I am walking through the streets of Kiev at dawn. The first rays of the sun are reflected in the puddles: the streets of the Pechersk district, with the most expensive buildings, are cracked with potholes.
The sun rises and shines on the Arsenal factory: its walls are no less cracked than the streets. All contrasts come together in incredible harmony.
It seems that if they polished this city to shine, built ideal roads here, wrapped it as a New Year’s gift and then granted it to me, I’d give up on this gift – it would be too perfect and fake.
My well-worn Kyiv is not always cured, it is ancient and eternal but naive as a child. With the endless list of changes taking place here, Kiev will become neither the second Rome nor the second Berlin. It will be one and only. The only place I want to live.
This is where honesty lives
Kiev is a city where you are easily exposed if you are fake. As a traveler, you may think that grumpy Kyivites don’t smile much, but after a while you will see that we just don’t smile to be polite, and if we do, we really mean it, on top of that, we show our sympathy, affection and curiosity.
We are people curious about everything. Speaking of advanced technologies from the more “civilized” world, which are reaching Kiev right now, of people, different from us: with eyes of different shapes, who speak a different language or accent.
We have been unknown to the world for so long, that once this world started discovering us, we were a little confused, like a child who at 18 discovered he had a brother. We are discovering you, our guests, just as you are discovering us. We give you a taste of the local flavor and you give us a taste of being more international.
It’s where people laugh at themselves
We protest if we don’t like something, we sign petitions if we want something and just laugh if we can’t change something. Sarcasm and humor are at the center. When the cost of the subway ride increases by almost double, we organize events on Facebook where we pray for prices to drop.
When the storm turns half of Kiev into the ocean and the cars are flooding, we take our rafts to get to work. When the snow blocks the streets of Kiev, let’s take the right clothing and go skiing.
We laugh at our politicians, the economic situation, the weather and, most of all, ourselves. Unfortunately, our medicine is not in the best condition to prolong our life, but we have heard that laughter has the same effect. So don’t be offended if we laugh at you too. It’s not a joke.
It is a city that can have any shape we want
Living in a city like Kiev, where tourism is just starting to grow, has many advantages. One of them: the image of the city is still not very clear and it gives us locals enormous power to shape the image of Kiev.
Kiev is 1536 years old, but only the recent Revolution of Dignity has allowed us to show Kyiv to the world. And above all, we finally understood that the city is built by us, citizens. We are in charge of shaping it the way we want.
Kiev is changing every day from the locals who have chosen to stay here. New cafes, bars and restaurants are opening at the speed of light. Kyivites carefully restore their living spaces into objets d’art, fight marauders, paint gloomy walls, and organize more festivals than the number of citizens.
It’s upside down
It is here in Kiev that we can go to the most expensive clubs in the city and stay there until 6 am when the first subway starts (so as not to spend money on a taxi). It is in Kiev that citizens buy tickets for jazz concerts on the beach, while the poorest come on their yachts to the stage on the water, to listen to the concert… for free.
This is where we implement one of the most modern public bike rentals (Nextbike) while having one of the worst infrastructure for cycling. It is here in Kiev, it takes 10 minutes to go to the supermarket (empty handed) and 30 minutes to go back (not to bump into heavy luggage, but because Kiev is the city in the hills). It’s the city where everything can seem upside down, but it’s the city where chaos can never be boring.
It’s not a Disneyland… yet
“I’m happy we came to Kiev before it became a Disneyland, and everyone started visiting us” – said my host from the USA, who came here with his son. With its growing popularity as a vacation destination, Kiev is still a hidden gem for the world. I like its local flavor, because it’s a blessing to live in a city with more locals than tourists, but hearing more and more foreign speeches on the streets fills my heart with hope.
And in the future, when people start skipping Paris to go to Kiev, I will be proud that back then, when it all started, I was here, in Kiev, being a part of it, building a city that will someday be in. of every traveler.
It is where each meter is different from the other
Sometimes there are 1000 years of history behind the golden domes of cathedrals and real ruins just behind its walls. Ruins that the locals carefully transform into squats, then – into art galleries or bars. Here the house of Igor Sikorsky, the creator of the world’s first helicopter, can fall apart right in the center of the city, being surrounded by elite residential buildings.
It is here in one monastery that priests can cover up police protesters during the Revolution (by turning cathedral floors into shelters), and in another, priests drive in expensive cars. And both of them will still look imposing for its glory.
Here the 100-year-old Venetian Gothic palace, the home of the first ambulance, can be standing right next to the endocrinology operations center. This is where the old garages with the “No Parking” sign can turn into lively bars after 4pm.
It is here in Kiev that you can look for bars to talk easily by listening to speeches in the courtyards of the main street, or looking for the best cocktail … In the veteran underground cinema … or trying to enter some bars through the transformer box, with the possibility to be kicked out of there in the same way as the local
It is here in Kiev, the elderly dance in the subway near the theater before and after the show (Teatralna subway station) and the young people sing the national anthem in large rows for the subway after the music festivals. Here, in Kiev, men can play chess all day in front of Taras Shevchenko University and invite you to play with them, if you watch them for more than 10 seconds.
This is where huge murals can happen so often that your neck will hurt if you raise your head. And I love living with this pain. A small price for living in the city where each meter is different from the other.
It is not love at first sight
There are cities you fall in love with right away. I don’t think Kyiv is the case. My love affair with Kiev was very similar to “marriage with convenience”: you marry someone for certain benefits, thinking that maybe in a little time, love will happen. I was kind of giving the city “a try” – like “let’s live together and see what happens”. True love happened when I started to sacrifice time to learn the city, when I started showing Kiev to my guests, when I started reading books about it, watching movies, exploring new hidden places and seeing it through the eyes of others people.
Kiev is horrible in some ways, but it just gives it an extra uniqueness. When the feelings are real, you learn to love despite something.
The scars of your city, its flaws become something special. You want to heal wounds that can be healed, but feel the special charm of its flaws, which cannot be repaired. This is a time when you love your city just as parents love their children. Unconditional love.
I have itchy feet, but my heart starts to beat faster every time I hear “Cabin crew, get ready for landing” and see the lights of Kiev with the warning light.
I am landing in the best place on earth. And I’m where I’m supposed to be.