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Cheesy Snacks on a Kyiv Walking Tour, Ukraine

Kyiv is a great city for a walking tour. Its size is such that it is possible to see many of the sites on foot but it also has a great public transportation system. The metro, like many underground subways constructed during the Soviet era, has beautifully ornate stations.

Arsenelna is the deepest underground station in the world. At 105m below ground level it has two escalators and it takes over 5 minutes to get to the surface from the platform.

A 10-15 minute walk from this station conveniently takes you to Pechersk Lavra, the oldest and most important church complex in Ukraine, originally founded as a cave complex in the 11th century. There are a number of churches and museums across an extensive site. You can visit the caves located below and explore the catacombs.

Also located in the complex, and totally unrelated to the religious buildings, are a number of museums connected with Ukrainian cultural history. Additionally, there is the remarkable micro-miniatures of Mykola Syadristy museum. The exhibition comprises a large number of micro artworks, so teeny that you have to view them through a magnifying glass.

Leaving Pechersk Lavra the walk then took us through the nearby Holodomor Memorial Park commemorating the famine which killed millions of Ukrainians at the hands of the Soviet Government in 1932-33 and is now considered to be a genocide.

Just across Poshtova Square is the Kyiv river port complex on the bank of the Dnieper river. The passenger terminal has typically Soviet architecture and the central turret is meant to represent the tower of a steamboat. This is a historic part of the city that also has a large number of shops and restaurants in the area. There’s also a funicular that will take you up the hillside to give a great view of the city and river.

Continuing the walk, heading northwards, there is a lot of interesting street art to enjoy…

…before climbing the hill to the churches of St Andrew and St Mark.

And on to St Sophia’s Cathedral with its beautiful bell tower.

The Golden Gate, a reconstruction, was the main gate of Kyiv’s 11th century fortifications. It was named, apparently, for the Golden Gate of Constantinople. This isn’t The Great Gate of Kyiv, made famous by Mussorgsky as the 10th and final movement of his Pictures at an Exhibition suite; that piece of music actually celebrates The Bogatyr Gates.

Gotta know when you are walking past the former KGB offices.

And finally, Independence Square, located on Khreshchatyk Street, the main street in Kyiv. This square is where Ukrainians have gathered for various rallies and political events over the years and is named for the Ukrainian Declaration of Independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union disbanded.

There was so much to see that the tour took around nine hours, including a generous stop for lunch, but mid-walk snacking seemed to be a very necessary part of the tour, so we popped into a supermarket beforehand. It’s always fun to explore shops that local people use for their everyday groceries to discover a plethora of new foodie offerings – whether they are staples or something more unusual. This particular shop offered a range of products including packets of dried cheese, which were not only intriguing but seemed to be ideal snacking material.

What was interesting was that these were not typically Ukrainian but cheeses that originated from other countries. Of course we purchased extra packs to bring home as souvenirs.

The Gouda looks like holey popcorn. Gouda is a very hard cheese, originally from Holland. This dried cheese retains its mature flavour but isn’t as crunchy as you would expect from its appearanace.

Mozzarella seems to be entirely the wrong sort of cheese to dehydrate. From Italy, it is best known for adorning pizzas because it melts in the most delightfully gooey, stringy way. The dried version looks a lot like the Gouda – holey and slightly crunchy. But the flavour is much more mellow. It’s tasty enough but somehow feels wrong!

Sulguni is a cheese from Georgia. Like Mozzarella, it’s a soft cheese, made in using a similar process and has similarly melty qualities but with more flavour than Mozzarella, which can sometimes taste a little bland. While the other dried cheeses were eminently scoffable, this one was in a whole different class. The pieces look like the sort of woodchips you would put on your garden to suppress weeds and as soon as you open the packet the smokey aroma assaults your nostrils. They are quite chewy and the taste doesn’t disappoint either – this is the one that would last an entire nine hour walking tour of Kiev as you would only need to eat a couple of pieces per hour. Smokey, salty and unbelievably intense, the flavour lingers for a very long time.

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