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Introducing Kyiv

Your first impression of Kyiv is bound to be one of surprise. This cradle of all that is Russian, this receptacle of ‘New Ukrainian’ wealth, this paradise of crooked politicians and gangsters is so...beautiful. Especially if you arrive in the summer, Kyiv will entice you the moment you gaze upon its gold domes lighting up the leafy banks of the Dnipro.

Kyiv’s original settlers surely chose this spot 1500 years ago because of its natural beauty. Modern-day Kyiv is part Kyivan Rus, part Soviet, part Ukrainian-nationalist and part capitalist mayhem. Turn-of-the-20th-century architecture mixes with Soviet monumentalism and flashy office buildings; and statues glorify characters as diverse as Lesi Ukrainka, Lenin and Lobanovsky.

Of course there is a tinge of truth to those gangster stereotypes, as anybody who’s anybody in the often shady world of Ukrainian business maintains a private apartment in the capital. Aggressive drivers and late-model BMWs are the norm. Smiles can seem in short supply.

But the churches and trees and architecture and parks and history have a way of making up for all that. By all means do the typical tourist stuff: check out the mummified monks of the Lavra or visit the charming street of Andriyivsky uzviz. But also leave time to join the ever-present local crowds simply drinking in the atmosphere. Wander through hilltop parkland overlooking the Dnipro River and Soviet-built suburbs on the far bank. Or, in summer, set out your towel on the city beaches of Hydropark. Stroll along the main street of Khreshchatyk, eat well, have a beer, go clubbing – that’s when this whirlwind of a city really sweeps you off your feet.