Stroll Down Khreschatyk of Kiev
Khreschatyk is the main street of the bustling city of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The street is not only the business and administrative center of Kiev it is also a popular place for tourists and Kievans alike. During weekends, as well as public holidays, the street is completely closed to road traffic, and pedestrians can stroll around at their leisure as they enjoy the many sights, including top class department stores, restaurants and cafés.
The name of the street originates from the Slavic word khrest or krest, meaning “cross”. This name came about because the street crosses a number of ravines in a valley and when looked down on from above, the valley resembles a cross. Khreschatyk was completely destroyed during World War II by the Red Army of the Soviet Union when they were forced to retreat. Realizing that they would have to surrender the city to the Germans, the Red Army set explosives in virtually every building along Khreschatyk. In September 1941 German troops occupied the city, whereupon the Red Army set off the explosives in the buildings by radio-controlled fuses from more than 400 kilometers away, causing widespread destruction and panic. This was the first time in history that long-distance radio-controlled explosives were used in a military operation.
After World War II, Khreschatyk was rebuilt in the neo-classical architectural style of Socialist Classicism, also known as Stalinist Architecture. The street further underwent extensive renovations during the modern period of Ukraine’s independence. During this time Khreschatyk took on greater significance as the central street, not only of the city of Kiev, but of the entire country. The buildings were restored, upgraded and enhanced with colorful modern lights, billboards and screens.
Khreschatyk became the focal point of a mass protest campaign known as “Ukraine without Kuchma” in 2000-2001, where political opposition demanded the resignation of the then President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma. In 2004 the street once again became the venue for a mass protest, known as the Orange Revolution, against alleged electoral fraud. At its peak the protest attracted more than a million supporters from all around Ukraine. A series of tents were erected along the street to provide food and shelter for protesters from the icy winter conditions.
These days, visitors strolling down the street on a pedestrians-only weekend, would be hard-pressed to imagine that any sort of conflict occurred in these lovely surroundings. Visitors to Khreschatyk can enjoy exploring Besarabska Square with its famous nineteenth century Besarabsky Indoor Market, the Metrohrad underground shopping center, the Central Department Store, the Kiev Passage with its numerous trendy outdoor cafés and shops, as well as Maidan Nezaleshnosti – the central square of Kiev.
There is no doubt that Ukraine is a beautiful country, rich in history, tradition and culture. A visit to Ukraine would not be complete without a visit to Kiev, and a visit to Kiev would not be complete without taking a stroll down Khreschatyk.