Ukraine Unfolds Along the Dnipro River
Alternately spelled Dneiper, Dnipro, and Dneper, the third longest river in Europe lowing bisects the country of Ukraine and is a study in contrasts, geography, and politics. Often described by its monikers, Right Bank and Left Bank like the River Seine in Paris, this river is considered the birthplace of Ukrainian civilization and the Kievan Rus trade routes. Cossacks first began their independent governments on the river’s largest islands and through the centuries, the Dnipro River, (in Ukrainian) is considered the “holy river” of Ukraine.
Flowing north to south, the Dnipro River runs through the country’s forest and steppe regions and connects these disparate parts with the Black Sea. First traversed by the Greeks and Romans in the 5th century B.C., the river quickly became central to medieval trade between the Baltic Sea and the Byzantium. Important cities including the capital Kiev, were located along the Dnipro River and was in the firm political control of Kievan princes until the river’s influence began to wane after the Tatar conquest of the region.
Centuries later, the Dnipro River has once more become central to the economy of an independent Ukraine. Almost 65 percent of shipping and 80 to 90 percent of passengers are transported along this artery today. Kiev is the river’s most important port and railway lines intersect this and other key ports along the river’s path.
Tour companies touting river cruises provide travelers a comprehensive introduction to the central part of the country. All tour operators advertise “unique” Dnipro River trips but are often only ticket dealers. Tickets from one of these operators are necessary though for passage on the MS Marshal Koshevoy, the main riverboat used for tourist travel on the Dnipro River. A cruise beginning in Kiev with stops along the length of the river may last two weeks or more. As spring is the optimal time to relax on the river when the willow trees and flowers are blossoming and the river traffic is not too thick with fellow travelers, it is never too early to begin your river trip planning.