A scorching summer sun is once again driving the summer exodus, emptying the city streets in favor of country dachas and foreign tours. Those still in the capital are heading in another direction: the beach.
From plastic beer bottles and dried fish to colorful cocktails and thundering techno beats, Kyiv has a version of the beach for everyone.
The tortuous banks of the Dnipro River hide many a charming waterfront, especially south of the city, where gullies run down from the tree-covered hills, providing a cool and private refuge.
A number of beaches also exist within the city limits. Residents of virtually every riverside district have their preferred spots, such as Obolon’s naberezhna, Left Bank’s Rusanivka area or one of many islands on the river perfect for downing cold beers and spicy shashlyk.
Poor infrastructure and bad habits, however, have turned many of these areas into trash heaps. Moreover, blooming algae sometimes puts swimming in the river off limits (information about the status of the capital’s riverfront can be found at http://www.ses.gov.ua/).
Located just outside Kyiv city’s southern reaches, Biruza beach club provides an alternative with spacious pools, a beach volleyball court and kid’s playground.
Opened in mid-June, the club is already gathering decent crowds of several hundred for day parties, typically running from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. It remains a work in progress, however, so many of the buildings and leisure areas seen on its site are still being developed.
The club was bought by Murat Nalcacioglu, Turkish hotel manager and husband to Ukrainian pop star Ani Lorak. His plan: to recreate an experience akin to the Turkish resorts prized by many Ukrainians right at Kyiv’s doorstep.
And it really does have the feeling of a Mediterranean resort overrun by East Europeans – sweet-smelling hookah fumes and spicy Turkish food are interwoven with platters of inescapable sushi. The countless oiled-up girls in the skimpiest of bikinis leered at by hairy plus-sized men bouncing to electronic beats complement the impression perfectly.
Reasonable prices (the beer list starts with imported Kozel for Hr 25) and sizable portions make it a good place for corporate events or private parties. Coming for something in between, the local chapter of Internations, a global expat community, organized its bi-monthly meeting there – sipping a Tom Collins, playing ping pong or simply lounging around the pools.
Normally, the meetings have somewhat more of a business and networking flavor, said Oguzhan Guler, a Turkish expat who acts as one of the two ambassadors of the Internations group in Ukraine. But their main purpose, he added, is to give internationally minded people a chance to socialize and have a good time, making a beach outing the perfect choice.
“It’s a just a group of professionals going out for a day at the beach,” Guler said.
Come nighttime, however, Hydropark Island is the place to go. Crippled by haphazard infrastructure and overwhelming chaos, it nonetheless exudes a certain appealing energy – a miniature version of Kyiv complete with an eclectic mix of Soviet-style beer stalls, tacky riverfront discos and uber-trendy clubs. Among the latter is Bora Bora, supposedly one of the trendiest.
Getting to Bora Bora, however, is a nightmare. A makeshift wooden bridge crossing from the main island is followed by narrow, largely unlit track between sprawling brush, jam-packed with cars and foot traffic. After what feels like miles, you finally get to the club, where a long line and entrance fee (Hr 100 men, Hr 50 women) await those who dare come after midnight.
Inside, the club is surprisingly pleasant, with pools, leather couches, and cool bungalows. Trying to sit down on them, however, is not recommended. Even when the club is still empty, waiters will immediately ask you to leave unless you pay a Hr 1,100 deposit. Those wanting to sit are thus sent to the club’s beachfront, where rows of lounge chairs offer a nice spot to down a drink or two with a view of the Dnipro by night.
The music was not bad and the drinks were not too expensive (Hr 20 for a shot of vodka, Hr 50 for rum, Hr 85 for most long drinks). The crowds of tweens may feel a bit young for some, however, though a 6-4 girls to guys ratio will no doubt attract others.
The club is also open during the day, catering to the traditional beach crowd, with an unusual vantage point thrown in. For Hr 5 to Hr 10, a rowboat can take you across the strait to one of Kyiv’s premier nudist beaches.
Kyiv Post staff writer Jakub Parusinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org