Getting Lost in Kiev


St. Michaels!
St. Michaels!

When I arrived in Kiev, I have to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about the city. My only reason for choosing to visit there was so that I could visit Chernobyl as part of an arranged tour.

I had a few days to spend in Kiev before the tour so I did some quick Googling, made a list of where I wanted to visit, grabbed a map from the hostel and headed out to do some exploring.

All of the street signs in Kiev are written in Cyrillic script, so I immediately struggled with the map and directions and found it tricky to know which turnings to take.

kiev signpost
It’s hard to know if you’re going the right way when all the signposts look like this!

Before I’d left I’d asked one of the hostel staff to draw the route I was supposed to take on the map and I was meticulously following his line. However, after an hour of walking in the supposedly “right direction” I had seen absolutely nothing but high-rise flats and office blocks.

Maybe this is all Kiev is? …But I’d looked at photos and it had seemed beautiful! Where were all the gold domed churches I’d read so much about?

I walked for another 30 minutes and didn’t get anywhere or see anything interesting, so I decided to give up and head back to the hostel to chill. I would try again tomorrow.

After an eventful night where the guy in the top bunk next to my bed crashed through the wooden support and broke the whole bed, I was starting to wonder if I was cursed in Kiev.

I put the negative thoughts to the back of my mind and decided that I was going to kick Kiev’s butt today! I was going to FIND Independence Square if it killed me!

I consulted Google Maps, I had my map with me, I’d hand written my directions out, and I was ready to go.

I carefully retraced my steps from the day before, desperately trying to find the point at which it had all gone wrong. I just couldn’t find it! I was making the exact same mistakes as before and I was getting so frustrated.

“Kiev SUCKS”, I muttered to myself.

It’s impossible to find anything, nobody can speak any english or understand my map, and there is literally NOTHING here! Why do people love this city so much?!

Realising that I wasn’t getting anywhere using my map, I put it away in my pocket and decided I’d probably have just as much luck if I walked in a random direction. Surely I’d come across something semi-interesting at some point?

I walked for around an hour, turning down random streets, thinking that I was bound to find something important eventually!

Then I saw it. 

Something sparking brightly in my eyeline. A shimmer of gold in the distance.

One of the gold domed churches of Kiev!

I let out a shriek of excitement! FINALLY I had found something important! Not letting it out of my sight I made my way towards the church and discovered one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen.

Kiev church
The Smaller of the two buildings.
Kiev church
The beautiful church!

I thought I’d found the centre of Kiev! This had to be a really important building. With my newfound energy I raced up and down the street outside the church expecting to walk straight onto Independence Square.

But nothing.

I could not find anything else! I’d been walking for 5 hours and so dejectedly I trudged back to my hostel thinking how much I hated Kiev.

On my return, the owner happened to ask me how I was finding Kiev..

“I’m NOT! I’m not finding anything at ALL!” I almost screamed in frustration.

I showed him the map, and showed him where I’d been walking.

“Ahh…”, at first he looked confused, then I saw a glint of amusement in his eye as he stared at me as if I were stupid.

“Do you realise you have been holding the map upside down??” 

You’d think with a degree in physics I would be able to know which way up to hold a map!

Apparently not. So the next day I set off and found the Kiev I had been looking for all along…

Independence Square!
Independence Square!
St. Michaels!
St. Michael’s!
Friendship arch!
Friendship arch!

I still can’t believe I wasted my first 48 hours in Kiev walking in the complete opposite direction with my map upside down. Have you ever been as stupid as me and been so lost in a city that you managed to miss all the major sightseeing locations?

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41 Comments

  1. Sarah
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    Ahh! Amazing!

    Sometimes I also hide my map. Then, when I find whatever I was looking for, I get all excited like I just undiscovered something that NO ONE else knows about.

    However, this doesn’t really work out so well when looking for things like, uh, bathrooms.

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      Hahahaha! I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to hide my map.. I’d end up in another country!!

  2. Jaime
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    OMG I FUCKING LOVE YA… that is something I would so do.. hold the map upside down…lol!!! I love the photos it looks like a beautiful city~ I love that you took a photo of the broken bed… I swear sometimes I feel like my bed is going to break, but had never seen it happen… well now I know it CAN happen. Glad you did find your way around in the end!!!

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      Once I managed to find my way I LOVED Kiev! So pretty!

      Yeah, now you know to be careful on the top bunk… LOL! After it happened I hate sleeping on the bottom one now in case someone falls and squashes me! :D

  3. Leanne
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    Just love this story, you and Chris both get lost, must be suited to each other.

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      Hahaha! I was not aware of this! :D

  4. johnrvfruto
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    LOL! :)

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      Glad you liked the story! :)

  5. Evi @evitravels
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    I love this post! So funny. Glad you finally found your way, I’ve definitely been very disoriented by signs in a different alphabet/script.

    Anyway, you did a lot better than my lovely boyfriend. Just a 3 hour layover in Kiev (going to Mexico from Cambodia) almost killed him! He has to do the same thing in reverse in a couple weeks and he’s already dreading it. (Not because he doesn’t like Ukraine, it’s just that he found even the airport impossible to navigate.)

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      The airport WAS pretty ridiculous!

  6. Mike
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    Ah so all your gene’s come from Karen

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      I guess so!

  7. Ali
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    Even when looking at maps correctly, I still get confused & make wrong turns. Ever seen the episode of Friends when they’re in London & Joey gets “in” the map? I think I’m one step away from turning into that type of person.

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      YES!! I need to do that!

  8. Jordan
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    Haha… classic.

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      Glad you liked it, Jordan! :)

  9. Shivya
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    Makes for a good travel story atleast ;)

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      Of course! And now I can look back at it and laugh :)

  10. Gisela
    September 20, 2011
    Reply

    Loving that! A typical Lozzy thing to do, but hey I don’t blame you hun…with a different language and a strange place, you were most likely to have gotten lost! But still funny hehe! x

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      I KNOW! It wouldn’t happen to anyone else but me! :)

  11. Angie Orth
    September 21, 2011
    Reply

    I love it! Thank you for telling us the good & the bad =)

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      I enjoy writing about the stupid things I’ve done so much haha!

  12. Runaway Brit
    September 21, 2011
    Reply

    Great post! Getting lost in a new city is always fun. I once got impossibly lost in Venice and ended up missing the last boat back across the lagoon to my hostel. I had to ask a policeman and then take a taxi back!

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      Hahaha, oh, that sounds so so stressful!

  13. eGichomo
    September 21, 2011
    Reply

    “Do you realise you have been holding the map upside down??”
    Haha.. that made my day. Let’s just say the assumed curse turned upside down :)

    I’m pretty good with directions. I can walk down a place and never forget it, map or no map.
    That broken bed is scary, hope nobody got hurt.

    • Lauren
      September 21, 2011
      Reply

      At least I won’t make the same mistake again.. Hopefully!

      How I long to have your directional skillz… :)

  14. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler
    September 21, 2011
    Reply

    I’ve had moments like this where I get down on a place because It’s not what I envisioned or what I had seen in pictures. Glad you found what you were looking for!

    • Lauren
      September 22, 2011
      Reply

      i’m so glad I found it in the end or I would have been really disappointed with Kiev! :)

  15. Ashley Lenzen
    September 22, 2011
    Reply

    Loved this post! I’m terrible with directions and probably would have been in the same position.

    After 3 weeks in San Pedro, Guatemala (where you can walk anywhere you want in about 10 or 15 minutes) I was still turning the wrong direction when I tried to return to our hotel after leaving a store or restaurant.

    I can’t imagine how I’ll fare in a country where I don’t know the symbols of their alphabet on the street signs.

    • Lauren
      September 22, 2011
      Reply

      Hahaha, you sound just like me!! It does make it a million times worse when the signs aren’t in your language.

      Oh, to be born with a sense of direction…

  16. Mara
    September 22, 2011
    Reply

    This has got to be the ultimate traveling mistake! So glad you finally found what you were looking for. (Isn’t it a good thing you had scheduled 4 days?)

    • Lauren
      September 22, 2011
      Reply

      Definitely! If I had just had two days there I would have come away with such a bad opinion of Kiev!

  17. Jade Johnston
    September 22, 2011
    Reply

    hahaha awesome!! I had a similar problem in Serbia!

  18. Erik
    September 24, 2011
    Reply

    Good to see you managed the initial frustration and ended up liking the city. I can’t recall how many times I have had that happen.

  19. Theodora
    September 24, 2011
    Reply

    No, but I have been known to stop walking and take a taxi.

  20. Audrey
    September 25, 2011
    Reply

    Oh nooo!! I’m glad you were able to find what you were looking for in the end. The churches look beautiful; the first one kind of looks like a wedding cake of some sort! Haha! :D

  21. Josie
    October 15, 2011
    Reply

    If nothing else it’s a good travel story. Fantastic photos – look like postcards!

  22. Megan
    December 12, 2011
    Reply

    OMGGGGGGGG i just found your blog and came across this and cracked up!!!!!! i just got back from kiev a few days ago and was shocked beyond belief that i DIDNT get lost…because i get lost in cities that speak perfectly great english!!!!

    i fell in love with kiev, but lucky for me where i stayed was so centralized that i was in good territory the entire time. if i was strolling the same streets you were (for the first 48 hours at least) i would have thought it was the worst city in the world!

    enjoyed this post so much!!!! super excited to follow your blog and worldwide journey!

  23. Ed Rex
    January 31, 2012
    Reply

    d’oh!

  24. Alice
    September 26, 2013
    Reply

    Now Kiev is much more comfortable for the tourists =)

    • Lauren
      October 3, 2013
      Reply

      Glad to hear! :-)

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