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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Ukraine

6th October 2011

Is Kyiv worth a visit?

The following is a guest blog from Mary and Detlef Golletz, friends of mine who visited in the summer.

Kyiv?” friends asked quizzically as we discussed plans for a short break.  A reasonable question, given that it proved impossible to buy local currency in the UK and our 2008 Lonely Planet Guide said that the city did not have a tourist office.  Most of our co-passengers clapped as we landed at Borispol airport; was this a good omen?

What we found was a huge, impressive city able to assert itself with style, grandeur, lots of history but also lots of contrasts.  We saw magnificent monasteries, ancient cathedrals and spectacular terraces on which to sip cocktails as we watched the sun set over Kyiv.  We walked through fantastic parks overlooking the Dnipro river and past huge monuments glorifying different periods of Ukraine’s war-torn history.

We also found the tourist office: through a side-door to the town-centre Khreschatik metro station were two cupboard-sized rooms with racks of free tourist information and friendly young English-speaking staff eager to help.  Posters advertised trips to Chernobyl and tours of the “Caves” Monastery.  Souvenirs ranged from fridge magnets advising you against drinking too much vodka to T-shirts with an ominous luminous radioactive symbol.

So is Kyiv worth a visit?  Yes, definitely.  It is unlike other European cities; a place of contrast and contradictions.  After 20 years of independence Ukraine is creating its own identity; rebuilding monuments destroyed under Soviet rule; preparing to welcome the world to Euro 2012, yet hiding away its tourist office.  Ukraine in 2011 is friendly, open and welcoming: establishing itself as an important European country while rebuilding its eastern European heritage.

Returning home, credit card transactions in Kyiv were listed on our bank statements as “unknown currency”.  Perhaps that sums it up.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.