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September 6, 2002

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As shamelessly uneducated tourists, we know Kiev because of a chicken dish. How can we resist visiting the place credited with butter-filled chicken wraps? Now that we've spent two days exploring, we consider Kiev a top city because its districts offer various atmospheres; the city played a significant historical role and its sites recall images of these times; entertainment never stops, from opera to a club scene; the river, parks and architecture make it beautiful; and from this it has formed its own character that distinguishes it from others. What makes Kiev special is that it's a world class tourist destination without tourists; it remains undiscovered by Disneyesque hordes. A little about Kiev's history: it's the founding city of modern Russia and Ukraine. In the 900's, Kievan Rus (Rus was the name for the Scandinavian traders that took control of Kiev and then gave their name to Russia) governed an area from the Volga to the Danube, astride the primary trading routes between the Baltic, Western Europe, and Constantinople. In 988, the Kiev ruler Volodymyr converted the region to Christianity, the precursor to all Slavic Orthodox churches. After a few hundred years, breakaway principalities along the Volga eclipsed Kiev's power and its golden age ended emphatically with the Mongol invasion in 1240.
Kiev's metro offers the longest escalator rides in the world. Bring reading material.
The Caves Monastery, the first monastery in Russia and Ukraine, was founded at the turn of the first millenium AD. In labyrinthine corridors underneath the churches, the mummified remains of monks are preserved in glass coffins. By flickering candlelight, you can walk through the narrow corridors and look into their wrapped faces and shriveled bodies.
The Caves Monastery is a complex of churches that sits on wooded slopes overlooking the Dnipro River. The Dormition Cathedral (1073), is Kiev's second great Byzantine church (the first is St Sophia) that inspired all of Russia's great churches on the Golden Ring.
Kiev's version of the Statue of Liberty is the Defense of the Motherland monument that dominates any view of Kiev and stands 220 feet high.