пятница, 12 декабря 2008 г.

The mystery of the Lybid River

 What does an average Kyivan think when they hear the name Lybid? It is a three-star hotel in the city center, on Victory Square.

     A lady sharing that name is part of a famous monument on the Dnipro bank. She stands on a boat together with her three legendary brothers Kiy, Shchek and Khory, the so-called founders of Kyiv.

     The boat they stand in is sometimes referred to by Kyivans as “Noah’s Ark”, or “The Titanic”. The monument was erected in 1982 as a part of Kyiv’s 1,500-year anniversary festivities. Another version of this boat – but a lot smaller – appeared on Maidan Nezalezhnosti after its latest reconstruction in 2001.

     But there is one site of interest that tourist guides mention but don’t show: the remains of the ancient river Lybid.

     Legend has it that the river was named after the only girl among the four siblings who founded Kyiv. The river’s name was first mentioned in chronicles dating back to 968 A.D. In those times, it was a full-fledged river, 20 meters deep and a kilometer wide that could sail big boats. It marked the southern border of the city.

     Today, it is a pathetic brook 0.5 meters deep and between 1.6 and 3.5 meters wide, flowing mostly underground in pipes or a concrete shell through the city’s industrial area and quietly sabotaging the extension of the underground line south of Lybidska station.

     Of course, it took the river many years to degrade to its present state, and there were a few attempts to save it. During his visit to Kyiv in 1850, Russian Emperor Nikolai I decreed the construction of a canal along the Lybid leading to the Dnipro, and the erection of a boulevard where Naberezhno-Zhylianska Street now runs. But the Crimean war that broke out soon after, and then the Czar’s death, halted the work.

     In 1891 the city council, or Duma, considered a plan for creating a boat channel that would make Kyiv a bit like Amsterdam. The channel was supposed to be 5 kilometers long, 4 meters deep and 32 meters wide, and become the main waterway communication channel for the public and merchants between the Dnipro and the railway station. The cost of this engineering miracle was estimated at 250,000 rubles, 10 times the size the city budget. This time World War I kept the endeavor a concept only.

     The concrete shell around Lybid was built in Soviet times after the flood of 1937. Spring waters overflowed the banks and submerged large areas of the city between today’s Povitroflotskiy Prospect and Victory Square. Many houses were flooded, the water having reached a meter above sea level in 22 houses. For 12 days, Kyiv resembled Venice with boats on the streets.

     The disaster forced the city government to strengthen the river bed with concrete panels and build a water collector. It was then that the Lybid received its tame and industrial look.

     There is only one place in Kyiv where you can see the remains of the Lybid river in a pleasant and natural setting. It is Vidradniy Park in Solomyanskiy district of the city. You can get there from Heroiy Sevastopolya Street or from Vidradniy Prospect. There is a beautiful pond with willows growing along its banks. An unremarkable carved rock next to the pond reads: “This is one of the spots where the legendary Lybid river starts.” Vidradniy tributary flows into the Lybid in this place.

     Beyond this pond, the river dives into a pipe to start its 16-kilometer journey. Another source of the river is located near Karavayevi Dachi railway station, just behind the Radio Market.

     Vidradniy Park is a favorite student hangout for the National Aviation University, which is located nearby. Romantic couples, families with children and pensioners are also regular park visitors. The park’s pond is a good place for fishing in the summer.

     By the way, the park improved significantly after the reconstruction, completed a couple days ago. Its reopening was dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Kyiv from Nazi occupation, observed on Nov. 6.

     The park now has new footpaths and benches, flower-beds and a pretty iron gate at the main entrance. When this Kyiv Post reporter visited the park, workers were still busy welding the letters of the park’s name to the gate.

     But if you prefer a more extreme sightseeing tour of the Lybid, there is a popular route just for you. Flowing in its shell under Lebedeva-Kumacha street, Lybid crosses Industrialna and reappears above ground near Zaliznychna Street. From there it flows through an open concrete bed. Lybid flows along the railway on Naberezhno-Zhylianska, and once again hides in a collector on Saperno-Slobidska. It resurfaces by Vydubychi metro station, runs along Promyslova Street and flows into the Dnipro.

     The river’s longest open stretch is along Naberezhno-Slobidska street. It was no accident that the railway line was built along this route. It was built along the river bed to avoid cutting through Kyiv’s many hills. A section of the Lybid on Naberezhno-Slobidska between Moskovska square and Ivana Fedorova Street is the favorite place of graffiti artists. The concrete walls running along the river have essentially become a graffiti gallery known as “The Hall of Fame.” There you can see splendid examples of street art by authoritative graffiti groups “Psya Krev” and “Interesni Kazky”.

    The easiest way to get to the graffiti gallery is to go under the railway bridge between Lybidska and Moskovska Squares. You can take a walk along the river and come out around Ivana Fedorova Street.

     People who have walked this three-kilometer route claim it is safe. Ivan Siyak, editor of “Nash Kyiv”, an internet site, advises to avoid the route soon after the rain unless you want to be completely covered in mud. In any case, wear something casual so that you don’t have to worry in case you get a little dirty. Be nice to the homeless people if you find them sunbathing there, and they won’t bother you.

     The historical river was once an important waterway, but now it’s a symbol of new urban life.
However, it is still important for the city. It helps to drain large flat areas of the city, including parts of the city center and the planes where the railway station and the central bus station are located. It sucks up the brooks that still flow under a number of industrial giants, including Dairy Factory No.1, “Kyivhuma” rubber plant, a confectionery, a margarine plant, and two power plants.

Oksana Faryna for "Kyiv Post
Photo: mytabor.blogspot.com; Angel & rose at samodelki.kiev.ua

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