Kreshatik versus Broadway

I love Broadway and I know it’s absurd to compare America’s and Ukraine’s “Main Street.” But anyway, here goes:

1. On Kreshatik, Kievans amble, even during rush hour; on Broadway, it’s generally frowned upon to promenade at less than a frenetic pace.

2. On Kreshatik, when the sun comes out, everyone grabs an ice cream cone. It’s a delight to see old and young with cone in hand (only three flavors, though: chocolate, vanilla, and lemon).

Ice Cream on Kreshatik

3. On Kreshatik, locals linger to listen to street musicians. They actually listen, standing for the length of an entire set, calling out for favorites, and dancing two-by-two when a romantic song is played. I recently saw an old man grab a college age girl from the crowd when a 1950s Ukrainian ballad was played (on accordion) — she leapt at the chance to dance and they had a grand time circling around with a dozen other couples.

4. On Kreshatik, the entire length is closed to traffic from Friday afternoon to Sunday night, so that it becomes a wide, quiet pedestrian passage. Bloomberg and NY Transport Commissioner Sadik-Khan would be envious and supportive.

5. Kreshatik was built on a Soviet plan (after having been almost completely destroyed by the Red Army and Nazis in WWII), so it has a unified architecture and plan (government buildings on the north side, residential on the south side). Broadway is delightfully cacophonous in its form and function.

6. Kreshatik is one of the shortest “Main Streets” of a country (1 kilometer); Broadway is one of the longest (20 kilometers inside Manhattan alone, 650 km if you follow it to the border of Canada).

7. Almost everyone on Kreshatik is dressed smartly (including tourists from elsewhere in Ukraine); casual clothes, t-shirts, shorts, are left at home. Broadway’s denizens are often an eyesore.

8. Kreshatik in generally homogenous; Broadway is packed with people from every continent and culture.

9. Improbably for a thousand year old city, Kreshatik has far fewer pre-1945 buildings than Broadway, only four, if you include the Philharmonic at European Square.

10. All the streets and squares around Kreshatik are known by two or three (or more) names, remnants the varied  languages and ideologies of the map-makers: Nationalist or Soviet, Ukrainian or Russian-speaking.

11. To cross Kreshatik, you take an underground passageway (there are no stop lights) generally lined with kiosks selling  flowers, food, shoes, tickets to cultural shows, lingerie, books, and other necessaries. These “переходи” are especially useful during the brutal winters. Some are simple passageways, others are grand labyrinthine shopping malls. I don’t know why we haven’t adopted these in America. The only thing that is remotely similar is a small section of the subway station around 42nd & 8th, which has a shoe-shine store, barber, and an odd T-shirt store.

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