Posted on August 20, 2012 in Cities
For visitors from Rome or Athens, Lviv might seem like a young upstart. But those from modern conurbations will be delighted by its intimate cobbled streets and its centuries-old buildings and churches, some of which are nearly a milennium old.
The city was first mentioned in chronicles in the 13th century. The name of the city, Lviv, is derived from Prince Lev, who got the city as a gift from his father, King Danylo Halytskiy. And “Lev,” of course, means “lion,” its English version being “Leo.”
Situated close to Ukraine’s border with Western Europe, Lviv has welcomed many peoples and religions over the centuries, giving it a more cosmopolitan air than other cities in Ukraine that are far larger. These immigrants originally settled here to trade between East and West, bringing Lviv considerable wealth and a major role in the history of Eastern Europe. But its convenient location also made Lviv the target of invaders. Today, Lviv is still a veritable Babylon, with its mix of Ukrainian, Polish, German, Greek, Russian, Armenian, and Jewish influences — all of which have left their mark on the local culture, cuisine and language.
Posted on August 17, 2012 in Cities
Every nation has its shrines that are the heart of the people’s spiritual life. For Ukraine, first place is taken by St. Sofia, known as Sofia Kyivska, begun in 1011 in the very center of Kyiv by Prince Volodymyr Velykiy, the Great, as a monument to his conversion of the great state of Kyivan Rus in 988. Completed two decades later by Yaroslav Mudriy, the Wise, its unique interior is filled with dozens of original frescos and gleaming golden mosaics — first among which is the magnificent Oranta, the Virgin Mary Protectress. St. Sofia is a marvel that people from around the world come to see for themselves. Today, Sofia is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
The other must-see UNESCO shrine in Kyiv is the Pecherska Lavra or Monastery of the Caves. It rose on the high banks of the Dnipro starting in 1051, built over a series of remarkable caves that today contain the relics of holy monks whose bodies have not deteriorated over hundreds of years in this unique, sandy, dry environment.
Posted on August 15, 2012 in Cities
One of the oldest cities in the world, Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, lies astride the two banks of the mighty Dnipro River. Legend has it that it was founded in the late 5th century BC by three brothers, Kiy, Shchek and Khoryv, and their sister Lybid, and named after the eldest. Barely a millennium later, Kyivan Rus was one of the most powerful states in Europe and marrying into the family of the Kyivan Prince was considered an honor among European monarchs. The onslaught of the Mongol hordes over two centuries eventually destroyed the beautiful city and more modern hordes razed it once more during WWII. But Kyiv the Golden-Domed rose up again and again.
Today, Kyiv is on the rise once more as the cultural, administrative and financial heart of Ukraine, in addition to being one of the most beautiful capitals in Eastern Europe. It’s truly worth seeing with your own eyes the harmonious combination of antiquity and modernity, of classic artisanry with cutting-edge technology, of thousand-year-old churches and monasteries whose gleaming domes reflect the most contemporary architectural complexes.