On a sunny Friday, with weather reminiscent of Tel Aviv in April, Kyiv's main street, Khreshchatyk Street, is crowded with tens of thousands of hikers and hangs out as if there are no battles and no destruction within spitting distance.
I went out to the Ukrainian capital on a "Israel Today" mission to bring the sights of the war and tell about life in the shadow of destruction, and found cafes full, with the occasional young man passing me on an electric scooter and hundreds of cars speeding between the traffic lights.
Anyone expecting shells exploding around him and street shootings is likely to be disappointed.
Kyiv is back to life almost completely, shopping and entertainment centers are open, and even clubs are hosting parties - albeit with certain restrictions.
Obstacles against tanks, Photo: Tamir Morag
Although every few minutes I encountered large iron barriers against tanks spread out beside those spending time in restaurants, in a position with sandbags or in Ukrainian soldiers mingling with the crowd - because after all the war in Ukraine is still going on - but Kyiv has adopted a kind of routine made possible mainly by the Russians Withdraw their forces from the city area and concentrate efforts in the east of the country.
Still, it is important to emphasize that a visit to the city involves a certain risk: once or twice a day an alarm is sounded, and although practicing Ukrainians usually ignore it and continue with their daily routine, the day after we left Kyiv two residences in the city were hit by Russian missiles.
To some extent, the situation in Kiev can be compared to a routine in the Dan Bloc during a military operation in the Gaza Strip.
An unconventional experience
The big problem was and remains how to get to the city.
For safety reasons there are no flights to Kiev, and the main option to get there is by train from Poland or Lvov in western Ukraine.
We arrived from Lvov, on a seven-hour night train, for $ 90 on a two-person sleeping cabin.
Not a real bed but a bunk with a thin mattress, but one that you can definitely fall asleep on and the long journey passes quickly.
St. Andrew's Square, Photo: Tamir Morag
There are also more expensive sleeping options for a private cabin, or cheaper for a four-person cabin - and those who really want to save (not recommended) have tickets to regular seats for a few dollars.
The journey back from Kiev took about 12 hours, as that night the Russians carried out an extensive missile attack, and the train stopped at every alarm for safety reasons.
However, I slept comfortably and learned about it only when we arrived in Lvov in the morning.
Ukraine itself can be entered from Poland, which can be reached by flight to Warsaw or Krakow, which is closer to the border crossings.
Prices for flights to Krakow are about $ 200.
We entered Ukraine via the Medika border crossing, about a three-hour drive from Krakow, and a tedious wait at the place should be taken into account.
The crossing is open 24 hours a day, and the best way to shorten the wait is to arrive at night.
The bustling Khreshchatyk Street, Photo: Tamir Morag
As you can understand, getting to Kiev is not easy, but if you made it and entered the city - you can definitely enjoy an unconventional experience.
A reasonable three-star hotel will cost only about $ 40 a night.
The city is almost completely open, as mentioned, and at 23:00 a curfew is imposed.
About two hours before, the cafes and restaurants begin to close, but the city's famous clubs host many parties - which simply begin in the afternoon and end towards the curfew.
Beauty alongside destruction
Kyiv is not an architectural gem like some of the other European capitals, but it certainly has beautiful points - Maidan Square in the city center and a few other main squares, and magnificent churches scattered throughout, such as St. Andrew's Church overlooking the historic Podil district and the Dnieper River.
It is a bustling and lively city that offers varied and cheap entertainment options for shopping and culinary enthusiasts, but if you have already bothered and arrived in Kiev, it is definitely recommended to include a "war tour".
Take a local guide and drive to Irpin and Bocha on the northern outskirts of the city.
While in central Kyiv the scars of war are almost invisible, in the northern suburbs to which the Russian army has reached destruction is certainly evident.
In Bocha you can visit the church in the courtyard where the Russians gathered the victims of the massacre that took place there, and watch a photo exhibition that reveals the war crimes of the Russian army (not for the faint of heart).
In Irpin you can enter the ruined houses and get a close impression of the destruction, but be advised to be careful - after all, these are ruined sites that are about to be littered with obstacles and dangers.
In the center of Kyiv, in the elegant St. Michael's Square, the Ukrainians placed sooty Russian tanks and anti-aircraft guns destroyed in the heroic defense of the city. Luxurious hotel and bustling cafes around, designed to raise the morale of the local population.
Adjacent to the square, in a sharp passage that symbolizes the unconventional experience that Kyiv offers these days, is the beautiful Church of St. Michael in which you can hear the chants of the monks and clergy.
If you are willing to put in the effort involved in getting to and from Kiev, you will have an extraordinary experience that will undoubtedly be etched in your memory.
Just remember: Ukraine is still a country at war, and it is highly recommended not to take unnecessary risks, and especially to obey the instructions of the soldiers at the checkpoints, without getting smart.
In any case, even adventure enthusiasts are strongly advised to avoid traveling to the Donbass area, the east of the country or the south - where fierce battles take place, and the danger is much greater.
War Crimes Exhibition, Photo: Tamir Morag
A fierce war is raging in Ukraine, and Kyiv itself is also occasionally subject to missile and air strikes. Any visit to the city involves risk and is done at the sole responsibility of the traveler. This article should not be construed as a recommendation to visit Kiev or confirmation that travel to it is safe. The writer was part of an aid delegation of Club 2141, the organization of former company commanders
A fierce war is raging in Ukraine, and Kyiv itself is also occasionally subject to missile and air strikes.
Any visit to the city involves risk and is done at the sole responsibility of the traveler.
This article should not be construed as a recommendation to visit Kiev or confirmation that travel to it is safe.
The writer was part of an aid delegation of Club 2141, the organization of former company commanders
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