Kyiv is a city of contrasts, and nothing illustrates this more than living on the right bank of the Dnipro river, (west side), versus the left bank, (east side). My hotel Bursa is located in the Podil district on the right bank, surrounded by four-story baroque style buildings, fancily decorated with statues and reliefs. However, due to its more Soviet-era influence, the left bank is littered with huge high-rise residential apartment towers.
In fact, the right bank begins at Podil, once a Jewish area full of craftsmen, and it surrounds the city’s original square, Kontraktova, home of the oldest Ukrainian university, the Kyiv Mohyla Academy. From Podil you can walk up the hill to see where the original walled city existed over 1000 years ago. At the summit is Maidan square, Khreshatyk Street, all the government buildings, embassies plus the exquisite St. Sophia’s Cathedral. The surrounding Golden Gate neighbourhood has small, intimate winding streets populated with restaurants, clothing designers, artists and hipsters.
Living the high life
I visited the left bank for the first time the other day and judging by the sheer size of the buildings, most of Kyiv’s residents must live there. The contrast couldn’t be starker as once you cross the river you’re surrounded by vertical suburbia with busy multi-lane streets featuring mini-marts, grocery stores and malls.
On the right bank there’s a complex Metro transit system that ensures good access to all of Kyiv. The left bank however, has only three stations so most who live there have no choice but to take an additional bus or Uber to get home from the end of the line.
Work on the right but live on the left
All government buildings and most offices are located on the right bank. Consequently, Kyivhas horrendous traffic jams and long queues for transit during the rush hours as a million people commute to work daily from left to right. Moreover, the right bank has most of the restaurants, theatres, opera house and night life. The left boasts shopping malls, big box stores and the IMAX theatre. If you’re lucky enough to live near the left bank shoreline of the Dnipro, you’ll enjoy parks, marinas, beaches, riverside walkways and gourmet coffee shops. However, residing farther east is more isolated with mini-marts and cafes crammed into the ground floors of 20-story residential apartment blocks.
Certainly, people on the left bank live a more inconvenient life, especially if they commute downtown every day. Dinner or drinks with colleagues after work ensures you must leave 90 minutes earlier to get home before curfew, or you’re staying on a friend’s couch.
No matter where they live, Kyivans are masters at living life to the fullest. Long commutes and taxi rides are all part of their daily routine. A million people commuting from left to right during war time is just another illustration of the Ukrainian people’s strength and perseverance.
Slava Ukraini! Heroaim Slava!