The sightseeing around Kiev has been fascinating. We started with the caves at an old monastery...which is one of the most important places for Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The caves are actually small passages, lined with mummified saints and church hierachy from centuries ago. There is little light, so you buy a candle to light your way. Most people stopped at each body to say a prayer. We then made our way to Rodina Mat (previously blogged) and the WWII museum, located in her pedestal.
Today, we visited two churches. St. Sophia was one of the most interesting orthodox churches I've seen. Built in the 11th century, the original structure is possible to see, including pieces of the original mosaic floor. The adjacent belfry offered a stunning view of Kiev and plenty of photo ops. St. Michael's (pictured above) was completely re-construcuted; Stalin bombed the original. We then made our way down to Podil (the lower city) where we visited two museums. The first, the One Street Museum, was a fascinating collection of letters, books, clothing, pictures, etc reflecting the pre-Soviet lives of Kievians. We also visits the Chernobyl museum; appropriately stark and depressing.
Last night, I had dinner with some of Rob's friends (Fulbright fellows), then made it to a bar to watch the intense Russia-Spain Eurocup semi-final. The bar crowd was mixed between their support of Russia, which seems appropriate given the mixed sentiment of Ukranians.
Also interesting was a huge EU flag (maybe 60 ft) on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. Despite their desire, Ukraine is nowhere close to being part of the EU, but a tentative WTO deal, talks with NATO, and the presumptuous flag seems to unequivocally state the capitalistic, democratic direction of Ukraine.