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Ah, spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to flowers... for the girls that is. But better to bring them to the flowers, which exist in great profusion at the Botanical Gardens of Kyiv. The better known and more convenient one is the A. Fomin just behind the Universitet Metro station, dating from 1839, which while a bit run-down in places, is still chock full of 8000 species of plants, including 143 rare ones in the “Red Book”. The eastern part nearer the Center is more open and woodsy, while the enclosed gated official garden fills the western half- open from 9-4. That contains a huge 30M high greenhouse with the oldest palm trees in Ukraine. On a recent visit I finally discovered just what the sweet rich fragrance of a magnolia tree actually was, after being assailed by literary descriptions of the South for eons. Pink and white blossoms erupted all around me, in sinuous and graceful curves, with a sweet smell that sometimes was like slightly tart like lemons, and Kyivans thrust their kids and girlfriends into the blossoms to take decorative photos. In other spots, pink and purple lilacs exploded with color and smell of a syringarium. We had a tour of the main gardens and the towering greenhouse, the entrance of which is west down Shevchenka off Kominternu St.
The big 1936 N. Hryshko Central Botanical Garden of the Nat. Academy of Sciences or Vydubychy one (open till dark- map) spans 136 hectares between Druzhba Narodny and VydubychyMetro stations and the banks of the Dnipro, accessed by big Trolley Bus 14 from Lva Tolstoho, Pecherska, Druzhby Narodiv Metros, or Bus 62 from Kontraktova, Arsenalna, Pechersk or Druzhby M. Or you can walk up Bastionna St. from Druzhby I did it from Vydubychy one fine Sunday, and it was an alpine climb of 70M through a warren of streets- not recommended. A daunting UAH 10 charge awaits one at the main gate at the western middle, and spacious well-kept paths lead one into the 13,000 species of plants, meadows, groves, and forests of what was originally a hunting preserve of the founding princes.
Angling left 150 M in brings one to a complex of greenhouses that feature everything from lush tropical ferns and hardwoods to stark and pointy cacti. Curling around back up the hill- there is an engaging reptile house, where one can watch the large gasoline slick colored chameleons opposing protruding tiny eyes dart in uncoordinated different directions until your head spins, and thick snakes thrill the kiddies. Further up the hill is the small Troyitskiy Monastery (Ionivskiy), which dates from 1866, and some nice views of Kyiv and the technically advanced Paton Bridge (continuous strips of metal) off the heights.
Continuing south one passes various bucolic forests, one was incomparably beautiful- we continued to the end, then headed off into the fields of what turned out to be an orchard with rows of roads, but still found some secluded spot for a picnic, where Ira and I were instantly swarmed by ants- check the blanket for a few seconds- 100’s of ants a minute is too much. But after relocating, we lazily basked in the first sunny real warmth of the year. A high beflowered hill amidst open fields on the southeastern side gives a spectacular view of the river and the Darnytskiy railroad and Pivdenniy Bridges, and East Side of Kyiv- while kites flutter, ripple, and track through the skies in the brisk wind. The hill’s sides are very steep and one must figure out which side to fly down uncontrollably. The thick open forests on the eastern side descend gradually or steeply down to the river naberazhnaya (Naddnipryanske Shosse), depending on where you are. Sections of the gardens display plants of Crimea, Ukraine Steppes, Caucasus, and Siberia… and a cave / church system dates back to the 10th Century.
Be careful in any woods this year- the long wet winter has created a bumper crop of ticks, the little nasties that like to suck your blood. Some of them carry dreaded Lyme disease, which can be like a mild flu, or it can ruin your life as a chronic nightmare, especially untreated (early antibiotics are very effective). After my 6 hours in the Vidubichi gardens I pulled 10 of these things off my blanket, backpack, clothes, and neck; and a 40 minute stay in Chervoniy Khutir woods and 10 minutes sit on a log produced an unpleasant hitchhiker that was very attached to me. Burn them with a cigarette and pry prongs apart carefully so you don’t inject the dangerous parasites they can carry. An indication of Lyme is a red circle (bulls eye) around the bite 3-30 days later. Check your family’s and friends’ clothes and body carefully after going into the woods- use a mirror if alone- the bad infectious nymphs are tiny.