Negotiating the Kiev metro and the most visited tourist site in Ukraine
23.06.2011 - 23.06.2011 24 °C
Saving the most popular tourist attraction, in the city, for our last day we take the metro to the Caves Monastery Complex, the Upper part of which we had glimpsed from the ferry boat the previous evening.
Kiev has one of the cheapest Metro systems in the world. A single journey to any point on the network costs 2 hryvnia (about USD.25c). Seriously in demand everything runs quicker than we are used to. Long escalators descend up to 300ft (Arsenalna Metro station is the deepest in Europe) at great speed to subterranean platforms where hurried trains arrive, disgorging their passengers in record time. At rush hour the throughput of passenger numbers increases dramatically. The scrum of disembarking passengers sweeping me up with them, a great sea of humanity, forcing my unplanned exit from the carriage.
The Cave complex is split into two parts. The Upper Lavra houses a complex of churches and museums. Along with the Trinity Gate, the exterior of the showpiece byzantine Dormition Cathedral can be viewed, the interior being under restoration for the next 3 years (a fact not pointed out when we purchased our entry tickets).
The Refectory Church of St. Antoniy and St. Feodosiy , with its magnificent mosaics and frescos, was fortunately, available for viewing.
Descending from towards the Lower Lavra, with limited signage, we find more than luck than judgment an entrance to the cave complex. Entering through a small church we descended into darkened tunnels, barely 6ft high. For the Orthodox faithful the caves are a place of spiritual pilgrimage where the blanketed bodies of long past monks, housed within glass coffins are venerated and kissed. With only candles to light the way we soon realize that we are battling against the flow of pilgrims as we have descended into the cave system via the Exit. With a sound understanding of various Cyrillic phrases referring to this oversight we battle through and end our tour of the caves at the start. In our defense, it is little wonder that such an oversight were made with no signage in anything other than Cyrillic Ukrainian and Russian being apparent.
Navigation around the Metro system required similar skills with no signs or destinations being available in westernized characters. In a similar manner to navigating around Japan or China we eventually become comfortable matching random character outlines to destinations. Curiously, the Ukraine and Poland will jointly host Euro 2012, in less than a year. With one of the few signs we have seen, in English, being this announcement it will be an extremely ‘interesting’ visit for football fans to navigate around the city, unless significant navigation improvements become apparent.
With no signs to guide we take a long hike from the Cave complex to the 180ft high titanium statue that we saw from the ferry the previous evening.
With the lift to the top viewing deck is closed the statue known variously as ‘Iron Lady’ or ‘Tin Tits’ houses an interesting museum relating to the occupation of the Ukraine by both the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union – well at least the pictures and exhibits are of interest. Every label, film and explanation is in Ukrainian and Russian only.
Returning to our apartment we now have to prepare for our departure. Our overnight train to Chişinău, Moldova departs at 01.30 in the morning. Supper and packing beckons before a long night waiting for our Moscow originating train to arrive and transport to what promises to be a very different East European country.