Tag: babi yar

Running in Kyiv won’t kill you

After six days of eat-all-you-like holiday laziness last week, I woke up in Kyiv this morning in a panic. In just 19 days time I am supposed to be running the 15km road race at the Kyiv Marathon, and I’m about as healthy as chicken kebab with cheese and double mayonnaise.

I need to get running, but where?

Kyiv is a wonderfully green city but that doesn’t always translate into ‘nice for running’. There are many reasons for this: the roads and pavements (that’s a side walk if you’re American)  are wide but they’re often in bad condition, the drivers drive with little or no consideration for pedestrians (and even drive on the pavements), and the stray dogs take great delight in chasing and terrorising anyone they see exercising.

In short, jogging in Kyiv isn’t very popular and it isn’t always jolly. However, it definitely is possible. In fact, it is an incredibly good way to see the city and to explore the hidden back streets and curious courtyards which you would otherwise never pass.

The city is also quite hilly, so depending on your mood and/or level of fitness, you can also run up and back down some steep slopes.

Anyway, as I lay on my bed to consider my dilemma (where to run?) I logged into couchsurfing.com and as if by magic, someone had posted a link to an article in the local press: The top 10 routes for jogging in Kyiv’

I don’t know who wrote the original, but afisha.tochka.net has the article in Russian along with some useful maps to help you on your way.

I decided to use it for this article and below is an English version which I ‘ran’ through google-translate and then tweaked to make it readable. At the end I’ve also included a couple of my own routes.

If you have any other advice, or if you know any other nice places to run please let us know by leaving a comment at the end.

Top 10 places to run in Kiev, in reverse order

Number 10. The Park at Babi Yar 

Its quite a large park, but instead of tarmac/asphalt it has slab paving which can be a nuisance. I’ve never run there, but if you don’t mind running on the grass, and you’re not put off by its history, then give it a try.

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.485692,30.441055&spn=0.038228,0.109863&z=13&iwloc=0004bd8fc783de2a78c86&output=embed]

Number 9. The “Spartak”stadium 

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.486893,30.488777&spn=0.019114,0.054932&z=14&iwloc=0004bd8fcf0bbc0ba2ab3&output=embed]

Stadium running seems to be the most popular form of running in Kyiv (perhaps because of the aforementioned problems), and if you want to exercise like a Spartan warrior, try the Spartak stadium. The stadium is equipped with a rubberized running track, which according to the original article ‘is very pleasing to the races’.   You wont get killed by an Oligarch in a Range Rover here, but you won’t see much of the city either.  The nearest metro is probably Petrivka.

Number Eight. Solomensky Park

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.433126,30.495729&spn=0.019135,0.054932&z=14&iwloc=0004bd8fd2a8f38fec8d3&output=embed]

Like many other routes, this route is also quite far from a metro stop, however the park has may hills and winding trails which will give your legs a god workout.

Apparently there are also several stadiums nearby, but you’ll have to find them yourself.

Number 7. Palm Lake Waterfront

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.493719,30.517187&spn=0.019111,0.054932&z=14&iwloc=0004bd8fd642cff7a16fb&output=embed]

This sounds like it should be in Miami, but apparently its in Obolon and its advisable to choose a route on the other side of Moscow Avenue because it will be quieter. Its also advisable to run early in the morning or late in the evening otherwise you’ll have to run along with the traffic and trucks.

A good alternative to the Palm Lake neighbourhood is the Obolonska embankment. It runs along the side of the Dniper (the big river that splits Kyiv in two) and its a great place for running, walking and cycling.

Number 6. The Rusanovsky channel

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.452804,30.592461&spn=0.038255,0.109863&z=13&iwloc=0004bd8fd9dc4f4c6b52c&output=embed]

This is the first route on the wrong bank, sorry I mean left bank. Its a picturesque place for a morning jog and it is not far from the subway. If you run near the water, you can relax afterwards and feed the ducks who live near the bridge. You can run both on the road parallel to the channel and along the boulevard that separates the artificial island.

Number Five. The Path of Health

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.422956,30.699577&spn=0.038279,0.109863&z=13&iwloc=0004bd8fe834df527693b&output=embed]

With its appropriate name, this route is in a historic part of Kyiv which has long been used for fitness. The route begins in the park of Partisan Glory in the Red Farm. The trail goes through the entire park and ends in the woods.

Be careful of the two railway lines and a road that cross through the route.

Number 4. The National Botanic Garden

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.419019,30.555897&spn=0.038282,0.109863&z=13&iwloc=0004bd8ff33ca251b57a6&output=embed]

This old Kyiv park (founded in 1918), with its massive trees and rough terrain is a great place to run and it is open from September to April from 8:00 am until dark, and in the summer – from 8:30 to 21:00.  The closest metro (Druhzby Narodiv) is about 10 minutes away, but annoyingly you’ll need to take some money with you as the admission fee is 5 or 10 UAH.

If you get tired of running, checkout the greenhouse gardens and the butterfly house. Both are wonderful.

Number 3. Park avenue

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.452422,30.536499&spn=0.009564,0.027466&z=15&iwloc=0004bd8ff33cbe7037225&output=embed]

This one is very good if you’re in the city centre.  The route goes along the ‘green zone’ on the slope that overlooks the Dnipro River and wrong left bank of Kyiv. It is no accident that the Kiev Marathon incorporates this route as part of the marathon route.

Number 2. Taras Shevchenko park. 

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.443158,30.513668&spn=0.009566,0.027466&z=15&iwloc=0004bd8ffe13392de58ff&output=embed]

Of course, Taras Shevchenko had to appear somewhere in this guide.

Located in the heart of the city TS park is one of the best kept parks in the city. Its convenient location in the centre has obvious advantages, but it has its disadvantages: an evening run around the park can be very difficult because of the large number of people.  It’s also not very big, so you’ll need to run quite a lot of laps if you want a good workout.

There’s a fountain in the park which you can drink from – a great little bonus.

Number 1. Mariinsky Park

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=209867726182148322643.0004bd8fc3e447c490e22&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.447612,30.53607&spn=0.009565,0.027466&z=15&iwloc=0004bd8ffe13565b876c5&output=embed]

With its central location, well kept paths and absence of cars – Mariinsky Park is a favourite with walkers and joggers alike. If you get tired of running around at the Mariinsky, then you can go down to the stadium “Dynamo” or run the other way – in the Park of Glory which goes all the way to the Motherland statue.

All-in-all, the combined parks and monuments that line the river on the right bank offer some of the best and safest places to run in the city.

Bearder’s Bonus Routes…

Here are a few of my own favourites.

Bonus A. Trikhaniv Island

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=207614664960824099481.0004b1a0f426062925c00&hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.459253,30.536671&spn=0.052456,0.109863&z=13&output=embed]

I’m amazed that this didn’t make the top 10. Perhaps someone is trying to keep this secret for their own running pleasure? Anyway, you reach the island by crossing the footbridge near Poshtova Ploscha Metro station and once you get there, you have endless possibilities. You can stay on the roads, run through small forest tracks or even run along the beach. Despite the fact that you’re right in the city centre, you’d never know it because all you can see is forest. Also, if you take some money and you run in the evening, you can relax and enjoy a post-run beer at one of the bars near the footbridge.

Bonus B. Druhzby Narodiv hill. 

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=207614664960824099481.000493fce27004c288089&hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=50.413878,30.535469&spn=0.052507,0.109863&z=13&output=embed]
I used to run this route when I lived in the area and its for those who don’t mind running on the pavements/sidewalks.
The route runs along some main roads, but the pavement is wide, clear and easy to run along and half of the route takes you through quiet residential areas. Its not a very long run, but almost exactly half of it is down hill and the other half uphill so its a great workout.
Have any other suggestions? Please let us know.Also, if you’re interested in running the Kyiv Marathon, don’t forget to register here. It takes place on the 6th May.

A Short History of Ukrainians in English

In 2009, shortly after I decided to move to Ukraine to write my MA thesis, I dropped into the central library in Oxford and borrowed all the books they had on Ukraine (all two of them) and set off on a Ukrainian fact-finding mission.

This is what I discovered…
A very short history of Ukraine

Meaning ‘borderland’ Ukraine (notthe’Ukraine) is home to 46 million people and has only really existed as an independent country since the early 1990’s. However, it all started way-back in the day, a long long time ago, in a crazy town called Kiev.

Existing since the 6th century, Kiev was (like many English towns) created by Scandinavian Vikings and during the 10th century the state of ‘Kievan Rus’ became the largest and most powerful in Europe. It was run by a dude or ‘crown prince’ called Vladimir/Volodymyr (Vlad the great) who is widely regarded as the founding farther of Ukraine and was responsible for converting everyone to Orthodox Christianity.  Apparently, he didn’t like Paganism anymore so he set about finding a replacement (I love the way religions work) and he found Christianity. Mr Volodymyr chose Orthodox Christianity because he liked booze and pork (so Islam was no good) and he liked women and indulgence too so Judaism and Catholicism were out of the question. Actually, Vlad was dam good at indulgence and had about 800 concubines and numerous wives.

Anyway, he baptised the whole city (in the Dnieper river) with his new religion and the eastern Slavs have been stuck with it ever since.

Things in Kievan Rus were pretty cool until 1240 when the Mongolians came on their little horses and destroyed everything.

Kiev was rebuilt but, in the following centuries Ukrainian land was controlled by its powerful neighbours: the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (yes, little Lithuania used to be powerful), the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Muscovite Russia and finally the Russian Empire.

Of course, there are many political explanations for these foreign occupations but what most history books don’t tell you is – the Polish and Lithuanians were mostly staying for the Rusalkas. That is, the green-eyed fish-women, who lived at the bottom of rivers. In the middle of the night, they would walk out to the bank, dance in meadows, ask questions and tickle men to death! …the Polish just love to be tickled!

Rusalka - green eyed nymphets

Ukraine has two main languages (Ukrainian and Russian) and with some slight differences – both use the Cyrillic alphabet. Ukrainian is (apparently) predominant in Kiev and the west of the country and Russian in the east. I don’t understand either language (or Cyrillic) so both are equally confusing for me but, I believe that, like in the UK – the minority (in this case Ukrainian) will speak both and the Russian majority will mostly speak just Russian.

Ukrainian nationalism has a long and, well, unsuccessful history but the Ukrainian language and literature did flourish in the 19th century when the smooth-talking ladies-man Taras Shevchenko captured the national spirit in his poems and writings.

Unfortunately though, whilst benefiting from Ukrainian land (and mythical creatures) Ukraine’s foreign landlords haven’t always been good. To be honest, they have almost never been good and the Ukrainians have been subjected to a long history of serfdom, terror, exploitation and massacre. The worst by far, being Stalin’s forced collectivisation or Holodomor (1932–33) which resulted in the starvation of about 6 million Ukrainians – yes, that’s a horrific six million deaths in one year. The Nazis had their turn in 1941 and Babi Yar in Kiev was witness to the murder of more than 33,000 Jews over the course of a five day period.

Actually, go back a decade or so and the British and French also drew blood in Ukraine having a successful pop at the Russians in the Crimean War. We won but, if you fancy a laugh and you’re not familiar with the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ then read here. It’s magnificent but, it’s not war…

Sadly, Ukraine also became infamous in 1986 when the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear reactor blew up during testing, dumping large amounts of radioactive stuff on itself and its northern neighbours. The explosion and the subsequent handling or mishandling of events by the communist authorities highlighted how rotten and corrupt the entire Soviet system had become. It was, in many ways, the start of the end for the USSR.

Alas, Ukraine didn’t do too well from this break-up either or the IMF/World Bank sponsored ‘shock therapy’ capitalism that followed and the country lost 60 percent of its GDP from 1991 to 1999. Recovery picked-up between 2004 and 2007 only to be scuppered with the onset of the recent financial crisis.

So, Ukraine isn’t a rich country but, what they lack in money – they more than make up for in unhappiness. As you can see here (or here) Happiness surveys usually place Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus somewhere close to ‘grumpy’. However, experience tells me, that if you travel anywhere in Europe further south or east of Slovenia, you’ll find any number of people who despair at the state of their nation (with the possible exception of Albania and Turkey where nationalism often blinds reality) and can people be as pessimistic as the most ardent Daily Mail readers. However, I wouldn’t pay too much attention to these surveys, Ukrainians can be happy too – I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

…and anyway, statistics are only half the story and life in Ukraine doesn’t stop. In 2004, in the same year as its Orange revolution, Ukraine surely reached its proudest moment in history winning Eurovision with a song called ‘Wild Dance’. It’s probably because of this (and maybe Crimea) that, in 2007 Ukraine was ranked the 8th most visited country in the world!


Where does a country go from here?
That’s for the Ukrainian’s to decide, but in June this year Ukraine throws its arms open to the world as co-host of the EURO 2012 football championships.   I’ll see you there.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén