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Dnipro Park chain

July 27th, 2007

kiev dnipro park_1

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When I visit Kiev, I like to take the better part of a day to walk through its three-kilometer-long park system along the Dnipro River. I can stop along the route at one of its cafés—in the morning for a pick-me-up coffee, at lunchtime for homemade perogi, in the afternoon a cold, cheap beer or hot tea. In between eats and drinks, I find Kievovans in their best nature: kiev dnipro park_10smiling, playing with their kids, sitting quietly with a book, hanging out with friends, practicing a skateboard trick, playing chess, reading a book, protesting against the government (ain’t democracy great?), posing for wedding photographs at the steps of an onion-domed church, watching a concert at the outdoor theater, or slumbering on a park bench. Yes, Kiev’s park gives you all of these mini-worlds in one place.

Kiev is a hilly city, and slopes steeply towards the river. This landscape has made the ideal setting for an enormous park chain that offers vistas east and west. The parks along the Dnipro separate Kiev from the river’s edge. There are five parks to this long stretch of green space: Volodymyrs’ka Hirka Park, Mis’kyi Sad Park, Askol’dova Mohyla Park, Vichnoi Slavy Park, and Kyievo-Pechers’ka Laura Landscape Park. Mostly the parks interconnect by forest and paths. You can almost walk a single path without interruption from the north entrance, near the famous Andriivs’kyi Street—where crafts are sold along a climbing, winding cobblestone street—all the way down to the Great Patriotic War Museum with its landscape park and Motherland Statue (this you have to see to believe).

To try and hit all the highlights would make a jumble of what you can find in the parks, so I’ll start from the north and work down the system.

kiev dnipro park_2Volodymyrs’ka Hirka Park is a wooded hilltop retreat at the park chain’s northernmost point. Paths beneath leafy trees rise and fall, curve and wind like snakes, and make this park a nice place to stroll in peace or conversation with a friend. Find a bench along an opening in the trees to get a spectacular view of the river and beaches on one of the wildlife preserve islands in the center of the Dnipro.

Mis’kyi Sad Park sits on the wide, flat section of the park chain before its slope tumbles down to the river. This is the best people-watching (and meeting) section of the park, where Kievovans stream in from the center of Old Town just a few blocks west. Miskyi is connected to the city by pedestrian-only avenues that have museums, a formal garden next to historic churches, cafés and beer tents, an outdoor concert and theater stage, long bench-lined lanes under tall Dutch elms, and a football stadium hidden behind trees. The layout may sound crowded, but Mis’kyi Sad Park’s architecture uses its space well. You always have some kind of natural border between one section or building and the next open grassy avenue, forest walkway, or children’s park. Mis’kyi is also the best area of the system for disabled visitors to enjoy an otherwise hilly stretch of land.kiev dnipro park_4

Askol’dova Mohyla Park has the wild, untamed woods in the park system. Its paths tip up, down and to either side, and, like a fallen ribbon, wind around and over and under. If you want to get away from city, people—everything—venture down one of its dark paths. But don’t worry, you can’t really get lost, unless you want to. Like any remote section of a park, though, after dark walking is probably not a good idea, even though I felt completely safe wherever I trod in Kiev.

Vichnoi Slavy Park is more or less wild like Askol’dova (and actually very small—sort of an in-between park), but you’ll find a picturesque church at the top of a long stone stairway (sorry, these steps do not lead to heaven). Weekend services draw more than a hundred people to this little round church, and so the service is done as an indoor-outdoor event to accommodate the overflow.

dnipro_15Kievo-Pechers’ka Lavra National Preserve & Landscape Park is all open air, and borders a busy avenue with street cafés and some dramatic 19th-century architecture. The park includes the Lavra National Preserve, a historic park of architectural treasures from the 19th century, including churches, book printing facilities, and decorative arts museum. The preserve is enclosed behind walls and costs a small fee to enter, but you’ll find Ukraine’s undiluted heritage at your fingertips.

Down the street you come into the Landscape Park, which makes up the grounds to Kiev’s Patriotic War Museum. The landscapes are pavilions made to look like grassy knolls. Inside you’ll find some of the most dramatic bas reliefs anywhere in the world. They tower overhead, depicting war scenes from the years and eventual glorious victory over Nazi Germany. The reliefs are stunning in scope and rendition, and should not be missed. There are plenty of places to sit and take in this huge display that draws you through the cave-like pavilions. The landscape park caters well to the disabled, with smooth walkways, wheelchair ramps, and, in the museum, elevators and handicapped washroom facilities.

(read more about Dnipro Park’s highlights here

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