Kiev and the magnificence of old Europe

Kiev is old and rich in historical significance. It emerged in the 5th century A. D as a large settlement for people of Slavic descent, and rose to prominence in the tenth century as Kievan Rus, a vast capital of stunning proportions. As a city, It's seen it's fair share of peaks and troughs through out the centuries. It fell from glory in the thirteenth century when it was invaded by the Mongolians. It was also annexed by the Russian Empire five hundred years later, and after that, absorbed into the Soviet Bloc until the early nineties. Now, it's making it's mark on the European scene as one of the continent's freshest and most exciting democracies. Here are a some things to do when you visit Kiev.

In 1986, the Chernobyl meltdown taught the world of the dangers of nuclear power. The Chernobyl museum serves as a haunting reminder of that event, outlining how the disaster unfolded hour by hour and the tragic consequences that emerged as a result. Visitors to the museum have called the experience "moving", "informative" of a "lasting impression". It is also possible to tour the power station itself, the dead town Pripyat and the Red Forest.

The St. Sophia Cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is also the oldest remaining church in Kiev. Built in the 10th century, during the heydays of the Kievan Rus, the cathedral stands as a testimony to the period's breath-taking architecture. Inside, it is possible to view many intricate and colorful mosaics. The view of Kiev from the ornate gold-capped bell tower is incredible.

Kiev Pechersk Lavra is something completely unique to the city, and it attracts hundreds of visitors every year. It's a complex network of underground caves that was constructed in the eleventh century by St. Antoniy. It served as a monastery for hermit monks, as well as a burial area.

Visitors are allowed to enter the caves and view the spiritual icons and relics that the monks left behind. Indeed, this site is incredibly sacred for many Orthodox people in the Ukraine and abroad. Hundreds make a pilgrimage to the cave to honor the dead monks. Therefore, it's important to dress appropriately. Beware that these caves are incredibly tight in parts, and claustrophobes should avoid entering them.

The main commercial and social hub of the city is on Kreshchatyk Street. Here, the visitor can appreciate great examples of the neo-Classical architectural style as espoused by Josef Stalin in the years following World War II. It's also a great place to shop and do a bit of people-watching.

The Mother Motherland stature stands at over 62 meters tall, and is a highly impressive thing to see. It depicts a tall, strong woman carrying both shield and sword, and is higher than New York's Statue of Liberty. At the time of construction, it was the tallest in the Soviet Bloc.

This is only a fraction of what this place has to offer. If you're a history enthusiast, or simply in search of something a little different, then you absolutely have to visit Kiev. It's quickly becoming one of Europe's star cities.