Monday, October 17, 2016

Kiev, Ukraine

On my flight back form Armenia I had a twelve hour lay over in Kiev, Ukraine.  So naturally I went into the city and nerded out over some churches.  I took a bus into the centre and just happened to sit next to a woman from Kazakhstan named Aizhana who was on her way to visit her family in Yerevan and also just happened to have a twelve hour lay over and decided to visit the city as well.  It was a great helping meeting her since Russian is her first langue, and English and Spanish are not very commonly spoken.

There are a lot of things to see in Kiev, but the most popular is the Pechersk Lavra.  But before I get to that: SOME HISTORY (it is me, after all).

Vladimir the Great was the king of the Rus, whose capital was Kiev.  Around the year 1000 he decided to convert his pagan kingdom to another, more international religion.  The legend goes that he sent different diplomats across the world to to find the best religion (of course the Christians, who eventually wrote the story, referred to it in this way, making Christianity 'the best').  Eventually his people came back and told them what they saw, along with members of their respective religions.  The embassy to the Jews came back and tried to convince him that Judaism was the way.  He did not choose them, supposedly saying that if their religion was the best, then why have they been conquered and forced to live without a home for centuries (he probably wasn't too excited about the whole circumcision thing, either).  Then the Catholics came.  He liked their unity and power, but did not want his people to be bound to a religion that had a foreigner at its head (the pope).  The Muslims impressed him wth their power, but the idea of not drinking alcohol seems to have put him off (that whole slicing the end off your penis thing probably also played a part again). Then his men came back from Constantinople.  They are reported to have said 'We now not whether their is a God, but if there is surely he lives in the beautiful churches of the Greeks (a term used for all eastern orthodox religions at the time).  Vladimir was also motivated by the fact that in the Greek church it was the head of the state that was the head of the church (this has since changed...slightly) meaning he would have temporal and spiritual power over his subjects.  So, the Rus became Orthodox.

This is important because this is the beginning of the Perchesk Lavra monastery complex.  It is 28 hectares of churches, seminaries, chapels, and other religious buildings on top of a hill at the highest point in the city.  The monk that originally settled there attracted followers.  They began to cut caves out of the rock, creating small chapels to full sized churches.  Today there are multiple monk-made cave systems consisting of narrow passages leading to chapels, churches, and shelves that hold the preserved remains many of the monks in glass and wood coffins.  So here we go!

One of the main entrances to the lava.

Cathedral of the Dormition. 

Cathedral of the Dormition.

Cathedral of the Dormition.

Cathedral of the Dormition.

Cathedral of the Refectory.

Cathedral of the Refectory.

Cathedral of the Dormition.

The caves.

The caves.

The caves.

Church of the Nativity of the Virgin.

Church of the Nativity of the Virgin.


Cathedral of the Dormition.

Cathedral of the Dormition.



Mural on the wall leading to one of the gates.

Bell tower.

This is a map of the lava, so you can see just how massive it is.

Cathedral of the Dormition.

The back of the gateway.


Unfortunately I did not get to see this any closer, but this is a Soviet era statue of Mother Ukraine seen from the Lavra.


Cathedral of the Dormition.








Women are supposed to wear head coverings in the churches, but this priest apparently thought they should have them covered at all times, sine just after this was taken he made Aizhana put her scarf back on...even though we were outside.


This was just outside the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin.  The grave the woman is bowing to is of a dead patriarch.  As I stood here there was a steady stream of people coming to the grave bowing and kissing it.

Statue of Sts Cyril and Methodius, the creators of the Cyrillic alphabet.


Church of the Trinity, just outside of the Lavra complex.


The Cathedral of the Dormition (just behind me when I took this) was mostly destroyed in war, but this piece of the original 1,000 year old church was put here when the church was rebuilt to show continuity. 
After the lavra we tried to get back to Maidan Square, but the buses were confusing.  Eventually we got on the right bus and bought our tickets from a woman who travels up and down the bus selling them.  As soon as we bought them a man came over to em and began speaking to me and pointing at my ticket.  I looked at Aizhana and she started speaking to him.  Then he showed her a badge.  Then another man joined in.  I sat there confused.  Then a third man came over.  After about 5 minutes I asked Aizhana what was happening.  Apparently we had not validated the tickets by punching them after buy them, which means we were teaselling illegally and had to pay a fine.  Aizhana was not having ti, and was clearly arguing with the men.  I eventually asked her how much the 'fine' was and she said 60 UHR (about $2).  I said let's just pay it and get off.  So we did.  Then we were given little receipts showing that we had paid.

So, while I know we did break the law (unknowingly), it was clearly  bit of a set up.  First of all the woman who sold us the ticket knew I spoke no Russian or Ukrainian and Aizhana would have had an accent.  She had the little ticket puncher/validater on her belt, but did not validate out tickets when we had bought them from her (we were sitting down in the middle of the bus at the time).  The 'transport police' came right on the bus and walked directly to us, the furtherest two people from the doors on a packed bus.  The woman who sold us the ticket looked as us and smirked when the police were talking to us.  Then the receipt they gave us was printed but the amount paid was written in by hand.  If this was a set fine, then why is the amount changeable? Pretty sure it was all a scam, though by the standards of other peoples' stories a very mild one.

Aizhana talking to the police after we paid and got off the bus. I was so tempted to ask them for a selfie! 
We ended in Maidan Square.  Saw a few guys dressed as bears hoping to get people to pay them for pictures.  Then at one point I turned to take a picture.  I turned back around and saw Aizhana with white birds on her.  I took a few pictures and then the guy took them off her and try to put them on me.  I knew he was going to to to get us to pay him, so I tried to get away un-birded.  It did not work, and I ended up with two birds.  After I took a few selfies I got them off and he tried to get us to pay him.  He was talking to Aizhana and she told me that he wanted 400 UHR (about $14) since we took pictures.  So she grabbed her phone and deleted them.  Then he said I still had to pay and she yelled at him that I did not want the birds on me and he had put them on me as I was trying to get away.  I gave him 40 UHR and walked away.



The statue that distracted me while Aizhana was being pigeon-ed.



I really liked Kiev and look forward to going back there some day for a proper visit.

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