First Time Visiting My Native City As A Tourist

How long does it take to turn from a local to a tourist in your own native city? In my case, it took me a bit over six years since the mome...

How long does it take to turn from a local to a tourist in your own native city? In my case, it took me a bit over six years since the moment I moved to Canada and said goodbye to Kyiv, the city where I was born and raised. I've been back several times over the past six years spending about two days each time, but this year I felt like I wanted to explore my native city, much like tourists do when they happen to get to a new place. It's a mixed feeling, because I still have very vivid memories of Kyiv and often see its people, its streets and beautiful buildings and churches in my dreams, but this time around I clearly realized that I no longer belong there and the place I call home is somewhere else.

Kyiv (this is a correct Ukrainian spelling despite a more prevalent Russian spelling of "Kiev") is the largest and one of the oldest cities in Ukraine. In fact, it's older than the vast majority of European cities. There has been very little evidence preserved over the centuries, however many historians agree that Kyiv is about 1,500 years old.
To put things into perspective, Kyiv circa 1100 AD had a population of about 100,000 people while London only had about 10,000 people. 
Kyiv grew as a city and became a centre of an emerging country called Kyivan Rus under the rule of Vikings in 9-11 centuries. Many believe that period to be the golden age of Kyiv. St. Sophia Cathedral (pictured below) is the surviving witness of those times, although its exterior has been altered in the 18th century to catch up with then popular Ukrainian Baroque style.
Several Slavic countries have been given birth or been greatly influenced by Kyivan Rus. Russia is among them. However the greatest Kyiv leaders planted a weakness that has eventually destroyed the country and put Kyiv with its young Ukrainian sovereignty under the risk of existence for centuries. So what is the weakness I'm talking about? Each child of a Kyivan Rus leader would receive their own stake of the country, and after a death of their parent, they would fight each other until someone kills other siblings and become a leader of the entire country. But eventually it would just tear the country apart into small chunks that are hard to defend against external threats.
So what does Kyiv look like today? Apparently, it is a strong European cultural, economical, and geopolitical centre. 
It's a beautiful city despite numerous scars picked up over the course of its history. Kyiv as well as the rest of Ukraine have been long ruled by malicious leaders and nations that were not attached to Ukrainian people, their language, traditions, beliefs and values. Among them are Tatars, Russians, Polish, Germans and Ukrainian pseudo-patriots emerged after Ukraine has finally fought its independence in 1991.
I have met many people from Kyiv here in Canada, and I'm always amazed how open-minded these people generally are. I must admit that over 60-70% of people from Kyiv choose to use Russian in their day-to-day life, but it does not mean that they are less patriotic than those people who speak Ukrainian. 
Kyiv has been well-known as a relatively safe tourist destination, and lately, due to the weak economy in Ukraine, is attracting people from all over  the world who work online and enjoy a cheap life in terms of renting a place, food, public transport, utilities, entertainment, etc. 
People from Kyiv much like the majority of Ukrainians are very friendly, caring and always willing to help if they know you personally. If they don't, they could care less about you or even be rude, boorish or take advantage of your situation. Combine this with the fact that most people speak little to no English, and you can imagine how miserable your life can be if you happen to get in trouble.

There is lots of things to do in Kyiv. Its cultural life is very active and diverse. Theatres, museums, music concerts, sport events, night clubs and so forth - everyone can find whatever they like.
Following the industrial revolution in the late 19th century, Kyiv has seen a tremendous architectural growth. You probably need at least 3-4 days or a very jam-packed agenda with a hop-on/hop-off bus to see Kyiv's main attractions such as churches, palaces, squares, parks, historical places and old buildings.
On a flip side, driving in Kyiv is not recommended due to often poor road conditions and low level of culture and respect among auto drivers. Practically speaking, whoever has more expensive car will have a right of way. This also includes a lack of respect to pedestrians that often results in cars parking on sidewalks. I even recall a situation back in 2008 when one car was driving on a sidewalk and a driver was beeping to pedestrians to give him a right of way. Unfortunately, this has not changed since then, and many say even got worse due to poor economy, people displaced by the war and those who now have access to weapon.
Kyiv is a city of contrasts where there is a small group of extremely wealthy people while others struggle to make ends meet.
Nevertheless, Kyiv has many times become a battlefield for freedom, independence, civic rights and human dignity. Joseph Stalin and his evil war commanders such as Georgy Zhukov who hated Ukraine and Ukrainians, lost the city to Germans in 1941 with hundreds of thousands casualties. 
When I was in a high school, I became very interested in the history of Kyiv, and I found out that Kyiv's western defense line built in early 1930s would have been unbreakable had Soviets not deliberately destroyed it before the World War II even started. I myself saw those military pillboxes with thick concrete walls that have likely been detonated from inside. My suspicion is that Joseph Stalin feared that it could have been used by Ukrainians to fight for independence once the war begins. 
Kyiv hosted two events that shaped the modern history of Ukraine - Orange Revolution in 2004 and Euromaidan in 2014. Both had a similar cause - to reinforce basic human rights and democracy and to fight the authoritarianism and police brutality. 
The former was totally peaceful while Euromaidan tragically took lives of over 100 people who were killed by president-controlled militants in February 2014. But the short-term goal was accomplished - the tyrant Viktor Yanukovich has fled the country.
Euromaidan was also a cause (not a reason) for the annexation of Crimea by Russian Federation in February-March 2014 and starting of a bloody separatist war in Eastern Ukraine that is still going on. 
But there is a hope that the war will end and Ukraine will thrive again. There is so much human capital and good will among Ukrainians, and most importantly, a belief backed by two maidans that ensuring human rights is the top priority and the change can be made if needed.  

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