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.
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.
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.
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…
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?