Kiev, Ukraine - First Impressions

Not sure why, but for some reason I thought that Kiev will look something like Vilnius, some place I'm used to just with different language and currency. So glad I was wrong, because I would stay it pushed away Amsterdam from my most liked cities.

That I liked about it was scale, verticality and nature. I seen large stuff in Spain, but in there to me it always felt like a dick measuring contest (I made something big, no I made it bigger, no ...), in Kiev you feel like you ended in some fable where you are a small human being who ended up in the place where giants live (let your imagination loose). I'm coming from places that are mostly horizontal, having to constantly climb up and down the hills is something new and exciting. Even if your heart does not agree with that statement. At the same time it provides some great views. I love nature, screw your nightclubs, just give me a bunch of wild looking parks and a good weather. Just looking around and seeing a bunch of trees/forest makes you feel relaxed. In Kiev there are a lot of green places to choose from. At the same time what I noticed is that nature and urban are synergistic, it feels like buildings were put on without compromising on nature (unlike in most places were they first demolish everything, build a building, and then plan a tree to be able to sell that building as "close to the park"). I'm sure with time all that will mellow out, and maybe some other city will push it out from the top, but at the moment it's the city I'm happy to return to constantly.

Currency

The currency is Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH). The rate is about 30 UAH for a 1 EUR, 300 UAH for 10 €, 1000 UAH for 30 €.

You can exchange currency at the airport, but the rate is bad enough so limit the amount (like if you need it for SIM card). Walk around the city looking for "обмін валюти" sign. Make the notice of the exchange rate (Google it first) because some exchanges provides the same rate as you would get at the airport, while the exchange next door might provide a realistic rate.

For when you need cash I found this ATM a good choice. Does not add any extra fees. The only issue is that you can take only 2000 UAH at a single time so might need to do multiple withdraws (each adding up to your account provider fees).

Food

Rocka Rabbit after I found this place I did not care about any other place (at least when it's working). Good location, nice atmosphere (can get crowded and noisy in evenings). Most of the food is great (prices around 7-10€), my favorites: pear & ginger lemonade, ocean stuff something meal, sous-vide bull ribs, loose meat stake, Napoleon cake. The whole staff is making sure you're having a great service (unlike in some places where the attitude is "it's your problem"). This is that I judge other restaurants against when looking for place to eat.

O'Panas' don't know about the restaurant itself, but when you're taking a walk in the park and want something to eat it's a good place to grab a quick take-out pancake with sausage and mustard (hot, filling, tasty).

Salateira a good place to grab a quick fresh salad (with mint/lemon water for free). Most of my meals was there until finding Rocka Rabbit. Prices are around 5€. Don't mix up with some other similar looking chain of salad shop (where food does not look that fresh).

Work

There are a couple of co-working spaces, but some of them had mediocre reviews and others did not reply to my emails so for the few weeks I was in Kiev I did not check them.

Chasopys Creative Space cafe was were I was spending my working time. It was close to where I was staying and space had a good feel to it. It was hard trying to get comfortable for a long time (either the tables are uncomfortable or the chairs, or both in general), but it's fine if you move around every few hours. Has a wifi printer which is very helpful then you want to print your plane tickets without banging your head against the wall.

Parks

Taras Shevchenko Park was my goto park after a while. It does feel fake (well kept in other words), but for the same reason it provided everything you need. Good location, two fountains for water sounds, stuff going in it, comfortable places to sit, good routes allowing to walk in circles.

A.V. Fomin Botanical Garden was the park I was doing my morning walks in the first few days. It's on the wilder side and routes go up and down. Might be a bit un-safe in the night from the drunk sounds. After a while got bored with it, still glad I had a view of it from my apartment window.

Walk by the river start somewhere at one side and walk to the other side. After you get from the public places it's very relaxing to walk alone through the asphalt path surrounded by wild nature. Can go even as far as M. M. Hryshko National Botanical Garden, but I didn't like that botanical garden personally (just too fake).

Traffic / Walking

The walk-ability of the Kiev is good and a lot of places could be reached by about an hour or two of walking. Big street, street lights with timers, underground crossings. The biggest problem would be smokers, as there are a lot of them so you might need to get creative to avoid having to smell that (walking to the side, speeding up to get in front, etc.).

If you need to get somewhere farther away or you don't feel like walking Uber is available. Most of the drivers don't speak English. The quality of the ride can sometimes be questionable: had one ride which was a taxi car which should have been scrapped as metal junk 20 years ago, also had a few drivers who smoked in the car.

If you're going somewhere by the car keep in mind about traffic jams. I thought I was in one before, changed my mind when had to go somewhere during the rush hour. Still made it on time, but at few points felt like I might not reach it alive.

Shops

Eko-lavka store for getting natural products (kefir, coconut oil, chia seeds, eggs, etc).

Entertainment / Visit

The Motherland Monument if you took the walk by the river you will eventually end up here. I personally like weapons, machines, etc. After visiting this place I understood that I still like all that, but I just don't get the point of killing each other (just a reminder of how rotten humans are). You will be able to get inside some of war machines, it's cheap, but can be annoying standing in the line with all the brain dead kids. I was not able to get to the top of the monument (90 meters high) due to renovations (or something like it).

Kadroom - Morgue single-player escape room (great way to try them out to find if you like them without having to find group of people). Escape rooms can be fun as long as I don't start over thinking them or finding different use cases than the one which was thought off. Place can be a bit hard to find.

Locked - Safe House have fun being a spy, at least until you start over thinking the puzzles.

Locked - Lift puzzles are good enough, the biggest problem is that they had no English speaking host, and a lot of stuff depends on the audio which is very hard to hear/understand. Go if you have nothing else to do.

Misc

You can get the local SIM card at the airport (both IEV and KBP). On-line suggestions are to get LifeCell, but not sure I saw them at the airport. Vodafone was good enough. Would avoid Kievstar next time as they really annoyed me with call ads (and instructions how to login to disable them are not working).

For other locations in the world see intro article.

Posted in: Personal, Tips, Travel

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