Ukraine was the breadbasket of the erstwhile U.S.S.R., similar to what Zimbabwe used to be for Southern Africa. Robert Mugabe gleefully destroyed the agrarian economy of Zimbabwe by grabbing farms owned by the white farmers. Unlike Zimbabwe, Ukraine continues to maintain that status although renamed as “Breadbasket of Europe.” It is one of the leading exporters of grain-crops like corn, barley, wheat, etc. The soil of Ukraine is so fertile that during the Second World War, the Germans took tons and tons of topsoil from Ukraine to Germany, I was told by someone during my visit to Ukraine in July 218. Of the recent history that come to one’s mind about Ukraine are the Orange Revolution and Crimea. The bloodless Orange Revolution which happened during the intervening period of November 2004 and January 2005 saw the beginning of the end of the Russian hold on Ukraine while the forceful annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Crimea by Russia is a reminder of the dangers posed by autocrats like Xi Jinping, Putin, etc. in using force to alter the boundaries in this modern era.
Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, lies on the banks of the Dnipro river — pronounced as nipro — which flows from north to south, bifurcating the city.
The Dnipro river rises in the Valdai Hills in Russia, traverses through Belarus before entering Ukraine and down-streaming into the Black Sea. The riversides are retreat spots for the locals as well as tourists, especially during weekends. Growth of the city is happening along the banks of the river, with tall buildings rising from its shores.
The city has mountainous terrain on one side and plains on the other, and a 100-year old tram is the quickest and shortest way downhill to the plain.
The following is the tram-exit to the plains, and the cascading greenery is the canopy over the hilly terrain.
The city has around 70 public parks and gardens. There is one park dedicated for couples and lovers, and it has a bridge named “kissing bridge” for lovers to modelise themselves. I had seen many cities like Sao Paulo, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, etc, which had many public parks for people to leisure. However, Kiev is the city that I saw with maximum number of public parks. The cityscape:
The one underground metro station in Kiev is possibly the most subsurface one in the world: 120 meters down, and most metro stations are constructed at similarly deep levels. This is probably to offset the problem of hilly terrain. The underground metro stations resemble those of Moscow in both make and design!
The city center is named Kreschatik, a lively place with many eateries, gatherings and roadside entertainers in the evenings. This is a good place to put up if you happen to be in the city.
Maidan Nezalezhnosti — Independence Square — is located at this area. It is the public square of Kiev:
The Independence Monument built in 2001 on the 10th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence from the U.S.S.R. is the towering attraction at the square. It is 61 meter in height. The monument is of a woman named Berehynia — Slavic goddess — with guelder-rose branch in her arms.
It is at this Maidan Square where 55 people lost their lives on February 20, 2014, when the police opened fire on unarmed people protesting against the incumbent pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who refused to sign the treaty integrating Ukraine with Europe. The protest ended with the fall of Viktor and the end of the Russian hold on Ukraine, but Putin used it as a pretext to annex Crimea. The following sculpture is erected at the Maidan in respect of those fallen on the bloodiest day of Ukraine.
Another famous monument in Kiev is the Motherland Statue.
Saint Michael is considered as the protector of Kiev — the guardian angel.
Evenings are lively with roadside performances:
Kiev is a city of churches — imposing, centuries-old architectural wonders!
I do not know who these men-on-horses are. But they must be of historical importance to Ukraine.
The night views of Kiev are stunning:
Many curse Mikhail Gorbachev as the person responsible for the collapse of the U.S.S.R., but, as I spoke to a few people in Ukraine and as all said, he should be hailed as a “Great Humanist” who gave freedom to millions of people to get out of the shackles of the State Control and choose their own future. Will there ever be a Gorbachev in China?