Ukraine is in the news a lot these days for all the wrong reasons. First it lost Crimea to the Russians, and then it had to deal with Russian separatists in the east, who broke away and set up their own little fiefdom. But don’t let all the negative press stop you from visiting this fascinating country.
It is the birthplace of the Russian Orthodox Church, in fact it is the birthplace of the Russian State. This might sound mad, but back in the day, this is where the first Rus principalities were founded, and Kiev or Kyiv as the Ukrainians write it, was the centre of a prosperous Empire… Until the Mongol’s arrived and it all came tumbling down. The Kyiv Empire died, and a small obscure principality tucked far away in the woods up north, called Moscow claimed successor rights. The rest is history, as they say.
The country is large and flat with the only mountains of note the final stretches of the Carpathians in the far west. It is also diverse. Walk down the classical buildings of Lviv and you would be forgiven for thinking you were in some central European city with its Austrian and Polish influenced culture and look. Take a train to Kyiv and Russia seems very close indeed, as onion domed churches and orthodox traditions catch your eye. Go south to Odessa and walk down its famous steps before taking a dip in the Black Sea, hike or ski in the Carpathian, and get irradiated at Chernobyl site of a nuclear disaster.
Take a chance and visit beautiful Ukraine!
Highlights from Ukraine
- Take a few days or a few weeks to discover Kyiv (aka Kiev), make sure you don’t miss the Keyvo-Pecherska Lavra, the holiest place for Ukraine and Russia, full of golden onion domed churches and a few mummies to boot
- Go skiing or hiking in the Carpathians
- Stroll around Lviv with its baroque cathedrals and churches, its elegant mansions, and its cobbled streets
- Visit Kamyanets-Podilsky a stunning medieval town perched between two rivers
- Get down to the Danube delta, half of which lies in Romania, but there is plenty to see and do on the Ukrainian side
- Walk down Odessa’s famous steps and then dive into its nightlife
- Stroll around sumptuous Sofiyivka Park in Uman
- See where the Swedes lost the battle for Nordic supremacy against the Russians back in the seventeen hundreds in Poltava
- Take a tour of Chernobyl, yes you can actually take a tour there! If you dare of course
- Head to Kharkiv (aka Kharkov) in the far east of Ukraine, with its onion domed churches, parks and museums
Hints and Tips for Ukraine
- If you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned Crimea, it is because for all intents and purposes it is now Russian. As a tourist you will not be able to enter it via Ukraine.
- Beware that in there is ongoing hostility in the south-east of Ukraine. Avoid the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, or anywhere near the front-lines.
- Ukraine is big, trains are good way to travel around, to save time take a night train.
- English isn’t widely spoken, best to bring a phrasebook. It might also be handy to learn the Cyrillic alphabet as you might encounter it.