libidAccording to some ancient chronicles Kiev is about 2000 years old. Spirit of antiquity is still being felt, just look at the boat bearing the founders of Kiev along the Dnieper. The legend tells of three brothers, Kiy, Shchek and Khoryv, who came to these shores with their sister Lybid before V century AD. The eldest brother gave the city its name, the other two brothers’ names went to hills in the area, while their beautiful sister’s name was given to a graceful river that once flowed through parts of the city.
владBy the 10th century, the city had become a major European center, with trade plying up and down the broad and powerful Dnipro, the third largest river in Europe. Its ruler, Volodymyr Velykiy (the Great) forged an alliance with the Byzantine Empire that was to be fateful for the country, and especially for the city of Kyiv. To cement this alliance, Prince Volodymyr baptized the nation in 988. The rest, as they say, is history.

A bronze of St. Volodymyr now stands in a leafy park with a cross in his hands, forever watching the rush of this mighty river.

sofiyThe most historic symbol of the coming of Christianity is the great St. Sofia Cathedral, one of a network of St. Sofia’s in Eastern Europe built in honor of the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople (Istanbul). Over the centuries, a city of churches sprang up on the cliffs above the Dnipro and even repeated raids by the Mongol hordes could not destroy this legacy. At one point, there were some 200 churches and cathedrals gleaming in the sunshine, giving the city its name, “City of the Golden Domes.”

Nor were its other leaders any less brilliant. Yaroslav Mudriy (the Wise) married some of his 12 children to so main royal houses that he earned himself the nickname, “Father-in-Law of Europe.” Indeed, his daughter Anna wed King Henri 1 and astounded the French court because she was literate. Another prince who brought the city glory was Volodymyr Monomakh.

hmelDuring the 1982 celebrations of the city’s anniversary (1500 years officially recognized), many historic buildings were renovated, streets were repaved with cobbles, and the famous Golden Gates (1037) were reconstructed, complete the ancient wooden structures and even a portion of the ramparts.

On the square before the Sofia Belltower, Bohdan Khmelnytskiy’s horse stands in permanent mid-step as the great Hetman points his bulava ahead. This glorious city saw 70 of its greatest churches, including Golden Domed St. Michael, destroyed by Stalin in the 1930s—but St. Sofia once again was left intact. Today, many of these churches have been restored: their bells ring out once more and their domes gleam in the afternoon sun.

феофThe French General, Charles de Gaulle (a man not known for his poetic or romantic inclinations) said, on visiting Kyiv: “I have seen many parks in cities, but never have I seen a city in a park.” Yes, Kyiv is a real walking city. If you start in Podil, the lower town at the river port, you can walk the length of the Dnipro through parks, past the Philharmonic and Friendship Arch, over Parkova Alleya, past the Dynamo Stadium, the Verkhovna Rada, the Mariyinskiy Palace, the heights above Askoldova Mohyla (Askold’s Grave), past Park Slavy, Spivuche Pole (the Singing Field where the country’s biggest folk festival, Kraina Mriy, takes place every June), and on to Vydubychi Monastery and the New Botanical Gardens…and on and on, all the time walking through parks and greenery and often within view of the Dnipro.

Golden-domed churches peeping through the green crowns of trees, peopled squares and streets, the rush of cars. If you happen to visit Kyiv between March and October, you will also find plenty of warming sunshine. Baroque architecture, Renaissance-style buildings, eclectic exteriors, Art Nouveau, Art Deco…even the few high-rises in the downtown area pose no challenge to the history, spirit and essence that is the City of Kyiv.