Sit comfortably, please (even if you’re reading this in a packed metro while sitting with your ass on somebody’s face), and measure your level of irony and sarcasm – if that’s high enough, keep on reading.
Excited about visiting Kyiv – the city of golden domes? Well, all that glitters is not gold.
Want some hardcore adventures and adrenaline in your blood? Welcome to Kyiv – the city that sucks in its own awesome way.
Art of Balconies in Kyiv
The Wikipedia defines a balcony as an open air terrace, but we, Ukrainians, know that we should not really trust such sources. That’s why our balconies look a bit differently than described by architects. We love to deface our balconies in all the possible ways.
It does not really matter to us that some frontage of the historical building might be the piece of art, because there is no art better than the plastic lining covering the balcony. The cheaper the material, the better.
Our balconies serve as running tracks, offices, garbage storages (and treasure storages), gardens and anything else you can imagine. Yes, you need to have a nice imagination, because what happens on the balcony, stays on the balcony (we use quite a lot of material to ensure we can see everything from the balcony, while nobody can see us).
And if you ever wondered, where the entrance to real Narnia supposed to be, I guess you already know the answer.
Though Kyiv still can boast of some balconies of ”healthy people”, even though they slightly turn into a rarity.
You might have heard of Mother of Motherland monument in Kyiv. The locals do not really like the USSR attributes on statue’s shield and suggest to replace it with something else…
So make sure you visit Kyiv before we put a balcony on Mother of Motherland shield, covered with some ugly advertisement, talking about what…
Gods of Advertisement
The documentaries say, Saint Sophia in Kyiv has been a place for one of the first advertisements in Kyiv. The rich men who wanted to sell the land, paid the cathedral to engrave the advertisement with gold or silver on its walls, so people could see it while praying.
Which is the confirmation of a fact, that Ukrainians are truly gods of advertisement. Especially in Kyiv. Banners, billboards – the more the better.
Do not get surprised if you see in the metro trains, one advertisement being put on another one – simply put yours over it, because that’s how we do the business in Kyiv.
Colors are important as well – the locals make sure the ads are flashy enough to catch your attention (or make your eyes bleeding).
“Why can’t I find some interesting group bike tours in Kyiv, but only private ones instead?” – one man asked on TripAdvisor. “When you come to Kyiv, you will understand, why group bike tours in Kyiv are indeed “interesting” – there was an answer.
I swear, we truly love riding bikes, what we love even more – walk our bikes…
With the crazy traffics and infrastructure, mostly serving the cars, you need to walk your bike a couple kilometers till some park where you can finally relax and use it for the purpose it was invented… Another option is to cycle a bike on pedestrian areas on the feet of passers-by.
Of course, the infrastructure for cyclists appear, we just really believe that slow and steady wins the race.
In August Kyiv introduced the Nextbike, one of the most advanced bike sharing networks. If only somebody shared a road to cycle with us…
We know it’s gonna be snowing in Kyiv, we expect it to snow, we wait for a snow, we see the snow in the weather forecast and yet when the snow comes, we’re never ready for it.
The “unexpected” snowfall always catches us up by surprise. The communal services are usually the main victim of this “surprise”. They fight with the snow, while people fight with the local government.
We have tons of snow and sometimes it lasts till the beginning of May. Then the heat suddenly turns the mountains of snow into the real flooding and we quickly change from the fur coat into the swimming suit. Make sure you take it, because…
Floodings in Kyiv
Because when the heavy rains start (especially in summer), we give you unique opportunities for swimming, diving, surfing and boating even in the underground passages.
The heavy rains in summer sometimes cause real disasters on the roads, so if you want to visit Venice, but on a budget, Kyiv is your choice.
One of the heaviest rains was storming us throughout July 2018, and locals started to post numerous memes and ironic posts to make fun of the government, enable to solve the problem.
Parking in Kyiv
The citizens of Kyiv love their cars more than anything else, that’s why finding a parking place is becoming the goal of their life. The rules are simple as it goes: park your car whenever you see a place, and if there is no place, park it on the car or on the head of your neighbor.
We got limited parking places for disabled people, but since there are no disabled people in Kyiv, these places are mostly occupied by car owners who do not admit their mental disability (read: not being able to think about somebody except yourself). Thanks to this growing amount of mentally disabled drivers, we got new parking police, that is trying to handle this mess.
While it’s difficult to handle a mess, being so masterly organized for many years, it’s still possible to avoid it, by using this pop song:
So here’s my number, so call me maybe (102 – police number in Ukraine, free from the cellphones), just make sure to remember car numbers and model to report it to the police).
Kyiv is a city of people who love to walk. Walking from the car to the shop, from the car to the office and from the car to our home is kind of a hobby. The growing amount of cars (especially those ones with Lithuanian numbers) and our parking talents result in a new way of walking: walking away to see less of this mess.
Want to learn the art of UNAGI (according to Ross from “Friends”, the art of full awareness)? Welcome to Kyiv: here you will learn to watch out, because you simply never know when a car can violate you pedestrian area.
Though lately active Kyivans are fighting for more pedestrian areas and working on a couple of urbanistic project of turning a couple of places into walking areas (such as Podil and Bessarabka) – welcome to learn more about it on Awesome and Awful Kyiv Walking Tour.
“Normal people do not walk under ground” – my friend from Lviv once said.
Long tangled underground tunnels – we joke that some people spend half of their life underground. And that’s true, taking into account how many shops and cafes are located there. People who work there in winter might barely see the sunshine. Same will happen to you, if you get lost in one of them (say: Metrograd).
While some of the underground passages became business centres and entertainment areas, some of them, long dark and smelly, might scare you to death: the only light in the end of a tunnel is your own flashlight. Make sure to have it.
But after seeing crazy drivers in Kyiv, lacks of pedestrian areas and Kyiv parking style, you might rethink the idea of underground passages as one of the nicest shelters that save you from all mentioned above.
We love beauty, we love observing beauty, what we love even more – observing beautiful ruination. We’ve got tons of amazing buildings, falling down into urban decay.
We, Ukrainians, are very patient. We turn into calm Buddas, and patiently observe how the building is ruining till the condition when it’s possible to get a permission to demolish it. Then after turning down some historically important building, why not construct some business centre or mall on this tasty piece of land?Do not wonder if you notice a Golden Domed cathedral, some highscraper and half-destroyed 19th century mansion, standing next to each other.
Kyiv is a city where every meter is different from another. But we still need to fight for it.
To save the city’s heritage from ruination, active locals (together with foreign organizations and sponsors) start different urban projects, turn squats into cafes, art-galleries and other public spaces, which is a real challenge.
Another challenge is to put your nose somewhere you should not, and explore all this urban decay, because what can stop real explorers? Especially if your guide is as curious as you.
So welcome to Kyiv – the city that sucks in its own awesome way!
P.S. Especially for locals who live in Kyiv but do not love it yet, I started a special topic written in Ukrainian under hashtag #KyivSucks (find on Facebook or Instagram): I write what to do, read, visit to finally fall in love with Kyiv.