Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kievo-Pechersky Lavra

This enormous display of decorated Ukranian eggs is located on the grounds of the Lavra, rated by my guidebook as the no. 1 sight to see in Kiev. It is the headquarters of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Ukranian Orthodox Church, and the day I was there the Patriarch was visiting so security was tight and streets leading to the lavra were lined with Ukranian and Russian flags.
The Lavra dates to Prince Vladimir's adoption of Christianity, and is best known for its caves, where numerous early monks and saints are buried. This is the top pilgrimage site for this branch of Orthodoxy but is also open to tourists. You enter very dark caves holding a thin white lighted candle and make your way past cases containing bodies, icons, and various shrines to saints. The visit is not for the claustrophobic, since the corridors are narrow and it can be very hard to see where you are going. There is no charge to enter the caves, though there is a small charge for candles.
The caves lie down a long steep path from the Upper Lavra, which contains a number of ancient and beautiful churches, a bell tower and several museums. A must visit for its history and the insight it provides into the religious spirit Ukranians kept alive through nearly 1000 years that included 70 years of Communist efforts to wipe out religion.
A correction to an earlier post mentioning that the Ukranian economy declined 9 per cent in 2009. According to Succeed, a fine business magazine produced by Austrian Airlines that covers Eastern Europe, the actual decline in GDP was 15 per cent that year.


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