Monday, August 23, 2010

Walking in Kiev

Kiev is a great walking city, with lots of tree-lined streets and pretty churches. There are some of the infamous perekhod's (underground passageways) found in many ex-Soviet cities, but the traffic is a lot less frenetic than in Moscow or Petersburg.

One of the nicest streets for walking is Khreshatyk, a broad avenue lined with trees, fountains and sidewalk cafes. On my first venture down the street there was a big fuzzy dog cooling off in one of the fountains, and I asked a middleaged woman watching him proudly if it were her dog, thereby exhausting two of my three words of Russian. She said yes with a smile, and I grinned back inanely and took another picture of the dog.

As you walk toward Independence Square, there is a set of steps that rises steeply under an archway. If you climb the steps and follow the street for a couple of blocks, you come to the House with Chimeras at 1-3 Bankova 10. Most of Kiev was levelled during World War II, and this is one of the few buildings that survived from the Jugendstil period. It has a weeping face on the facade, elephant trunk storm drains, and various animal forms made of cement, a new material when it was built. There is also a handsome gate with a stylized curved design. The hosue belonged to a rich and imaginative Kievan at the turn of the last century, and is a must for those like me who love this period of architectural history.

Khreshatyk itself boasts some of the finest Stalinist-style buildings in the city. Despite what you may think, not all Stalinist style was bad. Most of it was actually much better than the bland buildings of the Khruschev era that succeeded it. Stalinist buildings are normally of modest height and solid construction, often with interesting decorative details.


Post a Comment

<< Home