15 Andreyesky Spusk St.
There is a myth in Kyiv that the city’s “medieval castle” once played host to English King Richard the Lionheart, who apparently visited the castle during the 12th century, either on his way to or way back from the Crusades. Alas, we are here to blow that rather lovely but utterly ludicrous myth apart.
The House with Chimeras
10 Bankovaya St.
There is one really weird building in the very heart of Kyiv. No one can pass it by without staring at it. It is easy to find: travel by metro to Kreshchatik station and exit on to Institutskaya Street. You cannot confuse this house with any other building around it. Its magnificent facades and intricate staircase at the front door are decorated with fantastic sculptures of beasts and chimeras, which seem to be taken from the pointed roofs of Notre Dame in Paris. Concrete-made heads of rhinoceroses and elephants, crocodiles and antelopes are walled into this mysterious house. Nimble stone lizards scale the pillars. And there’s more. Elephants’ trunks are used as gutters, gigantic toads and sea monsters make up the the roof. Figures of women have chains, leaves and buds on their heads instead of hair. And just what is that gigantic python at the corner of the house meant to signify? Only the architect knows the answer, and he died long ago.
One of the wings of the present-day Central Post Office was once inhabited by a bourgeois lady known as Diakova. One day, the city’s newspapers carried sensational stories claiming that one fine day cushions, blankets and bed-sheets started to fly all over her bedroom, while the furniture creaked and moved around on its own. Now, most of these happenings may be explained by the imagination of a dotty old spinster but… these evil forces were apparently also witnessed by the police. Law enforcement officers were bewildered by what they saw, so they sealed the apartment and moved Diakova to new premises. Back in those days nobody used the term “poltergeist”, but Diakova’s case is still considered as being the first officially documented ‘anomaly’ in Europe.
Currently you can see only ruins at this address. Yet they have rather mysterious story to tell.
If witches in Western Europe prefer gatherings on Walpurgis-night at the top of Broken Mountain in Germany, then Slavonic witches have since olden times taken a fancy to Bald Mountain in Kyiv. There are five “bald” hills in Kiev – all of them have deforested peaks. (A bald peak signals that in ancient times pagans cut down all trees and vegetation and established their temples there. Later, in Christian times these places were considered centres of evil forces).