When compared to other Eastern European cities, Kyiv (Київ) is a pleasure to run.The streets are wide and have plenty of room for pedestrians on either side. In the city center, these avenues lead to large open areas like Independence Square (Майдан Незалежності - Maydan Nezalezhnosti), St. Sofia Square (Софiйськая Плоша - Sofiskaya Plosha), and the Golden Gate (Золоті ворота - Zoloti Vorota).
Apart from the streets we mention on the route, however, many of Kyiv’s side streets are brick. Those who have shins that are sensitive to these surfaces should avoid these alleys and stick to early morning runs on Khreshchatyk Boulevard (Вул. Хрещатук). Fortunately, Kyiv is a late-rising city. If you are up around 6:30-7:00, there shouldn’t be too much pedestrian congestion on your run. Also, Khreshchatyk is closed to traffic during the day on Saturday, which leaves extra time to run there.
The run along Khreshchatyk is pretty flat, and it dead-ends at a lengthy drop-off that descends down towards the Dniepr (Днипр) River banks. This is a fun running territory for all the hill junkies out there. Delve onto the trails there to get a good workout for your thighs, or simply cruise the upper park paths to enjoy the sunshine and the city views.
- Drivers: Although Ukraine broke away from the USSR more than seventeen years ago, most people have maintained Soviet (read: crazy) driving habits. Never assume that, as a pedestrian, you have the right of way when crossing a street. Also be wary at crosswalks: while many Kyiv intersections feature timers that show you how many seconds you have to cross the street, rarely does that amount of time exceed twenty seconds. It’s a good idea to run across the street, regardless of whether you happen to be out for a run at the time.
- Dogs: Be on the lookout for renegade dogs, especially if you decide to explore the densely forested park paths overlooking the Dniepr. If you encounter some, do not make sudden movements. Do try throwing a rock at them.
- Old Men Burning Dead Underbrush: It doesn’t matter that Misky Sad and Askoldova Mohyla parks are right in the heart of downtown Kyiv – somhow an eccentric dedushka from the steeps of the steppe has found a way to turn the land into his home and garden. If you happen to be running by while he is purging the area of dried branches and leaves, the stench will send you racing to a nearby construction site for a breath of fresh air.
Watch Out for Haunting Monuments to the Victims of the 1932-3 Holodomor: Ukraine endured one of the worst famines undergone by a people during the 20th century. The catastrophe was caused by Stalin’s trade policies and the fallout of the rapidly industrializing Soviet society. In those months Ukraine, largely the breadbasket of the USSR, lost anywhere from two to ten million of its people to starvation and disease. Today some historians argue that the Holodomor was engineered by the Russian Soviet party’s higher-ups to curb nationalist Ukranian movements. In 2008 several governments officially condemned the Holodomor as genocide, and the Europen Parliament deemed it a crime against humanity. Keep your eyes open for monuments commemorating this tragic happening.
Did you know? Kyiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It was the capital of Kievian Rus, the medieval kingdom of the Eastern Slavs who dominated the region from the 10th to 13th centuries. During this era Orthodox Christianity became people’s primary religion.