All along the green hills

19.04.2012 | By Mykola Polishchuk

Most travel guides describe Kyiv as a beautiful city lying on many hills from which tourists can enjoy the breathtaking picturesque view of the Dnipro River. As of late, real estate developers have grand designs to turn these hills into a massive construction site despite the protests of Kyiv residents and the threat of possible landslides

The Kyiv hills are one of the main attractions of the city for the lovers of outdoor recreation and are known as one of the greenest places in Kyiv. You should plan the route thoroughly and wear comfortable shoes, because the walk along the hills can take more than 5 hours.

From Poshtova Square up and away

We set off on our excursion from Poshtova Square just outside the Metro station with the same name. This square, located in one of the oldest districts of Kyiv, was always considered the citys gateway to the river, where ships were moored since time immemorial. Nowadays, river transportation is unprofitable and only the building of the riverside station, Richvokzal, designed in the shape of a sailing vessel, recalls the waning glory of the place. The square was named after a mail coach station that was once located here. The building in which the station was located from 18521917 is a one-storey construction in the middle of the square that today hosts a postal museum. Next to this is the newly restored Nativity Church, where Kyivans bade farewell to the prominent Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in 1861 before his body was transported for burial in Kaniv.

The Dnipro hills rise above the square, creating a natural fence between the Podil district and the center of the city. In the olden days, the only way to get to the central part of the city was by the 250 meter cable railway (funicular) from the lower station next to the entrance to the current Poshtova Ploshcha subway station.

Our excursion continues along Volodymyrs Descent, a steep hill that was paved in the middle of the 19th century. As difficult as it may be to believe, the first electric streetcar in the Russian Empire ran along this street. There is even a memorial plaque on the square dedicated to the first streetcar in Kyiv.

Waling up the street you should pay attention to the monument to Prince Volodymyr the Great, who baptized Kyivan Rus in 988, who was sainted by the Orthodox for this mighty act. The monument was built in 1853 and is known by residents of Kyiv, but also all Ukrainians. The monument is one of the symbols of Kyiv and it is even depicted on the local currency. This is one of few Kyiv monuments cast in iron rather carved from stone, and its pedestal depicts the famous mass baptism.

Best panorama in Kyiv

From Volodymyrs Descent we come to the building of the National Philharmonic. It was built as the Merchants´ Assembly in 1882. Behind it you will see a strange aluminum construction the Friendship of Nations Arch dedicated to the 1,500th anniversary of Kyiv in 1982. It once symbolized the unification of Ukraine with Russia, but since independence the with Russia bit has been knocked off. The concept of the monument was controversial from the get go. For example, the granite sculpture at the base depicts 16th century cossacks wearing traditional Ukrainian costumes holding up shields during the 13th century invasion of the Mongols. Today, the monument has little ideological significance and the area has been turned into a place for concerts and public events. Behind it is the most popular observation deck in the city, which offers a view of the old Podil district and the left bank of the Dnipro River. You can even rent binoculars for UAH 50 100.

This part of Kyiv is traditionally considered a park area. The first park was created here 300 years ago and was called the City Garden. Then its name was changed a few times and today it is called Khreshchatiy Park. Although it was redeveloped, to this day it remains a place of recreation for Kyiv residents.

Recently, the Museum of Water and the Puppet Theater were opened in the park. The museum is the youngest in Kyiv, even though it is located in the old building of a water tower standing atop one of the highest hills in the city. These sites are interesting for both children and adults and can be visited for an entrance fee of UAH 20. Visitors are allowed to touch exhibits and even try them in action, for example, a huge soap bubble.

Museum guides easily control rain, thunder, snowfall and geysers by simply pushing some button and the museum features an exposition dedicated to water supply systems in Kyiv. There visitors will learn about water sources, technical processing, the quality of drinking water and the processes of its supply to every home in the city. You can also attend a lecture about sewer systems and watch a film shot inside drain shafts.

The building of the Puppet Theater (entrance fee UAH 40) is interesting for its architecture that is reminiscent of a Gothic castle surrounded by fountains, clocks on towers with semi-precious stones and amazing bronze statues at the entrance.

Now we move onto the Park Bridge, one of the smallest bridges in Kyiv, designed by architect Yehven Paton. He also built the longest bridge in Kyiv named after him, which is only bridge in the capital of Ukraine covered with a boardwalk. Although the park bridge is only 50 meters long, it was built over a narrow and deep ravine and connects two hills in the city center. The bridge also has a rather sad history as several young people jumped to their death from it. Nowadays, the bridge attracts newlyweds that take pictures under its elegantly forged lamp posts and hang hair locks on its handrails as a symbol of eternal love.

Rock climbers favorite place

From here our excursion continues to Mariyinsky Park. The home stadium of FC Dynamo is located just below this park. From there many local football fans that cannot afford tickets to matches of their home team watch the game for free and in full view. In Mariyinsky Park offers a pleasant walk between monuments to outstanding Ukrainian writers and artists and see old cast-iron fountains that were built during the Russian imperial period.

Behind Mariyinsky Palace we continue down a hill with no stairs to Petrovska Alley. 500 meters down you will see the Kureni restaurant decorated as a traditional Ukrainian cottage. There you can grab a tasty bite to eat before continuing you tour of the center of Kyiv. The average bill for a meal at Kureni is UAH 200 300.

Right behind the restaurant are the remnants of the Green Theater. It was once the largest open-air theater in Kyiv designed for showing of films and major entertainment events. Unfortunately, it was completely neglected and today is in ruin. Despite this, enthusiasts often hold festivals of alternative films and music on its territory. The Green Theater was built in Soviet times around the old foundation wall.

The eternal problem of the Kyiv hills is that they constantly slide down into the Dnipro River. For this reason, in some places local authorities built reinforcement walls. In times of war these walls served as fortification of the city. Inside the walls there were small garrisons from which weapons of war were aimed at enemies crossing the river. On weekends rock climbers train on these walls because they are the steepest and most unassailable constructions in the entire city. On weekdays fanatics of excavation wander through cellars and underground tunnels looking for some priceless find.

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