guide and try to get the tourists to purchase additional tours at the end of the walk. From our perspective this formula works well for all concerned and so it is we find ourselves on a three hour walking tour of the city.
Our guide, Olga, is extremely knowledgeable and well scripted. Yet, given that she delivers this tour twice a day ‘For Food and Tips’ that is not wholly unexpected.
Our tour commences in Maydan Nezalezhnosti or Independence Square.
This was the location for the December 2004 Orange Revolution. A surprisingly peaceful affair that saw the ousting of a corrupt President for the people’s choice. Largely reconstructed in the early 1990s the square is dominated by imposing, concrete Soviet style buildings – built to imply the authority and strength of the Soviet occupier. Uphill from the square we reach St. Michael’s Monastery. Destroyed on the orders of Stalin (so that another imposing, concrete building could be constructed) it has now been rebuilt, resplendent with its golden domes and blue color scheme.
Further down the street is the baroque St. Andrew’s Church. Built in 1754 it is currently undergoing renovation so was not open to visitors. The numerous souvenir stalls lining Andrews Road had little of interest to us, although the rough cobblestone street was curious. Historically, the owner of the street owned any property that landed or fell onto it and as such the road was constructed and remains to this day extremely bumpy and uneven.
A cornucopia of strange and surreal statues awaited us a short distance from the undulating street. Created by local artists they are now a playground for children and an avant-garde photographers dream.
Our relaxing and informative tour of the city continued to St. Sophia’s Cathedral. Built from 1017 to 1031 this is the city’s oldest church and it’s most famous tourist attraction. Byzantine in plan and decoration the cathedral’s interior is still resplendent in 11th-century mosaics and frescos.
Entering the Cathedral’s perimeter a number of outbuildings house simple museums and collections. Outside, local musicians play popular folk songs providing a charming backdrop to the impressive architecture.
Whilst the city centre is generally ‘light’ on tourist attractions our guide spends three hours explaining the history and background to the various monuments that we visit. Completing our walk we ensure that our guide has a little money for food and return to our apartment for a very late lunch.
As evening falls we are ready to catch a ferry boat down the Dnipro river.
After seeing the practice of locals the preious night we prepare with large bottles of beer and a few snacks.
The hour and a half cruise costs five dollars, each.
An impressive bargain as the sights and sounds of the river pass us by accompanied with a cold beer.
Whilst much of the city centre is shrouded by trees the gold cupola’s of the Dormition cathedral, along with the mighty Rodina Mat (Defense of the Motherland Statue) are clearly visible from our upper deck vantage point.
After a pleasant evening cruise we return by funicular railway to our apartment, ready to explore these barely glimpsed sights the next morning.