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Walking through Kyiv’s historic center

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.

Pecherska Lavra. Kyiv. Ukraine Pecherska Lavra. Kyiv. Ukraine Pecherska Lavra. Uspenskiy Cathedral. Kyiv. Ukraine

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.

The National Opera of Ukraine Taras Shevchenko. Kyiv. Ukraine Monument to Hetman  Bogdan Khmelnitsky. Sofiyivska Ploshcha. Kyiv. Ukraine Bridge across the Dnipro River. Kyiv. Ukraine

If the spiritual heart of Kyiv is its churches, the emotional heart is its theaters. The Shevchenko National Theater of Opera and Ballet, just up from Khreshchatyk, offers a broad repertoire of classics in both genres. And while enjoying world-class singing and dancing, opera-goers can luxuriate in the splendidly restored interior, with its deep blue and burgundy velvets and the marvelous gilded cream-colored plaster-work. For those who prefer lighter musical fare, there is the Kyiv Operetta Theater, while those who are keen on classical theater can try the Ivan Franko Drama Theater or the Lesia Ukrainka Theater of Russian Drama.

When evening comes, Kyiv turns into a magical, romantic place lit up by old-fashioned street lamps, architectural lighting and even a touch of neon. Looking over the city in the evening, at its murmuring fountains, gleaming monuments, and the reflective dark waters of the Dnipro, its banks and walkways softly illuminated, its many park-like islands peacefully sleeping, there is truly no city in the world more beautiful than Kyiv.