“ Location: Kiev „
It took me a long time to visit Ukraine's capital Kiev, something I always wanted to do, I'd never really found the time for it. I'd headed there without reading a great deal about sights or things to do, I just planned to figure it out when I got there. After walking up Khreshchatyk, a long thoroughfare which is Kiev's most expensive street and in the Top 20 most expensive streets in Europe, I entered a pedestrianised area which had been made the designated fan zone. Like Khreshchatyk, the area was heavily destroyed during WW2 and the architecture is from the early 50s but looks regal, all the same. During Euro 2012, various areas sold beer and Swedes and English milled around in their kits, a particularly hardcore group of both supporters had got together to hurl abuse at each other and were seperated by police. This kind of action was nothing new to a square that had seen it all. On the edge of the fan zones, were kiosks and shops with prime locations like McDonald's and Ukraine's very own chain of food restaurants - Puzata Hata. The metro station Majdan also has several entrances from the area. This ironically rectangular shaped square has lots of park benches suited to dating couples, business men or curious old ladies who enjoy people watching. The benches are surrounded by little sections of grass and trees, that are only outdone by the wonderful fountains sprinkled around the place. As I walked along this majestic square, it suddenly hit me that there was a giant gawdy and impressive monument looming over me. What was this statue? It had been unknown to me until now but in its own way was just as impressive as Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower. The column holds a winged woman at the top, known as Berehynia, a female spirit of Slavic mythology who has recently taken on the added baggage of protecting the city of Kiev. Her identity has interestingly altered in recent times, having been used in 1980s literature as the figure of an ideal woman, she represents Ukrainian nationalism, feminism and neo-paganism and has interestingly given the cities former and still official protector the boot. The monument was erected in 2001 during a renovation of the square, it stands in the place where a Lenin statue used to be. Maidan also known as Independence square is a place of contrasts, during my stay it was the most lively place, it's often the location of political activism and protests but at the same time, it has the city's most expensive cafes and pubs around it.