Kyiv, a scenic city of close to 3 million people situated on the Dnipro River, is the bustling capital of Ukraine. Ancient Kievan Rus, which reached its greatest period of ascendancy during the 11th and 12th centuries, was a center of trade routes between the Baltic and the Mediterranean. The city of Kyiv and the power of Kievan Rus were destroyed in 1240 by Mongol invaders and the lands of Kievan Rus were divided into principalities located to the west and north: Galicia, Volynia, Muscovy and later, Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. Once a powerful force on the European scene, Ukraine`s fate in modern times has been decided in far-off capitals. As a result, modern Ukrainian history, for the most part, has been defined by foreign occupation.
The modern center with surviving parts of the old city is on the hilly west, or right bank, of the Dnipro River. The main street, Khreshchatik, runs between two steep hills. Parallel about half a kilometer west is vulytsya Volodymyrska, the main street of the Old Kyiv area (Staryj Kyiv). From the north end of Khreshchatik, vulytsya Hrushevskoho rises southeast along a ridge to the Caves Monastery at Perchersk. Woods and parks cover most of the steep right-bank slopes. The capital`s newer sections stretch out on the flat left bank. These are characterized by large housing developments and industrialized neighborhoods.
Ukrainian pottery, embroidery, and handicrafts are available throughout the city, particularly in shops on Andrievsky Uzviz, at Percherska Lavra, and St. Sophia`s church. Quality and quantity vary from shop to shop. A growing number of hard currency stores stock Western food, alcohol, clothing, and electrical appliances. Most prices, in hard-currency stores, are higher than those in the West, and availability of stock is unpredictable.