Our guide, Miloslava, pointed out the unusual building next to the presidential residence.
There were many strange animals on top of the roof.
This building is called the ‘House of Chimeras‘ and it was built in 1901 by the architect, Wladislaw Horodecki.
Horodecki became wealthy through his concrete business and this house was built as an advert of concrete as well as to be his own house.
He seemed quite an eccentric person.
He walked around with his pet monkey on his shoulder.
He loved hunting so much that he spent his fortune hunting in Africa and he ended up having to sell this house.
So, he owned this house only for about 10 years.
In fact, because of the Russian Revolution, this house was nationalized soon after that, so his timing to sell was perfect.
He himself moved to Iran and after working there, including building Tehran Central Station, he died there.
He was creative not only for buildings, but also he designed costumes for theatres.
He was also very popular among women.
I asked Miloslava “Was he good looking, too?” and she answered “Look at him yourself and decide” and took us to the street where his statue was situated.
Mr. Horodecki was at a table drinking coffee.
In Kiev, in the last 10 years or so, they made statues like this a lot.
There were many famous international brand shops around here.
However, people living here are not necessarily rich.
Miloslava explained about that: In the Soviet time, people need to live in a house that the authority allocated to them and register to get a job.
This was how the state controlled people’s movements.
When Ukraine became independent, the residents could buy out those houses cheaply for about 20 dollars, so those ordinary people are still living in the good flats in the centre of the city.
We came out to the main street of the city called Khreshchatyk.
This street was destroyed during the second world war, but not by Germans, the enemy, but by the Soviet army who laid land mines all over the buildings along the street.
The buildings were restored soon after the war, but some traces of that time can still be seen.
When they restored the street, they did not build the same buildings as before, but new buildings in the Stalin style.
We came across a department store called TsUM.
Apparently, this is “Harrods in Kiev”.
The building was designed by the same architect who built the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow.
Now that we had learned that, the atmosphere of the building was similar.
According to Miloslava, this place used to be a zoo.
By the way, chestnut trees are the symbol of the city and there is an episode regarding that.
The chestnut trees are not originally from around here.
They brought them from somewhere in southern Europe.
When they tried to plant the chestnut trees along this street, they went up to the emperor at that time (when Kiev was under Russian Empire) and asked for his opinion.
He did not say anything and just frowned.
They understood that the emperor did not like the idea, so they planted poplar trees instead.
But when the emperor visited the city, he said “Oh, didn’t they say that they were planting chestnut trees here?”, so they replanted the chestnuts here.
The reason that the emperor frowned was that it just so happened that he was bitten by a bee at that very moment.
This episode shows how much people were reading the emperor’s face in those days.