Kyiv: A Photographer’s Playground?
by Paul Miazga
Ask anyone who’s been in Kyiv a while and they’ll tell you it’s a terrifically photogenic city, though by this I don’t just mean all the smilingly pretty young women in mini skirts and high heels or the fact that many Ukrainians are so well-dressed or stylish – that’s simply not the case. Decades of communism and the relative poverty that has continued post-independence have seen to that. Regardless, Kyiv is a people-watcher’s paradise, an ages-old city teeming with golden-domed landmarks and also, as a product of all things once Soviet, full of hidden gems of Soviet-style architecture, emblems, oddities and crumbling architecture.
Some of the best spots to set up to do people shoots happen to be incredibly obvious, especially in summer: Khreshchatyk; Hydropark; Sahaidachnoho, the long main street in Podil that has lots of cafes perfect for setting up one’s camera and just clicking away; the Naberezhno near Poshtova Ploshcha, where many young and old lovers alike begin long walks of the riverbank and city in general; the Andriyivsky Uzviz; the Pedestrian Bridge to Trukhaniv Island with the beautiful summer sun gleaming off the water and any open market – the camera shy in the Ukrainian capital are few and far between and the myriad settings create all sorts of interesting juxtapositions.
Nature wise, the Pyrohovo outdoor architectural museum offers bucolic landscapes and a pastoral setting that takes visitors away to a time hundreds of years ago and yet right no the edge of a growing metropolis. The Dnipro River itself provides some fantastic views of the golden-domed buildings of the Pecherska Lavra and the outstretched arms of the Rodina Mat, not to mention some of the wildlife that still exists in Kyiv. Why, just this week a moose was spotted in Petrivka Market, in the heart of the city. Moose also found their way into the city a couple of years back and, while Kyiv isn’t much of a wildlife corridor, such sightings are not uncommon.
For architecture, as mentioned above, just look up and out for gold. Kyiv fairly glints in the sunlight and local churches can well be said to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts given how many domes have been re-gilded. Anyone having been around Lukyanivska metro station lately will likely have seen five sparkling domes come into view. And for anyone who has a bit of cash, hire a helicopter and pilot for an hour out at Zhulyani Airport to get a glimpse not only of the city layout but also of the simply ridiculous and massive mansions going up in Koncha Zaspa – the wealthy Kyiv suburb where much of the ill-begotten wealth in Ukraine has now ended up. For more on the helicopter tours, contact the excellent professionals at Conference World online at http://c-world.com.ua/eng.
Finally, Kyiv owes a lot to history, and as much as mere architecture can tell the story, consider the different tales to be told around the city. Round, fortress-like buildings (krugla bashta) exist in many places in the city’s Pechersk district. Any map of the city, when considered closely, will reveal about a dozen of these structures all over the place. Some are home to banks, nightclubs, office space and much more. The Kyiv Fortress and these bastions helped form part of the early 19th-Century fortifications built by Imperial Russia to ward off an expected invasion by Napoleon that only tread on Moscow and never reached Kyiv. What’s more, the western reaches of the city from Irpin to the city limits hide all manner of the old Stalin Line defensive fortifications – bunkers, pill boxes, tunnels and tank traps built by the Red Army in the 1930s in preparation for a German attack on the Soviet Union. Many historians credit this line from delaying the Nazi war machine by 1-2 months in mid-1941, thus preventing the Soviet Union and the oil-rich Caucuses region from being overwhelmed at the start of the war – something that eventually proved key to the defeat of the Nazis. Tours of the bunkers and pill boxes can be arranged by calling Valery Prikhodko of the VEDI Translation and Tour Agency at 8067-466-5307.